Category Archives: The Stabilisation and Association Process: the Western Balkans

As potential candidates, the countries of the Western Balkans have a European perspective. Recognised during the Feira European Council in 2000 and confirmed by the Thessaloniki European Council in 2003, this European perspective is integrated into the stabilisation and association process, which is the European Unions policy in relation to the countries of the Western Balkans. In addition to the specific regional requirements regarding political and economic stability and regional cooperation, the stabilisation and association process has gradually incorporated the enlargement process instruments to bring the countries of the region closer to the EU.

Consolidating stability and achieving prosperity in the Western Balkans

Consolidating stability and achieving prosperity in the Western Balkans

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Consolidating stability and achieving prosperity in the Western Balkans

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Consolidating stability and achieving prosperity in the Western Balkans

Document or Iniciative

Commission Communication of 27 January 2006: The Western Balkans on the road to the EU: consolidating stability and raising prosperity [COM(2006) 27 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The European Commission presents an appraisal of the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda, adopted in 2003, by the European Union (EU) and the countries of the Western Balkans.

It also makes recommendations concerning the consolidation and continuation of progress, to be achieved on the basis of the stabilisation and association process and the Thessaloniki Agenda.

Such developments are likely to foster closer ties between the EU and these countries, particularly in relation to the European perspective.

Report on the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda

Most of the commitments made in relation to the Thessaloniki Agenda have been fulfilled, by both the EU and the countries of the Western Balkans.

Political dialogue and cooperation on the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) have been consolidated, in particular with regard to the alignment of the countries in the region on the common positions, approaches and declarations under the CFSP. An EU-Western Balkans political forum has been established and bilateral political dialogues have been extended to all countries in the Western Balkans.

The EU supports the strengthening of the institutions and the development of the economic and commercial structures in the countries of the region, in particular by encouraging their participation in Community programmes and agencies, and in the European Charter for Small Enterprises and the development of preferential trade measures. A dialogue between the Commission and each of the countries in the Western Balkans on economic issues is pursued on a regular basis.

Progress has also been achieved in the fields of justice, freedom and security, mainly thanks to Community support.

The EU pursues its peacekeeping and conflict-prevention missions in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina under the CFSP and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). It also actively supports the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (MINUK) and cooperates closely with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.

However, further efforts are still needed on matters concerning the return of refugees, reconciliation through education and, more generally, social and cultural development. Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is also still of fundamental importance.

Considerable progress still to be made

The Commission underlines the need to support trade and investment and also economic and social development. In this context, the reform process already under way to ensure the proper functioning of the markets and of competitiveness provides the basis for, and a necessary complement to, economic and political stability. Economic and commercial integration depends in particular on:

  • the negotiation of stabilisation and association agreements (SAA) and the autonomous trade measures applied by the EU to imports from the region;
  • the creation of a zone of diagonal cumulation of origin between the EU and the countries of the Western Balkans which have concluded an SAA;
  • the development of regional commercial integration;
  • the accession of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia to the World Trade Organisation (WTO);
  • the participation of the countries of the Western Balkans in calls for tender organised within the framework of the pre-accession instruments;
  • support for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
  • the promotion of social integration and employment, and also of social dialogue and the fight against exclusion.

The citizens of the Western Balkan countries, with the exception of Croatia, must have a visa to enter EU territory. The Commission plans to present draft mandates to the Council in 2006 for the negotiation of facilitation agreements with the countries of the Western Balkans. The agreements will be linked to the conclusion of readmission agreements with the same countries.

Furthermore, specific measures encourage exchanges for students and researchers from third countries, including two Directives dating from December 2004 and October 2005.

The Commission wishes to familiarise the people and institutions of the Western Balkans with the European agenda.

For instance, participation in Community programmes and agencies should foster the further integration of this region into the EU and the exchange of know-how and good practices.

It is essential for the administrative authorities to be prepared for European integration in terms of administrative and legal capacity in order for them to conform rapidly with Community legislation. Provision for this is made by twinning (the secondment of experts and advisers from the Member States to the administrative authorities of the countries concerned for a long period), through the support provided by the Technical Assistance Information Exchange Office (TAIEX) or under the customs and fiscal assistance programmes (CAFAO).

Various international players show wide-ranging commitment to regional cooperation through, for example, structures such as the Stability Pact. Although there has been some progress, regional cooperation challenges still need to be met in European policy fields in which the Western Balkan countries are becoming progressively involved, namely:

  • justice, freedom and security. The fight against organised crime and border management are dealt with as priorities, particularly through the consolidation of the cross-border cooperation capacity of police and customs, and through the enhancement of regional prosecutor cooperation in organised crime cases and corruption-related crimes;
  • parliamentary cooperation;
  • energy. The Treaty between the EU and the partner countries of the region establishing the Energy Community was signed in October 2005. It provides a single framework for regulating energy with the aim of fostering energy networks involving the countries of the region and other international partners;
  • cooperation on land and air transport;
  • the environment. The countries in the region are part of the Regional Environmental Reconstruction Programme, currently being developed, and of the Balkan Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (BERCEN);
  • the protection and defence of cultural heritage.

The Commission proposes widening the civil society dialogue to include all the countries of the Western Balkans, thus going beyond the civil society dialogue proposed for the candidate countries (European Council of December 2004 and Communication (2005) 290 final of 29 June 2005). The EU therefore proposes in-depth political and cultural dialogue with the countries of the region, involving the active participation of civil society.

Background

Issues of fundamental importance for the future of the region are still to be settled, such as the status of Kosovo and the constitutional reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.

Kosovo – Towards European integration

Kosovo – Towards European integration

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Kosovo – Towards European integration

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Kosovo – Towards European integration

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 17 December 2009 – Kosovo – Fulfilling its European Perspective [COM(2009) 534 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

According to the status defined by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo has made progress towards accession to the European Union (EU). Kosovo participates in the EU’s stabilisation and association process for the Western Balkans.

The progress made relates in the first instance to the adaptation of legislation to European standards and the establishment of a viable fiscal framework. However, Kosovo still faces major challenges on political, economic and social levels.

The EU provides technical and financial assistance to support the reforms. Among other things, Kosovo benefits from the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, the CARDS programme and the Instrument for Stability.

