Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fifth Report





COM(02) 256

Commission Communication on the Action Plans for administrative and judicial capacity, and the monitoring of commitments made by the negotiating countries in the accession negotiations.

Legal base:


Document originated:

5 June 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

13 June 2002


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 26 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:


Discussed in Council:

21/22 June 2002

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:




The Commission Communication

    1. The Commission announced in its 2001 Strategy Paper, Making a success of enlargement,[42] that it would launch an Action Plan for each negotiating country[43], which would be designed to reinforce its administrative and judicial capacity. The purpose of the Communication is to report on the progress the Commission has made in developing these Action Plans, and to report on the progress the candidates have made in implementing their legislative commitments.
    2. Noting that the decisive stage of the accession negotiations with the candidate countries has been reached, the Commission says that considerable progress has been made since the launch of the 'roadmap' at the Nice European Council in December 2000. It has proved a useful tool in moving negotiations forward in accordance with a realistic timetable and these are progressing well, the candidate countries generally meeting their commitments. However, as the European Council has emphasised, progress in the negotiations must go hand-in-hand with progress being made by the candidate countries in transposing the acquis into domestic legislation, implementing it and enforcing it. To do this, they must have adequate administrative and judicial capacity. Furthermore, it is essential, the Commission says, that it ensures that the commitments are actually implemented.
    3. The purpose of the Action Plans is to identify, for each country, the steps required to reach an adequate level of administrative and judicial capacity by the time of accession. The Commission worked jointly with each candidate in making a detailed analysis of how it intended to proceed to strengthen its capacity, before launching the Plans in the first quarter of 2002. Each Action Plan assesses the commitments made and the measures envisaged by the candidate countries to implement them, and takes into account Community assistance already available. In order to support their efforts, an extra _250 million has been allocated to capacity-building under the Phare programme.
    4. The Council adopted revised Accession Partnerships for each negotiating country on 28 January 2002 and all the priorities in those agreements relating to the development of administrative and judicial capacity have been included in the Action Plans. Any relevant priorities under the political and economic criteria in the Partnerships are also covered in the Action Plans.
    5. The issues dealt with under the Action Plans can be summarised as follows:

    • Political Criteria. The Action Plans foresee a range of measures to strengthen public administration and remedy specific weaknesses identified in a number of applicant countries[44]. These concern issues such as the adoption of outstanding basic legislation, the establishment of a civil service office, the development of a civil service code of ethics, the training of staff, the strengthening of human resources management departments, and the development of impact assessment or quality control capacity. While work has progressed on reform of the judicial system in most, in a number[45] there is a need for more to be done on the independence of the judiciary, improving their remuneration and working conditions, and training the judges. To tackle these weaknesses, the Action Plans include implementing a judicial reform strategy, introducing measures to guarantee adequate financing of the judicial system, simplifying court procedures, developing probation and mediation services, training judges in good judicial practices and EC law, and creating judicial information networks. Close attention is to be given to developing effective anti-corruption strategies and capacity building to ensure respect for human rights and the protection of minorities.

    • Economic Criteria. The Action Plans address developmental needs in land market and land property registers; the implementation and enforcement of bankruptcy legislation; the development of a favourable business environment; the reform and strengthening of the financial sector, and the reform of the public finance management system.

    • Other Obligations of Membership (adoption and implementation of the acquis communautaire):

—   Smooth functioning of the internal market. The Plans target actions to strengthen the internal market, encourage competition, improve the functioning of the transport and energy internal markets, strengthen the regulatory structures with regard to telecommunications, postal services, and audio-visual policy, and reinforce the capacity of the tax and customs administrations.

—   Sustainable living conditions in the EU. The aim under this heading is to help uphold standards in the environment, health and safety, nuclear power, and transport. The Action Plans address weaknesses identified in agriculture, fisheries, regional and structural policy, the environment, social policy and employment, transport safety, nuclear safety, and energy efficiency.

