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]

A need for a regional climate strategy in the Balkans

Biljana Janeva
Climate change politics in Macedonia are interlinked with the European integration process, as well as with the wider political horizon.
According to the Macedonian daily newspaper Dnevnik, the Copenhagen climate summit organised by the UN is hardly possible to be assessed as a new phase in human thought and organisation or as the corner stone of a new ecologically conscious civilisation. According to the daily, the climate summit was threatened by multiple fiascos: lack of a binding agreement, the discrediting of renowned scientists, and open dispute between the developing world and the wealthy world. Copenhagen will be noted for revealing profiteer’s interests, politicians’ dirty interests, the misuse of the civil sector and the manipulation of the world leading media, notes the daily.[1] After the summit, the media in Macedonia were filled with headlines, such as “Failure and downfall of the Copenhagen Summit”. According to the Macedonian media and experts, although the Copenhagen summit was declared to be a fiasco, the adopted agreement has certain duties for the countries, especially small ones like Macedonia.[2]

In front of the gates of Europe

Biljana Janeva
The Republic of Macedonia strongly supports the EU enlargement process for all Western Balkan countries. The Western Balkan region is the only region which is bordered by the EU on all sides. However, not only its geography, but also its multiculturalism and rich multiethnic history make it only natural that it belongs to Europe.
Since Croatia solved the bilateral issue with Slovenia, it is clear that it is advancing to the EU’s doorstep. The Republic of Macedonia was also part of the package for accession into the EU, and, having spent five years as a candidate country, it has so far fulfilled the conditions and benchmarks set by the EU and received a recommendation by the EU Commission in order to obtain a start date for the accession negotiations. The only remaining obstacle keeping the Republic of Macedonia from receiving a start date from the EU is the bilateral issue with its southern neighbour – an absurd dispute over Macedonia’s constitutional name imposed by Greece. Yet, the Republic of Macedonia is willing to cooperate and to solve this issue in order to take a step further and start negotiations. Nevertheless, the name issue is a very sensitive issue for the Macedonian people, touching their identity and language.

Lisbon Treaty brings hope for Macedonia

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]