Macedonia applied for EU membership in 2004, and after a positive recommendation by the European Commission, Macedonia was granted candidacy status in 2005. In order to join the EU, Macedonia has to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria, which is a broad spectrum of requirements including political, economic and legal reforms.
Since Macedonia became an EU candidate, the European Commission and the European Parliament have recommended that the EU open membership talks with Macedonia. The recommendations stress that Macedonia has made "convincing progress" in police reform, tackling corruption and bolstering human rights. In addition, since December 19, 2009 Macedonians no longer need visas to visit most EU member states - those in the Schengen zone. Although Macedonia has met the requirements to receive a date to start accession talks, and despite three positive progress reports and European Commission recommendations, the European Council has failed to grant Macedonia its date as a result of pressure by Greece.
The EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle launched a High Level Accession Dialogue (HLAD) on March 15, 2012 in Skopje to enhance the support of the European Commission for Macedonia’s accession process by ensuring a structured, high-level discussion on the main reform challenges and opportunities. The Dialogue provides support by focusing on key reform priorities. "It does not replace accession negotiations but it forms a bridge to them," said Commissioner Füle when launching the Dialogue.
UMD supports increased EU-Macedonia relations and the new Dialogue, however, urges the European Council to act in accordance to the recommendations by the other EU institutions and grant Macedonia its rightful date to start accession talks.