Accelerating reforms

In 2008 and 2009, Kosovo adopted plans for measures corresponding to the objectives of the European Partnership. In particular, the reforms are intended to improve the following:

  • the functioning of the State, the judiciary and public administration;
  • fiscal policy and economic stability;
  • public procurement and the business environment;
  • the fight against corruption, money laundering and organised crime;
  • social cohesion;
  • the protection of minorities, in particular Serbs, and reconciliation between the communities.

Free movement of persons

Kosovo citizens now benefit from simplified procedures for obtaining short-stay visas in EU countries. Visa requirements are to be relaxed further if Kosovo makes progress concerning:

  • readmission arrangements for Kosovo citizens,
  • the fight against organised crime,
  • the security of identity documents,
  • the monitoring of migration and border security.

Kosovo is also to participate in the judicial cooperation work of Europol, Eurojust and Frontex.

Kosovo’s socio-economic development

Kosovo has been relatively little affected by the international economic crisis due to its limited integration into global trade. However, remittances and inflows of foreign investment decreased in 2009. In addition, Kosovo’s budget and trade deficits are considerable.

The EU supports Kosovo in several sectors:

  • trade – the Commission proposes a regime of exceptional trade measures which may be replaced in due time by another preferential regime for products from Kosovo (Pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation of origin);
  • macro-economic and fiscal stability – in the context of the EU-Kosovo economic dialogue and Kosovo’s membership of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF);
  • the private sector – to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to promote privatisation and innovation;
  • social policies and employment – to strengthen job centres, work incentive and social inclusion schemes. In particular, Kosovo is associated with the European PROGRESS programme;
  • education, training and research – in particular through European student exchange programmes and the 7th Framework Programme for Research;
  • culture and civic life – for the benefit of civil society organisations in particular.

Kosovo’s efforts should be extended to new sectors:

  • energy – in order to privatise the sector, to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies;
  • transport – to improve the rail and road infrastructure, and with regard to Kosovo’s participation in the European Common Aviation Area;
  • environment – measures should be taken to protect public health (drinking water, air quality, etc.), and to implement European legislation effectively.

Regional cooperation

Kosovo’s cooperation with the other countries of Southern Europe is essential for its commercial development, economic growth and political stability. However, its participation in regional forums remains a sensitive political issue. Similarly, a blockade has been maintained on Kosovo’s exports to Serbia and on transit trade with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kosovo’s external representation is carried out by UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo).

EU-Kosovo dialogue

Kosovo conducts a regular dialogue with the EU on the themes of innovation, the internal market, good governance, agriculture, the economy and infrastructures.

EU financial assistance

Aid allocated by the EU is targeted to a limited number of priorities. The funding allocated under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) amounts to EUR 359 million for the period 2007-2009 and EUR 206 million for 2010-2012. These funds are to be used to finance cross-border activities.

Context

Kosovo’s independence has been recognised by 22 out of 27 EU countries. This lack of a shared position does not prevent the EU from adopting measures to support its economic and political development.

In addition, the EU supports Kosovo’s stability through:

  • the presence of a civilian mission in the context of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP),
  • the appointment of a Special Representative for political reform,
  • the establishment of the European EULEX mission for the rule of law (police, the judiciary and customs).

Exceptional trade measures

Exceptional trade measures

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Exceptional trade measures

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Exceptional trade measures

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EC) No 1215/2009 of 30 November 2009 introducing exceptional trade measures for countries and territories participating in or linked to the European Union’s Stabilisation and Association process (codified version).

Summary

The Western Balkan countries benefit from exceptional trade measures for their imports into the European Union (EU). These countries and territories are part of the Stabilisation and Association process.

The exceptional trade measures shall apply until 31 December 2010.

Trade preferences

Products originating in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo shall be imported into the European Union without customs duties * or charges having equivalent effect and without quantitative restrictions * or measures having equivalent effect.

In addition, these trade preferences shall apply to certain agricultural products.

Conditions for entitlement

To benefit from the preferential measures, countries and territories must:

  • comply with the definition of originating product provided for in Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93; the products must have been wholly manufactured or have undergone sufficient processing in the country or territory;
  • undertake not to increase the level of taxes or restrictions on products imported from the EU;
  • combat fraud by means of administrative cooperation with the EU.

Beneficiaries should also engage in effective economic reforms and in cooperation with other countries concerned by the Stabilisation and Association process, in particular through the creation of a regional free trade area.

The Commission may suspend the trade preferences in whole or in part if a country fails to comply with its obligations.

Agricultural and fishery products

The customs duties applicable to certain fishery products and certain wines shall be suspended, within the limits defined in Annex I.

The customs duties applicable to imports of veal (baby beef) originating in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo are defined in Annex II. The volume of the total annual tariff quota * is 11 475 tonnes, distributed as follows:

  • 1 500 tonnes (carcass weight) for products originating in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • 9 175 tonnes (carcass weight) for products originating in the customs territories of Serbia and Kosovo.

Imports of sugar products originating in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo shall be subject to annual tariff quotas:

  • 12 000 tonnes (net weight) for products originating in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • 180 000 tonnes (net weight) for products originating in the customs territories of Serbia and Kosovo.

Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 establishes procedures for the implementation of tariff quotas in relation to these products.

The Commission may take protective measures if imports of agricultural and fishery products cause serious disturbance to the EU’s internal market.

Keywords
  • Customs duties: a duty which alters the price of an imported product, irrespective of its name or technique, which results in a restriction on the free movement of goods.
  • Quantitative restriction: any trade regulation which may have the effect of limiting imports of goods, in terms of quantity or value (e.g. import quota).
  • Tariff quota: a trade measure which permits the total or partial suspension of the duties normally paid on an imported product, during a period of time or for a limited volume.

References

Act Entry into force – expiry date Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1215/2009

4.1.2010 – 31.12.2010

OJ L 328 of 15.12.2009

Related Acts

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1215/2009 introducing exceptional trade measures for countries and territories participating in or linked to the European Union’s Stabilisation and Association process [COM(2010) 54 final- Not published in the Official Journal].
This Proposal aims to extend the validity of the trade preferences granted to the Western Balkan countries until 2015.
Procedure: 2010/0036/COD

The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

As potential candidates, the countries of the Western Balkans have a European perspective. Recognised during the Feira European Council in 2000 and confirmed by the Thessaloniki European Council in 2003, this European perspective is integrated into the stabilisation and association process, which is the European Unions policy in relation to the countries of the Western Balkans. In addition to the specific regional requirements regarding political and economic stability and regional cooperation, the stabilisation and association process has gradually incorporated the enlargement process instruments to bring the countries of the region closer to the EU.

