Accession of North Macedonia to the European Union
|North Macedonia's EU accession bid|
|Website||Secretariat for European Affairs|
North Macedonia's accession to the European Union (EU) has been on the current agenda for future enlargement of the EU since 2005, when it became as a candidate for accession, but it has not yet entered into accession negotiations. It submitted its membership application in 2004, thirteen years after its independence from Yugoslavia. As of September 2018[update], it was one of five candidate countries, together with Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, after the latest round of enlargement that brought membership to Croatia. Accession to the EU has been defined as the highest strategic priority for the country's government.
A previous obstacle to full membership was the Macedonia naming dispute, whereby Greece objected diplomatic recognition of the country under the name of "Republic of Macedonia". However, on 27 June 2018, following the withdrawal of Greek opposition as part of the Prespa agreement to adopt "Republic of North Macedonia" as name of the country, the EU approved the start of accession talks, which are expected in 2019, provided certain conditions are met.
The government's motto for the candidacy is "The Sun, too, is a star", referring to the sun from the flag of North Macedonia being displayed among the other stars in the flag of Europe, in the official logo of the candidacy.
North Macedonia is currently receiving €1.3 billion of development aid until 2020 from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, a funding mechanism for EU candidate countries.
North Macedonia began its formal process of rapprochement with the European Union in 2000, by initiating negotiations about the EU's Stabilisation and Association Process, and it became the first non-EU country in the Balkans to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), on 9 April 2001 in Luxembourg. The agreement was ratified by the Macedonian parliament on 12 April 2001, and was the first to be ratified by all the member states and came into force on 1 April 2004.
At the same time, on 22 March 2004 in Dublin, Ireland, Macedonia submitted its application for EU membership. On 6 September 2004, the Macedonian government adopted a National Strategy for European integration, supported by the country's parliament through its Commission for European Issues. The government subsequently began the procedure of answering the questionnaire of the European Commission regarding its performance in preparation for membership in accordance with the Copenhagen criteria, a process that was finished by 31 January 2005. The European Council officially granted the country candidate status on 17 December 2005, after a review and a positive recommendation of the candidacy by the European Commission.
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
|North Macedonia portal|
This article needs to be updated. In particular: this section should be eddited to ensure that readers understand that the disagreement between Greece and North Macedonia has been resolved throughout the section. In some paragraphs it is unclear.April 2019)(
A major obstacle for the accession process was the Republic's unresolved objection by Greece over its name, as it argued that it implied territorial ambitions towards Greece's own northern province of Macedonia. While the country preferred to be called by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, the European Union, in acknowledgment of concerns raised by Greece, maintained a practice of recognising it only as the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", the compromise "provisional reference" introduced by the United Nations in 1993. Greece, as any other EU country, has veto power against new accessions, and blocked Macedonian accession due to the naming dispute. In April 2008, at the NATO summit in Bucharest, Greece rejected all proposals by the Macedonian government and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz – including the name "Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)" – and vetoed Macedonia's accession to NATO. As Macedonia would have also agreed to accede as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", the Greek veto breached the 1995 Interim Agreement.
In December 2009, Greece vetoed the start of Macedonia's EU membership negotiations. Since 2008, resolution of the naming conflict has also been added to the official preconditions raised by the EU.
In 2006, EU sources criticised the country's leadership under prime minister Nikola Gruevski for its policies against its Albanian minority and the politicisation of many state institutions, warning that these problems might become obstacles to the official start of accession talks.
Bilateral conflicts also exist with Bulgaria, mainly related to conflicting views about the two countries' shared 19th- and 20th-century history and the ethnic separateness of the two nations. Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007. In July 2006, Bulgarian foreign minister Ivaylo Kalfin and president Georgi Parvanov stated that Bulgaria's support for Macedonian membership might not be unconditional, citing concerns over negative and aggressive attitudes against Bulgaria and Bulgarian history fostered by the Macedonian authorities. Defiant answers were reported from the Macedonian political leadership.
In October 2012, the European Commission recommended for the fourth consecutive year that membership negotiations with Macedonia be launched. On each previous occasion the opening of negotiations had been vetoed by Greece. In 2012 Bulgaria also utilised its veto.
