The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament adopted today its annual resolution on the progress of Macedonia towards its EU membership. The members passed a number of amendments proposed by Bulgarian S&D MEP Sergei Stanishev, who is also Vice-President of the EU-FYROM Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Socialists believe that the start of accession negotiations can have a positive impact on the country and give an impetus for progress in problematic areas, including unsolved bilateral issues. A decision to set a date for the negotiations to begin, however, would not be a ‘gift’, but will come on the basis of achieved results under clear criteria, Stanishev said.

The report adopted acknowledges the progress achieved so far by Macedonia and yet again shares the Commission’s recommendation to start accession negotiations with the EU, which have been stalled for the past 9 years due to the unresolved name dispute with Greece as well as lack of progress in the field of good neighbourly relations. However, MEPs also express serious concern over the ongoing political polarisation in the country, the judiciary, freedom of speech and media, condemn all forms of extreme nationalism which deepens the lines of division in the society, and so on.

According to Stanishev, despite ongoing negotiations for the signature of a Treaty on good neighbourliness with Bulgaria and the high-level contacts and visits, there is no real political will on the side of the Macedonian government for practical steps for joint celebrations of prominent historical events and characters, objective interpretation of history, etc. The amendments to the draft text proposed by Stanishev put an emphasis on the responsibility of the government to ensure the dialogue with opposition and civil society, especially when adopting new legislation and constitutional changes.

Commenting on the recent political scandal in Macedonia, Sergei Stanishev said: ‘The revelations of the opposition leader Zoran Zaev, SDSM President, for mass phone tapping, pressure exerted on media, control over the judiciary and others question not only the progress of Macedonia towards EU accession but also fundamental democratic principles and values. Carrying out an impartial, independent and objective investigation of all allegations will be a serious test not only for the judiciary but also for the freedom of media in the country. The deepening political gap between government and opposition does not allow for a constructive political dialogue to take place, and its place is in Parliament. The absence of the opposition there undermines the legitimacy of the pursued policies and the adopted legislation. Both sides have their responsibility before all Macedonian citizens for finding a way out of this situation in the name of the common goal – EU membership, economic and social prosperity.

The report is voted just a day before an official PES delegation led by Sergei Stanishev arrives in Skopje to get first-hand impressions and assessment of the situation with the mass phone tapping scandal.