GENERAL FRAMEWORK

  • Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective
  • Consolidating stability and achieving prosperity in the Western Balkans
  • Integration into the European Union
  • The stabilisation and association process
  • Kosovo – Towards European integration

Enlargement Strategy

  • Enlargement Strategy 2011-2012
  • 2010-2011 Enlargement Strategy
  • Enlargement strategy 2009-2010
  • Enlargement Strategy 2007-2008
  • Enlargement strategy 2006-2007: challenges and integration capacity
  • Enlargement strategy 2005: roadmap for the Western Balkans

Stabilisation and association agreements

  • Partnerships with the Western Balkans
  • European Partnership with Albania
  • European Partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • European partnership with Montenegro
  • European Partnership with Serbia, including Kosovo
  • Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Agreements with the countries of the Western Balkans on the facilitation of the issuance of visas
  • Readmission agreements with the countries of the western Balkans

INSTRUMENTS

Financial Instruments

  • Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA)
  • European Agency for Reconstruction
  • The CARDS programme (2000-2006)

Specific instruments

  • Participation in Community programmes
  • Exceptional trade measures
  • Exceptional trade measures

SECTORAL COOPERATION

  • European Training Foundation (ETF)
  • The Energy Community Treaty
  • Cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries on nuclear safety

Readmission agreements with the countries of the western Balkans

Readmission agreements with the countries of the western Balkans

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Readmission agreements with the countries of the western Balkans

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Readmission agreements with the countries of the western Balkans

Document or Iniciative

Council Decision 2005/809/EC of 7 November 2005 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Albania on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation.

Council Decisions 2007/817/EC, 2007/818/EC, 2007/819/EC and 2007/820/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of Agreements between the European Community and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Montenegro, the Republic of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation.

Summary

Any western Balkan country which is not a member of the European Union (EU) and has signed a readmission agreement (“partner country”) shall readmit, at the request of a Member State, its nationals who do not comply with, or no longer comply with, the entry or residence conditions of that State. It agrees to readmit the person concerned if it is proven, or can be validly assumed, that he/she is a national of that country.

The partner country shall also readmit any third-country national who does not comply with, or no longer complies with, the entry or residence conditions of the requesting Member State if it is proven, or can be validly assumed, that the person in question entered directly and illegally into the Member State after staying in, or transiting through, the partner country.

The European Community (EC) has a similar commitment to the partner country: following a request from the authorities of the partner country, a Member State shall readmit any of its nationals who do not comply with, or no longer comply with, the conditions for entry or residence in the partner country, if it is proven, or can be validly assumed, that the person in question is a national of that Member State.

A Member State shall also readmit any third-country national who holds a visa or residence permit issued by that Member State or who has entered illegally and directly into the partner country after staying in, or transiting through, that Member State.

Readmission application

Any transfer of an individual to be readmitted must follow an application known as a “readmission application” submitted by the requesting State to the requested State. However, no application is required when the person is in possession of a valid travel document or an identity card and, where necessary, a visa or a residence permit issued by the requested State.

Readmission applications must include the following information and documentation concerning the person concerned: surname, forenames, date and place of birth, last place of residence, documents attesting his/her nationality, photograph, a note as to whether he/she requires help or care and information on any other protection or security measure which may be necessary for his/her transfer.

Evidence

For the readmission of nationals of the partner country or Member States, readmission agreements list the documents which make it possible to establish:

  • proof of nationality without any further investigation being required;
  • prima facie evidence of nationality. In such cases, the Member States and the partner country shall consider that nationality has been established unless there is proof to the contrary.

For the readmission of third-country nationals, the readmission agreements list the documents which constitute evidence making it possible to establish:

  • proof that the readmission conditions have been fulfilled;
  • prima facie evidence that the readmission conditions have been fulfilled. In such cases, the Member States and the partner country shall consider that the readmission conditions have been fulfilled unless there is proof to the contrary.

Time limits

The requesting State must submit readmission applications for third-country nationals at most one year after becoming aware of the facts.

Replies to applications shall be provided in writing within a set time limit (e.g. 10 days for the readmission agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina, 12 days for the readmission agreement with Montenegro, 14 days for the readmission agreement with Albania) from the date of receipt of the readmission application. For some readmission agreements, such as those with Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, this time limit is reduced if the individual is apprehended in the border region of the requesting State. By contrast, it may also be extended by a maximum of six days in certain circumstances.

If there is no reply within the extended time limit, the transfer shall be deemed to have been approved. If the application is rejected, the readmission shall not take place. Rejection decisions must be justified by the requested State. If the application is accepted, the readmission shall take place. In principle, transfers are organised within the three months following acceptance. This deadline may be extended.

How transfers take place

Before repatriating a person, the authorities of the partner country and the Member State concerned shall agree matters in advance in writing, particularly as regards the date of the transfer, the entry point and any escorts which may be required.

Repatriation may take place by air or over land. Air transport may take place on scheduled or charter flights.

Costs

In readmission operations, all transport costs as far as the border of the State of final destination shall be borne by the requesting State.

Joint committees

Joint committees are set up to monitor implementation of each agreement.

Background

Following the outcome of the EU-Western Balkans summit in Thessaloniki on 21 June 2003 (“Thessaloniki Agenda”), the EU institutions began negotiations with a view to concluding readmission agreements with all the countries in the region.

On 13 November 2006, the Council authorised the Commission to begin negotiating readmission agreements with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. These negotiations led to the adoption by the Council on 8 November 2007 of Decisions providing for the conclusion of the agreements.

As regards Albania, the process dates back further. On 28 November 2002, the Council authorised the Commission to begin negotiations on a readmission agreement. These negotiations led to the adoption by the Council of a Decision providing for the conclusion of the agreement.