—   Overall protection of the EU's citizens. Actions under the Plans are targeted on strengthening justice and home affairs structures, and guaranteeing food safety and consumer protection. The Plans foresee all countries strengthening border management, including through implementation of a Schengen Action Plan, ensuring "due co-operation" in the fight against organised crime and guaranteeing data protection.

—   Proper management of Community funds. The Commission sees proper management as requiring appropriate structures at central, regional and local level to fulfil such tasks as the application of public procurement rules, financial control, audit, and the fight against fraud and corruption. There is also a need for adequate administrative capacity for programming, managing and controlling structural instruments. The Action Plans therefore cover assistance to strengthen the relevant structures for financial control. They also cover statistical capacities, since reliable statistics are a key element in implementing Community policies in many areas.

Enhanced Monitoring Process

    1. The Commission says that it has enhanced its monitoring process and now monitors the implementation by the negotiating countries of commitments made in the negotiations systematically and on a continuous basis. The process is based on country monitoring reports and is now being complemented by monitoring actions identified through the Action Plans. They reveal where additional monitoring is needed. The report outlines the Commission's findings as follows:

    • Free Movement of Goods. All the candidate countries except Romania and Bulgaria have provisionally closed this chapter, and have generally implemented their commitments. Areas that require further attention include public procurement, food safety, and the non-harmonised area.

    • Free Movement of Persons. All candidate countries bar Romania and Bulgaria have provisionally closed this chapter, and are generally on track to meet their implementation commitments. Further attention is required in the area of mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and the administrative capacity for co-ordination of social security needs to be strengthened.

    • Free Movement of Services. All candidates except Romania have closed this chapter, and have aligned their legislation with the acquis to a great extent. Harmonisation in banking, investment services, and the securities market needs to be completed, as does the protection of personal data and the removal of discrimination in the provision of services.

    • Company Law. All countries have provisionally closed this chapter and fulfil their negotiating commitment to a good extent. Transposition of intellectual and industrial property rights is advancing at a satisfactory pace but efforts to improve enforcement need to continue.

    • Competition. The Commission notes that this chapter has been provisionally closed with four candidates. The main problem is the granting of state aid, particularly in the steel sector, which is not compatible with the acquis. Transposition of anti-trust legislation is advanced, but enforcement needs closer attention.

    • Agriculture. This chapter has not been closed with any country. Many need to concentrate efforts to meet commitments in the veterinary and phytosanitary fields. Important progress has been made in setting up the administrative structures for the Common Agricultural Policy, but further attention must be paid to the establishment of the Paying Agency and the Integrated Administrative Control System, and for structures for rural development.

    • Fisheries. All candidate countries bar Poland and Malta have provisionally closed this chapter, and generally meet their implementation commitments. Particular attention should be paid to market policy, resources management, and implementation of Community structural actions legislation.

    • Transport. Seven countries have provisionally closed this chapter, and implementation is generally satisfactory. Further efforts are required on road transport and maritime safety.

    • Taxation. The six countries that have provisionally closed this chapter are generally fulfilling their commitments.

    • Economic and Monetary Union. All candidates except Romania have closed this chapter. Countries are generally meeting their commitments, although there are delays in the detailed schedule of implementation. Legislation needs to be further aligned regarding the independence of central banks, privileged access to financial institutions, and prohibiting of direct financing of the public sector.

    • Statistics. All countries have closed this chapter, and are implementing their commitments well. Further efforts should be made to sustain and reinforce administrative structures and improve the availability of regional statistics.

    • Social Policy. All countries have closed this chapter, and are implementing their commitments well. Further attention should be paid to reinforcing social dialogue and health and safety commitments.

    • Energy. Eight countries have provisionally closed this chapter, and most are meeting their commitments. Attention should be paid to the issues of oil stocks, the internal energy market, and in some cases, nuclear energy.

    • Industry. All countries except Romania have closed this chapter, and have aligned with EU policy. Further progress needs to be made in restructuring.

    • Small and medium enterprises. All countries have provisionally closed this chapter. Further efforts for promoting competitiveness are required.

    • Science and Research. All countries have provisionally closed this chapter. There are no problems on implementation.

