Tag Archives: 2010

The 2010 Enlargement Progress Reports in a Nutshell

The European Commission has presented its annual assessment of the European Union’s enlargement agenda. It comprises a 2010-2011 Strategy paper, the Opinions on the membership applications by Montenegro and Albania and seven Progress Reports on the potential candidate countries and on the candidate countries including Croatia. The progress reports and opinions for separate countries are summarized below.

The big news is, of course, Croatia. The Commission thinks that the negotiations are entering their final phase. There are some outstanding benchmarks, in particular in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights. The Commission notes that corruption remains prevalent in many areas. If everything goes normally, Croatia should conclude its negotiations somewhere in 2011, meaning a possible accession in 2013.

The Commission believes that Macedonia is ready to start negotiations once the name issue is resolved. One of the important recommendations is to strengthen administrative capacity for the implementation and enforcement of legislation. The Commission says that further efforts are needed in areas related to the political criteria, in particular as regards independence of the judiciary, fight against corruption, reform of public administration and freedom of expression in the media.

Accession negotiations with Turkey have advanced, albeit rather slowly. The main obstacles remain full implementation of Turkey’s Customs Union obligations with the EU, and making progress towards normalisation of relations with Cyprus. The Commission notes that the package of constitutional amendments approved in a referendum on 12 September created the conditions for progress in a number of areas, such as the judiciary and fundamental rights and public administration.

On Bosnia and Herzegovina, the conclusion is that the lack of a shared vision by political leaders on the direction of the country continues to block key reforms and further progress towards the EU. The role played by ethnic identity in politics has continued to hamper the functioning of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary as well as the country’s overall governance.

The Commission notes that in Serbia additional efforts are required regarding public administration reform and the fight against organised crime and corruption. Despite the active on-going cooperation of Serbia with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the two remaining ICTY fugitives, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, are still at large. Serbia has further postponed the reforms to tackle structural shortcomings of the economy.

The Commission concluded that Montenegro is ready to become a candidate country to EU membership. Montenegro needs to effectively implement and enforce legislation in all fields. Main concerns are related to the following areas: effectiveness of anti-discrimination policies, freedom of expression and government relations with civil society, as well as the situation of displaced persons from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

The Commission takes note of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which concluded that Kosovo‘s declaration of independence did not violate general international law or Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the following resolution of the UN General Assembly that aims at opening the way for a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade to promote cooperation, achieve progress on the path to the European Union and improve the lives of the people. However, the Commission notes that the judiciary is not functioning effectively in Kosovo. The rule of law remains a serious concern.

On Iceland, the Commission concluded that the country meets the political criteria for EU membership and, despite being hit hard by the banking crises, it is well prepared to undertake the pending measures needed to meet the requirements for EU membership.

Albania has made good progress during the last 12 months, but further reforms are needed in a number of key areas, before the country can be ready to start accession negotiations. The effectiveness and stability of Albania’s democratic institutions, notably the Parliament, is not sufficiently achieved. Political dialogue is confrontational and does not respect the democratic spirit, not least because of the political stalemate since the June 2009 elections.

 

 

Surprise: Bulgaria Had Excessive Budget Deficit in 2009

It turns out that Bulgaria had excessive budget deficit in 2009. The Bulgarian government says it has just now discovered annexes to service and construction contracts that imply an additional financial burden of 1 billion Euro.

This means that the European Commission will have to start an excessive deficit procedure against Bulgaria.

More, it looks like Bulgaria will also have at least 7% budget deficit this year, according to the Bulgarian newspaper 168 chasa.

Whither Biodiversity in the EU?

The Council conclusions on biodiversity reveal a disparaging truth: we have failed to reach our own targets for prevention of biodiversity loss. The document says that both the EU and the global biodiversity 2010 targets have not been met and that biodiversity loss continues at an unacceptable rate entailing very serious ecological, economic and social consequences.

According to the conclusions the main reasons are incomplete implementation of certain legal instruments, incomplete and poor integration into sectoral policies, insufficient scientific knowledge and data gaps, insufficient funding, lack of additional efficiently-targeted instruments to tackle specific problems, and shortcomings in communication and education to enhance awareness.

So what does the Council do – it devises a new headline target of halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. The idea is to develop a EU post-2010 Biodiversity Strategy, including an impact assessment, which should establish the baseline for measuring the halt of biodiversity loss and its restoration, propose sub-targets and also identify the necessary, feasible and cost-effective measures and actions for reaching them.

I do hope that this new approach will be successful. I am also encouraged by the understanding of the Council of the need to advance work on the economic valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services and to incorporate it into policy making and implementation.

Let’s hope that appropriate action follows.

Report on the Implementation of Internal Energy Market Rules

The Report on progress in creating the internal gas and electricity market says that the correct transposition of the European electricity and gas legislation in all Member States is still not complete.

The key violations identified lack of transparency, insufficient coordination efforts by transmission system operators to make maximum interconnection capacity available, absence of regional cooperation, lack of enforcement action by the competent authorities in Member States and the lack of adequate dispute settlement procedure.

Freedom Report 2010

Freedom House has released its 2010 edition of Freedom in the World, the annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties. The report says that freedom in the world has declined for the fourth consecutive year. The report says that during the last years the dominant pattern has been one of growing restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of expression and association in authoritarian settings, and previously improving countries due to unchecked corruption and weaknesses in the rule of law.

Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered the largest setbacks. On the Balkans Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro experienced gains for freedom during the year. Russia suffered further deterioration with a range of setbacks for political rights and civil liberties.

You can also have a look at the global map of freedom.

2010 EU Budget Agreed

The 2010 budget of the European Union was approved by conciliation delegations from Parliament and the Council. Three issues were solved – the funding for the EU economic recovery plan, funding for the closure of the Bulgarian nuclear plant Kozloduy and emergency aid to milk producers.

The EU economic recovery plan will cost €2.4 billion next year. €75 million will go for support for the closure of the Bulgarian nuclear plant Kozloduy. €300 million will be used as emergency measures for milk producers.

 

Doing Business in Bulgaria: 2010 Report

We now have the Doing Business 2010 report for Bulgaria, issued by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. It is important, because it shows, among other things, the regulatory dynamic and the implementation practice of various legal norms that are important for any business activity.

Bulgaria has deteriorated slightly in the overall ranking (from 42nd to 44th position). We have improved vastly on starting a business, but we have dropped down 7 places on employment conditions.