Lisbon Treaty brings hope for Macedonia

OHRID Institute for Economic Strategies and International Affairs

Biljana Janeva
 
The news about the Lisbon Treaty in Macedonia was followed with great attention. Macedonia has been a candidate country since 2005 and has been praised for its progress in the reforms in the last two Progress Reports of the EU Parliament. After the news about the Lisbon Treaty, the Macedonian media and public opinion have turned to positive and hopeful expectations. Although overshadowed by the internal issues and the overall debate about the EU integration process of the country, the main interest in the Republic of Macedonia in terms of the Lisbon Treaty was enlargement. “Will the Lisbon Treaty speed up the integration of the Western Balkans? What will happen next?” These were the questions posed in many talk shows and opinion pieces in the newspapers and TV. According to the Macedonian public, the treaty has a much more flexible approach in terms of the other questions and issues. The Lisbon Treaty is expected to ease the EU accession of the Republic of Macedonia, because it clearly states that all countries may become part of the Union, says the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Antonio Milososki.[1]
 
Is the EU prepared for a direct democracy? This was one of the main questions circulating in the Macedonian media. Also, there is a lot of discussion regarding the willingness of the “new EU” to embrace the candidate countries and the possible “tiredness” of the EU for enlargement and the wish of the EU to be left alone to deal with its internal problems first. In Macedonia, these EU opinions and movements are followed with a great attention, mainly because it is regarded that EU integration is the first and foremost important strategic and security priority of the country.
 
The debate in the country between the political leaders is mainly in the domestic arena, in regard to the progress reports, the reforms needed for advancing Macedonia’s position and getting an accession date, reciprocal accusations between the political leaders about who’s to blame for not getting a date for negotiations, etc.
 
The new functions in the EU
 
The new function of the President of the European Council was positively viewed, and always tied to the implications for Macedonia from the creation of this new function. Herman Van Rompuy was seen in a positive light, as a leader who would give a voice to the EU regarding key issues, such as enlargement. A big debate is the constant shift in direction by the EU presidencies. While sometimes helpful, this can be somewhat burdensome. The debate revolves around the question: is a stable presidency or a changing presidency better for Macedonia and its European future?
 
With the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the focus of the EU can be put back on the Western Balkans. That is how most of the analytics and politicians view the election of the President of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It was recognised as a positive signal towards the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkan countries. It shows that the process is alive, many experts from the NGO sector analyse. Although both of the new functions don’t have competences in the negotiation process of the candidate countries, their role is still viewed as positive, dialogue enabling, and helpful in the accession of candidate countries, in opening or closing some of the negotiation chapters, and in preventing vetoes from member states.[2]
 
European External Action Service and European Citizens’ Initiative
 
The news about the European External Action Service was commented differently. One aspect emphasised was the concentration on foreign policy and enlargement, but also the creation of new structures within the EU. On the other hand, there was a debate over the mandate of the EU to sign international treaties in the name of its member states and open embassies around the world, establishing itself as a global power. Will that be at the cost of the member states? Will the EU act as a single state and is this transfer of power sustainable? These were some of the questions posed in the Macedonian media, without having answers this early in time.[3]
 
In Macedonia, the debate about the new European Citizens’ Initiative was not so strong. There were reports, mostly in the written media, that EU citizens will be able to demand that the EU Commission propose new laws. It is still unclear how this “direct democracy” experiment will function in practice and if this is a good idea at all.


[1] Statement from Minister Milososki for the news portal Time.mk, available at: http://www.time.mk/read/cbcf09afa7/ae14c1077d/index.html (last access: 20 March 2010).

[2] Part of these statements available at: http://www.dw-online.eu/dw/article/0,,4919103,00.html (last access: 27 April 2010).

[3] Analysis of the daily Biznis, available at: http://biznis24.com.mk/node/5161 (last access: 10 May 2010).

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