The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was granted EU candidate status in December 2005 and in 2009, the Commission recommended opening accession negotiations with the country. During that period, serious challenges reported in previous years have been underscored by the country’s most severe political crisis since 2001 with intercepted communications, apparently involving senior government officials, suggesting breaches of fundamental rights, interference with judicial independence, media freedom and elections, as well as politicization and corruption.
In 2015 Macedonia has faced its worst political crisis since 2001. The divisive political culture, lack of compromise and breakdown in dialogue took the form of a continuing and protracted political crisis, including a boycott of parliament by the main opposition party and further erosion of trust in public institutions. The governance of the country was strained by the ongoing political crisis and called into question by revelations of unethical behavior, illegal activities and even potential criminal offenses.
Although a number of judicial reforms were already carried out under the judicial reform strategy achievements of the last decade’s reforms are being undermined by real and potential political interference in the work of the judiciary. Outstanding issues already identified in previous reports remain to be addressed. The country has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption, having set up the necessary legislative and institutional framework over the last decade as well as developing a track record on both prevention and prosecution.
The legal framework for protecting human rights is broadly in line with European standards, but more focus needs to be placed on implementing it. The various bodies involved in protecting and promoting human rights lack sufficient staff and financial resources and sometimes coordinate poorly. General weaknesses in the implementation of human rights standards affect the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, including children and juveniles, disabled persons, the Roma and the LGBT community.
Some of the shortcomings are still he prison system continues to be heavily underfunded, understaffed and mismanaged, which leads to systemic breaches of international human rights standards. Police impunity needs to be addressed by establishing an independent oversight mechanism and investigating complaints of ill-treatment seriously and thoroughly. Furthermore, problems in the area of the freedom of expression still persist in practice. The country has some level of preparation regarding freedom of expression. However, the freedom of expression and the media remains a serious challenge in the current media culture and political climate.