Фото: Арбнора Мемети

In its 2020 Report about North Macedonia’s progress towards its EU accession, the European Commission (EC) notes a continuation of the reforms that is evident through the efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, including by activating existing checks and balances and through discussions and debates in key policy and legislative issues.

“During the reporting period, the Parliament improved its role as the primary forum for constructive political dialogue and fullfilled its legislative functions, including by adopting key EU-related laws. However, the significant increase of the use of fast track procedures raises concerns and should be limited. The Parliament operated in greater transparency and used its oversight functions, restoring checks and balances over the executive,” stressed the EC in its report about the work of the NRM’s Parliament.

Civil society, according to the EC, remains active and plays a key role in policy and decision-making processes.

“Measures have been taken to implement the 2018-2020 Strategy and Action Plan for the Cooperation between Government and Civil Society. However, efforts are needed to ensure a more meaningful and timely consultation process,” states the Report about North Macedonia’s progress.

In regard to the public administration, EC states that the North Macedonia is moderately prepared when it comes to its reform.

“Some progress was made in improving transparency, with the adoption of the 2019-2021 Transparency Strategy, the operationalisation of the open government data portal and the publication of data on government spending. The monitoring reports on implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy and the Public Financial Management Reform Programme were produced and accompanied by adequate visibility actions,” state EC’s Report.

However, in regard to the public administration reforms, EC states that it is essential to ensure respect for the principles of transparency, merit and equitable representation. A proper follow-up to the reports and recommendations of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption needs to be ensured.

In regard to the judiciary system, the EC states that there was good progress in the implementation of the judicial reform strategy, thereby addressing the ‘Urgent Reform Priorities’ and recommendations from the Venice Commission and the Senior Experts’ Group on systemic Rule of Law issues.

“Efforts are still needed to ensure systematic implementation of the updated action plan of the judicial reform strategy. Judicial institutions are implementing new rules for appointment, promotion, discipline and dismissal of judges and the Judicial Council has been exercising its role more pro-actively,” states the EC’s Report.

As a result of its reform efforts in recent years, North Macedonia has established mechanisms to ensure judicial independence and accountability, such as rules on merit-based appointments, checking assets and conflicts of interest and disciplinary procedures, reports the EC.

“Effective implementation of the legal framework as well as increased efforts by all stakeholders to demonstrate their exemplarity will contribute to increasing public trust in the judiciary,” states the Report.

As regards the fight against corruption, North Macedonia is moderately prepared. Good progress was made through consolidating its track record on investigating, prosecuting and trying high level corruption cases. The State Commission for Prevention of Corruption has been particularly pro-active in preventing corruption and opened a high number of cases, including those involving high-level officials from across the political spectrum, in line with last year’s recommendation.

“Corruption is prevalent in many areas and a more proactive approach from all actors engaged in preventing and fighting corruption needs to be ensured,” states EC’s Report.

In regard to the fight against organized crime, it is stated that North Macedonia through the an asset recovery office must demonstrate its capacity to support a proactive policy of asset confiscation. The country is engaged in threat assessment at the regional level, and will have to broaden its scope in line with the EU practices.

“There is some progress at the operational level, but more needs to be done to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement in fighting specific forms of crime, such as money laundering and financial crimes. The cooperation with Europol is increasing across the different criminal areas. Coordination remains crucial for all stakeholders involved in fighting organised crime,” states the EC’s Report.

The EC gives a special emphasis on the treatment of detained and convicted persons where additional efforts are needed to address recommendations of European and international human rights bodies.

“The country should take urgent measures to further improve the situation in prisons and to support alternatives to detention,” this was clearly indicated in EC’s Report.

The Constitutional Court’s decision to repeal the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination on procedural grounds means that the country currently lacks a comprehensive legal framework on nondiscrimination and an equality body. This serious gap needs to be addressed by the new legislature. It is also important for the country to enhance implementation of the legislation on hate speech and of the national action plan for implementation of the Istanbul Convention.

With regard to regional cooperation, EC considers that the implementation bilateral agreements should continue, including the Prespa agreement and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria.