Forty-eighth Report of Session 2010-12 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


20 Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2011-12


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Commission Communication: Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2011-2012

Commission Opinion on Croatia's application for EU membership


Commission Opinion on Serbia's application for EU membership


Commission Staff Working Document: Analytical Report accompanying the Commission's Opinion on Serbia's application for EU membership

Commission Staff Working Document: Croatia 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: Turkey 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: Iceland 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: Montenegro 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: Albania 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2011 Progress Report

Commission Staff Working Document: Kosovo[102] 2011 Progress Report

Legal base
Documents originated12 October 2011
Documents deposited18 October 2011
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 1 December 2011
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-xli (2010-12), chapter 9 (9 November 2011)
To be discussed in Council5 December 2010 General Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; further information requested

Background

20.1 The Council is responsible for decisions on the admission of new Member States; the Commission's annual report has traditionally provided the basis for the Council to take stock and give direction to the accession negotiations and pre-accession reform priorities. The Commission Communication accordingly provides a statement of the EU's evolving enlargement strategy, an assessment of progress, and a look forward to the challenges and priorities for 2012.

20.2 We considered the Commission's latest "enlargement" package at our meeting on 9 November 2011. The main document was the Commission Communication "Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2011-2012". This was accompanied by a set of comprehensive Progress Reports on Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey (Candidate countries) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Albania, Kosovo (aspirant countries). This year the Commission also produced an additional Communication on Serbia, with its Opinion on Serbia's application to be granted Candidate country status, accompanied by an analytical Report; and an Opinion on Croatia's accession.

20.3 The Progress Reports analysed the progress made by individual countries in meeting the Copenhagen criteria for membership, that is, political and economic criteria, as well as the capacity to assume the obligations of membership. The political criteria require the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. The economic criteria require a functioning market economy able to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. The ability to assume the obligations of membership is based on progress in transposing and implementing the acquis (the body of EU law). For the purposes of accession negotiations this is split into 35 chapters ranging from the free movement of goods, through the judiciary and fundamental rights, to the environment and financial control. The reports on formal candidate countries — Croatia, Turkey, Iceland and Macedonia — set out in detail progress on each of the accession negotiation chapters. For the remaining countries, the reports covered a wide range of issues in line with the political and economic reforms required by their Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs) with the European Union (for all except Kosovo, which does not have an SAA, but which is part of the Stabilisation and Association Dialogue).

20.4 All these documents are summarised in our previous Report. In broad terms, most countries got (some or many) good marks; however, important reforms were delayed in a number of them, often as a result of internal political developments and conflicts, and were particularly serious in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. Good governance, the rule of law, administrative capacity, unemployment, economic reform and social inclusion remained major challenges in most countries. There were concerning developments in the area of freedom of expression in the media. Differences over status continued to affect negatively both Kosovo and the region, with recent events in Northern Kosovo causing grave concern. The name question concerning the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remained unsolved. [103]

20.5 The Communication concluded with some 27 general and country-specific Conclusions and Recommendations.

20.6 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 7 November 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) described the Commission's package as a fair and balanced assessment of progress and the main challenges and a credible and useful basis for developing the Government's approach to EU enlargement policy over the coming year. He explained that the Strategy and reports provided the basis for in-depth discussion in the relevant working groups, which would culminate in the adoption of conclusions on EU enlargement at the 5 December General Affairs Council, and potentially endorsement of any decisions at the December European Council. The Government would, he said, take a final view on the recommendations of the Commission in late November, based, inter alia, on further progress achieved in each country.

20.7 The Minister then summarised the main conclusions and recommendations of the enlargement strategy, followed by a summary of the further detail found in each individual country progress reports.

20.8 The Minister regarded the following recommendations as being of particular note (his comments are in italics):

  • "A recommendation to open accession negotiations with Montenegro;
  • "A recommendation to grant Serbia Candidate Status, on the understanding that Serbia re-engages in the Dialogue with Kosovo and implements agreements reached to date. A recommendation on the opening of accession negotiations based on progress on one key priority, focused on normalisation of relations with Kosovo.

