Friday

22nd Mar 2019

EU gives green light for Macedonia accession talks

  • Celebratory balloons were floated for the big bang round of enlargement in 2004 (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission on Wednesday (14 October) issued a series of assessments of countries hoping to join the EU and said enlargement should not be made a "scapegoat" of Europe's current economic problems.

The reports contained the usual Brussels mix of criticism interspersed with praise and rewards for progress towards EU norms.

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

The small republic of Macedonia was told that it was ready to start membership talks, a move that would put it on the same level as Croatia and Turkey in terms of EU relations.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn, in charge of enlargement, said the Macedonian government should see the move as "very strong encouragement" to "finally settle the name issue," however. The reference concerns an 18-year old dispute between Macedonia and neighbouring Greece about the use of the name Macedonia.

Croatia, hoping to join the EU in 2011, is "nearing the finishing line" after years of negotiations, said Mr Rehn, but needs to further tackle corruption and organised crime "before negotiations can be concluded."

The commission report urges Turkey to do more to ensure freedom of expression and freedom of religion as well as bolster the rights of women and trade unions.

Ankara has been lagging far behind Zagreb in its EU progress in part due to poor relations with EU member Cyprus, with whom it still has to fully implement a customs agreement. Progress is also slow due to a lack of enthusiasm on the part of several member states for Turkish membership and the pace of Turkish domestic reform.

But with Turkey itself lately taking a more bullish tone about what it can offer the EU in terms of energy security, Brussels was careful to stress the country's importance for "energy supplies" and "promoting dialogue with civilisations."

Of the remaining five entities - Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo - that want to join the EU, Mr Rehn had the most to say about Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The war-torn country was recently given an ultimatum by the EU and the US to sort out internal problems between Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs by 20 October.

Defining the country as of "paramount importance for the region and for the European Union," Mr Rehn said that Bosnia and Herzegovina could only consider an application for EU membership once it "can stand on its own two feet."

"No quasi-protectorate can join the EU," he said, spelling out that the Office of High Representative would have to be closed down first. The post was created as part of the peace deal that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country, and can only be closed after a positive international assessment.

Meanwhile, the Serbian government, which is being pushed to arrest two war crimes suspects from the 1990s, was praised for being "stable" and "demonstrating" a high degree of consensus on EU integration as a strategic priority."

But even as the EU tries to bind all of the countries of the western Balkans and Turkey ever more closely through political and economic ties and the promise of eventual membership, there are continuous doubts about whether it has the political appetite to go through with another large round of expansion.

Apart from Croatia, strongly supported by Germany and where EU membership is virtually assured, internal EU question marks remain over the rest.

"It's important we don't scapegoat enlargement" for some "ills" that were not caused by enlargement, Mr Rehn said, adding that the current economic crisis was not made in the streets of Belgrade but rather on Wall Street.

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

EUobserved

Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

EU commissioners campaigning for a national post have to take a leave of absence - while those running for an EU job do not. This distinction undermines the effort to close the gap between EU and national politics.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us