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Western Balkans and Turkey: enlargement process key to strengthened economic and political stability in the region

EU News 324/2015

Brussels, 10 November 2015

2015 enlargement package

In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission has assessed where the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey stand in preparingto meet EU membership requirements, and sets out what needs to be done to address the remaining challenges.


Common challenges

The region has been seriously affected by the refugee crisis. Turkey is providing substantial support to more than 2 million Syrian refugees on its territory. The Western Balkans, in particular the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, have managed a substantial amount of third country nationals transiting their countries since the beginning of the year.The migration challenge makes more than ever a case for increased cooperation with enlargement countries, and the EU is providing substantial support to this end.

Fundamentals key to stability

In its enlargement strategy, the Commission reaffirms the strong focus on the principle of "fundamentals first" in the accession process. Core issues of the rule of law, fundamental rights, strengthening democratic institutions, including public administration reform, as well as economic development and competitiveness remain key priorities. Progress is being made, in particular with the adoption of relevant legislation and establishment of necessary administrative structures. However, across the board effective implementation is very often lacking. The Commission will continue to focus its efforts on ensuring that countries prioritise reforms in these key areas and establish a track record.

State of play

While there has been important progress over the past year, major challenges remain. With respect to the rule of law, judicial systems are not sufficiently independent, efficient or accountable. Serious efforts are still needed to tackle organised crime and corruption, in particular to establish track records of investigations, prosecutions and final convictions. While fundamental rights are often largely enshrined in law, shortcomings persist in practice. Ensuring freedom of expression is a particular challenge, with negative developments in a number of countries. Public administration reform needs to be pursued with vigour, to ensure the necessary administrative capacity as well as to tackle high politicisation and a lack of transparency. The functioning of democratic institutions also requires attention. There is a need to work even more closely with local civil society actors to anchor reforms across society.

Source and additional information:

Johannes Hahn Date: 10/11/2015 Reference: P-029539/00-13 Location: Brussels - EC/Berlaymont (C) EU, 2015 URL