Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fourth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee held in Brussels

The Stabilisation and Association Council (SA Council) between the Republic of Macedonia and the EU held its fourth meeting on 24 July 2007. The meeting was chaired by Mr Antonio Milososki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia. The Presidency of the Council was represented by Mr Manuel Lobo Antunes, State Secretary for European Affairs of Portugal. Mr Jan Truszczinski, Deputy Director General of the Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement, and Mr Dimitrij Rupel, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia as well as the EU Special Representative and Head of the Commission's delegation to the Republic of Macedonia, Erwan Fouéré, also participated in the meeting.
The SA Council recalled the December 2006 European Council, which had noted that the candidate status of the Republic of Macedonia was a recognition of reform achievements and had called on the country to accelerate the pace of reforms in order to progress towards the goal of moving ahead in the accession process. The EU noted that the Commission's forthcoming Progress Report would serve as a basis for the Council's next regular review of progress achieved within the SAP. It also noted the Republic of Macedonia’s strong commitment to advancing the pace of reforms in order to meet the necessary conditions for opening accession negotiations as soon as possible.
The SA Council reviewed developments related to the political criteria. The EU welcomed the resumed political dialogue and the Government’s dedication aimed at securing the support of all political forces in the enforcement of the country’s EU agenda, underlying that stable and functioning democratic institutions were core aspects of the political criteria. The EU looked forward to a continued and constructive political dialogue on issues of fundamental national importance. The SA Council noted the efforts to ensure effective implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, and recalled that this implementation remains crucial for the process of EU-integration.
The SA Council reviewed progress on judicial reform, calling for continuous efforts to ensure its full implementation, as well as for the enactment of the remaining legislative acts related to public prosecution service. The SA Council welcomed progress made in the preparation of the entry into force of the Law on Police and stressed the importance of dialogue between Government and Opposition to ensure implementation.
The EU welcomed the political will demonstrated in the fight against corruption and the latest results achieved in this regard, but emphasised that only the continuous and effective implementation of adopted measures and a strong and sustained political commitment will have a real impact on fighting this widespread phenomenon.
The SA Council furthermore reviewed progress as regards public administration reform, regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.
Welcoming the initialling of the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission, the SA Council looked forward to their early entry into force. The SA Council noted the importance of the perspective for establishing mutual visa free travel regime.
Concerning the economic criteria, the SA Council reviewed the progress made in improving the business and investment climate as well as the continued macroeconomic stability and maintained fiscal discipline. The EU expressed concern for the high level of structural unemployment and encouraged the Government to strengthen efforts to improve the functioning of the labour market and pursue the structural reforms needed to have a positive impact on the economy.
The SA Council reviewed the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, noting that the Republic of Macedonia has implemented most of its obligations thereof. It welcomed the legislative progress in various areas, such as customs, transport, internal market and competition and underlined the key importance of strengthening administrative capacity to ensure effective implementation. The SA Council furthermore reviewed progress as regards competition, the protection of intellectual property and competition in the telecommunication market.
The SA Council welcomed the conclusion of negotiations on a Protocol to the SAA to take account of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. It also welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding concluded to associate the country to the seventh EC Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and encouraged the Republic of Macedonia to pursue its efforts to join EC programmes and agencies.
The SA Council expressed support for the request made by the Republic of Macedonia to create Joint Consultative Committees with the EU's Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions respectively.
The SA Council exchanged views on the developments in the Western Balkans and welcomed the active participation of the Republic of Macedonia in the new forms of regional cooperation in South Eastern Europe. The EU welcomed the continuous support given by the Republic of Macedonia to the efforts of the international community on settling the Kosovo status, and its commitment in aligning with the position of the EU. The EU also welcomed the Republic of Macedonia's participation in operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The SA Council was briefed on the EU's renewed consensus on enlargement, as set out by the December 2006 European Council, as well as on the outcome of the June European Council relating to the reform of the EU Treaty and the way ahead.

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