    • Education and training. All countries have provisionally closed this chapter. There are no significant problems on implementation.

    • Telecommunications. All countries except Romania have provisionally closed this chapter, and have generally fulfilled their commitments. Most countries need to make considerable efforts to lay the basis for a liberalised postal sector.

    • Culture and Audiovisual. All countries except Hungary and Romania have provisionally closed this chapter. Alignment with EU legislation has generally been good.

    • Regional Policy and Co-ordination of Structural Instruments. Cyprus and the Czech Republic have provisionally closed this chapter. Overall, good progress has been made in putting into place the appropriate legal framework for the implementation of the acquis. Areas for improvement include: final implementation structures, the division of responsibilities between different bodies, the development of human resources, the designation of managing and paying authorities for Structural and Cohesion funds, the adoption of legislation for multiannual budgeting, and the establishment of reliable financial management and control procedures.

    • Environment. All countries except Bulgaria, Malta, and Romania have provisionally closed this chapter, and are generally making good progress on implementation. Particular attention needs to be paid to water quality, nature protection, waste management, and chemicals and GMOs.

    • Consumers and health protection. All countries have provisionally closed this chapter and are making good progress on transposing and implementing the acquis. But further efforts are needed to complete alignment and develop an adequate administrative capacity to enforce the acquis.

    • Justice and Home Affairs. Seven candidates have provisionally closed this chapter, and are generally meeting their commitments. Implementation is particularly important in the areas of border control, illegal migration, asylum, money laundering, organised crime, and police and judicial co-operation.

    • Customs Union. All countries except Bulgaria, Malta, and Romania have provisionally closed this chapter, and generally meet their commitments. Problem areas include compatibility with EC customs computerised systems and ensuring full compliance of some candidates' customs code with the acquis.

    • External Relations. This chapter has been provisionally closed with all countries, and no particular difficulties are foreseen.

    • Common Foreign and Security Policy. All countries have closed this chapter and their policy is generally in conformity with the acquis.

    • Financial Control. All countries except Romania and Bulgaria have closed this chapter, and have generally reached a high level of alignment. Further efforts now need to be focussed on implementation.

The Government's view

    1. The Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) says that the Government welcomes the Commission's paper and supports the work being done to strengthen the candidates' administrative and judicial capacity through the Action Plans. It agrees that it is important to monitor the candidates' commitments, and notes that the existing monitoring mechanisms should continue after accession.
    2. The Minister says that the UK's key priorities for monitoring are border security, food safety, financial controls, environmental standards and the Single Market. UK experts will continue to take part in peer review exercises wherever applicable. The Government underlines the fact that monitoring is an ongoing process for all Member States, and that it will continue after accession.
    3. Seville European Council, Presidency Conclusions

    4. The Council[46] welcomed this Communication, stressing the need for the candidate countries to bring their administrative and judicial capacity up to the required level. It welcomes the Commission's follow-up of commitments undertaken during the negotiations and draws particular attention to the fields of justice and home affairs and the veterinary and plant health acquis.
    5. The Council says that "it would seem reasonable to expect that the Treaty of Accession could be signed in spring 2003". It adds that the common aim for the candidates to participate as full members in the European Parliament elections in 2004 can only be achieved if each adopts a realistic and constructive approach.
    6. Conclusion

    7. This is an informative and useful document. It provides us with sufficient detail to enable us to form an impression of the preparedness at this stage of the candidates for membership of the European Union and provides some reassurance on what is being done to assist them in areas of weakness.
    8. The Commission says that as negotiations enter this final stage it is intensifying its monitoring. We ask the Government to submit its Explanatory Memorandum on the Progress Reports as soon as possible after they have been issued by the Commission in October.
    9. We now clear this document.


42  (22959) 14117/01; see HC 152-xv (2001-02), paragraph 5 (30 January 2002) and Official Report, European Standing Committee B, 18 March 2002. Back

43  The 12 applicants that meet the Copenhagen Criteria. Back

44  Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Back

45  Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Back

46  SN200/02 Annex VIII. Back

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