In an interview with European Western Balkans, Slovenian MEP praised the Governments courage in resolving the decades-long dispute with Greece over the name of the country but recalls that the road to the EU for Northern Macedonia involves many reforms. He said he was concerned with slow reforms in the judiciary, as well as the state of media freedom and the fight against corruption.

Asked whether North Macedonia, which has candidate status since 2005, can complete the accession process before other countries in the region that have already began negotiations, Peterle says the results of the reforms, rather than the reforms themselves, are the ultimate goal of European integration.

“The accession process is not a competition, it is about implementing reforms that protect the rule of law and guarantee a better future for citizens. Focusing on which country is “winning” introduces a discourse that incentivises reforms, rather than emphasizing their implementation as the ultimate goal of European integration. I am optimistic about what North Macedonia will be able to achieve now that the name dispute is settled and I hope we have this same optimism for the broader region”, says the Slovenian MP.

He specifically points out several areas there is much to be done, such as judicial reform, the state of media freedom and the fight against corruption.

“While a significant accomplishment in itself, the process of approving and implementing the Prespa agreement has diverted nearly all of the political energy in the country for the better part of a year. Now that this chapter has closed, the country should return to the process of reforms with the same vigour and dedication demonstrated during negotiations. In spite of the name agreement, there has been little progress with regard to the independence of the judiciary, concerns over the freedom of the press persist and there is still much to be done in the fight against corruption. A government dedicated to the rule of law must be able to focus on more than one issue at a time”, stresses Peterle.