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Enlargement Strategy 2007-2008

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The enlargement strategy for 2007-2008 proposes pre-accession instruments adapted to the challenges facing candidate and potential candidate countries and to clearly defined core priorities. In this context, the focus is on enhancing the renewed enlargement consensus adopted in 2006, the participation of civil society, the consolidation of progress achieved and the efforts that still need to be made.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 6 November 2007 – “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2007-2008” [COM(2007) 663 final – Not yet published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The Commission proposes an enlargement strategy for 2007-2008 that is adapted to the challenges facing the candidate countries (Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey) and potential candidates (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, including Kosovo).

Situation and challenges in the Western Balkans and Turkey

The Western Balkan countries have made progress in consolidating the rule of law and modernising their economic and social structures, particularly in the dialogue framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), and are moving forward towards the EU, albeit at different speeds. On the whole, stability has been maintained and regional cooperation enhanced.

This progress needs to be consolidated, but the challenges remain. Reform processes need to be accelerated, especially with regard to strengthening good governance, the rule of law and constitutional frameworks. This is particularly true of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Kosovo, whose status needs to be settled both for the sake of its economic and political development and in the interests of regional stability. More dialogue and a greater spirit of tolerance are needed in this region, especially in relation to ethnic issues. The return of refugees and a better deal for minorities are also essential for progress towards reconciliation and lasting stability. Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a key condition of the SAP, has improved, but Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are still short of full and complete cooperation.

Notwithstanding the reforms already achieved, the countries in this region need to make greater efforts to improve their judicial systems and step up the fight against corruption and organised crime. Croatia and Serbia have considerable administrative capacity, which needs to be strengthened to implement their Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs). In the other countries, more effort has to be put into boosting administrative capacity. Civil society, despite the advances made, remains weak and must be strengthened. Growth is strong and the economic environment has improved. The existing SAAs and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) create a framework conducive to economic integration.

Turkey has set reforms in motion, but the pace has slowed. Further progress is needed in the spheres of political reform, particularly in relation to freedom of speech and the rights of non-Muslim religious communities, combating corruption, judicial reform, civilian oversight of the security forces, and in the south-eastern part of the country, to allow the local populations to enjoy full rights and freedoms. Similarly, economic reform is essential for macroeconomic stability and fiscal consolidation and to tackle challenges relating to the labour market, the labour force, low employment rates, especially among women, the informal sector, social security and the energy sector. Turkey also needs to ensure full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement.

Six priorities for the 2007-2008 enlargement strategy

The renewed enlargement consensus (consolidation of commitments, fair and rigorous conditions, improved communication with the public, the EU’s integration capacity) adopted in 2006 paved the way for ensuring the quality of the enlargement process. Rigorous conditionality at all stages of the accession process, with credible prospects of eventual integration visible to the people of the countries concerned, is a key element in sustaining the progress of reforms.

The Commission proposes to focus on core issues, namely key reform priorities (state-building, governance and socio-economic reform), regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations, and civil society, because these are factors of stability and growth. These reforms are defined and pursued through instruments like Accession Partnerships and European Partnerships for candidate and potential candidate countries, the pre-accession fiscal surveillance mechanism in the candidate countries and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA).

The Commission encourages accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey. These processes bring the two countries closer to the EU and promote stability, security, conflict prevention and security of energy supply. Accession negotiations have to be based on a solid framework (benchmarks for opening and closing of chapter negotiations, impact studies, etc.). The progress achieved in Croatia is a strong signal and an example for the Western Balkan countries. Similarly, Turkey plays a major strategic role as a bridge between the Western and Muslim worlds. The EU must honour its commitments and keep the negotiation process on track once the conditions are met.

The Commission supports enhancing the European perspective of the Western Balkans within the framework formed by the Stabilisation and Association Process, the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda (EN), the existing SAAs and the 2005 road-map. The status of Kosovo is a priority. It is also essential that the citizens of the Western Balkans assume ownership of the necessary reforms, and develop stronger people-to-people contacts with the citizens of the EU through Community cooperation and mobility programmes and the new visa and readmission rules. The EU also supports regional cooperation, especially in the framework of the Regional Cooperation Council, which will replace the Stability Pact in 2008, and CEFTA, which will benefit from EU funding and technical assistance.

In this context, the IPA will strengthen support for reforms based on the priorities that have been identified. A new mechanism to promote civil society development and dialogue will be set up, as well as an infrastructure financing facility to improve funding coordination. Finally, technical assistance to support institution-building and good governance will be provided through the technical assistance and information exchange instrument (TAIEX), the Support for Improvement in Governance and Management system (SIGMA) and twinning schemes.

Ensuring public support for enlargement requires effective communication of the benefits and challenges of accession in all the countries concerned. The challenge is to communicate facts about the fifth enlargement of 2004 and 2007 to the citizens of the Member States and to inform the people of the candidate and potential candidate countries about their European prospects. This is the responsibility of their governments, which are invited to draw up communication plans. The new civil society facility will support the process, and members of the European and national parliaments, local and regional authorities and civil society will also play a role, while the Commission will complement their efforts.

RELATED ACTS

The enlargement package presented by the Commission in November 2007 includes the 2007-2008 enlargement strategy, individual country follow-up reports, and proposals for accession partnerships and revised European partnerships.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 5 March 2008 entitled “Western Balkans: Enhancing the European perspective” [COM(2008) 127 final – Not yet published in the Official Journal].

This summary sheet is published for information purposes only and does not attempt to interpret or replace the reference document.

Last updated: 15.04.2008
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