Untying the Macedonian knot

[by Zhidas Daskalovski, PhD, CRPM President, originally published in the European Voice, 10.12.2009]

A proposal good enough to end the dispute over the name of the ‘former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia’?
In October the European Commission recommended opening negotiations for EU membership with Macedonia; it now seems that the EU’s leaders will not decide on opening talks until next year (“Greece blocks Macedonia talks”, EuropeanVoice.com, 8 December).

As in 2008, when NATO leaders refused to invite Macedonia to join the alliance, Macedonia’s integration into the EU is, de facto, being vetoed by Greece and its demand that Macedonia add a ‘qualifier’ to its constitutional name – the Republic of Macedonia – to differentiate the country from the northern province of Greece that bears the same name.

The temporary (and legally dubious) solution that the UN coined when it admitted Macedonia “as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is no longer adequate as a means for the international community to circumvent this bilateral dispute.

There is a compromise solution that the UN mediator has not put forward and that would respect the concerns of both sides.

First, though, what are those concerns? To most Greeks, use of the term ‘Macedonia’ – the name of an ancient kingdom ruled most famously by Alexander the Great – violates Greece’s national narrative and seems to imply an entitlement to the legacy (and even geography) of historical Macedonia.

For their part, Macedonians argue that the right to ethnicity, nationality and identity is a fundamental principle of international law.

The solution would be for the country to be known internationally as the Republic of Makedonija. This is a name of Slavic origin and how Macedonians refer to their country in their own language.

Greece would be left with the name ‘Macedonia’, which it could use for the northernmost region of the country and, indirectly, to invoke ancient Macedon. A declaration in which the Republic of Makedonija would acknowledge that ancient Macedonia is part of Greece’s historical legacy could reinforce the agreement.

Makedonijans could co-exist along Greek Macedonians. Both governments could claim victory, one having won international recognition under basically the same name as in the constitution, the other having protected the Macedonian-ness of Greece’s history and present.

This is more than a matter of gaining membership of the EU and NATO – Macedonia’s very future depends on a resolution.

If the EU sides with Greece, it would in effect be declaring that the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership are not important in Macedonia’s case and that the most important factor is an additional criterion unrelated to democracy or the rule of law. Public opinion would turn against the EU in Macedonia. As a result, no Macedonian government would have much incentive to continue with reforms demanded by the EU. The EU’s leverage would decrease. More importantly, the possibilities for further soft mediation by the EU in Macedonian-Albanian political disputes would diminish.

Macedonian nationalism might grow, while Macedonia’s large ethnic-Albanian minority might become restive watching the state of Albania, already a member of NATO, move forward with EU integration. Ethnic-Albanian nationalism is already being encouraged by Kosovo’s independence.

The EU does not need another crisis. The EU needs to apply more pressure to end this dangerous dispute. An option is available.

The gas debate

It seems that energetics is back among the most popular news topics. This time it is the shale gas.

The advent of abundant, low-cost gas will throw all that out the window—so long as the recent drilling catastrophe doesn’t curtail offshore oil and gas activity and push up the price of oil and eventually other forms of energy. Not only will the shale discoveries prevent a cartel from forming, but the petro-states will lose lots of the muscle they now have in world affairs, as customers over time cut them loose and turn to cheap fuel produced closer to home. […]

With natural gas cheap and abundant, the prospects for renewable energy will change just as drastically. I have been a big believer that renewable energy was about to see its time. Prior to the shale-gas revolution, I thought rising hydrocarbon prices would propel renewables and nuclear power into the marketplace easily—albeit with a little shove from a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. […]

But that doesn’t mean we should stop investing in renewables. As large as our shale-gas resources are, they’re still exhaustible, and eventually we will still need to transition to energy that is cleaner and more plentiful. […]

In the end, what’s important to understand is that shale gas may be the key to solving some of our most pressing short-term crises, a way to bridge the gap to a more-secure energy and economic future. [Amy Myers Jaffe: Shale Gas Will Rock the World – Wall Street Journal]

While we leave it to the experts to debate the prospects of shale gas and other types of natural, we would like to recommend several research papers on the broader topic of energetics with regard to Macedonia. Analytica, a think tank from Skopje, has produced the following publications:

Diversify, Supply and Secure: Towards energy stability in Macedonia? (2009). “What are the priorities of Macedonia for the development of the energy sector in the next 10 years? Does the new energy strategy secure the Macedonian energy stability in the regional environment? Is there an energy policy that encompasses the energy supply and the energy security, as feature of a foreign policy? these are few questions that should be priorities in the new Energy Strategy.”

Investments in energy – the Macedonian case (2009). In the report, Analytica “analyzes the current state of investment in energy capacities in Macedonia and the reality of the investment climate, at the same time offering effective policy measures for prioritization, attraction and management of new investments in energy, which will secure the future of Macedonia’s energy supply”.