References

Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2005/809/EC of 7 November 2005
Republic of Albania
[adoption: consultation CNS/2003/0033]
7.11.2005 OJ L 304 of 23.11.2005
Decision 2007/817/EC of 8 November 2007
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
[adoption: consultation CNS/2007/0147]
8.11.2007 OJ L 334 of 19.12.2007
Decision 2007/818/EC of 8 November 2007
Republic of Montenegro
[adoption: consultation CNS/2007/0146]
8.11.2007 OJ L 334 of 19.12.2007
Decision 2007/819/EC of 8 November 2007
Republic of Serbia
[adoption: consultation CNS/2007/0153]
8.11.2007 OJ L 334 of 19.12.2007
Decision 2007/820/EC of 8 November 2007
Bosnia and Herzegovina
[adoption: consultation CNS/2007/0142]
8.11.2007 OJ L 334 of 19.12.2007

Agreements with the countries of the Western Balkans on the facilitation of the issuance of visas

Agreements with the countries of the Western Balkans on the facilitation of the issuance of visas

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Agreements with the countries of the Western Balkans on the facilitation of the issuance of visas

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Agreements with the countries of the Western Balkans on the facilitation of the issuance of visas

The agreements concluded between the European Union (EU) and the countries of the Western Balkans on facilitating the issuance of visas are intended to simplify and speed up the procedures for issuing visas to nationals of these Western Balkan countries. These agreements are, in principle, coupled with readmission agreements.

Document or Iniciative

Council Decision 2007/821/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Albania on the facilitation of the issuance of visas.

Council Decision 2007/822/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the facilitation of the issuance of visas.

Council Decision 2007/823/EC of 8 November on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Montenegro on the facilitation of the issuance of visas.

Council Decision 2007/824/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas.

Council Decision 2007/825/EC of 8 November 2007 on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Serbia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas.

Summary

The agreements concluded with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (“partner countries”) are intended to facilitate the issuance of short-stay visas to citizens of these countries for stays of up to 90 days per period of 180 days.

When applying for such short-stay visas, citizens of these partner countries benefit from simplified document requirements for justifying the purpose of their journey to the European Union (EU). The documentary evidence to be presented consists of formal documents, such as a written request from the host organisation or other certificate, depending on the category of the applicant (business people, drivers for international transportation services, journalists, students, persons travelling for tourism or for medical reasons, representatives of civil society organisations, etc.).

EU countries’ diplomatic missions and consular posts may issue multiple-entry visas that are valid for up to five years to: members of the governments, parliaments, constitutional courts and supreme courts of partner countries; permanent members of official delegations; spouses and children under the age of 21 visiting citizens of partner countries legally residing in the territory of an EU country. The categories of persons who benefit from simplified document requirements may also be granted multiple-entry visas with a maximum validity period of one year. However, the person concerned must have obtained and used at least one visa during the previous year and have valid reasons for requesting a multiple-entry visa. If such a person has made use of the one-year multiple-entry visa during the previous two years, s/he may be granted a multiple-entry visa that is valid a minimum of two and a maximum of five years.

The standard fee for processing visa applications of partner countries’ citizens is 35 euros. This is waived for certain categories of persons, including close relatives, members of official delegations, students, disabled persons, children under the age of six, journalists, pensioners and drivers for international transportation services.

Visas are issued within 10 days of the receipt of the application. This may be extended to up to 30 days when further scrutiny of the application is needed or may be reduced to 3 days or even less in emergencies.

Background

The participants at the EU-Western Balkans Summit held in Thessaloniki on 21 June 2003 (“Thessaloniki Agenda”) agreed on the principle of liberalisation of the visa regime and began negotiations with a view to concluding the necessary agreements. This process, coupled with discussions on the conclusion of readmission agreements, resulted on 8 November 2007 in the adoption of a series of Council decisions, one for each of the partner countries, establishing the conclusion of agreements based on Article 62, taken in conjunction with Article 300, of the Treaty establishing the European Community (now Articles 77 and 218 respectively of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

References

Acts Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Decision 2007/821/EC

8.11.2007

OJ L 334, 19.12.2007

Decision 2007/822/EC

8.11.2007

OJ L 334, 19.12.2007

Decision 2007/823/EC

8.11.2007

OJ L 334, 19.12.2007

Decision 2007/824/EC

8.11.2007

OJ L 334, 19.12.2007

Decision 2007/825/EC

8.11.2007

OJ L 334, 19.12.2007

Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective

Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective

The Commission reiterates the commitment of the European Union to the Western Balkans. It points the way forward to bring them closer to the EU and gives priority to support for strengthening the rule of law, good governance, judicial and administrative reform, and the development of civil society.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 5 March 2008 – Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective [COM(2008) 127 – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Commission reiterates the commitment of the European Union (EU) to the Western Balkans. It points the way forward to bring them closer to the EU and to make their European perspective more visible and concrete by proposing new initiatives.

Moving closer towards the EU and enhancing regional cooperation have priority. In this respect, moving closer to the EU is based on observance of the Copenhagen criteria and the stabilisation and association process (SAP), including regional cooperation, good neighbourly relations and full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), achieving the priorities set out in the partnerships, and concluding and implementing stabilisation and association agreements (SAAs). Croatia, with which EU membership negotiations have started, sends a positive signal to the other countries of the region.

Each country has achieved progress, although at different rates. Regional cooperation is the responsibility of the countries of the region within the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), which succeeds the Stability Pact. Nevertheless, a certain number of challenges remain, such as good neighbourly relations, reforms (in particular, constitutional, institutional, judicial and police reforms), combating organised crime and corruption, minority rights, refugee return, infrastructure and the environment.

Each Member State decides on its relations with Kosovo following the latter’s declaration of independence in February 2008. The EU will support its development through an international civilian mission headed by an EU Special Representative, an ESDP (EULEX Kosovo) rule of law mission and support for economic and political development.

Promoting people-to-people contacts refers to both the populations of the region and their reconciliation and familiarising people with the EU by encouraging better knowledge of it. Cooperation between the countries of the region and the EU is intensifying in many areas (science, research, culture, education, youth and media) and is strengthened by the possibility for the countries to participate in certain Community programmes and agencies. In addition, an increasing number of Erasmus Mundus scholarships are allocated to students of the region. Cross-border cooperation also receives support, in particular under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA).

Furthermore, the visa-free regime, which is part of the preparations for EU membership and participation in the Schengen area, aims to facilitate mobility. Together with the readmission agreements, the visa facilitation agreements are the first step towards liberalisation. They will then be supplemented by bilateral dialogues and roadmaps, in accordance with the 2007 enlargement strategy.

