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Evaluation of the stabilisation and association process
To evaluate the results of the stabilisation and association process and identify the challenges still to be tackled in the Balkans and the way in which the Union plans to do this.
Report from Commission of 3 April 2002 - The Stabilisation and Association Process for South-Eastern Europe - First Annual Report [COM(2002)163 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The report analyses the economic, political and social situation in South-Eastern Europe and the stabilisation and association process implemented by the European Union for this region since May 1999. The strengths and weaknesses are identified, together with the problems to be resolved and the method of resolving them. The specific situation of the various countries in the region is also analysed.
The current situation
The report's point of departure is the analysis of the building blocks of the stabilisation and association process and its instruments, namely: the stabilisation and association agreements, trade preferences and financial assistance.
These agreements were signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Croatia. A negotiating mandate has been proposed for Albania. Consultative task forces have been set up for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Regulation (EC) No 2007/2000 grants trade preferences that provide almost totally free access to the Union for goods from South-Eastern Europe. In addition, the possibility of establishing free trade arrangements is mentioned in the stabilisation and association agreements.
The financial assistance provided by the EU for the region, in particular through the CARDS programme, is enormous (EUR 4.65 billion for the 2000-2006 period) and reinforces the objectives of the stabilisation and association process.
This process has placed the Balkans on the path to long-term economic, political and social reform. It has helped to strengthen the democratic institutions, respect for the rule of law and human rights. It has also helped to establish the conditions required for trade, growth and investment.
Two lessons may be learned from application of the process. The first is that the process must adapt to the specific situation in each country, and the second is the need to find a balance between stabilisation, on the one hand, and association, on the other.
Challenges for the future
As far as future challenges in the Balkans are concerned, the report mentions:
- building effective, democratic states in the region, in other words: strengthening constitutional arrangements, administrative capacity, civil society and the media; applying the rule of law; combating corruption and extreme forms of nationalism;
- tackling poverty and deprivation;
- enhancing regional cooperation in all fields. In relation to this challenge, the Commission states that integration with the EU is only possible if they are able to interact with their neighbours as the Member States do now.
The strategy to be implemented
In order to respond to the challenges mentioned, the report highlights the need for a very solid commitment on the part of South-Eastern Europe and the European Union. The Balkans will have to make substantial long-term investments and efforts. The Union will have to continue to support the stabilisation and association process, since it is the only possible approach for the region. It is essential for all of the financial resources available under the CARDS programme to be used effectively. A more effective communication strategy for the process is considered to be vital.
New impetus is also necessary to respond to the future challenges. The Commission proposes a new political forum at ministerial level bringing together the countries of the region and the members of the European Union. This would help to deepen their understanding of the process and improve regional cooperation. Instruments and methods already tried out on the current candidate countries could be used.
The situation in each country
The report indicates that a negotiating mandate has been proposed for Albania. Considerable efforts are necessary on the part of Albania before it can sign the agreement, in particular the continuation of reforms, enhancement of its administrative capacity and democratic institutions. Political instability continues and the socio-economic situation has not improved.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has fallen behind in relation to the road map guiding its development in the stabilisation and association process. The institutions foreseen in the constitution have begun to function but the country has yet to become a self-sustaining state founded on the rule of law. From an economic point of view, internal growth and balanced public finances are necessary.
For Croatia, the signature of the stabilisation and association agreement has had a very positive influence on the internal reform programme. The weakness of the legal system seems to be the most significant obstacle to the implementation of these reforms. Extreme forms of nationalism also have a negative influence and prevent greater regional cooperation. The economic situation is improving.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has made progress with its political reform since the introduction of the new regime. It is vital for the country to combat corruption and collaborate successfully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The bases required for the reform and economic growth are in place. A single economic space must be created within the territory of the Federal Republic. Structural reforms have yet to be completed.
The signature of the association and stabilisation agreement has brought the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the European Union closer together. It must now be implemented thoroughly. Although the political and security crisis of 2001 has been overcome, much remains to be done in order to achieve political stability. The reform of the constitution in November 2001 was a positive step in this direction. From an economic point of view, structural reforms are required. Macedonia must strengthen its legal system and its administrative capacity.