"The Government supports the membership aspirations of any European country that shares our values and their right to progress towards membership on the basis of their own merits. We are committed to concluding accession negotiations only when the UK is confident that a candidate country is able to meet the political, economic and legal obligations of membership. We therefore welcome the Commission's assessments which are in line with these principles. The Government welcomes the Strategy's emphasis in these reports on promoting the rule of law and tackling difficult issues such as corruption early in the negotiating. The Government also welcomes the focus on regional co-operation and good neighbourly relations as essential elements.

"The Government aims to use the enlargement process as a tool to promote reform and reconciliation. In that light we have emphasised to countries the need to study the Commission's assessments, and to make maximum progress before the December European Council takes a final decision on the Commission's recommendations. The Government therefore intends to take a final decision on the recommendations made at a later date, when progress can be most fully assessed."

20.9 The Minister then summarised and commented upon the country-specific sections in the main Commission Communication, the individual Country Progress Reports and the Commission Opinions.[104] Concerning the Commission recommendations to which he drew attention, the Minister said:

MONTENEGRO

"The Commission notes Montenegro's good progress in fulfilling the political criteria, achieving overall satisfactory results, in particular that Montenegro has successfully addressed the seven key priorities identified in the Commission's 2010 Opinion. The Commission considers that Montenegro has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria and in particular the political criteria, and recommends that accession negotiations be opened with Montenegro. The Commission, however, also notes that sustained efforts are required in further developing a track record in the area of rule of law, and in particular with respect to high level corruption and organised crime cases. The Commission also therefore proposes applying the new approach of negotiating chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security early in the accession process. The Commission will place particular attention on monitoring Montenegro's progress on rule of law and anti-discrimination in order to help maintain reform momentum in these areas.

"The Government welcomes the Commission's assessment, and looks forward to making a full assessment of progress ahead of the December European Council."

SERBIA

"The Strategy includes the Commission's conclusions and recommendations on Serbia's application to join the EU. In the Annex dealing specifically with Serbia's membership application, the Commission notes Serbia has progressed considerably towards fulfilling the political criteria, and in implementing its Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). Serbia has reached a fully satisfactory level in cooperation with the ICTY. Serbia has made some progress on regional cooperation, taking an increasingly active role in fostering reconciliation in the region. As regards the economic criteria, the Annex notes Serbia has taken steps towards establishing a functioning market economy and has a degree of macroeconomic stability, but that further efforts are needed to restructure the economy and improve the business environment.

"Assuming further alignment and continued implementation, Serbia would be in a position to fulfil its obligations against nearly all the acquis fields in the medium term (5 years), but will need to focus particular attention on the areas of agriculture and rural development, judiciary and fundamental rights, justice, freedom, security and financial control. The fields of environment and climate change will require significant attention. Serbia is well on its way to sufficiently filling the political criteria and conditions of the Stabilisation and Association process, provided that progress continues and that practical solutions are found to the problems with Kosovo.

"In light of the progress made, the Commission recommends the Council should grant candidate status to Serbia, on the understanding it re-engages in the EU facilitated dialogue with Kosovo and implements the agreements reached in that dialogue so far. It also recommends that accession negotiations be opened once Serbia has achieved further significant progress in the Key Priority of normalising its relations with Kosovo. The Commission will present a report on progress on this Key Priority as soon as sufficient progress has been reached.

"The Government welcomes the Commission's assessment of Serbia's progress. The Government notes the Commission's recommendations for further progress, particularly on normalisation of relations with Kosovo. The Government looks forward to making a full assessment of Serbia's progress, including on the issues highlighted, by the December European Council."

KOSOVO

"The Strategy underlines the commitment shown by the Kosovo Government towards Kosovo's European Perspective, notably through sustained efforts in areas such as visa and trade policy, and the establishment of a National Council for EU Integration. The Strategy also calls for greater reform efforts to address corruption, organised crime and weak administrative capacity. The Strategy highlights the steps that will be taken in support of Kosovo's European Perspective, including the launching of a Rule of Law Structured Dialogue, a Visa Liberalisation Dialogue and a review of the Commission's 2009 study to ensure Kosovo further benefits from the EU accession process.

