Brussels, 14 October 2009
Key findings of the progress reports on the candidate countries: Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
EU accession negotiations began with Croatia on 3 October 2005 and are progressing well.
The road map included in last year's Strategy Paper has successfully galvanised efforts in Croatia aimed at meeting the benchmarks in order to open and close the chapters according to the roadmap's indicative timetable. The good overall progress achieved by Croatia in numerous chapters means that technical preparations in the negotiations are now nearing their final phase.
Croatia continues to meet the Copenhagen political criteria. New legislation and organisational changes have been introduced for reforming the judiciary and for fighting corruption and organised crime. Case backlogs before courts have been reduced. The anti-corruption body USKOK is increasingly active. Public administration reform has received increased attention. Croatia has taken some steps to address problems of minorities, particularly the Roma. Provision of housing care for returning refugees is much improved. Croatia has continued to participate actively in regional cooperation.
However, considerable challenges remain in key areas, such as improving the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, overhauling the functioning of the public administration and in fighting organised crime and corruption, which remains prevalent in many areas. Further attention needs to be paid to minority rights, including completing the process of refugee return. The prosecution of war crimes requires continued attention. Problems of access by ICTY to important documents in Croatia remain. Regional cooperation needs to continue, as do efforts to solve outstanding bilateral problems with neighbours, especially on border delimitation.
Croatia is a functioning market economy. It should be able to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union, provided that it further implements its comprehensive reform programme with determination in order to reduce structural weaknesses.
Although the economy of Croatia has been increasingly hit by the global crisis, macro-economic stability has been preserved. Croatia adapted its fiscal policy, including successive budget revisions and spending adjustments. External imbalances have narrowed, exchange rate stability has been preserved, and inflationary pressures have subsided. The banking sector remained sound and resilient to the crisis.
However, the government's economic policy has sometimes lacked a clear medium-term orientation. Structural reforms have advanced at a slow pace and there were limited improvements in the business environment. Employment rates are low and the labour market overly rigid. Little progress has been achieved in increasing the efficiency of public spending. The fiscal deficit increased significantly. A high level of external indebtedness and large short-term repayment obligations are key vulnerabilities of the economy.
EU legal order
Croatia has improved its ability to take on the obligations of membership. Preparations for meeting EU requirements have continued to progress well and there is a good degree of alignment with EU rules in most sectors. However, further efforts lie ahead, in particular as regards further reinforcement of the administrative structures and capacity necessary for proper implementation of the acquis and in difficult chapters such as judiciary and fundamental rights, competition policy and agriculture and rural development.
Also, vigilance is required to ensure the budget cuts necessary in the context of the economic downturn do not disproportionately affect preparations for EU accession.
EU accession negotiations with Turkey began on 3 October 2005 and have moved forward over the reporting period.
11 out of 33 negotiation chapters have been opened so far. One chapter has been provisionally closed 3 . In addition, opening benchmarks have been set as conditions for opening negotiations on 13 chapters 4 .
Turkey continues to sufficiently fulfil the political criteria, and has made further progress during the last year, notably as regards the reform of the judiciary, civil-military relations, and cultural rights. As concerns the latter, the opening of a public TV channel broadcasting 24-hour in Kurdish nation-wide was a very positive step forward. Furthermore, the government has begun a process of broad consultation with political parties and civil society with a view to addressing comprehensively the Kurdish issue.
The investigation of the alleged criminal network Ergenekon, which has led to serious criminal charges against military officers and nationalist circles, is an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen the rule of law, provided that the due process of law is respected.
As concerns EU-reforms and Turkey-EU relations overall, the Government has given higher priority to preparations for accession, through the appointment of a full-time Chief Negotiator and the approval of the National Programme for the Adoption of the acquis. However, the lack of dialogue and spirit of compromise between political parties is detrimental to the pursuit of reforms, in particular in relation to the necessary constitutional reforms. Significant efforts are still required in most areas related to the political criteria, including for example freedom of expression and of the press (in this context, the disproportionate fine against the main press group raises concerns), freedom of religion, fight against torture and ill-treatment.
Turkey is a functioning market economy. It should be able to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union in the medium term, provided it implements its comprehensive reform programme in order to address structural weaknesses .
The economy, including the financial sector, has showed resilience despite the difficult international economic environment. The current account deficit has become less of a concern. Access to external finance remained open for both the public and private sectors. Privatisation advanced, albeit at a slower pace.
The increase in public spending to address the economic crisis may bring negative consequences on macroeconomic stability. Economic reforms have slowed down and some structural reforms still need to be undertaken. Anti-crisis measures could put fiscal sustainability at risk in the medium-term. The unemployment rate increased sharply.