Renewable energy in Macedonia- Focus on ‘green’ electricity production (2008). This paper offers “a set of recommendations for promotion of the RES [renewable energy sources] in the energy market in Macedonia. Outlining the discrepancy of the energy potential of the RES in Macedonia and the level of their exploitation in the country, the accent of the policy analysis is put on the electricity market and the prospects for generation of “green electricity” from renewable energy sources in Macedonia.”

Natural gas – an energy necessity for Macedonia: Overview of the Macedonian energy potential (2008). “Starting from the standpoint that for sustaining the energy balance Macedonia and the region need a stabile energy source, this report analyzes the natural gas market in Macedonia, its infrastructure and legal framework, and gives recommendations for future development.”

Need for renewable energy sources in Macedonia (2008). “Is there an opportunity for more serious use of the RES in the energy sector in Macedonia? Can Macedonia become environmental friendly country, in the same time providing efficient and sustainable energy market?

Visa free travel for the Western Balkans

Last week, the European Commission recommended lifting visa requirements for citizens of Albania and Bosnia.

Both Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina fell behind fellow Balkan states such as Serbia and Macedonia, who were included on the visa-free list already last December.Meanwhile, the two have made enough progress – for instance by introducing biometric passports and adopting re-admission agreements, according to an evaluation carried out by commission experts and seen by WAZ.EUobserver last month. But the expert assessment also pointed to deficiencies in applying the rule of law, security matters and the fight against organised crime and corruption.

Apart from the technical assessment, the decision to lift visa requirements to EU countries is also a political one, especially in the view of the October elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where ethnically-charged tensions are mounting. […]

The commission’s green light on visa-free travel is not officially linked to the political process in the country, as it is based on a technical assessment.

But commission officials hope that once the political “hot potato” is passed on to the European Parliament and member states, they will be able to put more pressure on the leadership in Bosnia, as well as the opposition in Albania, still contesting the results of last year’s elections, before finally approving the visa-free regime. [Valentina Pop: Commission to greenlight visa-free travel for Albania and Bosnia]

Visa liberalization has been an important issue for all the countries in the Western Balkans. Their respective governments have been obliged to carry intense reforms regarding the border control, format of travelling documents for their citizens, the regulation of migration etc. In the period when Macedonia was still adjusting its policies in order to fulfill the criteria for visa liberalization, the CRPM has carried a research on the progress and the perspective of the reforms in the country. The research resulted with the following analysis, which offers valuable insights that are important not only for the Macedonian experience, but to the process regarding all of the Western Balkans.

Macedonian progress with regard to the benchmarks set in the roadmap on visa liberalization

The EU conditionality after the Lisbon treaty

[by Marija Risteska, PhD]

RECCOMENDED READING: Not quite six months in place, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty has already led to a significant shift in the Brussels power landscape, with many of its main actors still trying to find their feet in the new order. […] many of its effects were not written into the treaty and are only slowly coming to light as the EU capital goes about its daily business. [Link: Honor Mahony – European Council seen as winner under Lisbon Treaty]

The EU accession process is pushing the applicant countries towards greater convergence with particular institutional models due to the: (i) speed of adjustment; and (ii) openness of national elites to EU influence. As it might be observed from the section above, the Lisbon Treaty does not introduce new policy areas, legislation or policy models to which the acceding countries should converge. It does not advance the enlargement process, neither is responding to the quest to add certainty to it. The Lisbon treaty, however, offers institutional reforms that may significantly change the approach of the Union towards the accession countries. This in turn will influence on the Europeanization of the Western Balkan countries and provide for further justification in the theoretical debates that the Europeanization is a process. This chapter anticipates the impact of the Lisbon treaty on the Macedonian accession to the European Union in particular.

First of all, the Lisbon Treaty is designed to promote a new and inevitablly more coherent approach in external relations of the Union. The Treaty of Lisbon will help the EU work more effectivelly and consistently around the world, but also in the enlargement countries. The pressure now will not come only from the EC Commissioner for enlargement, but also from the President of the Council and the Higher Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. Though their offices will be completly operational end of April, from the last visit of Prime Minister Gruevski in Brussels can be seen the increasingly important role of the President of the Council who was the first to meet the Macedonian delegation. Once their office become operational one might expect greater consistency in the approach and accelerated preassure on Macedonia by end of 2010 and in the next few years, as the new roles will become more familiar, and strategies more clear for the holders of the new EU functions.

Secondly, the Lisbon Treaty introduces additional conditionality in respect to the adoption of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. As Macedonia is a signatory country of the European Convention for Human Rights, which is encompassed by the Charter, the country will have to look for ways to transfer in its legislation guarantees for the new rights regulated in the Charter, such as: data protection, biotechnics and the right to good administration.

