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EU Enlargement: Way forward after GAC

European Commission - MEMO/13/1174   17/12/2013

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European Commission


Brussels, 17 December 2013

EU Enlargement: Way forward after GAC

Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle participated today in the General Affairs Council. This is what he said after the meeting:

'Good evening,

Let me add couple of words to the enlargement-related part of the General Affairs Council:

I welcome the Council's full support for our approach of tackling the fundamentals first. We will continue to ensure the rule of law is at the heart of the enlargement process and we will help candidate and potential candidate countries to step up their efforts to improve their economic governance and competitiveness.

On Serbia and Kosovo: I applaud both Prime Ministers on the remarkable efforts they have made towards normalisation this year, with the expert facilitation of Cathy Ashton. I am pleased that the Council has acknowledged these efforts. The adoption of the Negotiating Framework is an important step forward for Serbia. We will now rapidly prepare the first Inter-Governmental Conference which is planned for 21st January. We will also press ahead with the ongoing negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo. I am confident that we can conclude these negotiations in spring.

There have been very significant developments in Albania this year, as the Council has duly recognised today: the cross-party consensus that led to the adoption of key measures related to the judiciary, parliament and the public administration; the smooth conduct of the elections in June was also an important step forwards for Albania; and further steps taken in the fight against organised crime and corruption. There was particular praise for the intensified efforts of the new government in the rule of law sphere and new momentum of reform. We have a clear rendez-vous for June, where I fully expect, that as long as Albania maintains its current good work that it will get candidate status. It is now up to Albania – government, opposition and authorities to work together - to build on the impressive achievements to date.

We end this year with a newly regained momentum in EU - Turkey relations. Yesterday's signature of the readmission agreement together with the start of a dialogue towards visa liberalisation will bring concrete benefits for European and Turkish citizens alike. It is a welcome development that will also bring further dynamism to our relations and enable us to sustain the momentum created with the opening of a new negotiating chapter last month. I am glad that the Council has recognised that the EU should remain the anchor for reforms in Turkey, especially in the areas of rule of law, and fundamental rights and freedoms.

I welcome the successful launch in Montenegro of the new approach to justice and home affairs and the judiciary and fundamental rights. We should be opening these chapters tomorrow at the Accession Conference. This calls for deep and lasting political reforms. Progress in these areas will determine the pace of negotiations.

I cannot hide certain concerns, however, with regard to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We had hoped to secure agreement on a new approach to EU engagement in this country. The Council has decided to revert to this issue on the basis of an update from the Commission on further progress in the context of the High Level Accession Dialogue, including on the implementation of 1 March agreement and on tangible steps taken to promote good neighbourly relations. I hope the country will use the next months to advance reforms and work with all partners to move beyond the status quo – so that a next step on its European path can be taken soon.

I must also share the serious concerns expressed by the Council over the fact that the EU integration process has stalled in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have personally invested many hours discussing many different options with the political leaders of the country, seeking a way forward. We have come a very long way. But the political representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina have also to take the final step and reach a sustainable agreement on the implementation of the Sejdic-Finci ruling. This is essential for Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward on its European path.'

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