EU enlargement: progress and prospects

22 October 2009

Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Enlargement, said EU foreign policy credibility partly depends on its ability to shape its neighbourhood, by getting potential EU members to introduce economic, political and judicial reforms, which also brings stability to the region. The Lisbon Treaty will impact on foreign policy and create a European External Action Service, so ensuring there are no overlaps between the Council and the Commission will be an important challenge for the new High Representative of Common Security and Foreign Policy.

Vasko Naumovski, Deputy Prime Minister for the Republic of Macedonia, said the Commission reports that his government has achieved substantial reforms in justice and home affairs and the economy. A top government priority is to fight corruption and it is working with Greece to resolve the name issue with winners on both sides. Soon visa requirements for its residents to enter the Schengen countries will be lifted.

Croatian Ambassador to EU Branko Baričevič said the Commission report recognised Croatia’s progress: out of 33 ‘chapters’ in accession negotiations, 25 received high marks, 12 were provisionally closed, and hopefully the remainder will be opened before the end of 2009. The government is professionalising the judiciary, improving public administration and introducing a “zero tolerance” corruption policy, cooperating fully with the ICTFY in The Hague and should shortly resolve the border dispute with Slovenia.

Michael Leigh, Director-General for Enlargement, European Commission, said the challenge is to maintain Member States’ support and ensure candidate countries continue with reforms while waiting for the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified. Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) introduced significant reforms and the Slovenia-Croatia border dispute could shortly be resolved. Granting visa-free access for Balkan countries gives the population is a visible sign of progress. Iceland has applied for membership, and Serbia made progress as a potential candidate.