North Macedonia has fully harmonized its foreign policy with the European Union (EU) since the beginning of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. This is according to the European Commission’s progress report published today in Brussels, which states that the country’s level of alignment with Brussels in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is 100 percent.
“This includes all EU restrictive measures aimed at the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine,” the report emphasizes.
According to the document, this is a strong signal of North Macedonia’s strategic commitment to the EU. “North Macedonia also aligned itself with all EU declarations submitted to international organizations, including the resolution adopted at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Ukraine on 23 February 2023,” the report reads.
Brussels recommends that the authorities in Skopje further strengthen their capacity to implement the sanctions in force. Since harmonization with EU restrictive measures has no immediate legal effect, the report emphasizes that the government of North Macedonia, by special decision, makes any sanctions measure based on the local law on restrictive measures omnipotent. According to the document, this creates a time gap between formal harmonization and implementation in practice.
The report also mentions the termination of the visa agreement with Russia, a measure that came into force in January 2023, while emphasizing that the permission of the Honorary Consul of Russia in Bitola has been withdrawn.
North Macedonia has a good level of preparation in the area of common foreign policy,
In the coming year, Brussels recommends Skopje to “maintain full alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy” and to make further efforts to “close the space for foreign interference and information manipulation by including disinformation” as well as to take measures to strengthen societal resilience to disinformation or other forms of hybrid threats.
In 2023, the report states that North Macedonia played an active role in a complex geopolitical context during his tenure as Chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has worsened the country’s economy and led to high energy, commodity and food prices as well as disruptions in supply chains.
“Gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed as the economy suffered the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. After a partial recovery from the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, annual GDP growth slowed from 3.9% in 2021 to 2.1% in 2022 as external demand weakened, disruptions to global supply chains persisted and global food and energy prices rose rapidly,” the report states.
According to the document, relations with Ukraine have intensified since the beginning of the Russian aggression. “North Macedonia has declared support for Ukraine as a priority for its OSCE Chairmanship in 2023. North Macedonia supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” North Macedonia has provided humanitarian and military assistance and fully complies with the EU’s package of restrictive measures against Russia. North Macedonia and Ukraine have agreements on trade, investment protection, culture, education, tourism, transport and military cooperation. “A visa-free regime for short stays has been in place since 2019,” the report states.
In this year’s EU Progress Report, North Macedonia is praised for having “actively promoted European standards and values and sought to counter the threats posed by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine” since January 2023, when the country assumed the position of OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.
The report also criticizes the lack of reforms in the judiciary, the polarization of parliament and the lack of electoral reforms. Brussels has called on the political parties to overcome their differences and adopt constitutional amendments in line with the French proposal, which would include the inclusion of ethnic Bulgarians in the constitution as a precondition for the continuation of EU accession negotiations. /The Geopost