"The Strategy notes that the integration of Kosovo Serbs south of the Ibar has improved, but expresses concern that inter-ethnic tensions persist in northern Kosovo, calling on all concerned in Kosovo to defuse tensions and cooperate with the EU's Rule of Law Mission (EULEX). The Commission underlines the importance of Kosovo launching a comprehensive agenda for the north. It notes the progress made in the EU-facilitated Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, and calls for continued constructive efforts and for existing agreements to be implemented. Finally, the Strategy outlines the Commission's support for the EULEX investigation into Senator Dick Marty's report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe alleging organised crime, including organ trafficking, committed in the period during and after the Kosovo conflict.

"The Government shares these assessments and welcomes the recommendations."

"The central theme of the Kosovo report is that whilst progress has been made in some limited areas, substantial reforms are still required. Areas where the Commission assesses progress has been made include judicial reform, Kosovo's commitment to the European agenda, migration — notably on readmission and reintegration of returnees — and Kosovo's constructive engagement in the Dialogue with Belgrade.

"As with last year's report, the Commission assesses that major challenges remain concerning rule of law — notably corruption and organised crime — and strengthening of public administration. The report draws attention to the inconsistent cooperation with EULEX. The report also expresses concern about respect for minorities, the minimal role played by civil society in the democratic process and environmental protection. It also criticises the Kosovo Government for going off-track with the IMF Stand-by Arrangement. The Commission underlines the need for those people living in northern Kosovo to benefit from Kosovo's European Perspective and in this context urges Kosovo to launch a comprehensive agenda for the north.

"The Kosovo Government has reacted positively to the report. PM Thaci welcomed the report and confirmed that over the coming year his Government would focus on the three strategic priorities of fighting organized crime and corruption, sustainable economic development and reforming public administration. Minister of European Integration Citaku declared that the opening of the visa dialogue was 'one of the biggest achievements since Kosovo's declaration of independence', adding that the report reflected the 'real and factual situation' in Kosovo.

"The Commission's report is in line with our own assessment of the progress made by Kosovo in the past twelve months as well as the priority areas for reform. The positive reaction from the Kosovo Government, boosted by the Commission's Kosovo conditionality in the Serbia avis, provides a solid framework in which Kosovo can continue to drive forward those reforms fundamental for Kosovo's continued progress towards EU integration.

[...]

"The UK continues to be a strong supporter of the EU-facilitated Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. We view it as essential for building practical cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia, for moving them in a more stable fashion towards EU membership and for improving the lives of all citizens in both countries. To date, agreements have been secured on cadastral and civil registries, freedom of movement and customs stamps. However, the process has stalled due to ongoing Serbian obstruction on customs arrangements. We continue to urge both sides to engage constructively and flexibly to implement agreements already reached and move forward into further areas such as telecommunications and energy."

20.10 Finally, the Minister summarised the Commission Opinion on Serbia as follows (his comments again being in italics):

"The Opinion notes that substantial reforms undertaken over recent years have enabled Serbia to progress considerably towards meeting the political criteria which provide for the guarantee of democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. In particular, it draws positive attention to: the extent to which the constitutional, legislative and institutional framework aligns with European standards and Serbia's focus on EU integration; the strengthening of parliamentary procedures; the end of 'blank resignations' for MPs; improvements to the framework for rule of law (following reforms targeting the judiciary, anti-corruption and organised crime); Serbia's significantly improved fully satisfactory cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (as demonstrated by the arrests of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic this year); and the significant steps it has taken to foster reconciliation, particularly with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The Opinion also notes however that further strengthening is required in the areas of: the legislative process and parliamentary scrutiny; independent regulatory bodies; the judiciary, the fight against organised crime and corruption; and implementation of human rights legislation.

"The Opinion also notes that Serbia has more to do on relations with Kosovo. The agreements reached in the EU facilitated Dialogue need to be implemented, and further results are needed in the Dialogue to implement the principles of regional co-operation and to provide solutions on such acquis related matters as telecoms and energy. All sides need to play their part in defusing the tension in northern Kosovo and allowing free movement of persons and goods.

"In terms of meeting the economic criteria, the Commission notes that Serbia has achieved a track record of implementing economic reforms, leading to a degree of macroeconomic stability. The global economic and financial crisis disrupted the steady growth of the past decade, but recent progress was noted on strengthening the financial framework and public finances, privatisation and liberalisation of trade. Areas for further improvement include: further speeding up privatisation and liberalisation; improving the business environment; and tackling unemployment, labour market rigidities and the informal economy.

