17th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement Subcommittee between the European Commission and North Macedonia on Justice, Freedom and Security

The 17th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Subcommittee on Justice Freedom and Security between North Macedonia and the European Commission took place in Brussels, on 15-16 March 2023. The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Michela Matuella, Acting Director and Head of Unit Albania, North Macedonia in the Directorate General for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission and by Ms. Svetlana Vlahovic Dimanovska, Head of Sector for negotiations and EU integration within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of North Macedonia.

The subcommittee took stock of the developments related to areas covered by the chapters 23 Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and 24 Justice, Freedom and Security.

The national authorities underlined that judicial reforms remain a key priority. The Commission acknowledged the progress achieved and pointed out the need to continue implementing the judicial legislation, including the rules on merit-based appointments, promotions, discipline and dismissal procedures for judges and prosecutors. The track record on preventing and combating corruption, including at high level, needs to be consolidated.

Concerning fundamental rights, the Commission encouraged the implementation of the legislation against discrimination and for the protection against domestic violence. The authorities should enforce the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and prepare a National Action Plan for Children. The Commission outlined the need to increase the efforts to address the recommendations of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Media freedom, the safety of journalists and the reform of the public service broadcaster were also discussed.

Concerning home affairs, the subcommittee noted the progress achieved in developing the legal framework in the field of anti-money laundering, financial investigations and freezing and confiscation of assets, as well as in combating trafficking in human beings, emphasizing the need to step up implementation. It was noted the need for further progress in line with the outstanding GRECO recommendations. The Commission encouraged enhancing cooperation with both CEPOL and EUROPOL. Continued good cooperation, including in the framework of EMPACT, contributes to fighting organised crime.

The subcommittee welcomed the progress made on the Implementing Arrangement of the “Joint Action Plan on counter terrorism for the Western Balkans”. The subcommittee agreed on the need to manage mixed migration flows taking into consideration security and humanitarian aspects. Further efforts are needed to implement asylum procedures in line with the Common European Asylum System. The subcommittee welcomed the conclusion of the Status Agreement between the EU and North Macedonia on operational activities carried out by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and its impending entry into force.