In 2020, many ongoing issues run the risk of being overshadowed by the overarching crisis of the global Corona pandemic. But exactly in these uncertain times we achieved our generations’ aspiration to become the 30th member of NATO. Moreover, the long-awaited decision to start EU accession negotiations fell in March.
Where does the country stand now, in the midst of the pandemic as all countries, people and economies struggle. How is the show brought forward, or, how does the country adapt to new realities?
After some months with an interim government, Macedonians finally took to the polling stations in July 2020 to elect a new government. Just now as we finalize this volume, in September 2020, a SDSM and BESA-DUI coalition has been approved as new government. The government promises strong leadership to guide the country through the Covid-19 crisis, while also further following their pro-EU path.
In this quest, the government will rely on the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen who has expressed their support for the European Future of the Western Balkans, and North Macedonia more particularly as is elaborated by Marie Jelenka Kirchner and Zoran Nechev in chapter 1.
On North Macedonia’s European path, much is bound to happen this autumn, coinciding with an ambitious
German Council Presidency. This busy presidency aims at an ever-stronger Europe, including not only current but also future EU member states in their innovative EU agenda. The opportunities for North Macedonia are manifold, as Marie Jelenka Kirchner, Zoran Nechev and Dragan Tilev explain in chapter 2 of this volume.
The European Commission has been promising to become a more credible and reliable role in the process of EU enlargement. This narrative was braced with a new “enhanced” and in its nature more political, stricter and more dynamic enlargement accession methodology published in February 2020. Dragan Tilev comprehensively presents and discusses its opportunities and challenges for all sides involved in chapter 3.
After the past-due decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia in March 2020, the country is now waiting for the next steps to formally begin the negotiations. Dragan Tilev and Zoran Nechev co-authored two papers in this volume, providing a comprehensive overview on the formalities of North Macedonia’s accession process. Chapter 4 familiarizes the reader with insights into the general EU position and institutional specifications which explain the importance of intergovernmental conferences. Chapter 5 focuses on the specific technicalities of North Macedonia’s accession process under the new methodology, with special emphasis on the bilateral screening and its significance for the overall pace of the negotiation process.
This publication comes well-timed at the inauguration of a new Macedonian government. Many EU-related questions which have arisen throughout this year are yet to be responded to, whether it relates to accession formalities or the government’s commitment. Not all of this lies in the hands of the Macedonian government which magnifies the papers’ demands for clear structures, transparency and good communications at all sides.
Very important, as Ivan Nikolovski illustrates elaborately in chapter 6, will be the comprehensive inclusion of Civil Society at all aspects of Macedonia’s process of Europeanisation and democratization. The new government would be well-advised to focus on substantive and honest inclusion of its citizens to discuss, draft, and assist in implementation of the new Europeanized policies and European projects.
After months of stagnation – not only fault of Covid-19 – North Macedonia is back on track. In the interest of the country’s future and the future of its citizens, it is now within the responsibility of the new government to reestablish an efficient, inclusive and sustainable structure for accession negotiations which will remain functional for years – resistant to all governmental changes – to come. This collection of papers, edited and published by Institute for Democracy (IDSCS) with support of the Konrad Adenauer-Foundation (Skopje Office), acts as one reminder that EU enlargement is worth investing in – at the side of the Government of North Macedonia just as much as at the side of the European Union.
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