Spindelegger: “EU Progress Reports should be seen as opportunities for targeted reforms”
Positive recommendations for Montenegro und Serbia spell continuation of gentle enlargement course for the states of the Western Balkans
Vienna, 13 October 2011 – Following the presentation of this year’s enlargement package of the European Commission for the states of the Western Balkans, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger commented positively on the undeniable progress these countries have made on their journey towards the EU. “Especially the recommendation to grant Serbia candidate country status – something that Austria has long been campaigning for – and to enter into accession talks with Montenegro is an important signal from the EU that should encourage our partners. However, we must not overlook the fact that major challenges still remain in many areas, and that great efforts will have to be made by the individual countries to overcome them”, said Spindelegger.
Any further progress on the countries’ road to Europe would depend on a consistent reform policy that targets the aspects requiring sustainable changes, the Foreign Minister clearly stated. Especially Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina had lost precious time in this respect – it remained to be hoped that these countries would now concentrate all their efforts to tackle the tasks still waiting to be solved. Furthermore, Serbia and Kosovo would have to do their utmost to re-establish a constructive dialogue if any active shaping of the future of these two nations was to be possible.
Spindelegger: “We are not just paying lip service to EU membership for all states of the Western Balkans. We are convinced that, in the long run, the EU cannot do without all the elements that these nations will bring to it. Vice versa, the EU remains the guaranteeing factor for peace, stability and wealth in the region. We therefore emphasize our commitment to the European integration of the states of the Western Balkans. We want to encourage these nations to see the progress reports as opportunities for targeted reforms and to intensify their efforts in this direction.” As shown by the example of Croatia, continuous efforts towards reform would eventually be rewarded with membership in the European Union.
The “enlargement package” also comprises the two candidate countries of Iceland and Turkey. Iceland has by now made a good recovery from the turbulences of the financial crisis in 2008 and is also making good progress with the EU accession negotiations. Negotiations with Turkey are proving to be much more difficult, especially due to the country’s responsibilities towards Cyprus that still haven’t been fulfilled. Faced with the fact that negotiations have practically ground to a halt, the European Commission is now considering alternative communication channels. This is a point in favor of the approach suggested by Austria – customized relations with this essential European Union partner.
The EU itself is also intensifying efforts to become an even stronger presence in the pre-accession process: for instance, plans are being made to treat the reform requirements regarding the judiciary and fundamental rights – which are notoriously difficult to deal with – at an early stage of the rapprochement, using targeted action plans that will only be completed at the very end of the accession process.
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