Tag Archives: negotiations

The Schizophrenia of Intergovernmentalism

The 2011 budget of the European Union is in tatters after an unsuccessful negotiation session between the European Parliament and the Council. The budget procedure must now start anew, with the Commission proposing a new draft budget. The apple of discord has been the Parliament’s demand to participate in the negotiation of the next multiannual budget framework (2014-2020).

According to some diplomats cited by EUobserver, the Parliament wrongly assumed that member states would agree to a budget out of fear of being labeled as “anti-European” in case of a breakdown in talks.

Well, obviously they weren’t. Three countries – Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, refused even to consider the demands of the Parliament. “There will be a budget, based on 2010 figures. There is no drama, the world won’t go under,” said one diplomat to EUobserver.

But of course. Who cares if the EU malfunctions due to underfunding? And how dare the Parliament ask for a role in negotiating the multiannual budget framework?

The governments of the Member States seem to suffer from some very peculiar type of schizophrenia. It was them that approved the equal status of the Parliament in the budget procedure. It was them that actively advocated in 2009 for the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. It was them that welcomed “a major step forward” for Europe. But now they are ready to block the EU budget in order to prevent the European Parliament from participating in talks for the multiannual budget.

This attitude of hostility towards supranational institutions and the European Union as a whole already peaked with the disgraceful treatment of the President of the Commission during the European Council meeting while discussing the deportation of Roma citizens from France. It has now been shown once again in the form of nonchalant attitude to the EU budget procedure, as if it doesn’t matter anyway.

It does matter, as will be shown in the first months of 2011 when budget rollover from 2010 will be used. But I am much more worried about the obvious lack of ownership of the European idea in Member States’ governments. They seem to distrust both the integration agenda and the supranational institutions it implies. This is a well-trod path to institutional paralysis and inefficiency.

 

 

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.

Start of Accession Negotiations with Iceland

This is always an important event. Today the European Union and its Member States will officially start negotiations for the accession of Iceland to the EU. The process will probably be smooth given the membership of Iceland in the European Economic Area. The biggest stumbling block remains the Icesave dispute between Iceland and the UK and the Netherlands.

Hedegaard: No Climate Deal before 2012

Climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard has said that a legally binding deal on climate change would not be achievable before the ‘Cop 17′ – the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is to take place in December 2011 in South Africa.

According to Mrs. Hedegaard he EU would have to take a “step-wise approach”, including different paths for influencing the international debate. The European Council’s meeting on 25-26 March 2010 will address primarily the climate change dossier.

Bulgaria Retreats from Comments on Turkey

In what has become a fashion, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has distanced himself from earlier comments by the minister for Bulgarians abroad, Bojidar Dimitrov. Dimitrov said that Bulgaria could block the accession negotiations with Turkey over the question for compensation of Bulgarian refugees from Eastern Thrace in the period 1912-1918.

The spokesman of the Council of Ministers who confirmed the Bulgarian option of vetoing the negotiations was fired.

Should I remind here that Bulgaria wanted to get the enlargement portfolio in the Barroso II Commission???

Bulgaria Blocks Turkish Accession over Compensation?

EUobserver reports that Bojidar Dimitrov, minister without portfolio who runs the country’s Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, has said that “one of the three conditions of Turkey’s full membership of the EU is solving the problem of the real estate of Thracian refugees”.

Additionally, Mr. Vesselin Ninov – spokesperson for the Bulgarian Council of Ministers, has said that Bulgaria has the option to block accession negotiations with Turkey over the issue.