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.
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 in order 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 urges NATO to put aside Greece’s objections over Macedonia’s name, prevent bilateral disputes from becoming NATO membership criteria, and invite Macedonia to join the Alliance as soon as possible.
Macedonia has shown a steadfast commitment to joining NATO for almost 20 years, satisfied all military and civil criteria – a goal supported by over 90% of its population. Throughout the past two decades, Macedonia has made numerous valuable contributions to NATO, including combat troops under NATO command. Macedonia, a net exporter of security, has been an active participant in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, making it the fourth highest ISAF troop contributor per capita. Macedonia has hosted the logistical support center for NATO’s Kosovo Mission (KFOR) since 1999, providing safe refuge to over 360,000 Kosovar refugees during the conflict. Macedonia has also contributed to other multilateral missions in Bosnia, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Macedonia is strategically located in Southeast Europe – a unique gateway for rapid NATO troop deployments to the Middle East and North Africa in order to maintain broader regional stability.
At the 2008 Bucharest Summit, Macedonia having met all MAP requirements anticipated an invitation to join NATO, however, Greece vetoed Macedonia’s accession into NATO thus violating the UN Interim Accord. As a result Macedonia took Greece to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The December 2011 judgment by the ICJ clearly confirmed that Greece’s actions in 2008 were in violation of international law and were expressly prohibited by Article XI of a 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord, which normalized relations between both countries.
Canada, through statements by Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, has openly called for a “consensus minus one” approach, in order to reduce domestic affairs like Greece’s problem with Macedonia’s identity becoming obstacles to NATO membership.
Greece’s hostile complaints about Macedonia’s name are no more than a political distraction to cover up its domestic misdeeds and to silence the ethnic Macedonian minority in northern Greece. Given the recent ICJ ruling, and the fact that Macedonia has met all NATO membership criteria, the Chicago Summit on May 20-21, 2012 provided the perfect moment to invite Macedonia to join the Alliance, and send Greece a strong message that regional security, stability, integrity and the rule of law come first. Unfortunately, this did not occur.