The 17th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee between the European Union and North Macedonia (SA Committee), due to have been held in Skopje, took place virtually on 17 July 2020. The meeting was co-chaired by Ms Kalinka Gaber, State Secretary for EU affairs of North Macedonia and Ms Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans in DG NEAR.
The SA Committee meeting took place four months after the Council decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and a couple of weeks after the Commission submitted the draft negotiating framework to the Council. The meeting took note of these two important steps in North Macedonia’s accession process and discussed the way forward.
The SA Committee noted that OSCE/ODIHR assessed that the early parliamentary elections held on 15 July 2020 were generally administered effectively amid adjustments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the campaign was genuinely competitive, but legal stability was undermined by substantial revisions to the legal framework and subsequent government decrees. Addressing remaining OSCE/ODIHR recommendations well ahead of the next election cycle remains a priority for the country.
The SA Committee took stock of the state of play in relation to the political and economic criteria, alignment with the EU legislation (acquis), as well as implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. It welcomed the progress achieved in advancing EU reforms, especially in the areas identified in the 2018 Council Conclusions, the 2019 Commission report recommendations and SAA Subcommittee conclusions, as well as the guidance provided in the context of the Economic Reform Programme. The adoption and the entry into force of the Law on the Public Prosecutor’s Office was welcomed, but the need to continue with the reforms in the judiciary was underlined. Improvements in the track record of fight against corruption and organised crime were noted, while underlying these efforts need to continue unabatedly in these areas.
The European Commission encouraged all political parties and national stakeholders to work jointly on maintaining and strengthening the political dialogue and continue to further deliver on the EU-related agenda, including in key areas such as the judiciary, fight against corruption and organised crime, the intelligence services, public administration, in inclusive and transparent manner. The European Commission outlined the importance of maintaining progress in alignment with the EU acquis.
The delegations recalled the Council Conclusions of March 2020 and the importance of good neighbourly relations, including the implementation of the Prespa Agreement and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria.
As stated in the joint statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, the European Union will continue to support North Macedonia on its path to the EU and looks forward to holding of the first Intergovernmental Conference as soon as possible.