"The Opinion positively assesses Serbia's ability to assume the obligations of EU membership. Serbia generally respects its commitment under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and has made good progress in adopting legislation which aligns with the EU acquis, though further significant efforts would be needed in the fields of environment and climate change. Serbia is well on its way to sufficiently filling the political criteria and conditions of the Stabilisation and Association process, provided that progress continues and that practical solutions are found to the problems with Kosovo.

"The Commission recommends the Council should grant candidate status to Serbia, on the understanding it re-engages in the dialogue with Kosovo and implements the agreements reached in that dialogue so far. It also recommends that accession negotiations be opened once Serbia has achieved further significant progress in normalising its relations with Kosovo.

"The Government welcomes the Commission's assessment of Serbia's progress. The Government notes the Commission's recommendations for further progress, particularly on normalisation of relations with Kosovo, but also across all areas where reform is required. The Government looks forward to making a full assessment of Serbia's progress, including on the issues highlighted, by the December European Council."

Our assessment

20.11 We expressed our appreciation to the Minister of his detailed and helpful Explanatory Memorandum.

20.12 We reported this to the House in equal detail not simply because of the widespread interest in the enlargement question but also because, in a number of cases, important decisions were on the horizon.

20.13 The first concerned Croatia's impending accession. Central to this process was the EU Common Position on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights (Negotiation Chapter 23).

20.14 Having allowed Bulgaria and Romania to accede to the EU despite inadequate preparation and subsequent poor performance on a range of "good governance" issues, a new chapter 23 was introduced in the EU accession process, dealing with the judiciary and fundamental freedoms. Before the chapter could close, (as the Minister for Europe put it on an earlier occasion) a "comprehensive and robust set of benchmarks" would need to be met, covering: judicial transparency, impartiality and efficiency; tackling corruption; protecting minority rights; resolving outstanding refugee return issues; protection of human rights; and — crucially — full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for (former) Yugoslavia (ICTY). Croatia would need to show a track record of implementation across all these areas.

20.15 The Common Position is the European Commission's assessment of Croatia's progress. It recommended that the chapter required no further negotiations, and underlined the importance of Croatia continuing to develop a track record of implementation across the board. The chapter was formally adopted (without discussion) at the July European Council. In endorsing it, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Minister for Europe made much of the irreversibility of the process, and of the monitoring that would be undertaken during the two years before Croatia would accede.

20.16 The Committee took the view that Croatia still had much to do over the next two years if, at the end, it could truly be said to have reached the point that — despite four years of post-accession assistance and monitoring under its Cooperation and Verification Mechanism — the Commission was still seeking of both Bulgaria and Romania; and that pre-accession monitoring was likely to have little impact, once an accession timetable had been set. The Committee accordingly recommended it for debate on the Floor of the House at its meeting on 19 July 2011. That debate finally took place on 22 November 2011.[105] We deal with the aftermath, and in particular the Council Decision on the admission of Croatia to the European Union, elsewhere in this Report.[106]

20.17 We noted once more that the same considerations apply in the case of Serbia. As the Minister noted, the Commission's analysis gave Serbia a lot of good marks and recommended that negotiations for accession should be opened — but only after Serbia achieves further significant progress in meeting the following key priority:

"Further steps to normalise relations with Kosovo in line with the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process by: fully respecting the principles of inclusive regional cooperation; fully respecting the provisions of the Energy Community Treaty; finding solutions for telecommunications and mutual acceptance of diplomas; by continuing to implement in good faith all agreements reached; and by cooperating actively with EULEX[107] in order for it to exercise its functions in all parts of Kosovo."[108]

20.18 The Commission said that it would present a report on Serbia's implementation of the above key priority as soon as sufficient progress had been achieved. The Minister also looked forward to making a full assessment of Serbia's progress, including on the issues highlighted, by the December European Council.

20.19 It thus seemed to the Committee that, sufficient progress or otherwise, the Minister plainly expected a report of some sort before the December General Affairs Council and subsequent European Council. With presidential elections due in Serbia next Spring, we noted that concerted efforts were already underway by the Serbian government to convince Member States and the Commission that agreement should be forthcoming before the end of the year, notwithstanding that the Pristina-Belgrade Dialogue was deadlocked and the slim likelihood of the Commission's key priority being met in the next six weeks or so. The consideration of Serbia's progress thus far showed that, when the crunch came, the desire to encourage "pro-European" forces prevails over the need to demonstrate clear adherence to conditionality.

