Tag Archives: Macedonia

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.



Windless Weather for Enlargement?

There are reports that Slovenia is slowing down the accession negotiations with Croatia by preventing the chapter on freedom of movement of capitals from being closed, although Croatia has fulfilled all the necessary criteria. Macedonia’s name problems with Greece remain “in coma”.

That is why I read with great interest the report by Natasha Wunsch and Julian Rappold from DGAP about the EU accession of the Western Balkans. The authors outline two main reasons for the current enlargement fatigue: the early accession of Bulgaria and Romania, broadly viewed as a premature step, and the overwhelming focus on internal affairs that lets enlargement sink to the bottom of the list of priorities.

The authors warn that the slowing down of the accession process may lead to dangerous destabilization of the region. The economic consolidation in the region due to IMF intervention will be carried out at the cost of even the most necessary reforms. Social cuts also risk weakening the trust in the institutions. That is why according to the authors it is essential to mobilize all existing EU funds for the region and to facilitate their calling by the Western Balkan states.

Greece Blocked Decision on Macedonia?

Bloomberg reports that Greece has blocked a proposal to set a starting date for starting accession negotiations with the Republic of Macedonia.

This comes after a meeting between the prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia, George Papandreou and Nikola Gruevski in November. The meeting ended without any progress on the name issue.

Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia About to Get Visa Free Travel

The European Parliament has adopted an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement.

The amendment will allow citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to travel freely to and from the European Union for short-term visits without having to obtain a visa first. The amendment will enter into force on December, 19th, after confirmation by the Council.

The exemption from the visa requirement will apply to Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina after an additional assessment by the Commission.

Annual Enlargement Reports and Strategy

The European Commission has published the progress reports for the candidate and potential candidate countries, as well as the 2009-2010 enlargement strategy.

The 2009-2010 strategy outlines the key challenges to enlargement:

  • The economic crisis;
  • The rule of law and widespread corruption;
  • Bilateral questions and border issues;
  • Weak regional cooperation.

On Croatia, the progress report is quite positive. However, it underscores that organized crime and corruption remain prevalent in many areas.

For Turkey the report focuses on the lack of dialogue and spirit of compromise between political parties and compliments diplomatic efforts to normalize relations with Armenia.

Macedonia is advised of maintaining good neighbourly relations, including a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue. A somewhat surprising finding is that the overall economic policy mix has deteriorated.

Albania is encouraged to strengthen the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organized crime. The report says that the lack of energy supply security continues to hamper economic development.

For Bosnia and Herzegovina the most worrying statement is that the domestic political climate has deteriorated over recent months.

Apart from the Kosovo issue, the report on Serbia is quite positive.

New Diplomatic Row over Arrest in Macedonia

Macedonia has publicly denounced calls from the Bulgarian government for the release of Spaska Mitrova, a Macedonian that also holds Bulgarian citizenship. Mitrova was sentenced to three months in jail for obstruction to justice. She is accused of violating a court decision on her divorce with a Serbian citizen.

Her 2-year old girl was taken from her and is held in an unknown location by the Macedonian social services. The information about the details of this case is really scarce.

Personally I fail to understand the stance of the Macedonian government. Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union, while Macedonia is still a candidate country. Spaska Mitrova is a European citizen and her mistreatment shall not support the Macedonian candidacy for membership, to say the least.

Proposal for Visa Free Travel for Citizens from the Western Balkans

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for granting visa free travel to the citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The proposal enables the citizens of these three countries to travel to the Schengen countries with the new biometric passports. The Commission’s proposal needs to be approved by the Council after having consulted the European Parliament.

A critique from an interesting angle to this proposal is that the consequence of offering visa-free travel to the three Western Balkan countries will penalize Muslim Bosniaks and the citizens of Kosovo. The claim is by the Young European Federalists. Strangely enough, they failed to recognize that Turkey is a candidate for membership, too.