10. STABILISATION AND ASSOCIATION PROCESS
FOR SOUTH-EAST EUROPE
Report from the Commission on the stabilisation and association process for South-East Europe. First annual report.
|Document originated:||3 April 2002
|Deposited in Parliament:||25 April 2002
|Department:||Foreign and Commonwealth
|Basis of consideration:||EM of 7 May 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||None
|Discussed in Council:||13 May 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
10.1 Introducing this annual report, the Commission notes
that the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) represents
a long-term commitment to the Western Balkans.
It entails a formidable political effort, significant financial
resources and a major direct input of personnel and expertise.
The process combines the contractual relationships of the individual
Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs), which are legally
binding international agreements, and an assistance programme
10.2 The Commission recalls that the European Councils
at Feira and Nice explicitly recognised the vocation of the countries
concerned to be "potential candidates" and spoke of
"a clear prospect of accession" to the EU, once the
relevant conditions had been met. The SAP was designed to help
them to transform that aspiration into reality and to establish
a strategic framework for their relations with the EU.
10.3 The SAAs require respect for democratic principles,
human rights and the rule of law; they foresee the establishment
of a free trade area with the EU: and they set out rights and
obligations in areas such as competition and state aid rules,
intellectual property and establishment, which will allow the
economies of the region to begin to integrate with those of the
EU Member States. The Commission describes them as "ambitious,
demanding agreements, which have at their core the basic principles
which underpin membership of the Union".
The Commission report
10.4 The Commission finds that all five countries are
pushing ahead with political, economic and administrative reforms,
but that the resurgence of violence in the former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia (fYROM) shows the fragility of the region, and how
easily parts of it can slip back into crisis:
"Critical weaknesses in the rule of law and democratic institutions,
endemic corruption, the threat of resurgence of extreme forms
of nationalism, as well as poverty and social exclusion, all pose
a serious threat".
10.5 It suggests that the SAP will demand many years
of political and economic investment.
10.6 As well as looking in detail at political and economic
developments in the region and the strengths and weaknesses of
the SAP, the report suggests the way in which the EU should take
the Process forward. Five country reports on the lines of the
regular progress reports on the candidate countries are summarised
10.7 Under the heading Progress made and lessons learned,
the Commission says that the two key lessons are that the Process
needs to be tailored to the needs and specific conditions of the
individual countries and that a proper balance needs to be struck
between stabilisation and association. It says that it is difficult
to move very far along the association path unless there is a
certain degree of stability - especially respect for the rule
of law and functioning political and judicial institutions. It
adds that the range of problems facing South East Europe is "enormous".
10.8 Mapping out The Road Ahead, the report finds
that the countries of the region need to make long-term sustained
efforts and considerable investment in order to put the fundamental
parts of the EU model in place. They need to enlarge progressively
their understanding of the obligations of the process and what
implementation of the EU system really means. A particular and
determined effort is called for to entrench the rule of law.
10.9 For its part, the EU needs to maintain its commitment
to the Stabilisation and Association Process as the only rigorous,
long-term and sustainable policy approach to the region.
10.10 The Commission suggests that a new impetus is needed
and it proposes to establish a new political forum - the Zagreb
Process - building on the success of the November 2000 Zagreb
Summit. The aim will be to bring together the political leaders
of the region and their EU counterparts at ministerial level on
a regular basis to discuss key issues of common concern.
10.11 Finally, the Commission suggests that the broader
international community should continually review its presence
and activity in the region, with a view to disengaging from specific
areas when the countries are sufficiently prepared to take on
the obligations of nationhood themselves. The engagement of the
EU and the countries of the SAP should facilitate this.
The Government's view
10.12 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Denis McShane) comments that
the Government strongly supports the Stabilisation and Association
Process. He says that:
"It will bring the countries of South-Eastern Europe closer
to the EU, offering the perspective of EU membership (once the
criteria of the Copenhagen European Council and the Treaty of
Amsterdam have been met and regional co-operation satisfactorily
established). It therefore offers a powerful incentive for change
and an important way of building peace and stability in the region.
The report will act as a valuable means of encouraging reform,
by highlighting progress made and areas where reform is still
10.13 According to the Minister's written statement,
the General Affairs Council of 13 May endorsed this report and
confirmed the status of the Stabilisation and Association Process
(SAP) countries as potential candidates for EU membership. He
says that the Council called on the SAP countries to devote adequate
attention and resources to implementing the EU's recommendations,
with particular reference to strengthening the rule of law and
judicial systems and visa and entry policies. Also, he says, the
Council highlighted the need for an EU public information effort
to foster greater understanding of the SAP.
10.14 Despite what the report describes as "the
political volatility and institutional fragility" of the
region, no reservations are expressed about continuing to regard
the SAP countries as potential candidates for EU membership, though
the language of the report emphasises that this must be seen as
a long-term objective. The significant changes that have taken
place are recognised, with every country being described as a
democracy. The Process is regarded by the Commission and the Government
as playing an important role, whilst the Commission stresses that
a formidable political effort and long-term commitment to the
region is needed. The Government does not dissent.
10.15 We clear the document.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(FRY) and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYROM). Back
Report, 20 May 2002, Col.