The EU supports civil society development and dialogue to strengthen its role and enable it to participate to the full in the reform process. A new financing facility under the IPA aims specifically to support local initiatives and to consolidate the role of civil society, programmes bringing its actors into contact, and the partnerships and networks for the transfer of knowledge and experience. The Commission will also initiate dialogue with the various churches and religious groups.

Good governance is a key aspect of bringing the countries of the Western Balkans closer to the EU. Making progress in the area of justice, freedom and security is of crucial importance and in particular concerns: the fight against organised crime, corruption and terrorism; judicial and police reform; border management; regional and cross-border cooperation (Frontex); action in the field of asylum, immigration and visa policies; and cooperation with Europol and the Regional Centre for Combating Transborder Crime (SECI).

In this context, strengthening administrative capacity and developing human resources will benefit from the establishment of a Regional School of Public Administration as a basis for networks and cooperation with similar schools in the EU. Twinning and TAIEX and SIGMA programmes also offer a means of familiarising the administrations with the European law and standards in a large number of areas.

The framework for parliamentary cooperation between the European Parliament and the Parliaments of the region consists of the Joint Parliamentary Committees, meetings and the organisation of seminars and colloquia. The European Parliament is also considering supporting the RCC to strengthen cooperation.

As regards trade integration, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which has been in force since November 2007, aims to attract investment, foster intra-regional trade and integrate the region into global trading. In this way it supplements the trade integration initiated by the SAAs and the autonomous trade measures. Membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will support this process by forming a basis for fostering economic and trade reforms.

Furthermore, the introduction of the rule of diagonal cumulation of rules of origin in the region, including the extension of the Pan-Euro-Med diagonal cumulation scheme to the region, is also intended to boost trade and investment. The Commission is exploring ways to ensure a more rapid application of diagonal cumulation between the Western Balkans, Turkey, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the EU.

The region has to face various challenges with regard to economic and social development. These challenges concern competitiveness, the reduction of unemployment, labour market participation, infrastructure and the development of human and social cohesion, with due regard for sustainable development and continuing the achievement of the objectives of the Lisbon strategy. The cooperation will focus on three areas: micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), infrastructure and energy efficiency.

Financial support has been based since 2007 on the IPA. The European Investment Bank (EIB) will also increase its lending in various areas (transport, energy, SMEs, environment, municipal infrastructure, education and health). Coordination between the EU and the other donors is essential for ensuring the complementarity, coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of assistance. It is based in particular on a Memorandum of Understanding with the international financial institutions (IFIs) and a consultation mechanism on IPA programming. A donors’ conference for Kosovo is also planned to rationalise the assistance with a view to the socio-economic development of its communities.

Background

This Communication contributed to the ministerial meeting with the Western Balkan countries organised by the Presidency on 28 March in Brdo, Slovenia. The Commission invites the Council and Parliament to take its conclusions, which carry on from the Thessaloniki agenda and the Salzburg communication, in accordance with the 2007 enlargement strategy, into consideration.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Enlargement strategy 2005: roadmap for the Western Balkans

Enlargement strategy 2005: roadmap for the Western Balkans

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enlargement strategy 2005: roadmap for the Western Balkans

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Enlargement strategy 2005: roadmap for the Western Balkans

The Commission takes stock of the political and economic situation in the candidate countries Croatia and Turkey, and in the potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Kosovo)

Document or Iniciative

Commission Communication of 9 November 2005, Enlargement Strategy Paper [COM(2005)561 – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

For each country the Commission sums up the progress made and the work that remains to be done. It recalls the terms of the accession and pre-accession strategies.

The Commission’s approach towards enlargement is based on three lines of action:

  • Consolidation of the commitments taken by the Union: the Union has to ensure it can maintain its capacity to act and decide according to a fair balance within its institutions. The Commission stresses that future enlargements will go at the pace dictated by each country’s performance in meeting the standards, to ensure the smooth absorption of new members.
  • Applying fair and rigorous conditionality: the Union has to demand fulfilment of the accession criteria and duly reward countries that make progress. Accession negotiations or any stage in the accession process may be suspended if these criteria are not met.
  • An improvement in the way enlargement policy is being communicated: the Union must make every effort to obtain wide public support for its enlargement policy. It needs to improve its communication about the objectives, challenges and terms of the enlargement process and present a clear strategy for the future. This must be a common and coordinated effort with the Member States. The Commission intends to organise a dialogue with civil society both in the present Member States and in the candidate countries in order to improve the debate.

TURKEY AND CROATIA

Progress made

The Commission sums up the progress made in relation to the Copenhagen criteria:

  • Political criteria: the political transition started in Turkey has slowed down somewhat in 2005. Considerable efforts have to be made in relation to fundamental freedoms and human rights. The reform process must be integrated better into the work of all public authorities. On the whole, Croatia meets the political criteria for accession. However, more needs to be done to reform its judicial system, fight corruption, improve the position of minorities and facilitate the return of refugees.
  • Economic criteria: the Turkish and Croatian economies can be regarded as functioning market systems, capable of dealing with market forces within the Union.
  • Incorporation of the Community acquis: more needs to be done to adopt and implement the acquis. Both countries need to reinforce their administrative and judicial capacity so that Community rules are effectively applied once they are introduced into national legislation.

Accession strategy

The Union started accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia in October 2005. In 2006 it intends to evaluate the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, the signing of which made it possible to start negotiations with Turkey. Negotiations with Croatia are conditional on its full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the action it has taken subsequent to the war in the former Yugoslavia.

The Council sets out the method and guiding principles of the negotiating framework. The negotiations will keep pace with the progress of each country. They can be suspended in case of serious and persistent violations of human rights, fundamental freedoms or the rule of law. The Commission may also propose their suspension if it finds that a candidate country no longer meets its obligations or criteria under the association agreements. It has lent active support to the political reform process in Turkey and Croatia and proposes Accession Partnerships reflecting the main priorities identified in the Progress Reports.

Specific arrangements may be established where the acquis is concerned. The screening of every area of legislation started in October 2005 should be finished in the autumn of 2006. The screening is intended to explain the Union’s rules and to study each country’s plan to adopt and implement the acquis. After each chapter has been screened, the Union decides, on a proposal from the Commission, whether it can be opened or what benchmarks need to be met in advance.

