The European Commission Recommends to Grant the Status of Candidate for EU Membership to Albania, and that Accession Negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia be Opened

17 October 2013, Last updated at, 10:07 EEST
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author: Joris Van Ostaeyen/Scanpix

On the 16th of October the European Commission (EC) adopted the annual European Union Enlargement Package, which this year comprises of the EU enlargement strategy and regular progress reports of Iceland, Turkey and Western Balkan countries – Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The progress of the EU enlargement process demonstrated by the countries is delightful. Progress acceleration has been sustained, and the implemented reforms are irreversible and ensure the smooth accession of the countries into the EU. The recommendations by the European Commission are objective and anticipate future perspectives,” stated Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius, commenting on the EC report and recommendations.

This year’s EC Enlargement Strategy emphasises that the countries should devote most of their attention to economic criteria and increasing competition; consolidation of prevalence of the law; efficiency of democracy ensuring institutions; main human rights and their implementation; and for the Western Balkan countries – the search for solutions related to the heritage of the past. The Enlargement Strategy emphasises that regional communication and good neighbourly relations are central elements of the Stabilisation and Association Process, while bilateral disputes should be solved as early as possible and should not halt the integration process.

The EC report for the fifth successive time recommends that the Council opens negotiations on membership with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It is noted that the Council’s decision to open negotiations would have a positive influence on solving the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which could be handled in the early stage of negotiations.

The EC stated that Albania met the EC requirements raised in October of 2012 for receiving the status of candidate for EU membership. During the parliament elections on the 23rd of June 2013, the country proved capable of the smooth implementation of democratic procedures. Accordingly, the EC recommended that the Council grants the status of candidate for EU Membership to Albania. However, it was emphasised to continue administrative and judiciary reforms; to fight corruption and organised crime; and to ensure the safeguarding of human rights.

The progress of negotiations with Montenegro was evaluated positively, concentrating on the work of the courts and the main negotiating chapters on law and justice, and freedom and safety. The EC emphasises that negotiations with Turkey should be renewed, and the negotiating chapter on regional policy shall be opened. The EC states that Iceland remains an important EU partner and will be ready, if and when conditions allow, to continue negotiations.

The progress of Serbia and Kosovo received an especially positive evaluation, first of all with regards to Belgrade - Pristina dialogue and the implementation of mutual agreements. It should be noted that it is necessary to ensure on-going progress. Negotiations with Serbia, just like provided in the Council conclusions in June, will open in January at the latest, and it is expected to open negotiations with Kosovo on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

As far as Bosnia and Herzegovina is concerned, it is noted that the process in the country has stopped, and it is necessary to urgently implement the reforms. Until there is progress on the main issues in European integration, any future discussions on the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance 2014-2020 shall remain closed.

Full reports and recommendations are available here.
 

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