EU Seeks Progress in Bulgaria-Macedonia Relations by December
European Parliament rapporteur for Macedonia Richard Howitt has warned that Greece and Bulgaria are not the only obstacles to the start date for the country's EU accession talks.
According to Macedonian media outlets, as cited by mediapool.bg, Howitt argued at a press conference in Skopje that a number of other EU member states still had reservations about giving Macedonia a date for the start of accession talks.
He proposed an action plan for achieving progress in critical spheres like political dialogue, relations with Bulgaria and media freedom.
He noted that the plan had to be drafted by December before the European Council sitting which would include talks on the recommendation of the European Commission that Macedonia start EU accession talks.
Howitt declared that it was essential to achieve as much progress as possible on the implementation of the recommendations of the parliamentary Commission of Inquiry by political consensus between the parties.
He underscored the importance of governing and opposition parties striving to observe mutual respect and dialogue and abiding by the Memorandum of Association they had signed to put the country's Euro-Atlantic agenda first.
He also drew attention to the need to improve Bulgaria-Macedonia relations. Expressing approval for the recent meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries, he voiced hopes that further visible steps could be made towards reaching agreement on outstanding issues between Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Howitt also stressed the need to achieve tangible improvement on freedom of expression. He cautioned about the risks of all efforts aimed at ensuring media freedom being undermined if the proposed Media Law was passed without the broad support of journalists.
"I do not suggest the Association of Journalists should be the only voice on this issue, but am of the opinion that questioning their legitimacy can only undermine not strengthen efforts to promote a pluralistic and diverse media in the country," he pointed out.
He recommended extending the period allocated to dialogue in order to guarantee genuine consensus around the new media law.
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