Written evidence submitted by the UK Representation
to the EU
EU POLICY TOWARDS
1. At the request of the Foreign Affairs
Committee, the UK Representation to the EU submits the following
memorandum providing an overview of the EU's policy towards the
region. It is intended to complement the material contained in
the FCO's memorandum to the Committee.
2. The EU's engagement with the Western
Balkans has deepened significantly in recent years. The EU is
now perceived as the leading international player in the Western
Balkans in political, trade and financial terms. It is also playing
an increasing role in the region's security. The EU's overall
aim is to spread peace, stability and prosperity to the region,
making unthinkable a return to the military conflicts that characterised
3. The EUWestern Balkans Summit at
Thessaloniki in June 2003 reconfirmed that the countries of the
Western Balkans are potential candidates for eventual EU membership.
It strengthened the EU's political dialogue and cooperation with
the region, and extended to the Western Balkans in a number of
practical ways the "toolbox" of instruments that the
EU used successfully to prepare for its most recent enlargement.
But the Summit also stressed that the speed of the Western Balkans'
integration into the EU depends ultimately on the countries' own
success in meeting the Copenhagen criteria and the specific requirements
of the EU's Stabilisation & Association (SA) process for the
4. The EU's relationship with the countries
of the region is governed by the SA process, which aims to encourage
vital reforms as well as regional cooperation and development.
SA Agreements (SAAs) are a key element of this process. An SAA
is the formal contractual framework governing the EU's political
and economic cooperation with a country of the Western Balkans,
lasting right up until its eventual accession.
5. So far, Croatia and Macedonia have concluded
SAAs, and both have since formally applied to join the EU. Croatia
was accorded candidate country status in June 2004, while the
Commission's opinion on Macedonia's application is expected sometime
in 2005. Albania is in the process of negotiating its SAA. The
opening of SAA negotiations with Bosnia and Serbia & Montenegro
depends on their progress in implementing basic reforms and meeting
6. The Commission publishes every year SA
reports on the progress of each of the countries of the region.
The last set was published in March 2004 and was accompanied for
the first time by forward-looking European Partnerships to help
each country to identify and prioritise the key reforms necessary
for EU integration. These Partnerships will be updated annually.
7. The EU's financial assistance to the
region is currently running at around 600 million euro a year.
(This figure does not include the cost of the EU's military and
civilian operations in the region.) A large proportion of this
funding takes the form of grants devoted to project-related technical
assistance for strengthening key public institutions, promoting
economic reform and meeting basic EU norms. The EU also helps
meet the running costs of the Office of the High Representative
in Bosnia and the economic development pillar of the UN administration
in Kosovo. Although the profile of EU assistance is now on a slightly
declining trend, this reflects the deliberate front-loading of
aid over the period 2000-2006 in response to the Kosovo crisis.
The Western Balkans nonetheless enjoy one of the highest levels
of EU assistance per capita of any region in the world.
8. The EU is by far the most important export
market for the Western Balkans. The vast majority of products
from the region now enjoy exceptional duty-free and unlimited
access to EU markets. These arrangements are asymmetric (in the
sense that EU products do not necessarily enjoy the same access
to Western Balkan markets) and are even more generous than those
that were enjoyed by the then candidate countries of central and
eastern Europe. A priority for the future is to create a genuine
free trade area within the region itself.
9. In November 2004, responsibility for
the Western Balkans will transfer from the Commission's Directorate-General
for External Relations to its Directorate-General for Enlargement.
The Commission has also proposed that from 2007 its existing financial
instruments for candidate and potential candidate countries should
be replaced by a unified pre-accession instrument. Both developments
send a further signal of the region's ultimate EU perspective
and should allow the lessons of the latest enlargement to be applied
more systematically to the Western Balkans.
10. The EU has supplemented its traditional
instruments of advice, financial assistance and trade concessions
with the deployment of a range of second pillar (CFSP and ESDP)
instruments in the Western Balkans.
11. EU Foreign Ministers regularly discuss
and adopt formal Conclusions on the Western Balkans at the monthly
meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council.
From time to time, the EU issues other public declarations and
makes collective demarches in the region, such as on Albania in
September 2004 for example.
12. High Representative Javier Solana has
intervened personally at numerous decisive moments when events
have threatened to destabilise the region. The EU's resident special
representatives in Bosnia (who is also High Representative in
Bosnia under the Dayton Peace Agreement) and Macedonia have played
a prominent role in promoting reform and ensuring stability.
13. The EU runs ESDP police assistance missions
in Bosnia and Macedonia that seek to establish sustainable policing
arrangements under local ownership in accordance with best European
and international practice.
14. The nine-month ESDP military operation
in Macedonia in 2003 was the first of its kind. It followed a
NATO operation and contributed to ensuring stable and secure environment
for implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. The EU is
currently preparing its most ambitious ESDP operation to date,
to follow on from NATO's SFOR mission in Bosnia. The aim is to
deploy by the end of this year a robust force, starting at the
same force levels as SFOR, to ensure continued compliance with
the Dayton Agreement and contribute to a safe and secure environment
in Bosnia. The operation will be part of a coherent overall approach
that adds significantly to the EU's political engagement, assistance
programmes and ongoing police and monitoring missions, with a
view to helping Bosnia make further progress towards European
integration in the context of the SA process.
15. Although the EU plays an essentially
supporting role to the United Nations and NATO in Kosovo, it recently
strengthened its presence in Pristina. Both Javier Solana and
the European Commission now have resident representatives there.
EU member states provide the lion's share of NATO troops in Kosovo.
16. The EU has supported the work of the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
by adopting an asset freeze on fugitive indictees and a travel
ban on individuals supporting these indictees. The EU has also
helped underpin the Ohrid Framework Agreement in Macedonia by
adopting a travel ban on extremists opposed to its implementation.
17. The UK has played a full part in shaping
EU policy towards the region. We initiated the concept of European
Partnerships and helped place the problem of organised crime firmly
on the EU agenda. We are playing a leading role in the design
and planning of the new ESDP operation in Bosnia and ensuring
its full and transparent cooperation with NATO. We will provide
the mission's first Force Commander. We have ensured that the
EU continues to insist that the countries of the region cooperate
fully with the ICTY. More generally, we have underlined the importance
of maintaining a continued broad coalition of international community
support for policy in the Western Balkans, even though the EU
is in practice taking an increasingly leading operational role.
UK Representation to the EU