A solution for the long-lasting naming dispute, however, moved considerably closer, when the Greek foreign minister on 4 October 2012 forwarded a draft for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to settle the question. According to the Euractive website the proposal was answered positively by the Macedonian foreign minister on 8 November 2012. Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated that the softening of positions by the two states could allow for accession negotiations to begin before a compromise on the naming dispute was reached. On 11 December 2012, the Council of the European Union concluded that Macedonia could start accession negotiations as early as the second quarter of 2013, conditional on reaching an agreement on its dispute with Bulgaria and Greece. The Council was encouraged that progress on the latter dispute had recently been made by a UN mediator.
However, in February 2013 Füle canceled his planned trip to Macedonia to assess the country's progress on reforms due to ongoing political instability in the country, including the boycott of parliament and the threat to boycott upcoming local elections by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia. He warned that the stalemate was “putting at risk” the launch of accession negotiations. The political crisis was resolved when the EU brokered a compromise between Macedonia's political parties on 1 March 2013.
In October 2013 the European Commission recommended for a fifth straight year that accession negotiations with Macedonia be launched. At the meeting of the Council of the European Union in December 2013, the Council for the fifth consecutive year concluded that "the political criteria continue to be sufficiently met", but in regards to making the final decision to open accession negotiations it was only agreed to revisit the issue in 2014. The decision whether or not to start accession negotiations will be made "on the basis of an update by the Commission on further implementation of reforms in the context of the High Level Accession Dialogue, including the implementation of the 1 March 2013 political agreement - and on tangible steps taken to promote good neighborly relations [with Bulgaria] - and to reach a negotiated and mutually accepted solution to the name issue [with Greece]".
The UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, has invited Greece and Macedonia to a new round of "name dispute" negotiations to begin on 26 March 2014. In February 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that according to its assessment, the Copenhagen criteria has been sufficiently fulfilled for Macedonia to begin negotiations for EU accession, and called on the Council of the European Union to confirm the date for the launch of accession negotiations straight away, as bilateral disputes must not be an obstacle for the start of talks - although they must be solved before the accession. However, whether or not the Council agreed with the parliament's opinion, it had no mention of Macedonia's accession negotiations at its meeting in June 2014.
As of May 2014, the name dispute was still unresolved, but it was announced that negotiations were to be resumed after the Greek EP election and local elections on 25 May. At the Council meeting in June 2014, the fixing of a start date for Macedonia's accession negotiations was not on the agenda. On 12 June 2018, the Macedonian and Greek governments reached a preliminary agreement to end their dispute, which would result in the country being renamed the Republic of North Macedonia (Република Северна Македонија)
On 12 June 2018, an agreement was reached between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev, known as the Prespa agreement, under which the country would be renamed the "Republic of North Macedonia". As part of this deal, Greece explicitly withdrew its previous opposition, allowing the EU to approve on June 27 the start of accession talks with the future Republic of North Macedonia, at that point still referred in official documents as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". The talks are expected to begin in 2019, subject to several conditions being met.