Finally, most implications the Lisbon treaty will have on national policy making. With the more active role of the European Parliament and the novelty to involve national Parliaments in monitoring, the Union is expected to look for a more engaging role of the national Parliaments in policy making in the aceeding countries. In the Europeanization theory the legislative task of transposition of the Community directives ad regulations in national law is presented as being largely administrative; there is an assumption that the acquis is not an appropriate subject for debate; and therefore all candidate countries have so far introduced some kind of fast-track procedure for getting EU legislation through parliament. In the last enlargement the lack of debate in most CEE legislatures reflected a consensus on accession, but it also showed a lack of awareness of the details of the legislation being passed on the part of parliamentarians.

This shall imply that the lack of involvement of parliamentarians and wider society in the accession process will become important in the EU accession process of Macedonia. So far the marginalization of the legislature had implications on the democratic deficit problem. It also ran against the EU’s advocacy of stable democratic institutions and the development of capable law-makers. This was for a long time paralleled with the problems in the EU itself. But with the changes introduced with Lisbon Treaty it should be expected that the policy debates will be invigorated in Parliament. This might effect on Macedonia, where the EU is expected to look for a more active role of the Parliament in policy development. Taking in account that the EU is for some time now pressuring the Macedonian government to open up the policy making process through policy dialogue to other actors (non state actors such as CSOs, interest groups and political parties non-represented in the Parliament), we can already anticipate that widely developed policy dialogue (in Parliament and outside of Parliament) may appear as an additional conditionality for Macedonia.

Quality Tertiary Education- How To Achieve It?

For several years now, reforms have been transforming Macedonian higher education. During this process, certain difficulties have adversely reflected in the quality of the reforms. As the joint European higher education area is being created, higher education institutions are expected to become stronger, in order to become more competitive at the global higher education market. However, there is severe criticism concerning the inappropriately conducted transformation of the Macedonian higher education system and the curricula. The deficiencies in the teaching methods and the curricula are
believed to endanger the preparedness of the students for a fast transition to the labour market. At the same time, the rapid increase in the number of newly establishment institutions of higher education and the easier access to higher education adversely influence its quality. Despite these warnings, there is lack of extensive analyses of the higher education system, which would encompass all stakeholders and verify the validity of this critique.
Bearing this in mind, The Center for Research and Policy Making conducted research on two topics estimated as most important at the moment: 1) the links between higher education and the labor market and 2) the similarities and differences between public and private universities from an aspect of several quality indicators. The two analyses do not exhaust these topics, especially because of the fact that not all higher education institutions in the country were included in the research. This research aims to provide a source of data and recommendations expected to generate discussions
and proposals for further research and activities geared at improving the quality of the higher education.
The analyses encompassed in this publication would not have been realizedwithout the fi nancial assistance and the provided research freedom by The German Marshal Fund of the United States (Balkan Trust for Democracy) as well as the cooperation of all institutions and individuals which served as sources of data for the research. Their openness for cooperation gives us hope that there is great interest for improving the quality of higher education and hope that the offered recommendations will be seriously reviewed and taken into consideration when planning the future development of the higher education institutions.

The publication is available in Macedonian and English

Developing Brain Gain Policies in Macedonia

The CRPM is currently involved in a regional project titled “Developing Brain Gain Policies in the Westrn Balkans”, coordinated by Grupa 484 Beograd. Concluding the first phase, we publish the national report on the state of brain gain policies in Macedonia and the outline for our future work on the topic. Feel free to send us your suggestions and comments.

Developing Brain Gain Policies in Macedonia

The project is funded by the Balkan Trast for Democracy.

Achieving gender equality in Macedonia

The policy making process in Macedonia lacks participatory approach during all stages of the decision making process. This is even more evident in the initial stage when the specific public policy is being designed. It is usually an elitist process, neglecting the opinion of the stakeholders that are mostly concerned by the final policy outcome. Policy making generally neglects the gender aspect of the societal problems. Its inclusiveness and the responsiveness of the public policies could be guaranteed only by supplying the decision makers with evidence based policy analysis. Gender based analysis (GBA) is an effective tool that is already being used in developed counties in order to include the gender sensitive approach particularly in the initial phase when public policies are being drafted and discussed among relevant stakeholders. Governments worldwide have obliged themselves to implement the concept of GBA on central and local level introducing the gender sensitive approach of programs and policies proposed by public institutions.

The present situation in Macedonia is such that the gender issue is seen only as some kind of formal requirement in the policy making without any substance or real implications in the implementation of the policies. Due to more politicised “hot” issues that the Macedonian society faces, this issue has been marginalized and was mentioned mostly in non- legally binding declarative documents. Even when mentioned in the legislation, the appropriate mechanisms for achieving gender equality through applicable, monitored and effective policy making are not implemented.

Hence, the publication “Acheiving gender equality in Macedonia” aims to overcome this gap and to provide relevant gender analyses of seven specific areas, which are of paramount importance for the improvement of the women status in the Macedonian society.

The book “Achieving gender equality in Macedonia”, contains seven analyses prepared by the Center for Research and Policy Making. It is available for download in PDF in three languages: English, Macedonian and Albanian.