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Commission outlines next steps for EU enlargement
Today the European Commission recommends for a fourth time to open
accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
It recommends granting EU candidate status to Albania subject to completion of
key reform steps.
And proposes negotiating a Stabilisation and Association
Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo*1 once it has made progress in fulfilling a number
of short term priorities.The Commission also confirmed that Croatia is on track
in its membership preparations.
In a set of annual reports, the Commission also assesses the progress
towards EU accession made elsewhere in the Western Balkans, Turkey, and Iceland
over the past year.
Presenting the annual Enlargement Package, Commissioner Stefan Füle
"Our recommendations place the rule of law firmly at the centre of the
To create a more stable and prosperous Europe, momentum needs to be
maintained both for merit-based enlargement process on the EU side and for
reforms on the ground in the enlargement countries".
Today's recommendations on Albania, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia as well as the imminent accession of Croatia, the recent
start of accession negotiations with Montenegro and candidate status for Serbia
– on the basis of clear indications of what is needed to open accession
negotiations - show that once reforms are made, the EU delivers on its
These positive developments in the Western Balkans send a strong signal
of the transformative power of EU enlargement.
To advance further, the Commission proposes to increase focus on a
number of areas.
Firstly, strengthening democratic governance by starting to address
rule of law issues well before accession negotiations begin.
Secondly, strengthening freedom of expression and independence of the
Thirdly, tackling economic issues early in the process to consolidate
economic and financial stability and help recovery.
Finally, the Commission underlines that bilateral issues should be addressed as
soon as possible; they should not hold up the accession process.
Common interests between the EU and Iceland, including in the field of
renewable energy and climate change, are growing, as is the strategic importance
of the EU's Arctic policy.
Accession negotiations are progressing well.
The positive agenda, launched to reinvigorate relations with Turkey, is
already delivering its first results.
Turkey's active support to the positive agenda and its European
perspective remains essential.
However, concerns are growing regarding Turkey's lack of substantial
progress towards fully meeting the political criteria and the situation
regarding fundamental rights on the ground remains a serious concern.
Full implementation of the obligations under the Customs Union and
progress towards normalisation of relations with Cyprus are urgent and could
provide new momentum to accession negotiations.