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This paper examines the role of the European Union in the Republic of Macedonia between 1997 and 2011 (updated) by focusing on the political criteria for EU accession. The text utilizes the distinction between the EU as an ‘active player’ in the mediation and conflict resolution in the region, and the EU as a ‘framework’, equipping countries with models of governance and policy options in the accession process. Using this distinction, the paper argues that, although in the common dynamics of accession it is expected that the EU role would progress from the former to the latter, in Macedonia these two roles have been intertwined. In order to demonstrate this argument the paper examines the issues the EU has included in the political criteria for accession and demonstrates the increasing EU involvement in areas of high politics traditionally limited to the domestic sphere. The analysis deals with three distinct periods of EU engagement in Macedonia: the Regional Approach of 1997, the Stabilisation and Association period between 2001 and 2004 and the post-2005 period in which Macedonia is a candidate country for accession. The three periods are marked by important milestones in Macedonia’s EU accession process. The analysis is based on qualitative methodology and relies on process tracing of official documents and secondary information, as well as data obtained through interviews with the elites involved in the EU accession process conducted in 2010 and 2011 (updated).
Political, also known as democratic, conditionality ‘emphasizes respect for and the furtherance of democratic rules, procedures and values’. In practical terms, it includes the Copenhagen political criteria for accession, but also a range of topics concerning the work of the parliament, government, judiciary, anti-corruption policy, protection of human rights and regional cooperation.
The process of expanding the European Union (EU) through the accession of new member states began with the Inner Six, who founded the European Economic Community (the EU's predecessor) in 1958, when the Treaty of Rome came into force. According to the Maastricht Treaty, each current member state and the European Parliament must agree to any enlargement. This was more readily accepted with the prospect of poorer countries wishing to join; contributions from richer countries would help balance the EU budget. The most recent territorial enlargement of the EU was the incorporation of Mayotte in 2014. On 1 January 1995 Austria, Finland, and Sweden acceded to the EU marking its fourth enlargement. It has also been acknowledged that enlargement has its limits, the EU cannot expand endlessly. Since then, the EU's membership has grown to twenty-eight, with the latest member state being Croatia, which joined in July 2013.
In 2008 the EU repeated its willingness to assist the economic and political development of Kosovo through a clear European perspective.
The role of international institutions in Kosovo has been crucial to restoring peace and assisting in the institutional building process and democratization after the war. The presence of these institutions has ensured that Kosovo did not slip into post conflict anarchy but upheld law and order, for all its isolated problems; although a big contribution in this sense can be attributed to the population itself and their tradition of hospitality and mutual respect.