State of Stabilisation and Association Agreement ratification
|October 1992||The Republic of Macedonia appoints its representative in Brussels, agreeing to the use of the "former Yugoslav" before its constitutional name ("Republic of Macedonia") designation in bilateral relations.|
|22 December 1995||The Republic and the EU establish diplomatic relations. Negotiations commence directed at an agreement with a wide scope of co-operation in the fields of trade, financial operations and transport.|
|February 1996||The permanent Macedonian Mission in Brussels is upgraded to an ambassadorial level.|
|10 March 1996||Macedonia becomes a full partner in the PHARE Programme (Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Reconstruction of their Economies).|
|20 March 1996||Negotiations begin towards a Cooperation Agreement and a Transport Agreement between the Republic and the European Communities.|
|20 June 1996||Conclusion of the Cooperation Agreement and the Transport Agreement.|
|November 1997||The Transport Agreement enters into force|
|1 January 1998||The Cooperation Agreement enters into force.|
|February 1998||1st political talks on ministerial level are held in Ohrid, in accordance with the Cooperation Agreement.|
|11 March 1998||A Trade and Textile Agreement is signed (it remains in force until 1998 and is later replaced with a new agreement on 1 January 2000).|
|21 and 22 March 1998||1st meeting of a mutual Cooperation Council in Skopje.|
|5 March 1999||2nd meeting of the Cooperation Council in Brussels|
|24 January 2000||The European Commission adopts directives regarding cooperation and regarding the official start of negotiations for potential membership.|
|March 2000||Opening of the EU Delegation in Skopje; appointment of the first Chief of the Delegation.|
|5 April 2000||Start of 1st round of negotiations on the SAA.|
|June 2000||Adoption of a Perspective (regulation) on Potential Membership by the European Council in Fiera.|
|24 November 2000||The SAA is initiated at the Zagreb Summit.|
|December 2000||Entering into force of Council Regulation on Introducing Exceptional Trade Measures; Macedonia joins the Regional CARDS Programme 2002–2006.|
|16 February 2001||Interim Agreement on SAA Trade Provisions signed.|
|9 April 2001||SAA and Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade Issues signed. The Agreement enters into force on 1 June 2001.|
|January 2002||Supplementary Protocol on Wine and Spirits, and Textile Products Trade Agreement.|
|20 February 2003||The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, visits Skopje, reconfirming the EU position on the country's perspective for EU membership.|
|25 July 2003||Last of 6 meetings of the Cooperation Council in Brussels.|
|February 2004||“Declaration on the Application for EU membership” signed by the Macedonian parliament.|
|22 March 2004||At a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, the Macedonian government submitted the application for membership in the EU.|
|1 April 2004||SAA enters into force following the ratifications by all the EU Member States.|
|3 June 2004||1st meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee held in Skopje.|
|6 September 2004||National Strategy for European Integration adopted by the Macedonian government.|
|14 September 2004||1st meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council in Brussels.|
|1 October 2004||Questionnaire on accession preparation submitted to the Macedonian government by the European Commission.|
|31 January 2005||Answers to the Questionnaire finalised by the Macedonian government.|
|14 February 2005||Answers to the Questionnaire submitted to the European Commission by a Macedonian delegation in Brussels.|
|10 May 2005||Additional questions to the Questionnaire of the European Commission that were received on 22 April 2005 are answered, accepted by the Republic's government, and sent to Brussels.|
|9 November 2005||Positive recommendation on Macedonian accession issued by the European Commission.|
|17 December 2005||The European Council in Brussels approves the candidate status.|
|9 November 2006||The European Commission decides to start visa facilitation negotiations with the Republic.|
|12 July 2007||The European Parliament issues the 2006 Progress Report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Both Greece and the Republic declare a "victory" – The report is critical of the Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the USA (which violates the principles of the Rome Statute); failures in the implementation of the Badinter principle; the Khaled El-Masri affair; the renaming of Skopje Airport to "Alexander the Great"; and other issues such as environmental protection and neighborly relations. Two proposed amendments referring to Bulgaria and Greece's failure to recognise a Macedonian minority living in these countries, and one referring to the constitutional name Republic of Macedonia, were rejected. On the other hand, the EU reiterated that the naming issue will not be considered in the accession process (although Greece's ability to veto remains intact). EuroMPs from the ruling Greek New Democracy party voted in favor of the resolution; those from the opposition PASOK party voted against.|
|23 June 2008||Following the EU summit, the resolution of the naming dispute was added as a precondition to EU accession.|
|14 October 2009||The European Commission has recommended start of the accession negotiations for full-fledged membership of the Republic of Macedonia.|
|8 December 2009||The EU council of ministers postpones granting Macedonia a start date for accession negotiations until at least the first half of 2010.|
|14 March 2012||European Parliament adopts a resolution urging the Council to give the country a date to start accession negotiations. The institution regrets the fact that accession prospects are blocked by a dispute with Greece. EP also raises concerns regarding corruption and the segregation of children from different ethnic groups.|
|29 March 2012||European Commission launches a High Level Accession Dialogue with Skopje.|
|10 October 2012||In its report the Commission recommends the opening of accession negotiations to accelerate reforms in the country in favor to a quick resolution of the dispute over the name with Greece under the auspices of the Commission.|
|11/25 January 2019||Both, the Macedonian and the Greek parliament agreed to the Prespa agreement. It is outlined in the agreement that Greece will not longer veto the accession talks between North Macedonia and the European Union.|
No chapters have been opened thus far. If the European Council approves, once screening has finished, accession negotiations will begin.