EU legal order
Turkey has further improved its ability to take on the obligations of membership. Turkey has made progress in aligning with the EU's legal order in a number of areas, in particular in Trans-European networks, energy and science and research. The overall level of alignment is advanced in areas such as free movement of goods, intellectual property rights, enterprise and industrial policy, anti-trust policy, consumer and health protection, science and research, energy. As regards energy, Turkey signed the Inter-governmental agreement on Nabucco and started formal negotiations for its accession to the Energy Community. Turkey committed to re-launching formal negotiations on an EC-Turkey readmission agreement. Much alignment needs to be done, in particular on agriculture, fisheries, veterinary and phytosanitary policies, state aid, justice and home affairs, social policies. No progress can be reported on company law. Turkey's overall administrative capacities need to be improved.
Owing to Turkey's non compliance with its obligation to implement fully the additional protocol to the Ankara Agreement, in December 2006 the EU decided that eight negotiating chapters could not be opened 5 and that no chapter could be provisionally closed until Turkey meets its obligation. Negotiations were allowed to continue on the other chapters .
Turkey has continued to develop a positive role contributing to stabilisation in regions such as the South Caucasus and the Middle East. In this context, diplomatic efforts to normalise relations with Armenia have moved forward significantly.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia obtained the status of candidate country in December 2005.
The presidential and local elections of 2009 met most international standards. Political dialogue has improved: the governing coalition is stable, the political climate is more cooperative and the parliament is more effective. The key Accession Partnership priorities regarding the reform of the police, the judiciary, public administration and corruption have been substantially addressed.
The implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement remains an essential element of democracy and rule of law in the country. There has been progress on implementing the law on languages, on decentralisation and equitable representation. However, further efforts in a constructive spirit are needed to fulfil the objectives of the Agreement.
The legal and institutional framework for human rights and the protection of minorities is broadly in place. Nevertheless, further efforts are needed to improve implementation in a number of fields.
Regarding regional issues and international obligations , the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has generally good relations with countries in the region. Relations with Greece continued to be affected by the unresolved name issue. The country is engaged in talks under the auspices of the UN on resolving it. Maintaining good neighbourly relations, including a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, remains essential.
The country continued to move closer towards becoming a functioning market economy. It should be able to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union in the medium term, provided that it vigorously implements its reform programme in order to reduce significant structural weaknesses.
Growth decelerated and became negative in 2009 following the deterioration in the international environment. The financial sector remained reasonably stable while inflation declined markedly. Some progress has been achieved in addressing structural unemployment and in reducing impediments to employment. However, the still very high unemployment, in particular among young and poorly educated, remains a major cause of concern. Further progress has been made in improving business environment. However, improvements in the administration and the rule of law are necessary to allow for smooth functioning of the market economy. Financial independence of supervisory and regulatory agencies has been strengthened. In the context of the election period and the global economic crisis, the overall economic policy mix has deteriorated. This contributed to widening of the external imbalances and an increase of the external vulnerability of the country.
EU legal order
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made good progress in improving its ability to assume the obligations of membership, in particular as concerns transport, customs and taxation and justice, freedom and security . Less progress has been achieved in certain other areas such as energy, the environment and employment and social policy. , Sustained efforts are needed to strengthen administrative capacity for the implementation and enforcement of legislation. In line with the relevant key priority of the Accession Partnership, commitments undertaken in the Stabilisation and Association Agreement have been implemented .
EU Financial Assistance under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) for the candidate countries
28 opened chapters: science and research, education and culture, economic and monetary policy, industrial policy, customs, intellectual property rights, right of establishment and freedom to provide services, company law, statistics, financial services, financial control, information society and media, consumer and health protection, external relations, financial and budgetary provisions, TENs, transport, energy, free movement of workers, social policy and employment, free movement of goods, justice, freedom and security, taxation, free movement of capital, regional policy, food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, agriculture and rural development.
Opened and provisionally closed: science and research, education and culture, enterprise and industrial policy, external relations. economic and monetary policy intellectual property rights, information society and media, TENs, customs union, company law, statistics, free movement of workers, consumer and health protection.
E nterprise and industry, statistics, financial control, trans-European networks, consumer and health protection, intellectual property law, company law, provisionally closed: science and research
Free movement of capital, public procurement; competition policy; agriculture, taxation, employment and social policy, customs union, free movement of services, food safety, free movement of goods, environment, financial services.
F ree movement of goods, right of establishment and freedom to provide service, financial services, agriculture and rural development, fisheries, transport policy, customs union and