Enlargement strategy 2009-2010
This Communication sets out the progress made and the reforms to be implemented by countries engaged in the European Union (EU)’s enlargement process. It also presents the European Commission’s priorities in supporting these countries’ efforts.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament –Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2009-2010 [COM(2009) 533 - Not published in the Official Journal].
Candidates and potential candidates for European Union (EU) membership have been affected by the international economic crisis. However, their economic and fiscal stability has been maintained through reforms supported by the enlargement process.
The situation of candidates for membership
Turkey has made progress in new areas. In particular, at national level, the Government has launched an initiative concerning the rights of the Kurdish minority. Nevertheless, the country should make further efforts to improve the safeguarding of fundamental rights (for example concerning the press, trade unions and women) and to control the army through civil institutions.
At external level, the country participates in negotiations under the auspices of the UN in order to resolve the Cypriot conflict. In 2009, Turkey contributed to stabilisation initiatives concerning the Middle East and the Southern Caucasus. The country has also signed an agreement on the construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline which should contribute to a secure energy supply in Europe.
Croatia has made steady progress. Accession negotiations could be concluded in 2010 if the country continues with reforms according to the planned timetable. Croatia also has to resolve its border issue with Slovenia.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made progress in its reforms. The country has made particular efforts in the areas of democracy, justice and the fight against corruption. Discussions have also taken place under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) in order to resolve this country’s border issue with Greece.
The situation of potential candidates for membership
Bosnia and Herzegovina has not made sufficient progress at political level, in particular due to the unstable political climate and the unsatisfactory functioning of institutions. In view of this situation, the European presence in the country has been strengthened. Furthermore, the country was strongly affected by the crisis and turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance.
In Kosovo, stability has been maintained but remains fragile. The European EULEX Mission has therefore been deployed throughout the territory. In addition, progress should be made to improve the functioning of justice and the administration, as well as to reconcile the different communities in the country. Finally, European financial aid has been increased since 2008, and EUR 500 million was earmarked for the country for the years 2007-2010.
Reforms in Montenegro have progressed at political and democratic levels. However, shortcomings in the judiciary and in administrative capacity still remain. Moreover, the country concluded an agreement with Croatia to resolve the border issue between them.
Serbia should continue its reforms, particularly with regard to the economy. In addition, the country requested specific assistance from the EU and the IMF to recover from the economic crisis. The country should also improve its relations with Kosovo. Administrative capacity has been improved. Furthermore, the country is cooperating in a satisfactory manner with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but some war criminals have still not been arrested.
In 2009, the European Union received two new applications for membership from Albania and Iceland.
Albania has made satisfactory progress. Parliamentary elections organised in 2009 met with international standards. However, efforts are still required to guarantee the smooth functioning of the judiciary.
Iceland applied for membership in July 2009, in particular due to the financial crisis which has strongly affected it. This country is thoroughly integrated in the European internal market: it participates in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Schengen Area.
Priorities of the 2009 – 2010 strategy
In order to foster economic recovery following the international financial crisis, the enlargement process supports the adoption of:
- short term measures to fight unemployment and poverty;
- medium-term measures to strengthen the stability of public finances and fiscal policies on the one hand, and to improve social protection and increase investment on the other.
In this context, European aid amounts to EUR 200 million in the form of grants, under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The aid aims at strengthening:
- the banking sector,
- small and medium-sized enterprises,
- employment, particularly in rural areas.
The development of the rule of law and good governance is an essential priority for the EU. In 2009, EUR 80 million of IPA assistance were allocated for strengthening the judiciary and administration of partner countries.
Candidate countries should resolve conflicts with neighbours and maintain good relations with neighbouring States.
Increased regional cooperation is essential for economic development in the Balkans. In this regard, progress has been made in the areas of energy and transport. The Commission encourages cooperation under the South East European Cooperation Process.
Priorities for the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA)
The IPA has a budget of EUR 1.5 billion for the period 2009 – 2010. As a priority it finances:
- the visa liberalisation regime for the Western Balkans, which is being completed in line with commitments under the Thessaloniki Agenda. All of the agreements aimed at facilitating the granting of visas and the readmission of persons residing without authorisation to their State have entered into force. In this spirit, the Commission has proposed a visa-free regime, applicable by 2010, for citizens from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia;
- the improvement of the quality of the pre-accession process through regular political dialogue and the monitoring of partners’ reforms;
- the inclusion of civil society and administrations in the enlargement process to facilitate, in particular, their participation in EU agencies and programmes;
- the fight against climate change, in particular by establishing the Regional Environmental Network for Accession (RENA) and by funding projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
- improving communication about the enlargement process, directed at the populations of partner countries and European Union countries.