|Acquis chapter||Screening Started||Screening Completed||Chapter Opened||Chapter Closed|
|1. Free Movement of Goods||2019-01-17||–||–||–|
|2. Freedom of Movement For Workers||2019-03-13||–||–||–|
|3. Right of Establishment & Freedom To Provide Services||2018-12-11||–||–||–|
|4. Free Movement of Capital||2019-01-10||–||–||–|
|5. Public Procurement||2018-12-06||–||–||–|
|6. Company Law||–||–||–||–|
|7. Intellectual Property Law||2019-02-07||–||–||–|
|8. Competition Policy||–||–||–||–|
|9. Financial Services||2019-04-09||–||–||–|
|10. Information Society & Media||–||–||–||–|
|11. Agriculture & Rural Development||–||–||–||–|
|12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy||2019-02-18||–||–||–|
|14. Transport Policy||–||–||–||–|
|17. Economic & Monetary Policy||2019-01-10||–||–||–|
|19. Social Policy & Employment||2019-04-03||–||–||–|
|20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy||2019-01-29||–||–||–|
|21. Trans-European Networks||2019-03-27||–||–||–|
|22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments||2019-02-02||–||–||–|
|23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights||2018-09-27||–||–||–|
|24. Justice, Freedom & Security||2018-11-12||–||–||–|
|25. Science & Research||2019-03-11||–||–||–|
|26. Education & Culture||2019-03-12||–||–||–|
|27. Environment & Climate Change||–||–||–||–|
|28. Consumer & Health Protection||2019-03-28||–||–||–|
|29. Customs Union||–||–||–||–|
|30. External Relations||–||–||–||–|
|31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy||–||–||–||–|
|32. Financial Control||2018-12-05||–||–||–|
|33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions||–||–||–||–|
|35. Other Issues||–||–||–||–|
|Overview||21 out of 33||0 out of 33||0 out of 35||0 out of 35|
|Acquis chapter||Status as of May 2019||Chapter Status|
|Overview||2 chapters in early stage
25 chapters which are moderately prepared
1 chapter with some level of preparation
5 chapters with good level of preparation
2 chapters in which there is nothing to adopt
|0 chapters opened|
|1. Free Movement of Goods||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|2. Freedom of Movement For Workers||Early stage||Chapter not yet opened|
|3. Right of Establishment & Freedom To Provide Services||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|4. Free Movement of Capital||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|5. Public Procurement||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|6. Company Law||Good level of preparation||Chapter not yet opened|
|7. Intellectual Property Law||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|8. Competition Policy||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|9. Financial Services||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|10. Information Society & Media||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|11. Agriculture & Rural Development||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy||Good level of preparation||Chapter not yet opened|
|13. Fisheries||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|14. Transport Policy||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|15. Energy||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|16. Taxation||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|17. Economic & Monetary Policy||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|18. Statistics||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|19. Social Policy & Employment||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|21. Trans-European Networks||Good level of preparation||Chapter not yet opened|
|22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|24. Justice, Freedom & Security||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|25. Science & Research||Good level of preparation||Chapter not yet opened|
|26. Education & Culture||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|27. Environment & Climate Change||Some level of preparation||Chapter not yet opened|
|28. Consumer & Health Protection||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|29. Customs Union||Good level of preparation||Chapter not yet opened|
|30. External Relations||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|32. Financial Control||Moderately prepared||Chapter not yet opened|
|33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions||Early stage||Chapter not yet opened|
|34. Institutions||Nothing to adopt||Chapter not yet opened|
|35. Other Issues||Nothing to adopt||Chapter not yet opened|
|Acquis chapter||EC Assessment at Start||EC Assessment in 2016||EC Assessment in 2018|
|1. Free Movement of Goods||Early stage||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|2. Freedom of Movement For Workers||Further efforts needed||Early stage||Early stage|
|3. Right of Establishment & Freedom To Provide Services||Further efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|4. Free Movement of Capital||Further efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|5. Public Procurement||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|6. Company Law||Considerable efforts needed||Good level of preparation||Good level of preparation|
|7. Intellectual Property Law||Early stage||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|8. Competition Policy||Early stage||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|9. Financial Services||Further efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|10. Information Society & Media||Considerable efforts needed||Good level of preparation||Moderately prepared|
|11. Agriculture & Rural Development||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy||Considerable efforts needed||Some level of preparation||Good level of preparation|