20.20 Yet, the Committee noted, it was the failure to require clear, prior adherence to conditionality that had led the Union to where it continues to be with both Bulgaria and Romania, i.e., still awaiting a level of performance on key areas of good governance that should have been demonstrated prior to accession, the absence of which continues to threaten the EU's own internal security.

20.21 We therefore asked the Minister to deposit whatever further progress report or reports were produced prior to the December meetings, along with his views, so that the House could also consider the basis of the key decisions that the Minister anticipated.

20.22 Until then, we retained these documents under scrutiny.

20.23 In view of its "rolling inquiry" into EU Enlargement and Foreign Policy, we also drew them to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee. [109]

20.24 On 25 November 2011, the President of the European Council, issued the following statement following a meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadiæ:

"The European Council at its meeting on 9 December 2011 will consider the Commission's Opinion on Serbia's application for European Union membership. I welcomed President Tadiæ's personal engagement and determination in striving to meet the economic and political criteria for membership of the European Union.

"While acknowledging the latest results in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, I encouraged President Tadiæ to take further steps to assure EU Member States that Serbia is seriously engaged in the dialogue with Kosovo and that it is implementing in good faith the agreements reached so far. Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are essential parts of the enlargement process. The European Council will judge each country on its own merits, based on fair and rigorous conditionality.

"Today's meeting with President Tadiæ gave me once again the opportunity to reaffirm the EU's commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans with the aim to reinforce peace, democracy and stability in Europe."[110]

The Minister's letter of 1 December 2011

20.25 On Serbia, the Minister responds as follows:

"As regards the decision for candidate status, I can confirm that we expect no further reports before the European Council on 9 December. In coming to a decision on whether to grant Serbia candidate status, we will be looking at whether they have re-engaged in the dialogue with Kosovo and implemented existing agreements. But we are looking for more than the bare minimum — simply turning up to a dialogue meeting is not enough. We need credible reassurance that Serbia is serious about improving its relationship with Kosovo. We have taken every opportunity to impress this upon Serbian Ministers and officials both at home and abroad, including a meeting between the Prime Minister and President Tadic on 16 November.

"In terms of progress made since the Opinion, you may like to be aware that the seventh round of dialogue took place on 21-22 November. Agreement was reached on mutual recognition of university diplomas and discussion took place on Kosovo's representation in regional fora and border management, though agreements were not reached. In terms of implementation of existing agreements, some progress can be reported. The Serbian government has ordered implementation of a past agreement of civil registry and progress was expected by the end of the month on border management and cadastral/land registry. However, road blocks erected by Kosovo-Serbs in northern Kosovo are still in place meaning true freedom of movement is not guaranteed. A further meeting of the dialogue was planned for 30 November. We have been clear with Belgrade that we expect agreements to be reached and implementation demonstrated if we are to be convinced to support candidate status. We will be monitoring their progress until the last possible moment before coming to a view.

"As regards the decision on accession negotiations, we expect a further report from the Commission when they deem enough has been done by Serbia on the key priority to significantly normalise relations with Kosovo. As the Committee intimated in its conclusions on the EM, there is little chance of Serbia having met this before the December European Council and we do not expect to see a Commission report until next year at the earliest. Again, I am clear that the bare minimum will not be enough here. We will need credible reassurance that Serbia is genuinely committed to improving their relationship with Kosovo before we would consider opening negotiations. When the Commission presents its report on this key priority, I will of course deposit this with you."

20.26 The Minister then goes on to provide an update on other decisions to be taken at the December European Council as follows:

"Aside from the decision on candidate status for Serbia and the signing of Croatia's Accession Treaty, decisions will also be taken on the Commission's recommendations to open accession negotiations with Montenegro and whether to endorse the Commission's proposed 'new approach' to tackling the difficult chapters 23 and 24 early in the negotiation process.

