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Enlargement Strategy 2011-2012
The European Commission presents its Enlargement Strategy for 2011-2012. It describes progress on the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, Turkey and Iceland, and sets out its future priorities.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 12 October 2011 – Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2011-2012 [COM(2011) 666 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The enlargement process has entered a new phase, due in particular to the completion of negotiations with Croatia. The country’s accession to the European Union (EU) is planned for mid-2013. In the light of this success, the European Commission intends to put its experience to use in future negotiations with other States.
The Communication assesses the current state of the EU’s enlargement agenda and sets out priorities for its 2011-2012 strategy, as well as the resources that it intends to employ in order to meet its objectives.
Priorities for the 2011-2012 Enlargement Strategy
In the context of its Enlargement Strategy, the Commission recommends:
- strengthening the rule of law and public administration reform;
- ensuring freedom of expression in the media;
- enhancing regional cooperation and reconciliation in the Western Balkans;
- supporting the economic recovery of candidate or potential candidate countries and including their economies in the Europe 2020 strategy;
- developing transport and energy networks.
Progress in the Western Balkan countries
Accession negotiations with Croatia were completed in June 2011, at which date the country met the access criteria. The Accession Treaty was signed in December 2011. Provided the necessary ratification procedures have been completed, Croatia should therefore become a member of the EU on 1 July 2013.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to meet the political criteria. The country is currently carrying out reforms of the parliament, the judiciary, and public administration. However, the country needs to make further efforts as regards freedom of expression in the media, and fighting corruption. The Commission reiterates its proposal to open accession negotiations.
Montenegro acquired the status of candidate country in December 2010. Since then, the country has improved its legislative and institutional framework, although it needs to continue to fight corruption and organised crime. The Commission has recommended that accession negotiations be opened.
In Albania, the political stalemate persisted, both before and after the local elections in May 2011. However, dialogue between political forces in Albania was re-established towards the end of the year. The country has made limited progress as regards the political criteria for membership, but has made some progress in fighting organised crime.
Since the October 2010 elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not been able to form a national government, and as a result, the implementation of reforms which would allow for progress towards EU membership has been delayed. Governance of the country continues to involve an international presence with an executive mandate.
Regarding Serbia, the Commission has recommended the status of candidate country, it being understood that Serbia would reinitiate dialogue with Pristina and rapidly implement, in good faith, the agreements already concluded. It also proposes to open accession negotiations with Serbia, as soon as it has made further progress in normalising its relations with Pristina. The Commission Opinion notes that Serbia has made much progress in fulfilling the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993. Moreover, the country has put in place a functioning market economy and has reached a certain degree of macroeconomic stability. In the long term, the Commission considers that Serbia should be able to take on the obligations of membership, provided that progress continues.
In Kosovo (in accordance with the statute defined by Resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council), the period 2010-2011 was marked by early legislative elections, as well as the appointment of a president in April 2011. In this context, the country has made limited progress in its reform agenda, although progress has been made in trade and the establishment of a National Council for EU Integration. Organised crime and corruption nevertheless remain a concern. However, the Commission proposed the implementation of measures, as laid out in its 2009 Communication, particularly in the areas of visas, trade, and participation in EU programmes.
Progress made by Turkey
The present strategy stresses that Turkey is already integrated to a large extent into the EU in terms of trade and foreign investment through the Customs Union. However, the country needs to maintain its efforts in order to meet the political criteria for accession. It is crucial that fundamental rights are respected, such as freedom of expression, women’s rights and freedom of religion.
On the international stage, Turkey played a key role in the events occurring in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. However, its relations with Cyprus are still strained. The Commission intends to implement a new positive agenda in order to foster cooperation and dialogue with that country.
Progress made by Iceland
The period 2008-2009 was marked by economic collapse in Iceland. Little by little, the country has been recovering and has maintained some political stability, which has enabled it to continue the EU accession process. Iceland’s level of integration is quite high. The Communication notes satisfactory progress of negotiations between Iceland and the EU.
Support for the enlargement process
The Commission supports the enlargement process through:
- financial assistance, mainly coming from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) amounting to EU 11.6 billion for 2007-2013;
- visa-free travel and mobility which drives countries to implement reforms;
- information and communication to obtain support from public opinion.
- Directorate-General Enlargement – Enlargement Strategy and Progress Reports 2011