At the fifth time of asking, the European Commission is urging EU governments to open accession talks with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and hopes they will give a positive response in June. The recommendation is contained in a progress report, tabled on 16 April. This analyses two specific issues EU foreign ministers singled out last December for more in-depth investigation.
The first concerns implementation of EU-related reforms in five areas: freedom of expression and media; rule of law, fundamental rights and inter-ethnic dialogue; public administration reform; electoral reform; and strengthening the market economy. The second focuses on the steps being taken to promote good neighbourly relations.
Presenting the findings, Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said: "Implementation of reforms is ongoing and largely back on track after the political crisis of January-February. Relations with neighbours remained good and steps have been taken on bilateral relations with Bulgaria and Greece". He was cautiously optimistic on the outcome of formal talks with Greece over the country's name, noting that these had taken on "new momentum" in recent months and expressed the hope that a new United Nations proposal tabled last week could lead to an agreement.
However, the commissioner made clear that greater efforts had to be made to implement the 1 March agreement between political parties, which ended a two-month stand-off between the government and opposition when the 2013 annual budget was adopted in controversial circumstances last December.
The Commission had intended to present progress reports on Serbia and...