"Regarding Montenegro, having fully assessed the Commission's report and on the basis of our own diplomatic reporting, we agree that Montenegro has achieved the necessary degree of compliance, especially against the seven key priorities set in 2010, to move to the next stage. We will therefore be supporting the opening of accession negotiations at the December European Council.

"We welcome the Commission's emphasis on the need to maintain reform momentum, especially implementation of legislation and policies concerning rule of law. To that end, we are supportive of the proposal to tackle the difficult chapters 23 and 24 early on in the negotiations process, and to apply this approach, when devised, to Montenegro.

"It therefore follows that we will also be supporting the Commission's proposed new approach to tackling difficult chapters 23[111] and 24[112] early in the accession process. The proposal is very much in line with the UK desire to learn lessons from Croatia to enhance the credibility of the enlargement process and its ability to deliver, and increase Member State and Commission leverage with the candidate countries at all stages. If the proposal is adopted at the European Council we will be working closely with partners and the Commission to develop the approach.

20.27 The Minister concludes by expressing the hope that:

—  his letter has addressed the Committee's concerns regarding Serbia and Croatia and provided a useful update on other matters of interest;

—  as the Committee will not meet before 7 December because of its pre-Presidency visit to Denmark, it will appreciate the need for him to override the scrutiny reserve on the documents that we considered on 7 November at the 5 December General Affairs Council (GAC).

20.28 After that meeting, the GAC issued Conclusions on enlargement and the association process.[113] The sections on Montenegro and Serbia are at Annex 1 and 2 respectively of this chapter of our Report.

Conclusion

20.29 The Government's position on Montenegro is clear: it will be supporting the opening of accession negotiations at the December European Council.

20.30 The Government's position on Serbia, however, is still not clear. Only at the very last minute will it decide whether Serbia has moved sufficiently far along the road of implementing the requirements set out in the Opinion, the Minister's letter and the GAC conclusions for it to be appropriate to grant it candidate status, or whether more needs to be done on a sustained basis for this to be merited. As the Minister says in his letter, the decision on whether to grant Serbia candidate status hinges on whether they have re-engaged in the dialogue with Kosovo and implemented existing agreements and whether, in doing so, they have done more than the bare minimum and provided credible reassurance that Serbia is serious about improving its relationship with Kosovo.

20.31 Since the time of writing, we understand that a further Pristina-Belgrade Dialogue meeting took place from 30 November to 2 December which saw a new agreement reached on integrated border management (in addition to the agreement reached on university diplomas on 22 November) and discussion on Kosovo's participation in regional fora and the issues of energy and telecoms. We also understand that, in the past week. President Tadiæ has set up an Office for Expert and Operational Issues to deal with implementation and that, following calls from him, barricades erected by Kosovo-Serbs have also started to come down in several locations, although many still persist. In short, it would seem that, such development having taken place over the past week and with another round of dialogue or further movement on implementation before the 9 December European Council being possible, the Government wishes to wait until the last moment, and take all evidence into account at that point, before coming to a view.

20.32 This is unsatisfactory from the point of view of prior Parliamentary scrutiny, but is, it seems, all that is possible at this juncture. The GAC having discussed the enlargement package and issued conclusions, there is nothing further to be gained by keeping these documents under scrutiny. We accordingly now clear them.

20.33 However, we should be grateful if the Minister would write to us again, as soon as he is able to share the Government's position with us, explaining what it is, and why, and the basis upon which the European Council arrived at its final determination.

20.34 In view of its "rolling inquiry" into EU Enlargement and Foreign Policy, we are also drawing this chapter of our Report to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee.


Annex 1: General Affairs Council (GAC) conclusions on Montenegro

"39. The Council welcomes the Commission's assessment on the good progress made by Montenegro, achieving overall satisfactory results, notably in the key priorities set out by the EU in 2010 in view of opening accession negotiations. Montenegro has achieved a high degree of compliance with the membership criteria, notably the political criteria and has further progressed towards establishing a market economy. The country has also continued to implement smoothly the obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Montenegro is in a position to take on the obligations of membership in the medium term in most of the acquis fields.

"40. In light of the progress made by Montenegro the Council takes note of the Commission's recommendation which will be considered by the European Council in line with established practice.