Croatia is already eligible for the financial pre-accession instruments (Phare, ISPA and SAPARD) and, from 2005/2006, will also qualify for the CARDS regional programme. Financial assistance amount to EUR 105 million for 2005 and EUR 140 million for 2006. Croatia can also participate in Community Programmes. Pre-accession financial assistance for Turkey amounts to EUR 300 million in 2005 and EUR 500 million in 2006.

WESTERN BALKANS

Progress made

The Commission examines the situation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo.

The overall political situation is improving, but considerable challenges remain. The Commission pays particular attention to structural weaknesses. It considers that the functioning of the democratic institutions is generally improving but that the countries need to intensify reform efforts and develop an independent civil service which can manage the Europe integration process.

In spite of the reforms under way, judiciaries generally remain weak and lack independence. Reform of police services needs to continue and the countries’ anti-corruption strategies need to be redefined and updated. The Commission notes clear progress in cooperation with the ICTY by Bosnia and Herzegovina and by Serbia and Montenegro. A significant number of indictees have been transferred. However, full cooperation has still not been achieved.

Increasing regional cooperation is important for further stabilisation and reconciliation. To achieve this, the Commission suggests reforming the Balkans Stability Pact by gradually transferring its main functions to the region.

Macroeconomic stability in the region has increased. However, the current account deficit (movement of goods and services and investment income flows between these countries and third countries) remained too high and structural reforms progressed unevenly. In order to establish functioning market economies, the Western Balkan States need to ensure further liberalisation and privatisation and introduce appropriate regulatory frameworks and structures of corporate governance.

Pre-accession strategy and roadmap

The Commission insists on the principle of conditionality, i.e. the idea that every Western Balkan country may become a member of the Union if it meets the conditions. The negotiations will keep pace with the implementation of reforms in each country.

As potential candidates these countries are already eligible for certain types of EU aid: access to Community programmes, trade preferences for their products and assistance in meeting the Union’s standards.

Accession will proceed according to the roadmap:

  • Negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) cannot be started unless the country involved is sufficiently stable. The Commission will then draw up a feasibility report and recommend that the Council start negotiations.
  • An SAA prepares a State for future accession by introducing Community rules in various fields. The signing of an SAA is proof that a country is capable of deepening its relationship with the Union. Two SAAs have been signed to date: one with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and one with Croatia. Albania is finalising such an agreement, Serbia and Montenegro has entered into negotiations and Bosnia and Herzegovina is preparing to.
  • After concluding an SAA, a country may apply for membership. On the basis of the Commission’s opinion, the Union may decide to grant the applicant country candidate status and politically recognise the close relationship it has entered into with that country.
  • The candidate country needs to reach a sufficient degree of general compliance with the Copenhagen criteria before accession negotiations can be opened. The Commission regularly reports on progress. On the basis of the Commission’s recommendation the European Council decides on the opening of negotiations and lays down the framework to be approved by an intergovernmental conference.

The candidate countries will be guided in their efforts by European partnerships setting the priorities and imposing specific measures to be implemented. They must present their action plans accordingly and integrate these priorities into their internal political programme. EU assistance to the Western Balkans in carrying out the partnership measures amounts to EUR 539 million.

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

Enlargement strategy 2006-2007: challenges and integration capacity

Enlargement strategy 2006-2007: challenges and integration capacity

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enlargement strategy 2006-2007: challenges and integration capacity

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Enlargement strategy 2006-2007: challenges and integration capacity

The current enlargement strategy outlines a renewed consensus on enlargement designed to ensure that the European Union has sufficient capacity to take in new members. This consensus is based on the existing strategy and enhances it in order to support countries on the way to membership, in particular on the basis of lessons drawn from the fifth enlargement. The consensus also proposes the means to strengthen public support with a view to future enlargements.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 8 November 2006, “Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2006- 2007. Including annexed special report on the EU’s capacity to integrate new members” [COM(2006) 649 – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The current enlargement strategy outlines a renewed consensus on enlargement with a view to ensuring that future enlargements do not hamper the functioning of the European Union. The fifth enlargement demonstrated the EU’s ability to operate normally while strengthening its visibility and weight on the international scene.

Enlargements contribute to the aim of establishing an area of peace and stability sharing common values, prosperity and competitiveness. They stimulate the economy and equip it for the challenges of globalisation, supported by the gradual extension of the euro zone (the last country to join being Slovenia on 1 January 2007). The free movement of workers – citizens of the new Member States – has also proved its advantages for the Member States who placed no restrictions on it, such as the UK (increased national income and overcoming of skills shortages on the labour market).

Previous enlargements have enhanced the enlargement process. Bulgaria and Romania continued throughout 2006 to prepare their accession on 1 January 2007 and serve as examples to candidate and potential candidate countries.

ENLARGEMENT PROCESS

The enlargement strategy is based on three principles identified by the 2005 strategy, namely:

  • the consolidation of commitments, i.e. compliance with commitments made and caution about making new ones;
  • rigorous and equitable accession conditions, i.e. preparing candidate countries to fulfil their obligations as Member States as of the time of accession. Each country is dealt with individually on the basis of its own progress and must keep motivated. Transparency of the process is also necessary;
  • communication to the public to make enlargement a success, i.e. ensure the support of citizens and the democratic legitimacy of the process.

The pre-accession strategy is based in particular on Accession Partnerships and European Partnerships, which identify the priority areas in which progress should be achieved. A European Partnership is proposed for Montenegro and the other partnerships will be reviewed at the end of 2007.

These partnerships constitute the framework for financial assistance: the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). This new instrument for the period 2007-2013 designed to assist candidate countries and potential candidate countries should provide more flexibility and impact in the allocation of Community funds, enable optimum use of resources and improve coordination with international financial institutions (IFI). The Commission will present a multi-annual financial framework identifying the amounts allocated by country and by field. Its implementation will be delegated to the Delegations of the Commission and then to the national authorities when they are ready.

The European Agency for Reconstruction is to cease its activities by the end of 2008, having achieved its main aims in Serbia, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The accession negotiations, defined by a framework of negotiations, constitute a rigorous process. They are based on the adoption and implementation of the acquis and the acceptance of the political objectives of the treaties. They have begun for Croatia and Turkey and should encourage them to continue their reforms and establish good neighbourly relations.

Benchmarks * for the negotiation of each chapter of the acquis constitute a new tool introduced on the basis of the lessons drawn from the fifth enlargement. They aim to encourage the candidate countries to undertake reforms at an early stage. They are set for the opening and closure of each chapter and if they are not met, negotiations may be suspended or a provisionally closed chapter may be re-opened.

