Tag Archives: Western balkans

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

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.

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.

Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Topics

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

Enlargement > Ongoing enlargement > The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Document or Iniciative

Council Decision 2008/212/EC of 18 February 2008 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and repealing Decision 2006/57/EC.

Summary

The Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is the main instrument for helping the Government of the FYROM to realise the country’s prospect of joining the European Union (EU). After submitting its application for membership on 22 March 2004, the FYROM was granted candidate-country status by the European Council on 17 December 2005.

The Accession Partnership with the FYROM is an instrument of the stabilisation and association process set up under the Thessaloniki agenda (2003) for the western Balkan countries. The European Partnerships and the Accession Partnerships for the western Balkan countries have Regulation (EC) No 533/2004 as their legal basis.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of the Partnership is to register in a common reference framework:

  • the priority areas where reforms and efforts are required; these are identified according to the country’s requirements and involve the adoption and implementation of appropriate legislation;
  • guidelines for financial assistance for taking action in these priority areas;
  • the principles and conditions governing implementation of the Partnership.

The Council of the European Union adopts the Accession Partnership, as well as its subsequent amendments, by a qualified majority on the basis of a proposal from the Commission.

The current Partnership supersedes the Partnership of 2006 and updates it by identifying new priorities. European Partnerships are flexible instruments designed to reflect the progress made by the countries concerned and to highlight the efforts still required in other areas as identified by the Commission’s evaluations.

With a view to achieving the objectives identified in the Accession Partnership, the FYROM must adopt an action plan setting out procedures and a programme for implementing the priorities of the Partnership.

Implementation of the Partnership is monitored within the framework of the stabilisation and association process and its mechanisms, in particular the annual evaluation report presented by the Commission.

PRIORITIES

The Accession Partnership establishes priorities which are both realistic and attainable goals. In this regard, a distinction is made between short-term and medium-term priorities, which are expected to be achieved within one to two years and within three to four years respectively.

The priorities identified for the FYROM relate to its capacity to meet:

  • the Copenhague criteria of 1993;
  • the conditions set for the Stabilisation and Association Process (Council conclusions of 27 April 1997 and 21 and 22 June 1999);
  • the Zagreb declaration of 2000;
  • the Thessaloniki agenda of 2003.

The short- and medium-term priorities are classified as follows:

  • the key priorities are short-term priorities. They focus on the application of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), the establishment of a constructive political dialogue, the implementation of the police law, the demonstration that sustainable progress has been made in implementing judicial reforms and anti-corruption legislation, the civil service, including the prevention of political interference in the recruitment and the career of officials, the creation of jobs and the consolidation of the rule of law in order to improve the business climate;
  • the requirements relating to the political criteria cover democracy and the rule of law (implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the electoral process, the public authorities, the administration, the judicial system, the fight against corruption); respect for human rights and the protection of minorities (through compliance with international and European standards, such as those of the Council of Europe; the creation of law-enforcement bodies and judicial and prison administrations; the fight against discrimination; the protection of human, women’s and children’s rights; the equitable representation of communities and access to education for minorities); regional questions and international obligations (cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY); regional cooperation and dialogue, including the implementation of the Central European Free Trade Agreement; good neighbourly relations, and in particular finding a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution for the country’s name; implementation of cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries, notably on cross-border cooperation, the fight against organised crime, trafficking and smuggling, the management of external borders, readmission and the environment);
  • the requirements relating to the economic criteria for strengthening legal certainty for economic operators (the registration of land and real estate) and the functioning of the market economy; the improvement of public services (creation and modernisation of infrastructures); the viability of the electricity market; the quality of public spending and of education; labour market performance and the reduction of unemployment; the integration of the informal economy into the formal economy and the modernisation of national infrastructures for improving the economy’s competitiveness, particularly with regard to energy and transport;
  • the ability to assume the obligations of membership concerning the adoption and implementation of the Community acquis regarding a certain number of EU policies classified under headings.

FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK

The FYROM receives financial assistance to help it fulfil the accession criteria. The Accession Partnership serves as a reference instrument for determining the different areas where funds are allocated (according to identified priorities). The decisions which establish the various financial instruments and programming documents provide the actual legal framework for the financial assistance.

The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) is the sole financial instrument for candidate countries and potential candidate countries for the period 2007-2013. It replaces the CARDS Programme, the financial instrument of the stabilisation and association process for the countries of the western Balkans covering the period 2000-2006. Over this period, a total of EUR 298.2 million was allocated to the FYROM under CARDS.

Financial assistance for national programmes under the IPA for 2007-2010 should be EUR 401.1 million, in line with the multiannual indicative financial framework (MIFF) for 2009-2011 (including 2007 and 2008) .

Community assistance is conditional on recipient countries abiding by the essential elements which govern their relations with the EU, particularly the effective implementation of reforms. Under the Accession Partnership, the FYROM is required to comply with the Copenhagen criteria and the priorities defined by the Partnership. Failure to meet these requirements could result in the Council suspending financial assistance.

The FYROM also receives funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB), principally within the framework of the mechanism for granting regional loans to the EU’s south-eastern neighbours. This mandate covers the candidate countries and the countries of the western Balkans. The financing provided by the EIB takes the form of grants and loans.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2008/212/EC 22.3.2008 OJ L 80 of 19.3.2008

Related Acts

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

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

BILATERAL RELATIONS

Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, of the other part [Official Journal L 84 of 20.3.2004].

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Council Regulation (EC) No 1085/2006 of 17 July 2006 establishing an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) [Official Journal L 210 of 31.7.2006].

Multiannual indicative financial framework (MIFF) for:

  • 2008 to 2010 [COM(2006) 672 final – Not published in the Official Journal];
  • 2009 to 2011 [COM(2007) 689 final – Not published in the Official Journal.

Multiannual indicative planning document 2007-2009 for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (pdf )
.

EVALUATION

The reports are available on the website of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Enlargement.