Saturday, October 17, 2009

Turkey in the waiting room, Croatia full speed ahead

In its yearly progress reports about candidate countries, the European Commission is positive about the progress made in Croatia and Macedonia. It remains critical of Turkey. The five remaining Balkan countries also want to join the EU, but the Commisison doesn't think they're ready for the EU 'waiting room' yet.

Each year the European Commission publishes progress reports about countries wishing to join the EU. These reports can determine whether the accession process will be speeded up or slowed down. Below are the main conclusions about the three countries currently in the EU 'waiting room'.

Turkey – The Commission praises Turkey's stabilising role in the Caucasus and its efforts for peace in the Middle-East. But there is also harsh criticism. The Commission is 'concerned' about press freedom in Turkey (especially after the huge fine imposed on the media company Dogan by the Turkish tax department), freedom of expression and religion, and the position of women. The Kurds are still waiting for concrete measures to protect their rights. Turkey has done nothing to improve its relations with Cyprus: Turkish ports and airports are still closed to ships and planes from Cyprus, despite earlier promises. Yet the Commission is not proposing sanctions against Turkey.
Progress report Turkey (pdf)

Croatia – The country is very close to EU membership. Accession negotiations will likely be finalised next year. But Croatia still has to improve collaboration with the Yugoslavia Tribunal, further reform its justice system and better protect the rights of minorities.

Progress report Croatia (pdf)

Macedonia – The Commission's recommendations are favorable. The country has a functioning democracy; a state of law is being built, guaranteeing fundamental rights, and this year's presidential and local elections were fair. The report says nothing about beginning starting accession negotiations with Macedonia because of the continuing dispute over the country's name. Greece is opposed to the use of the name Macedonia by what is now officially called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia because it fears the country may later claim the Greek province with the same name.

Progress report Macedonia (pdf)

The remaining five Balkan countries would also like to join the EU. The EU wants them to join eventually, but they are not candidate countries yet.

Albania – The Commission wants Albania to step up the fight against corruption urgently.
Progress report Albania (pdf)

Bosnia – There has been insuffucient progress on political, economic and EU-related reforms. The political climate is worsening, the functioning of the state institutions is under threat, and inflammatory language is still part of the political discourse.

Progress report Bosnia (pdf)

Kosovo – The country only gained its independence in February 2008. It needs to work harder at fighting corruption and organised crime and protecting minorities. Surprisingly, given the fact that not all EU member countries have recognised Kosovo, the Commission is recommending waiving EU visa duty for Kosovans on certain very strict conditions.

Progress report Kosovo (pdf)

Montenegro – The Commission is demanding 'concrete results' to show that Montenegro wants to be a state of law.

Progress report Montenegro (pdf)

Serbia – The Commission feels that Serbia has proved that it really wants to belong to Europe. It also deemed Serbia is now cooperating sufficiently with the Yugoslavia Tribunal to deserve an economic and political cooperation agreement with the EU – a first step towards accession. The Netherlands is blocking such a deal because it thinks Serbia can still do more to cooperate with the tribunal.

Progress report Serbia (pdf)

Day Opening - October 17

Coliseum, Rome