Extract from the study:
1. Executive summary (you can download the study on the link below)
On 25th March 2020, the European Council adopted a decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia, a veteran EU candidate country of 16 years (it acquired its candidate status in March 2004, and therefore before Croatia which is now a member state). The European Commission’s negotiating framework was presented to the European Council on 1st July 2020. In spite of the changes in the negotiating methodology adopted by the Commission in the spring of 2020, upon France’s proposal, the negotiating chapters 23 and 24 remain the opening ones, covering the European fundamental principles and rights as well as the judiciary.
The goal of this study is to demonstrate how interlinked the questions of good administration, according to EU standards, and the values and standards covered by said chapters are, in particular, Ch. 23. At the centre of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights lies the principle of the citizen’s dignity.
For a state like North Macedonia, that conceives the administration as self-serving, carried out by a centralized executive branch overriding the power of the other two branches in an excessive manner, putting institutional interests before those of the citizens is in direct conflict with the cornerstone of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. We argue that the legislation in the Republic of North Macedonia, containing procedural administrative details that normally belong in bylaws or good practices, is conceived in a manner that neither puts the citizen at its centre nor does it offer efficient and economical procedures. Article 41 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights states that good administration is part of the fundamental rights that EU citizens are entitled to. Good governance, that is also democratic governance, is expressed through good administration, which, according to the European Charter, consists in efficient procedures. The efficiency at issue is conceived in line with the overarching principle of the Charter – it serves the citizens in a timely and reasonable manner, and not the state institutions. Unlike the case of North Macedonia, as demonstrated in this study, efficiency according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is not conceived as a sluggish procedure that serves the administration in order to protect itself from potentially fraudulent citizens, but quite the opposite – to serve the citizen that is presumed to be honest. Inefficiency, lack of clarity, transparency, reasonability of procedure and absence of legal responsibility, i.e., inefficient administrative courts, create fertile ground for corruption.
One of our central recommendations at the end of this study is the full digitalization of the administrative procedure. However, unless the notion of good admin¬istration is aligned with the principles of the European Charter that is covered by negotiating chapter 23, digitalization alone will not serve the purpose. Our main claim here is that the prevailing notion of “good administration” among the policy makers in the country must be discarded and replaced with that of citizen-centred efficient administration in line with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and its value system.