Attainment of full membership in the European Union (EU) will be a culmination of the country’s economic, social and political transformation. The membership in the EU is expected to bring many benefits to the country and its citizens, including better prosperity, more intense connections with its European neighbours and a voice in shaping Europe’s political, social and economic development.
The accession process is a long and difficult one, in part because of the need for each new member country to adopt the many laws and regulations of the EU contained in the acquis communautaire. It is perhaps even more difficult as it entails a major restructuring of its economy, changes in the external relations and the way in which its society functions. These changes are either prerequisite for or outcome of the accession process. They are needed if the new member is to take full advantage of the benefits, as well as to meet the responsibilities that the membership in the EU brings.
To FYR Macedonia, EU membership is the most certain path to achieving accelerated human development. Therefore, EU accession has been at the core of the country’s development agenda since the European Council granted it EU candidate status in December 2005. The EU accession agenda also acts to strengthen social unity, enjoying wide support from the general population across ethnic and political divides.
The country’s aspiration for EU accession has generated much momentum for political, economic and social reforms, which are reinforced by the commitment to abide by the Millennium Declaration and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In that respect, the promotion of equitable and inclusive development based on respect of human rights for all, and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, frames the national development agenda. In pursuit of this agenda, the Government has set an ambitious programme that seeks to underpin economic growth, improve living standards of all citizens, create jobs, fight corruption, increase education opportunities, develop democracy, improve inter-ethnic relations and engage in environment protection.
Converging to the EU environmental laws and principles is a costly and lengthy process, therefore even more attention has to be paid in advance to assist the institutions to strengthen their capacities for gradual adoption of these laws. UNDP has crafted its programme and initiatives together with other UN agencies so as to be able to support this agenda of the country.
The road to the EU will not only require the country to design and adopt EU-compatible standards and laws, but will also very much depend on the country’s capacity to implement them. In that regard, UNDP has also pledged to support the building of institutional and strategic capacities of the state and civil society for policy making and implementation. It has been and will continue to be instrumental in enabling the country to fully benefit from the EU accession process and become an EU member state.
The experience from the new EU member states shows that often issues pertaining to social inclusion and environmental protection which will be critical for the country’s actual convergence to the EU, have been addressed in the later stages of the accession process, sometimes at higher implementation costs. The assistance of UN agencies complements the EU accession agenda by supporting reforms and developing capacity in these two important national development priorities.
For example, in 2009, five UN Agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNIFEM, WHO) provided joint support to national institutions in the development of the National Strategy for Reduction of Poverty and Social Exclusion, which provides a foundation for preparation of the Joint Memorandum for Social Inclusion. Following its adoption, UNDP has continued supporting national institutions to prepare the Operational Plan for the Strategy’s implementation in the areas of poverty, labour, social care, housing and transportation.
The focus of UNDP initiatives is to contribute and complement national efforts to meet the national priorities and its Action Plan towards EU Integration, particularly in areas inherent to the UN’s mandate and where the UNDP has a proven track record of experience and expertise and unique ability to access and utilise international know-how and comparative experiences, particularly from the successful transition countries.
On local level, UNDP has been supporting the national institutions and the regional development centers to develop and implement policies and identify opportunities for realization of projects using national and IPA funds. This approach should help the municipalities benefit from the economies of scale and establish solid regional cooperation and coordination and foster the importance of regional development, especially vis-à-vis the EU accession processes.
For more details, please see the documents:
EU Convergence Study: Challenges and Opportunities
National Strategy for Reduction of Poverty and Social Exclusion