EU membership requires political consensus
The European Commission (EC) positive Opinion is in favor of all citizens of Macedonia, Euro Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Thursday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski.
"EC has recommended to the EU members to approve Macedonia's candidate status for the EU membership. Negotiations for accession should be opened with the country once t has met the membership criteria," Rehn said.
He quoted Buckovski, who said yesterday that the EC avis was a one-way ticket.
"The next step is to find the right track so that your country may join EU, which calls for reforms. Macedonia should decide on its pace to the EU. It should decide on using a fast Euro-train or a slow one," Rehn said, adding that the country's future EU integration activities require strong commitment and political consensus.
Buckovski said he considered the EC Opinion as a lecture given to candidates for European studies.
"Macedonia has managed to pass the entrance examination, and from now on its up to us. We will try to respond to all recommendations as students, who wish to pass European exams in record time," Buckovski said.
At the press conference, attended by all Macedonian ministers and EU Special Representative Erwan Fouere, Rehn said that Macedonia had a lot to do, in particular to provide for fair and democratic elections, successfully reform its judiciary and police, as well as improve the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and organized crime.
"The rule of law and legislation are the foundations to better business and economic conditions. The reforms are equally important as the goal of the process," Rehn said.
He gave credit to the Macedonian Government for the successful implementation of the Framework Agreement, which was crucial for EC to recommend a candidate status for the country.
"I expect a full implementation of the Framework Agreement, as well as respect of its spirit for making your country a stable, multiethnic society. The agreement is very significant for your country," Rehn said.
Asked if Macedonia may expect a start of entry talks by the end of 2006, Rehn said he was unwilling to talk about time limits when serious issues were involved, such as the EU membership.
"I think that the content is much more important than the time schedule. The start of negotiations depends on the reform pace, i.e. Macedonia's progress. We are not interested in commitments and words, but in actions, accomplishments on the ground," Rehn said. He was unwilling to comment the position of the Greek Foreign Ministry, which says that the name issue is a political standard for Macedonia's accession to the EU.
"The name issue has been mentioned in the Opinion. EC points out that it is a bilateral matter between two countries and should be resolved with the UN assistance. I expect that the two countries will practice a constructive dialogue in order to achieve results. Closing of this issue will however be very favorable for the economic and political relations," Rehn said.