PN Member Richard Howitt Urges EU to Start Accession Negotiations with Macedonia

Richard Howitt MP
May 22, 2013

Speech of PN member Richard Howitt MEP, Rapporteur for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to the European Parliament annual debate on the country's progress towards EU accession, European Parliament, Strasbourg, 22 May 2013.


Once again I put before you the clear recommendation that accession negotiations should start without further delay.

But this year in response to the ethnic tensions last August and the political crisis of 24 December, I repeat too some of the tough reality.

That future progress towards Europe is jeopardised.

That the democratic credibility of the country is questioned.

That we cannot want your country to join the European Union more than you do yourselves.

So on the Commission of Inquiry, on the Memorandum of Understanding, on the dialogue for freedom of expression, I appeal to you to make substantive progress far beyond where you are today.

And I say the same on the name issue too.

Europe is rightly welcoming progress between Serbia and Kosovo.

Those leaders didn't have to show less courage than what is required today between leaders in Athens and in Skopje.

Indeed I fear it is only progress on the name issue, which can now keep hopes alive  in June.

But this Parliament does ask clear questions of the European Council too.

Are you using the challenges of the country as a convenient excuse?

Have you really considered what will happen if this country slides back towards conflict and fragmentation?

Looking at the last year, does the European Council accept its own responsibilities resulting from the delay and rejection?

Do you understand that when you are in a queue and find yourself continually pushed past, getting further and further from the front, at some point you walk away from the queue altogether?

My own report was postponed in this European Parliament pending agreement to end the political crisis. I now fear the European Council may itself have to contemplate postponing its June decision. Perhaps a better outcome than yet another rejection?

Indeed by the end of this year, I cannot predict whether this will be a country where EU accession negotiations have begun? Or one which may have lost its candidate status altogether?

What I do know is that this is a country and a people who deserve a chance.

Commissioner, I'm proud you asked myself and Jerzy Buzek to broker the agreement of 1 March.

But when I reflect on that experience, I think most of all of the ordinary Macedonians on the street, in the corridors, on the transport, who came up to us wishing us well, urging us to succeed.

It's those hopes and aspirations of the people of the country that guide me most, and which demand the European Union finds a way for helping this country to move forward.



Originally published on Richard Howitt's facebook page.

Photo by setimes.