Thursday, June 16, 2005

2nd meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee between the EU and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – Brussels, 10 June 2005

Skopje, 11 June 2005
The second meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee between the EU and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia took place in Brussels on 10 June 2005. The meeting was held at a crucial moment of the bilateral relations: on 22 March 2004 the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia submitted an application for EU-membership and on 17 May 2004 the Council asked the Commission to present an opinion on this application, which is under preparation.
The Stabilisation and Association Committee is a joint body comprising representatives from the European Commission and the EU Member States, on one side, and representatives from the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on the other. The meeting was chaired by Mr Reinhard Priebe, Director in the European Commission Directorate General for Enlargement. Mr Dragan Tilev, State Counsellor and Head of the Sector for European Integration, headed the delegation of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The meeting was held in a very good and constructive atmosphere. The main task of the Stabilisation and Association Committee is to review the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which had entered into force on 1 April 2004 and is a comprehensive agreement which provides the contractual framework for relations between the EU and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It establishes a Political dialogue, creates a free trade area by 2011 and provides i.a. for the approximation of the legislation of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the Community acquis and for wide-ranging co-operation in all areas of Community policies, including in the area of justice and home affairs.
In particular, the two Parties exchanged views on the latest political developments and the state of institutional, political and economic reforms in the country. This exchange of views was based on the priorities defined by the Council in the European Partnership for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia adopted in 2004, which sets the main priorities for the country to advance in its process towards European integration, and the information provided by the Government to the Commission in reply to the thousands of questions submitted to the authorities. The Commission underlined significant progress in many areas and the need to advance with the implementation of the European Partnership.
It also stressed the need to make progress in the field of rule of law and continue with the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. In particular it asked the authorities to rapidly progress towards achieving results on the following issues: the way elections are organised, the reform of the police, the judiciary and the public administration. The importance of regional co-operation and good neighbourly relations was stressed. Preparations towards implementation of the decentralisation process were also presented. The Commission underlined the need for the Government and the local authorities to ensure the smooth implementation of this process including careful preparation for all fiscal aspects, and stressed that appropriate investment should be made to increasing the administrative capacity of the municipalities.
The two sides exchanged views on the country's economy, which remains characterised by very high unemployment, low levels of investment and low growth. The Commission called for measures to improve the business environment, such as simplified licensing procedures, improved bankruptcy procedures, and a more efficient labour market.
The discussion then focussed on trade issues that have arisen in the course of the implementation of the Agreement and reported on the main conclusions of the seven subcommittees held in the course of the last 12 months. The meeting also reviewed progress of the country in the legal approximation process which is currently focussed on fundamental areas of the internal market acquis as well as other trade related areas. In addition, the Government presented its National Strategy for European Integration and restated its strong commitment to continue on its road to EU integration.

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