Current issues in Macedonia

Biljana Janeva
According to the official “Programme for work of the Government of Republic of Macedonia”, Macedonia’s foreign policy for the current period was devoted to five strategic priorities: NATO membership, starting accession negotiations with the EU and membership in the EU, liberalisation (abolishing) of visas for Macedonian citizens, overcoming the name dispute created by Greece, and strengthening its economic and public diplomacy. Also, these were the questions and issues most discussed by the Macedonian media and institutions in the past period.
NATO membership remains a very painful burden for Macedonia. After the fiasco at the Bucharest Summit in 2008, when Macedonia did not get its promised (and earned) membership because of the name dispute with Greece, it still continued with its army reforms and contributions to NATO missions abroad. The Republic of Macedonia has completed the longest preparations for membership in the alliance’s history and is the fifth largest contributor to NATO’s international missions, with regard to population, compared to all NATO members.[1]
The other big debate is EU membership: the criteria, the presidencies, the benchmarks, the reforms to be passed and the tempo of the reforms (100 laws are to be passed in 2010). Also, a big issue is the creation of national negotiating teams for EU integration and their competencies.
One of the most important foreign aims in Macedonia was a complete liberalisation of the visa regime with countries in the Schengen zone, which happened on 19 December 2009 and brought unprecedented joy and hope for the Macedonian people.
Regarding plans for multilateral activities, the biggest foreign-political engagement in the Republic of Macedonia in 2010 is the Presidency with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from May until November. The priorities of the Macedonian Presidency with the Council of Europe are the fight against corruption, the reform of the European Court of Human Rights through an increase in the efficiency of the judiciary and education of the judges on a national level, integrating national minorities into European societies, the promotion of the position of the Roma people, protection of the cultural heritage and religious dimension of the inter-cultural dialogue, as well as more active inclusion of the youth in the political and democratic developments of the countries from South-eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the Macedonian Presidency of the Council of Europe has not passed without scandals and problems. Again, Greece blocked this important Macedonian engagement with opposition to its name, saying that it shouldn’t be called the Macedonian Presidency, but the Presidency of FYROM. This would have been a new precedent in the Council of Europe, as every country, regardless of its official name, bears the presidency by its first name. That was why the Macedonian Presidency was left as such. After all the energy lost in the disputes and explanations, Macedonia was finally able to focus on its Presidency programme.[2]
Of course, the most burning issue, and the issue most present in the public domain, is the name dispute with Greece. Regarding the negotiations that the Republic of Macedonia participates in with Greece under the patronage of the United Nations, a big step forward was evident in the last period. There were a number of direct meetings between state officials of the two countries, which brought a sign of improvement of relations between the countries. The negotiations continue, however, and real progress hasn’t been made in the last months.
The experts’ opinion regarding the foreign policy of the Republic of Macedonia is that it is still burdened with internal political processes. It should be qualitatively strengthened, which requires a national consensus by all political parties regarding the priorities of the Macedonian foreign policy, as well as the means for its successful realisation – diminishing the influence of internal cross-party disputes and building and promoting unity in the representation of Macedonian foreign-political priorities.[3]

[1] The material is taken from the text of Biljana Janeva for the Leadership Monitoring Report N. 2, published by the OHRID Institute, p. 32, available at: (last access: 20 July 2010).

[2] More information can be found on the news portal, available at: (last access: 21 May 2010).

[3] In the Leadership Monitoring Report N. 2, published by the OHRID Institute, p. 37, available at: (last access: 20 July 2010).