"41. The Council recalls that full implementation of the reforms, especially in the key area of rule of law, is essential. In this respect, the Council underlines that continuing efforts in implementing reforms, with particular focus on the area of rule of law and fundamental rights, especially the fight against corruption and organised crime, so as to ensure a solid track record, will remain essential throughout Montenegro's accession negotiations' process. In this respect, it notes positively the Commission's proposal for a new approach as regards chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security."

Annex 2: GAC conclusions on Serbia

"50. The Council welcomes the Commission's Opinion on Serbia's application for EU membership. Serbia made considerable progress towards fulfilling the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council and the Stabilisation and Association Process requirements. The Council acknowledges that Serbia has reached a fully satisfactory level in its cooperation with ICTY with the arrest of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. Continued full cooperation with ICTY remains essential. It also welcomes the fact that Serbia has taken an increasingly active role in fostering reconciliation in the region, in particular with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. As regards the economic criteria, Serbia has taken important steps towards establishing a functioning market economy and achieved a certain degree of macroeconomic stability. Serbia has built up a positive track record in implementing its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and the Interim Agreement. Serbia would be in a position to take on the obligations of membership in the medium term, in nearly all acquis fields.

"51. The momentum of reforms in pursuing the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria, including consistent implementation of adopted legislation, needs to be maintained, with particular attention to the rule of law. Specific attention should be given to the non-discriminatory treatment of national minorities and to improving business environment.

"52. The Council reiterates its full support for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and welcomes progress to date, particularly on customs, acceptance of university diplomas, civil registry, free movement of persons, cadastre and IBM. It calls on both parties to engage constructively on the full range of issues, tackling them at an early date and in a constructive spirit. The Council calls for continued implementation of agreements reached to date in order to arrive at concrete results swiftly, effectively, and in a sustained manner. The Council underlines the importance of the Dialogue for progress on inclusive regional cooperation, including trade. The Council recalls that the Dialogue, and agreements reached through the Dialogue, will continue to be of crucial importance for both parties as they take further steps towards fulfilling their EU perspective, and calls upon both parties to intensify their work in the coming period, with a view to achieving the objectives set out in the European Commission's Communication on Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2011-2012.

"53. In light of the progress achieved so far by Serbia and taking note that Serbia has already reengaged in the dialogue and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached, the Council takes note of the positive assessment of the Commission and the recommendation to grant candidate status which will be considered by the European Council, in line with established practice. The Council expects Serbia to address the question of regional cooperation.

"54. The Council notes that the opening of accession negotiations will be considered by the European Council, in line with established practice, once the Commission has assessed that Serbia has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria, in particular the key priority of taking steps towards a visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Kosovo, in line with the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process, outlined in the Commission's Opinion, notably by fully respecting the principles of inclusive regional cooperation; fully respecting the provisions of the Energy Community Treaty; finding solutions for telecommunications; by continuing to implement in good faith all agreements reached; and by cooperating actively with EULEX. The Council invites the Commission to present a report on Serbia's implementation of the key priority as soon as sufficient progress has been achieved.

"55. The Council attaches great importance to EULEX and KFOR being unhindered in the execution of their mandates."





102   Under UNSCR 1244/99. Back

103   See paras 9.4-9.23 of chapter 9 of our Report (see headnote). Back

104   See paras 9.27-9.29 of chapter 9 of our Report (see headnote). Back

105   See HC Deb, 22 November 2011, cols. 233-255. The text of the debate is also available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111122/debtext/111122-0003.htm#111122108000001. Back

106   See (33387) - at chapter 22 of this Report. Back

107   The EU's largest ESDP mission: 1900 strong, with a focus on local ownership and capacity building, through mentoring, monitoring and advice, and aim to advance the goal of a stable, viable, peaceful, democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo, contributing to regional cooperation and stability and committed to the rule of law and to the protection of minorities. For the Committee's consideration of the latest Council Decision on EULEX, see (33307) -: HC 428-xli (2010-12), chapter 16, (9 November 2011). Back

108   See headnote. Back

109   See headnote: HC 428-xli (2010-12), chapter 9 (9 November 2011). Back

110   See http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/126335.pdf. Back

111   Judiciary and Fundamental Rights. Back

112   Justice, Freedom and Security. Back

113   Available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/126577.pdf.  Back


 
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