North Macedonia is a Candidate Country.
Relations with North Macedonia and the other Western Balkan countries are anchored in the EU's Stabilisation and Association process – a framework in which the countries progress towards closer association with the EU with the aid of various instruments such as:
- an assistance programme (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance),
- technical advice,
- trade preferences,
- cooperation in fields such as justice and home affairs,
- political dialogue.
The countries following this process undergo a political and economic transition which prepares them for a new form of contractual relationship – Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) – with the EU. These agreements:
- focus on respect for democratic principles and strengthening links between the countries of the region and the EU single market,
- provide for the establishment of afree trade area with the EU,
- set out rights and obligations in areas such as competition and State aid rules, intellectual property and establishment, which will allow the economies of the region to begin to integrate with that of the EU.
North Macedonia was the first country in the region to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement in 2001 (in force since 2004). Negotiations for accession were opened in 2020.
Chapter 8 of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement deals with Competition and State aid. It affirms that the Candidate Country has to fully align its legislation with the EU acquis in the fields of Antitrust, Mergers and State aid. In addition, the Candidate Country must demonstrate that the Competition (and State aid) authorities are independent from influence of the government and are able to properly carry out efficient and effective enforcement activities.
Antitrust provisions are governed by the Law on Protection of Competition (in force since 2005). This law reflects the equivalent EU law in this area.
In the same vein, the Law on State Aid was enacted in 2003 and implemented from 2004.
The progress of the Candidate Country on its alignment with the EU acquis and the enforcement capacity and independence of its National Competition Authority is reported on annually in the Enlargement Package. The 2020 Enlargement Package for North Macedonia can be found here.