Three years of support for compliance with European standards in North Macedonia

Skopje 19 March 2019
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Three years of support for compliance with European standards in North Macedonia

Citizens of North Macedonia have received tangible benefits through successful implementation of the Joint EU-Council of Europe Programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey”, the third Beneficiary Steering Committee Meeting concluded in Skopje today.

Taking stock of the results achieved over the past three years, the meeting highlighted that the Joint Programme brought the country closer to meeting European standards, in particular in the fields of justice, anti-discrimination and fight against corruption.

Oliver Ristovski, Deputy Minister of Justice expressed gratitude to the Council of Europe Programme Office in Skopje and to the Delegation of the EU for supporting judicial reforms in the country, pointing out that many laws were amended and adopted in line with the European standards and the recommendations of the Venice Commission and other Council of Europe bodies. “Ministry of Justice actively contributed to implementation of the programme so far and I believe we will keep co-operating with the aim of strengthening impartial and independent judiciary in North Macedonia”, he concluded.

Dusko Uzunovski, Horizontal Facility Beneficiary Co-ordinator, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that many concrete results were achieved in the field of combating trafficking in human beings, fight against corruption and other crucial areas, highlighting some of them: “Establishing of the External Oversight Mechanism over the work of the police and especially improving conditions in prisons, institutional capacities have been developed and we were able to address recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). Additionally, Expertise Co-ordination Mechanism, as a part of Horizontal Facility, provided substantial support to the justice reform system and this tool should be used even more often in the future”, said Mr Uzunovski.

It is evident that a number of significant and valuable results have been achieved under each individual action of Horizontal Facility in the previous period. Now we have to think about the implementation of the recommendations, procedures and the long term sustainability of the results of the process. Thus, strong efforts and good co-ordination from all direct beneficiaries, national institutions involved, but also the other important actors, like civil society, will be required”, said Nicola Bertolini, Head of Co-operation of the Delegation of the European Union.

Thanks to the Horizontal Facility’s embedded flexibility, we were able to quickly respond to the newly identified needs on the ground: over 2018 and 2019 we have been engaged in supporting the reform of judiciary, prisons, fighting corruption in the country and combating discrimination. In the second phase of the programme, we will build on the results of the first phase and tackle some of the challenging areas in the country – freedom of expression and media could be one of them”, said Pilar Morales, Head of the Programming Department, Office of the Directorate General of Programmes of the Council of Europe.

Actions under the Horizontal Facility in North Macedonia have achieved many notable results. Capacities of prison staff to interact with prisoners in line with high professional ethical standards and respect for human rights were enhanced and with the aim to combat ill-treatment of prisoners, the programme helped establish the Police External Oversight Mechanism concerning police work.

Judges and prosecutors who attended tailor-made trainings now better understand how to apply certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic legal system. With the support of the programme, the authorities developed a strategic approach towards the fight against money laundering and counter-terrorism financing and 90% of the labour inspectors in the country were trained in human trafficking issues.

Representatives of the beneficiary institutions directly involved in the implementation of this joint programme of the European Union and Council of Europe took part in the event.

The three-year Horizontal Facility programme runs from May 2016 to May 2019; it aims to assist authorities in the South-East Europe in achieving greater compliance with European standards in the following key areas: ensuring justice, fighting economic crime, as well as combating discrimination and protecting rights of vulnerable groups. In North Macedonia, 3.8 million euros have been allocated for six projects, covering all the key areas of the Horizontal Facility.