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The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the European Commission held the 13th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement Sub-committee on Justice and Home Affairs

The 13th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Sub-Committee on Justice and Home Affairs between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the European Commission took place on 18-19 October 2018 in Brussels. The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Svetlana Vlahovic Dimanovska, Head of Sector for negotiations and EU integration within the Department for EU and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Ms Mary Teresa Moran, Deputy Head of Unit for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo in the Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission. The meeting took place in the presence of the Chair of SA Committee, the State Secretary of the Secretariat for European Affairs and of the Deputy Minister of Justice.

The Sub-Committee took stock of the state of play of judicial reform, fundamental rights, anti-corruption policy, home affairs and border management, asylum and migration in terms of progress towards harmonisation with the EU legislation (acquis)under chapters 23 and 24, as well as implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in these areas.

Concerning judicial reform, the European Commission enquired about reforms of the Judicial Council and the Council of Public Prosecutors and about the follow-up to the inspection of the automated court case management information system. The European Commission stressed the need for exemplarity and for going beyond legislative reforms. Reforms enabling the continuation of the work of the Special Prosecutor were also discussed, with the view to ensure legal accountability for all crimes surrounding and arising from the content of the illegal wiretaps. The authorities informed about the current status and follow up activities, underlining that the judicial reforms remain the key priority for the upcoming period.

The European Commission and the national authorities discussed priorities in the field of Fundamental Rights, notably with regard to the need to accelerate the development of probation and the use of alternative sanctions. The situation of media freedom and the draft amendments to the Law on Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services were also discussed. The European Commission commended the authorities on their commitment to de-institutionalisation and discussed the situation in institutions for adults and children with disabilities.

Ongoing reforms addressing the appointment process, status and mandate of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption as well as the track record on high level corruption cases were discussed. The European Commission welcomed the progress in adopting the necessary strategic framework to enhance the effective conduct of financial investigations and stressed the need to step up the fight against organised criminal networks and the seizure and confiscation of criminal proceeds. The national authorities recalled the work undertaken so far to reform the system of interception of communications and outlined plans for reforming intelligence services, in line with recommendations. The European Commission welcomed the steps taken on cyber-security.

Regarding migration and border management, the country is continuing its efforts to manage the migration challenges and working towards integrated border management. The European Commission welcomed the finalisation of the negotiations on the status agreement that will allow the deployment of police officers under the auspices of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. It also welcomed the effective implementation of the readmission agreement between the country and the EU.

The parties agreed to focus on the areas identified as priorities by the European Council, for which concrete results are needed, notably on judicial reform, strengthening the track record on corruption and organised crime and on reforming intelligence services.