The waiting list

Countries that stop and countries that advance

The doors of the European Union are open to those States that intend to continue along the path of integration and cooperation. But full compliance with the adhesion criteria stipulated in Copenhagen in 1993 (democracy and Rule of the Law, market economy, “acquis communautaire”) is mandatory. The annual report on the enlargement process released by the Commission on February 9 doesn’t make concessions. In analyzing EU relations with Eastern Balkan States, with Turkey and with Iceland, the Commission underlines the progress made by these States as relates to domestic reforms, but a long road still lies ahead before entering the “common home”.Crosstalk with Ankara. Reactions and debate was triggered by the Commission’s excessive caution as regards Ankara. In fact, Turkey had submitted an adhesion request already in 1987. Adhesion negotiations were opened in 2005, but they appear to have reached a standstill. The EU demands respect of the rights of minorities (Curds and Armenians) and women, the freedom of religion of non-Muslims; the prosecution of political and administrative reforms, and that the problems with Cyprus be solved. But premier Tayyp Erdogan gave an immediate reply: “The EU is wasting time. The Turkish government and public opinion are annoyed and offended by such relations”. The reply came from Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle: “We’re not wasting time. We demand compliance with all the adhesion criteria. In fact, we acknowledge that progress has been made”. The real problem however doesn’t seem to be linked to the negotiations dossiers but to the fact that the EU, and some Member States in particular, at least for the time being, don’t yearn to draw closer to Ankara. And European politicians are well aware that a large part of the public opinion of EU27 is perplexed over this possibility. Ahead Croatia and Iceland. As relates to other Countries undergoing EU adhesion procedures, it is expected that Croatia and Ireland will be the next to join EU27, this could happen in the next two or three years. The Commission proposes to grant Montenegro the status of candidate country and “recommends” to undertake adhesion negotiations with Montenegro and Albania, “when these countries will have accomplished a series of fundamental priorities indicated” in the recommendations that the report dedicates to each single State. Füle declared: “The enlargement policy enables the EU to meet the challenges of a shifting, multi-polar world, in which we need to continue projecting our value-based system beyond our borders”. A Union that “shall once again build cooperation between former rivals, while upholding the highest standards of human rights, will have the magnetic soft power needed to shape the world around it, rather than be shaped by it”.“Benefits for everyone”. Beyond the statements, it must be said that negotiations with Croatia have reached their final phase. Accession negotiations with Iceland have been launched and “Serbia’s EU membership application is being processed”. “Reform efforts in the enlargement countries have already started to bring tangible benefits to their citizens – said the Czech Commissioner. Citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina will soon be able to travel visa-free to the EU. Serbia, Montenegro and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have already been benefitting from visa-free travel for the past year. Across the enlargement region, many economies are being strengthened despite the global crisis; the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms are moving closer to EU levels. The situation of each Country. The Commission presented its “Opinions” on each State. For Croatia 25 out of 35 chapters have been provisionally closed. “Accession negotiations have reached the final phase” . However, problems remain in particular in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights. As relates to Turkey 13 chapters are opened and 1 provisionally closed. “Full implementation of the obligations under the Customs Union” and progress towards normalisation of relations with Cyprus are needed before the country can advance more vigorously in its accession negotiations. As Iceland is already a member of the EEA and the Schengen area, a large part of its legislation is already aligned with that of the EU. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to “sufficiently fulfil” the political criteria, but a mutually accepted solution to the name with Greece issue is essential. The situation of Montenegro, Albania e Serbia was already mentioned. Perplexities regarding the political sphere and domestic reform regard Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, which have not yet applied formal EU membership request.

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