EUROTHINK, IDSCS and Eko-Svest: What does the European Commission report say and what should we do?

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On October 6, 2020, the European Commission (EC) presented the report about the progress of North Macedonia in 2020. The general assessment is that the country stands out positively from other countries in Western Balkans. The EC is making the most progress in implementing the reforms outlined by the Council in its June 2018 conclusions. This year’s report is published together with the new Economic and Investment Plan announced at the Zagreb Summit, accompanied by the Green Agreement for the Western Balkans.

The point of view of Eurothink is that the temporal and political context of the whole package of documents, including the Communication on Enlargement Policy 2020, is particularly important. This is the first report after the adoption of the new Methodology for enhanced negotiations of the European Union in March this year, for which France has a special political interest to show that there will be results. Also, this is a report that the country receives in the period of waiting (and problematization by Bulgaria) of the Negotiating Framework, the initial draft of which the European Commission submitted to the Council of the EU in July, i.e. to the member states for further harmonization and final adoption. Germany, as chair of the Union, reaffirming the EU’s geopolitical interest in enlargement to the Western Balkans, has publicly expressed an interest in hosting the first Intergovernmental Conference. If the Negotiating Framework is adopted in November, it paves the way for it to take place as planned, in December. Immediately after that, negotiations on individual clusters (areas) will begin with the implementation of bilateral cluster screening according to the new Methodology – which is a long and laborious process that will probably last more than a year, and the country will receive much more detailed, focused, and detailed reports.

Given this constellation, it is crucial to define and take a strategically clearly defined position on the accession process itself and its constituent elements. Hence, in this commentary, the Institute for Democracy -Societas Civilis  (IDSCS), the Center for European Strategies (EUROTHINK) and the Center for Environmental Research and Information Eco-consciousness call on the authorities to undertake strategically designed, long-term and mutually synchronized activities by clustering (areas) in the accession negotiations:

The report notes a positive step forward for the Assembly, especially in constructive political dialogue and fulfillment of the legislative function. With the adoption of the amendments to the Law on the Assembly, the Assembly strengthened the independence of its service, and with the harmonization of the key amendments to the Rules of Procedure, which we expect to be adopted very soon, steps are taken to strengthen the role of the Assembly in the system of combinations and controls. However, the report emphasizes the importance of further future engagement in strengthening the oversight role, the need for a more predictable legislative process, and a remark is made in overuse of the abbreviated law-making procedure. The Assembly is expected to further improve the performance of its functions, through the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission and the agreement reached within the Jean Monnet dialogue.

What needs to be done: Assuming the role of a key institution for political dialogue, at the expense of leadership meetings, and strengthening the oversight function over the executive, should be the focus of the Assembly. Additionally, greater openness and involvement of the public in its work is needed, as well as improvement of the quality of the work of the standing committees and the professional debate of the MPs.

In addition to the role of the Assembly, a key and long-term partner of the European Union and the state in the integration processes is the civil society. IDSCSEUROTHINK and Eko – Svest advocate for active and adequate involvement of civil society in the accession negotiations, through their appropriate participation in government working groups to determine draft negotiating positions, as well as in the work of parliamentary committees and oversight bodies. of the Government in European integration. For the realization of this goal, it is necessary to revise the existing negotiating structure, by simplifying it, and for more efficient and effective negotiation, in accordance with the new Negotiation Methodology. In addition, it is necessary to establish an adequate fund that will enable expeditious , substantial, and sustainable participation of civil society in the negotiations. The judiciary system, including fight against corruption, remains a key challenge for the country. The Commission concludes that corruption remains a widespread issue and is an obstacle to further development of the country, i.e. democracy and economy. The report notes improvements in the State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption for initiative and efforts to address corruption among high-ranking officials from across the political spectrum. There will be no tangible success in the fight against corruption without independent e.g.