|13. Fisheries||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|14. Transport Policy||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|15. Energy||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|16. Taxation||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|17. Economic & Monetary Policy||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|18. Statistics||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|19. Social Policy & Employment||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|21. Trans-European Networks||No major difficulties expected||Good level of preparation||Good level of preparation|
|22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights||Considerable efforts needed||Some level of preparation||Some level of preparation|
|24. Justice, Freedom & Security||Considerable efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|25. Science & Research||No major difficulties expected||Good level of preparation||Good level of preparation|
|26. Education & Culture||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|27. Environment||Totally incompatible||Some level of preparation||Some level of preparation|
|28. Consumer & Health Protection||Further efforts needed||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|29. Customs Union||Considerable efforts needed||Good level of preparation||Good level of preparation|
|30. External Relations||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy||No major difficulties expected||Moderately prepared||Moderately prepared|
|32. Financial Control||Early stage||Early stage||Moderately prepared|
|33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions||No major difficulties expected||Early stage||Early stage|
|34. Institutions||Nothing to adopt||Nothing to adopt||Nothing to adopt|
|35. Other Issues||Nothing to adopt||Nothing to adopt||Nothing to adopt|
considerable efforts needed
some level of preparation
further efforts needed
no major difficulties expected
good level of preparation
well prepared / well advanced
Visa liberalisation process
On 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between Serbia and the EU entered into force. Macedonia began a visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU in February 2008 and was added to the list of visa exempt nationals on 19 December 2009, allowing their citizens to enter the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania without a visa when traveling with biometric passports.
North Macedonia's government has established a management infrastructure for the European integration process on the basis of a paper adopted in 1997 under the title "The strategic bases of the Republic of [North] Macedonia on achieving the membership of the European Union". It consists of the following institutions:
- The Committee for Euro-Atlantic Integration plays the central role in the decision-making of the country's policies in the European integration process. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers, all ministers in the Government, the Governor of the National Bank of North Macedonia and the President of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts are members of the Committee.
- The Working Committee for European Integration of the Government of the Republic of [North] Macedonia (WCEI) – It is chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers in charge of EU Integration, whose deputy is the Minister of Economy. The members are the secretaries from all Ministries. It is an operational, inter-ministerial body establishing the methods and dynamics for implementation of strategic decisions, political guidelines and priorities of the Government, as well as monitoring the realisation of the concrete tasks.
- The Deputy to the President of the Government is responsible for the European integration as centre in the management and coordination of the operational part of the integration process. Its support and service is the Sector for European Integration within the General Secretariat of the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
- The Sector for European Integration within the Republic's government is given the task to organise, coordinate and synchronise the EU integration process. It is organised in seven units in charge of the approximation of the national legislation with that of the EU, translation of the EU legal acts, institution building, support to the WCEI, coordination of foreign assistance, and information to the broader public on EU and the European integration process.
- Departments/Sectors/Units for European Integration within the Ministries have similar structure and competencies as the central Sector for European Integration within the Government, being a key link in the institutional infrastructure.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs – EU domain – is responsible for communications with the EU structures through the Mission of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Brussels, gathering valid and timely information that have impact on the integration process and presenting the uniform perspectives and positions in the European structures.
The other institutions supporting the EU integration process are the following:
- the Republic's Assembly and its Commission for European Issues
- the Secretariat for Legislation
- the General Secretariat of the Government
- the Subcommittee of the WCEI for approximation of the legislation with its working groups
Impact of joining
|Member countries||Population||Area (km²)||GDP
per capita (US$)
|North Macedonia||2,058,539||25,713||10.98||4,935||Macedonian |
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