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SPEECH/08/582












Olli Rehn

EU Commissioner for Enlargement




Enlargement package 2008

























Enlargement package Press conference
Brussels, 5 November 2008

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Il est évident qu'aujourd'hui je ne peux voler la vedette ni à Barack Obama, que je félicite sincèrement pour sa victoire éclatante dans les élections présidentielles américaines, ni à la conjoncture politique liée à la crise financière et à la préparation du prochain Sommet.

Sur ce point, permettez-moi de saluer la Présidence Française pour son volontarisme, qui a permis de coordonner une réaction européenne efficace. La semaine dernière, le Président Barroso et Joaquin Almunia ont présenté ici même les propositions de la Commission à cet égard.

Du point de vue de l'Elargissement, il y a un élément particulier de la stratégie européenne que je voudrais souligner. Il s'agit des économies émergentes des pays candidats et du reste de l'Europe du sud-est.

Jusqu'à présent, la crise financière a eu un impact limité dans cette région. Mais son économie réelle commence à être affectée par une croissance affaiblie et un chômage élevé.

La solidité des relations de l'UE avec l'Europe du Sud-est peut servir d'ancrage en ces temps difficiles. Les accords de Stabilisation et d'Association ainsi que l'Accord de libre échange centre-européen, contribuent au développement économique des Balkans occidentaux.

En complément, comme mesures de plus court terme en 2009, nous envisageons d'orienter et anticiper une partie de notre assistance financière vers des programmes de soutien aux petites et moyennes entreprises et de financement de l'infrastructure.

La crise financière a montré combien l'Europe du Sud-est est déjà intégrée à l'UE. Les économies émergentes de cette région, comme celles des nouveaux états-membres, sont parmi les plus dynamiques en Europe, en faisant une destination majeure des exportations et investissements de l'UE – comme vous le voyez sur l'illustration.

En résumé: l'élargissement n'est pas le problème, mais au contraire, une partie essentielle de la solution pour la revitalisation économique de l'Europe. Nous partageons un destin commun.

Les événements récents, en particulier la crise dans le Caucase, ont clairement démontré l'importance stratégique de l'élargissement. Ils ont aussi souligné le rôle important que joue la Turquie – pour notre stabilité, nos besoins énergétiques ainsi que notre influence dans la région.

En conséquence, tandis que nous travaillons à la ratification du Traité de Lisbonne, nous ne pouvons pas mettre entre parenthèse notre travail pour la stabilité et le progrès dans le sud-est de l'Europe.

Le paquet que nous avons adopté aujourd'hui reflète notre stratégie de stabilisation et de démocratisation.

I shall now say a few words of the countries of the enlargement agenda.

Based on the progress made by Croatia, it should be possible to reach the final stage of the accession negotiations by the end of 2009, provided that the country fulfils all the necessary conditions. Today we present a conditional and indicative roadmap, which is aimed at giving further rigour and spine for the preparations in Croatia.

This is an encouragement, but not a blank check. The indicative timetable may need to be adapted in light of the progress achieved by Croatia. The ball is now firmly in Croatia's court. The Commission will closely monitor the fulfilment of the conditions by the country.

Croatia will have to work hard on judicial reform. Recent tragic events in Croatia have underlined the seriousness of the challenges facing the country in the fight against corruption and organised crime. The restructuring of the shipyards also remains an important condition.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made good progress on judicial and police reform and continued to consolidate multi-ethnic democracy by implementing the Ohrid Agreement. However, these good results are overshadowed by shortcomings in the political criteria, which is fundamental to start accession negotiations.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the other countries of the region are working on fulfilling the conditions for visa free travel.

I know the importance of this issue for all citizens of the Western Balkans, especially for the young people who would like to travel freely and thus get to know the EU better.

I hope that the most advanced countries could achieve this objective in the course of next year.

Albania is implementing smoothly the SAA it signed with the EU in late 2006. Based on cross-party consensus on the EU, key political reforms are progressing, including election reform. One of Albania's key challenges ahead will be handling of the 2009 elections. It will also need to strengthen the rule of law and build administrative capacity.

Montenegro's SAA has been in force for a year now. Its implementation is proceeding smoothly. Political consensus on the EU and cross-party support in the parliament enabled adoption of a new Constitution in 2007, as well as solid progress on EU agenda. Strengthening the rule of law and administrative capacity remain a challenge.

In the first half of 2008, we witnessed important progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which led to the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and the start of visa dialogue in June. Unfortunately, this has not prevented a deterioration of the political situation in the country in recent months. The challenge for Bosnia's leaders today is to achieve the degree of political consensus that has delivered progress on EU integration elsewhere in the region. EU-related reforms must move to the top of the agenda.

The new Serbian government has made EU integration and reforms its key priority. Serbia needs to do everything in its powers to arrest the remaining ICTY indictees, including Ratko Mladic. Provided Serbia can carry out the necessary reforms and fulfil the conditions, under the best possible scenario, it might still be able to obtain candidate status in 2009. Serbia has a major role to play in the region. The EU expects in particular Serbia to take a constructive approach to EULEX deployment.

Kosovo[1] will remain a focal point in 2009. Kosovo needs to ensure its commitment to a democratic and multi-ethnic society. The EU is committed to help secure peace and stability in Kosovo and support its economic development, as well as its progress towards the EU as part of the Western Balkans. We will present a feasibility study in autumn 2009 in that regard.

For Turkey the year 2008 was marked by strong political tensions in domestic politics. The Constitutional Court cases highlight the need for urgent revision of the rules governing political parties, and also for a wider constitutional reform.

I welcome the reform of article 301 and the adoption of the law on foundations, both of which need to be properly implemented.

I call on Turkey today to re-energise its reform efforts to advance fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The country has every chance to make 2009 an important year in its EU accession process, by accelerating the momentum of reforms.

Last but not least, I also expect that Turkey will contribute to a favourable climate to achieve a comprehensive settlement on the reunification of Cyprus. The year 2009 should be decisive here. The EU can accept any solution agreed by the two communities, as long as a united Cyprus respects the Union's founding principles of liberty, democracy and the rule of law, and is able to carry the obligations of EU membership. This implies a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by saying that when it comes to the enlargement policy and South-Eastern Europe, in 2008 the 'Cassandras' were again proven wrong. At the beginning of the year many feared instability in the Western Balkans related to Kosovo's status process. In Turkey a serious political crisis was in the making. But once again the clear European perspective worked to help keep the region on the European track.

By keeping a steady course now, we lay the foundation for further progress next year. 2009 can be a quite important year of concrete progress, when practically all the countries are expected to take new steps forward on their path towards the EU.

Thank you.


[1] Under UNSCR 1244/99


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