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Enlargement: concrete reality counts, not commitments, says CoR

Comité des régions - COR/10/35   15/04/2010

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Press Release

The EU's Assembly of Regional and Local Representatives

COR/10/35

Brussels, 15 April 2010

Enlargement: concrete reality counts, not commitments, says CoR

The EU accession process of Croatia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was high on the CoR agenda yesterday evening. After hearing from Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, the CoR adopted its opinion on enlargement strategy and the main challenges for the candidate countries tabled by rapporteur Georgios Papastergiou, Prefect of Pieria (EL/EPP). The debate among CoR members focused in particular on the progress made by Turkey and the relations between Turkey and Greece.

The opinion assesses the progress made by each of the candidate countries on the road to accession and voices the CoR's considerable concern that many of the political commitments made by the candidate countries are not sufficiently transposed into concrete action on the ground. "The decision on EU accession of a country can only be made on the basis of a sound assessment of the reality on the ground and not only by screening the transposition of EU law into national law" underlined CoR rapporteur Georgios Papastergiou. The CoR opinion stresses that candidate countries have to continue to strengthen the quality of local and regional administration and governance as the readiness of countries for EU membership will also depend on their local and regional administrative capacity.

Speaking for the first time in front of the EU assembly of local and regional representatives, Commissioner Füle echoed the Committee's demands: "Establishing subsidiarity and high quality public administration at all levels is a key pre-requisite for EU membership. Local and regional authorities must be well prepared to fulfil the obligations arising from EU accession. This is the only way a new Member State can fully benefit from the opportunities EU membership offers."

Füle gave a brief overview of where the European Commission stands with regard to candidate countries. "As Commissioner responsible for enlargement, it is my job to make sure countries are fully prepared for membership at the moment they join. Countries will join when they are ready, each based on its own merits. There will be no free-rides nor any short-cuts." He added "We are first and foremost interested in the quality of the accession process, so that with each new accession the Union will be not only grow larger but also stronger."

Expressing the position of the PES Group, its President, Karl-Heinz Klär, Secretary of State of the German Federal Land of Rhineland-Palatinate, reaffirmed the Group's strong support to the 2009-2010 UE Enlargement Strategy and welcomed the progress made in each of the candidate countries to the EU accession: FYROM, Croatia and Turkey.

"The Copenhagen criteria are the main points of reference for the EU enlargement process" he recalled and underlined the importance of a constructive and forward looking dialogue within the existing international structures aiming at reinforcing cooperation between all parts.

The opinion gives a frank evaluation of the progress made by each candidate country. For example, with regard to Turkey the CoR "commends the Turkish government for its constructive attitude", however it "regrets the fact that despite enactment of legislation relating to the Copenhagen political criteria, implementation of this legislation is still wanting, particularly in the areas of women's rights, non-discrimination, religious freedom, freedom of expression, zero tolerance of torture and the eradication of corruption" and expresses "dissatisfaction at the slow progress with transferring responsibilities to local authorities."

In relation to Croatia, the opinion commends its progress towards meeting the criteria for Union membership, although it recommends that additional efforts be made, for instance in boosting "administrative capacity of bodies fighting corruption" since "corruption remains widespread in many sectors." CoR members also note that "the decentralisation strategy has not been adopted, due to a lack of commitment at political level". Regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the opinion points out that "administrative capacity is still inadequate in certain municipalities" and laments "the lack of transparency and accountability of local and regional authorities," although the proposal to set up a new committee for local government welcomed.

Read the speech given by Commissioner Füle.

Detailed country analyses and the CoR's political requests to the candidate countries can be found in the draft opinion and the tabled amendments.

Visit the CoR's website at www.cor.europa.eu.

The Committee of the Regions

The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.

For more information, please contact:

Athénais Cazalis de Fondouce

EU Committee of the Regions

Tel.: +32 (0)2 546 2447

Athenais.cazalisdefondouce@cor.europa.eu

To read previous press releases, please click here


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