Political and economic dialogues also take place between the EU and the candidate countries to consolidate the process. The results of these dialogues are fed into the negotiations.

As regards the Western Balkans, the results concerning compliance with commitments arising from the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), in particular as regards trade, will constitute a key element of evaluation of the membership application. The EU will gradually introduce the diagonal cumulation of rules of origin in the SAA to stimulate trade and regional investment. Membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will play an important role, although Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia must make further efforts in order to join.

The EU, which reiterated in Salzburg in 2006 that the future of the Western Balkans lay within the EU, called on them to improve regional cooperation as a force for stability, economic development and reconciliation. A cooperation framework should be established. The Energy Community [EN] and European Common Aviation Area [EN] have become a reality and the signing of a regional free-trade agreement was being negotiated in 2006.

The EU intends to promote interpersonal contacts (among e.g. students and researchers) by concluding agreements to simplify visa procedures (except for Croatia) and readmission (except for Albania). It will also concentrate on key areas such as energy, transport and economic cooperation.

Public support for enlargement is essential. It depends on better communication of the advantages of enlargement, which entails increasing transparency, making key working documents public (regular reports, common negotiating positions, etc.) and posting specific user-friendly information on websites. All players must be involved in this communication process: the Member States, regional and local authorities, civil society with the support of the Commission, its representations and delegations, and the European Parliament.

Mutual understanding is also important and will be fostered by the dialogue between civil societies launched in 2005, which encourages in particular people-to-people contacts in the fields of culture, education and research.

CAPACITY TO INTEGRATE NEW MEMBERS

At the request of the June 2006 European Council (FR ) (pdf), the special report considers the EU’s capacity to integrate new members in the medium and long term. As highlighted at the 1993 Copenhagen European Council, the EU’s integration or absorption capacity must be considered for each enlargement in order to ensure smooth integration. The Commission will carry out impact studies at all stages of the accession process, taking account of the special characteristics of each candidate country as it did in its opinions on membership applications and during negotiations.

The functional concept of integration capacity means the EU’s capacity to continue deepening as it widens. It concerns “whether the EU can take in new members at a given moment or in a given period, without jeopardizing the political and policy objectives established by the Treaties.”

It is based on three key elements for which the Commission defines an evaluation method:

The EU’s capacity to maintain the momentum of European integration. For effective functioning of the EU, institutional changes (languages, decision-making procedures, etc.) and budgetary adjustments are necessary. Ambitious common policies must continue to be put in place, with transition periods, derogations and other safeguards for the new Member States. The impact of enlargement on policies such as the common agricultural policy and the cohesion policy as well as on strategic areas such as energy or common foreign and security policy must be assessed;

Fulfilment of rigorous conditions by candidate countries so that they can carry out their role of Member States and take on and implement Community policies. The pre-accession process pursues this aim with a view to constantly improving the quality of preparations. Political reforms and the overall pace of negotiations will be further linked, but the date of accession will be determined by the completion of negotiations;

Better communication to ensure the democratic legitimacy of the process and prepare citizens for future enlargements (see above). Strict fulfilment of conditions and consideration for integration capacity support these aims.

CHALLENGES IN 2007

Because these challenges concern the security and stability of the EU, the latter must remain involved throughout the process.

After the fifth enlargement, the key challenge is to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cypriot problem and reunification of the island under UN auspices. The EU supports this process and is striving to help end the island’s isolation (adoption of the Green Line Regulation guaranteeing free movement throughout the island and the aid programme for the Turkish Cypriot community).

As regards the candidate countries, Croatia and Turkey have begun accession negotiations and overall they meet the Copenhagen criteria. Both countries have undertaken reforms, although the pace in Turkey is slower. The Commission recommends that these efforts be continued and that the pace of reform be stepped up.

Croatia must focus on alignment on the acquis, judicial reform and public administration, the fight against corruption and economic reform. Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are also key, as is finding solutions to outstanding bilateral issues. Minority rights and refugee return will need close attention.

Turkey must make more efforts as regards freedom of expression (in particular by repealing Article 301 of the Penal Code), freedom of religion, women’s rights, minority rights and trade union rights, the strengthening of civilian democratic control over the military and the harmonisation of law enforcement and judicial practices. The economic and social situation in the south-east and the rights of the Kurdish population must be improved. Turkey’s relations with all the Member States must be normalised by full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement and the removal of all obstacles to the free movement of goods (declaration by the European Community and its Member States of 21 September 2005). The Commission will make recommendations on these matters to the December 2006 European Council (FR ) (pdf).

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been a candidate country since December 2005, which constitutes both a recognition of the country’s reform achievements and an encouragement to pursue reforms with a view to EU membership. It should accelerate the pace of reform, especially in the fields of the police and judiciary, the fight against corruption and the full implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement as well as in the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement.

The potential candidate countries are making progress towards membership in accordance with the Road Map established by the Commission in 2005. The EU’s relations with these countries will be reinforced with the establishment of the SAA. The EU signed an SAA with Albania and, pending its entry into force, an Interim Agreement on trade issues will enter into force on 1 December 2006. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro (which has been independent since June 2006 following the referendum) and Serbia, progression in negotiations of the SAA’s depends on their full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Reinforcement of the institutions of these countries is essential and reforms should focus on political, judicial and economic reforms and the fight against corruption and organised crime. Bosnia and Herzegovina must consolidate its European prospects by undertaking the necessary political (especially constitutional) and economic reforms. Montenegro, whose priorities are identified in the draft European Partnership, must commit itself to reforms for the state-building process. Serbia faces major challenges, including the status of Kosovo; however, following its constructive approach to Montenegro’s independence, it has made progress towards economic integration with the EU and the signing of the SAA should enable it to catch up with the other countries. Its new constitution should pave the way to reinforcing the country’s system of governance. It has managed to preserve macro-economic stability, pursue privatisations and attract foreign investment. Visa facilitation and participation in Community programmes will support this progress.

Kosovo is also benefiting from the involvement of the EU, which is assisting UNMIK and supporting the process of status settlement conducted under the auspices of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Mr Martti Ahtisaari. Major reforms (rule of law, economy and public administration, minority rights) will be necessary.

