Brussels, October 16, 2013
In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission recommends granting EU candidate status to Albania and, for the fifth time in a row, the opening of accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Commission also assesses the progress towards EU accession made elsewhere in the Western Balkans and in Turkey over the past year. Given the Icelandic government’s decision to put accession negotiations on hold, a simplified report on Iceland takes stock of the current state of its alignment with the EU.
Presenting the annual Enlargement Package, Commissioner Štefan Füle said: ‘Enlargement is a process in the making and despite the economic crisis it is a good policy – it constitutes part of the solution. Enlargement continues to be one of the most effective EU policies. By addressing ‘fundamentals’ first – such as the fight against corruption, sound economic governance, freedom of expression and media, human rights and protection of minorities – it strengthens political and economic stability in the aspiring countries and the EU as a whole.”
The enlargement strategy adopted today confirms the continued relevance of the fundamentals of the Copenhagen membership criteria agreed by the EU 20 years ago. These include the rule of law, which remains firmly anchored at the heart of the enlargement process. The countries concerned need to tackle issues such as judicial reform and the fight against organised crime and corruption early in the accession negotiations, to demonstrate a solid track record of sustainable results.
The global economic crisis has underlined the need for all countries to strengthen their economic governance and improve competitiveness. The Commission has set out a number of proposals to support this aim, including the introduction of national economic reform strategies and action plans for public financial management.
Recent events in a number of enlargement countries have underlined the importance of strengthening democratic institutions and making democratic processes more inclusive. All the countries in the Western Balkans and Turkey need to undertake further reforms to ensure that the principles of freedom of expression and the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including Roma are respected in practice. More robust measures are needed to protect other vulnerable groups from discrimination, in particular on grounds of sexual orientation. The Commission will increase the priority attached to these issues in the accession process, including through better targeted pre-accession funding and increased assistance to support Roma inclusion through a Roma “facility”.
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Key findings of the 2013 progress report on: