The near and the far

Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey: different timetables and processes for membership

Proceeding with the negotiations, but with caution; demanding full compliance with the membership criteria (fixed at Copenhagen in 1993); and monitoring the EU’s real “capacity for integration”: in this light the European Parliament verified, during its last plenary (Strasbourg, 8-11 February), the state of progress of the dossiers of Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. As far as Croatia is concerned, the negotiations could be concluded by the end of this year, with a view to full membership from 2011 or 2012. As for Macedonia, the European Council is now asked to discuss the opening of negotiations, while in the case of Ankara the doubts prevail over the certainties.Zagreb is on the right road. The debate in the European Parliament (EP) took place in the presence of Stefan Füle, new Commisioner for Englargement, and Diego López Garrido, representative of the Council, and in the light of the three reports prepared by the foreign affairs committee, drafted respectively by MEPs Hannes Swoboda (Croatia), Zoran Thaler (Macedonia) and Ria Oomen-Ruijten (Turkey). The debate led to the emergence of a “cross party” political majority substantially favourable to the continuation of the EU enlargement process, even though many problems, reservations and concerns were raised. The EP maintains, in the case of Croatia, that the negotiations “can be concluded in 2010”; a successful outcome of Croatia’s membership application would also give “a positive impulse to the process of integration of the rest of the region of the western Balkans into Europe”. Justice and frontiers. The message sent to the government of Zagreb is however clear: it is asked to “cooperate fully” with the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, permitting the Court’s access to the documents to be used in the trials for war crimes. The accord reached between Slovenia and Croatia in September 2009 on procedures for the settlement of the border dispute between the two countries, however, “has given an impulse to the opening of all the remaining chapters and to a rapid advancement of the negotiations”. Some “bilateral relations” with neighbouring states also remain to be resolved. The report lists them: restitution of properties confiscated during the Second World War and under the Communist regime; demarcation of frontiers; protection of refugees; and extradition of citizens in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity.Opening negotiations with Skopje. The EP expressed its satisfaction for the progress made by Macedonia, for which the Commission has already recommended the opening of membership negotiations. MEPs ask that the go-ahead be given as early as the summit of heads of state and of government of the 27 scheduled for the end of March. Remarking that the question of the name of the Balkan republic still remains open (“Macedonia” not being accepted by Greece), the EP invites Athens and Skopje to “redouble their efforts at the highest level to find a satisfactory solution for both sides”, operating “under the auspices of the United Nations” and through the assistance of the EU itself in the negotiating process.Ankara remains far away… On the EU’s relations with Turkey MEPs made various objections, considering that progress had stalled and reiterating the reforms that Ankara would have to undertake to enter the Union. That’s why the Parliament recalls that “the opening of negotiations in 2005 represented a point of departure of a long-term and open-ended process”. MEPs further pointed out that some of the provisions contained in the accord of association between the EU and Turkey have not yet been implemented, and that this risks compromising the whole negotiation process. But the objections raised more widely concern the role played and the power exerted by the army within Turkish democracy; relations with Cyprus; and the safeguard of minorities, with specific reference to the Kurds. On the other hand, MEPs “appreciate the diplomatic efforts undertaken to normalize relations with Armenia” and recognize “the role played by Turkey in regional security” between the Black Sea and the Middle East.The rights of women and of minorities. During the debate in the chamber, some speakers once again raised the question of inadequacies in the defence of the rights of women, workers and trades unions, ethnic and religious minorities in the country that straddles the continents of Europe and Asia. Yet the EP judges positively Turkey’s signing of the intergovernmental accord on the Nabucco gas pipeline, “whose application – says the report adopted in the EP – remains one of the top priorities of the European Union in terms of energy security”. That’s why MEPs ask for the opening of the chapter on energy of the membership negotiations. At the present time 12 of the 35 negotiating chapters have been opened; the most recent, that on environmental issues, was opened in December 2009.

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