Key terms used in the act
Benchmarks: Their purpose is to improve the quality of the negotiations by providing incentives for the candidate countries to undertake necessary reforms at an early stage. Benchmarks are measurable and linked to key elements of the acquis chapter concerned. In general, opening benchmarks concern key preparatory steps for future alignment (such as strategies or action plans), and the fulfilment of contractual obligations that mirror acquis requirements. Closing benchmarks primarily concern legislative measures, administrative or judicial bodies, and a track record of implementation of the acquis. For chapters in the economic field, they also include the criterion of being a functioning market economy.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 3 May 2006, “Enlargement, Two Years After – An Economic Success” [COM(2006) 200

– Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council of 29 November 2006, “Accession negotiations with Turkey” [COM(2006) 773 final

– Not published in the Official Journal].

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

Enlargement Strategy 2007-2008

Enlargement Strategy 2007-2008

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enlargement Strategy 2007-2008

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enlargement > The stabilisation and association process: the western balkans

Enlargement Strategy 2007-2008

The enlargement strategy for 2007-2008 proposes pre-accession instruments adapted to the challenges facing candidate and potential candidate countries and to clearly defined core priorities. In this context, the focus is on enhancing the renewed enlargement consensus adopted in 2006, the participation of civil society, the consolidation of progress achieved and the efforts that still need to be made.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 6 November 2007 – “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2007-2008” [COM(2007) 663 final – Not yet published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Commission proposes an enlargement strategy for 2007-2008 that is adapted to the challenges facing the candidate countries (Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey) and potential candidates (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, including Kosovo).

Situation and challenges in the Western Balkans and Turkey

The Western Balkan countries have made progress in consolidating the rule of law and modernising their economic and social structures, particularly in the dialogue framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), and are moving forward towards the EU, albeit at different speeds. On the whole, stability has been maintained and regional cooperation enhanced.

This progress needs to be consolidated, but the challenges remain. Reform processes need to be accelerated, especially with regard to strengthening good governance, the rule of law and constitutional frameworks. This is particularly true of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Kosovo, whose status needs to be settled both for the sake of its economic and political development and in the interests of regional stability. More dialogue and a greater spirit of tolerance are needed in this region, especially in relation to ethnic issues. The return of refugees and a better deal for minorities are also essential for progress towards reconciliation and lasting stability. Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a key condition of the SAP, has improved, but Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are still short of full and complete cooperation.

Notwithstanding the reforms already achieved, the countries in this region need to make greater efforts to improve their judicial systems and step up the fight against corruption and organised crime. Croatia and Serbia have considerable administrative capacity, which needs to be strengthened to implement their Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs). In the other countries, more effort has to be put into boosting administrative capacity. Civil society, despite the advances made, remains weak and must be strengthened. Growth is strong and the economic environment has improved. The existing SAAs and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) create a framework conducive to economic integration.

Turkey has set reforms in motion, but the pace has slowed. Further progress is needed in the spheres of political reform, particularly in relation to freedom of speech and the rights of non-Muslim religious communities, combating corruption, judicial reform, civilian oversight of the security forces, and in the south-eastern part of the country, to allow the local populations to enjoy full rights and freedoms. Similarly, economic reform is essential for macroeconomic stability and fiscal consolidation and to tackle challenges relating to the labour market, the labour force, low employment rates, especially among women, the informal sector, social security and the energy sector. Turkey also needs to ensure full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement.

Six priorities for the 2007-2008 enlargement strategy

The renewed enlargement
consensus (consolidation of commitments, fair and rigorous conditions, improved communication with the public, the EU’s integration capacity) adopted in 2006 paved the way for ensuring the quality of the enlargement process. Rigorous conditionality at all stages of the accession process, with credible prospects of eventual integration visible to the people of the countries concerned, is a key element in sustaining the progress of reforms.

The Commission proposes to focus on core issues, namely key reform priorities (state-building, governance and socio-economic reform), regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations, and civil society, because these are factors of stability and growth. These reforms are defined and pursued through instruments like Accession Partnerships and European Partnerships for candidate and potential candidate countries, the pre-accession fiscal surveillance mechanism in the candidate countries and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA).

The Commission encourages accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey. These processes bring the two countries closer to the EU and promote stability, security, conflict prevention and security of energy supply. Accession negotiations have to be based on a solid framework (benchmarks for opening and closing of chapter negotiations, impact studies, etc.). The progress achieved in Croatia is a strong signal and an example for the Western Balkan countries. Similarly, Turkey plays a major strategic role as a bridge between the Western and Muslim worlds. The EU must honour its commitments and keep the negotiation process on track once the conditions are met.

The Commission supports enhancing the European perspective of the Western Balkans within the framework formed by the Stabilisation and Association Process, the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda (EN), the existing SAAs and the 2005 road-map. The status of Kosovo is a priority. It is also essential that the citizens of the Western Balkans assume ownership of the necessary reforms, and develop stronger people-to-people contacts with the citizens of the EU through Community cooperation and mobility programmes and the new visa and readmission rules. The EU also supports regional cooperation, especially in the framework of the Regional Cooperation Council, which will replace the Stability Pact in 2008, and CEFTA, which will benefit from EU funding and technical assistance.

In this context, the IPA will strengthen support for reforms based on the priorities that have been identified. A new mechanism to promote civil society development and dialogue will be set up, as well as an infrastructure financing facility to improve funding coordination. Finally, technical assistance to support institution-building and good governance will be provided through the technical assistance and information exchange instrument (TAIEX), the Support for Improvement in Governance and Management system (SIGMA) and twinning schemes.

Ensuring public support for enlargement requires effective communication of the benefits and challenges of accession in all the countries concerned. The challenge is to communicate facts about the fifth enlargement of 2004 and 2007 to the citizens of the Member States and to inform the people of the candidate and potential candidate countries about their European prospects. This is the responsibility of their governments, which are invited to draw up communication plans. The new civil society facility will support the process, and members of the European and national parliaments, local and regional authorities and civil society will also play a role, while the Commission will complement their efforts.

Related Acts

The enlargement package presented by the Commission in November 2007 includes the 2007-2008 enlargement strategy, individual country follow-up reports, and proposals for accession partnerships and revised European partnerships.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 5 March 2008 entitled “Western Balkans: Enhancing the European perspective” [COM(2008) 127 final – Not yet published in the Official Journal].

This summary sheet is published for information purposes only and does not attempt to interpret or replace the reference document.