Monday

22nd Apr 2019

EU enlargement: Albania advances, Turkey backslides

  • Albania likely to open accession talks this year (Photo: David Chinoy)

Albania and Macedonia should start EU accession talks, but human rights abuses mean Turkey negotiations should stay on hold, the European Commission is to say.

"In light of progress achieved, the European Commission recommends that accession negotiations be opened with Albania", the commission is to say in its yearly enlargement report, due out on Tuesday (17 April), according to a draft seen by EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Edogan backsliding after 2016 coup (Photo: Wikipedia)

The draft used the same formula for Macedonia.

The recommendation is the first one ever for Albania. It comes 15 years after it signed its first EU 'stabilisation' pact and some 10 years after the Western Balkan state, which used to be a communist dictatorship, joined Nato.

The commission has been saying Macedonia was ready to start talks since 2009.

EU states never agreed to do so because Greece vetoed it on grounds that Macedonia's name represented a territorial claim to a neighbouring Greek region of the same name.

But Tuesday's recommendation comes amid EU hopes that Skopje and Athens are close to finding a solution, enabling the EU Council to actually open talks with Macedonia later this year.

It also comes amid a new commission strategy to speed up enlargement.

Reformist 'frontrunners', such as Serbia and Montenegro, should be able to join the EU in 2025, it said in a strategy paper in February, amid preparations for a special Western Balkans summit in Sofia in May.

EU foreign ministers will also discuss the Western Balkans at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

They will restate their "commitment to facilitate dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo" on normalising relations and discuss security issues in the region, an EU diplomat said.

They might also discuss how to refer to Kosovo, which is not recognised by five EU states, in the Sofia summit declaration, the diplomat added.

The EU speed-up on Western Balkans stands in contrast to its standstill on Turkey.

"Respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms is an essential obligation, which Turkey must meet as a candidate country. The continuing negative trend in these areas do not justify the opening of new negotiating chapters in the accession process," the commission's draft report on Turkey said.

Turkey started accession talks in 2005. They went slowly, then ground to a halt two years ago amid a failed coup against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his subsequent crackdown.

The commission report urged Turkey to lift its state of emergency and spoke of "serious backsliding" on issues such as jailing journalists, judges, and opposition MPs.

"Bilateral relations with several EU member states deteriorated markedly in 2017 and Turkey's leadership resorted to extremely offensive and unacceptable rhetoric," it added, referring to Erdogan's public rants against "Nazi" practices in Germany, among other comments.

Refugee deal

The commission's draft report commended Turkey's "outstanding efforts" in sheltering almost four million refugees and confirmed that the EU wanted to renew a deal with Erdogan to stop them from coming to Greece in return for aid money and other perks.

"The cooperation with the EU on migration continued to deliver concrete and remarkable results", the commission said.

It noted that Erdogan met with top EU officials in March in Varna, Bulgaria.

But that mini-summit was created to help him save face after being excluded from the Western Balkans enlargement summit in Sofia in May, EU sources said, and after the commission decoupled Turkey from its Western balkans push in February's strategy document.

"The Turkish government reiterated its commitment to EU accession, but this has not been matched by corresponding measures and reforms," the commission draft report said.

EU-Turkey summit ends with 'no solutions'

Bulgaria's prime minister Boyko Borisov described a meeting at the Black Sea resort of Varna between the presidents of Turkey, the EU council, and the European commission as "charged with great tension." Disputes remain far from resolved.

EU sets date for next wave of enlargement

The EU is preparing to pledge a 2025 deadline for the next wave of enlargement, a leaked paper says, but Balkans disputes could hold things back.

Interview

EU outshines Russia in Western Balkans

Russia cannot compete with the EU for attractiveness in the Western Balkans, but can play an 'obstructive' role, Albania's foreign minister said.

Analysis

Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties

Turkey has belittled the EU in a week of macho posturing, but strategic relations go deeper than the rhetoric.

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us