Vienna, 15 October 2009 – "The Commission’s progress reports show that it pays off to keep to one’s course even when times are difficult," stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, expressing his satisfaction at the annual status report of the European Commission on questions of enlargement, which was published today. "For me the reports contain a clear message: the economic crisis must neither be used by the Member States as a pretext for distancing themselves from a credible offer of accession, nor must it induce candidate states to slacken in their reform efforts," Spindelegger went on.
"The report shows that Croatia is on a clear course towards EU membership. The Commission’s recommendation to start negotiations with Macedonia is an important signal of encouragement for the entire region," emphasised the Foreign Minister.
Even though great progress had been made – reflected, for instance, in clear recommendations for Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia – the Foreign Minister stressed that the critical elements in the Commission’s assessment must not be overlooked. "The report also contains a wake-up call for the Balkan states. In key areas such as the rule of law, independence of the judiciary or the fight against corruption, a lot remains to be done in most of the countries. Their zeal for reform must not slacken. Only by concerted action can we succeed in making the accession prospects a realistic option for the other partners in the region as well," stated Spindelegger.
As regards Turkey, there had been positive developments in fields such as regional and energy policy, but the report also indicated that the reform pace continued to be slow, including a number of shortcomings that had not yet been eliminated. This was particularly true with regard to the implementation of the obligations arising from the customs union vis-à-vis all Member States. "No progress regarding these shortcomings means that the negotiations will not move ahead either," concluded Spindelegger.
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