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29 September 2006
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To help everyone to keep track of the EU's continuing enlargement process, this newsletter is published by the European Commission's Enlargement Directorate General. It provides a topical and lively account of the progress, the problems, the preparations and the politics of enlargement. ENLARGEMENT NEWS appears twice a month, highlighting key developments in the EU, the member states and the aspirant countries. To receive this free newsletter regularly on your computer, just suscribe here.

Wide reactions to accession date for Bulgaria and Romania

The European Commission's recommendation that Bulgaria and Romania should become EU members on 1 January 2007 (see special issue of Enlargement News of September 26) has generated wide reactions across Europe.

The EPP-ED Group welcomed the prospect of accession on 1 January 2007. "Romania and Bulgaria have made good progress in the last months and years. Their efforts were not in vain and we are looking forward to their successful membership in the European Union", said EPP-ED Chairman Hans-Gert Poettering. The setting of clearly defined benchmarks was also welcomed by Poettering, who underlined the need for a continued reform process in order for all European standards to be met.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn flew immediately to Bulgaria and Romania after their announcement of the Commission's recommendation. In Bucharest they met President of Romania Traian Basescu, Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu. In Bulgaria they met the President and Prime Minister. At a press conference in Sofia, President Barroso said: "Today I came to Bulgaria mainly to celebrate. To celebrate and to congratulate the people of Bulgaria. Your country has achieved a huge work and succeeded well".

The President of the European People’s Party, Wilfried Martens, welcomed the decision. "The EU is now completing the reunification of the European continent”, he stated.

Martin Schulz, Socialist group leader in the European Parliament, said: "The construction of Europe is pressing ahead. It is without precedent anywhere else in the world. Romania and Bulgaria belong to Europe. They are most welcome. This decision is no less than making good a division which occurred on our continent after the Second World War. It was overdue."

Diana Wallis MEP, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said the EU should now treat Bulgaria and Romania "as proper members. That will be the test, especially, in respect of the free movement of their citizens". And looking ahead, she added: "For the future there must be a certainty that negotiations with countries like Turkey and Croatia must be exactly that: real negotiations, not just going through the motions to reach a foregone conclusion."

Annemie Neyts, President of the European Liberal Democrats, also expressed her satisfaction at the decision. "We appreciate all the reforms that have been carried out in both countries", she said. She hoped that the “general public will be properly informed of the significant progress made by Bulgaria and Romania to join the EU and be made aware of the preparations preceding the enlargement”.

The European Citizens Action Service welcomed the Commission's decision, but said it was right to impose conditions to encourage the fight against corruption, a fully independent judiciary and a modern administration. "But EU policy towards the governments should not spill over in new restrictions on European citizenship free movement rights".

UNICE, the Confederation of European Business, hailed the decisions as "a step forward based on merits", but asked at the same time "Is the EU prepared?" It listed remaining "key challenges for the successful accession of Romania and Bulgaria", including strengthening the rule of law, modernising customs and border procedures, and ensuring the full application of EU product standards.

"Romania can now face its future as a full member of the new Europe with confidence and optimism. This is great news for the future prosperity of the Romanian people", said Dinu Patriciu, chairman of the Rompetrol Group, Romania’s second largest oil company, and Chairman of the Alliance of Romanian Employers’ Confederations, the Romanian member of UNICE, the Confederation of European Business. "We need to use our membership to drive forward reforms to Romania's economy and our democracy, political systems, public administration and judicial systems have to reach the highest European standards and fully enshrine the rule of law".

Jonathan Scheele, Head of the EC Delegation in Romania, said in a statement on September 26, "The Commission’s report is objective and very clear: as of today, Bulgaria’s and Romania’s preparation is not 100% perfect, but clearly the critical mass has been achieved. Today is a moment to celebrate. Romania has gone through an impressive reform process. Romania and its people are to be congratulated for their successful efforts to complete preparations for accession. Without slackening those efforts, it is now also time for Romania and for Romanians to look ahead, and to give themselves a clear vision of Romania’s role in the EU and of the EU’s role in Romania. I look forward to welcoming into the EU a strong and confident Romania, one which is capable of using to the full the opportunities the membership will offer; and one which can contribute to ensuring that Europe can meet the challenges ahead."

The environmental group WWF insisted that the European Union "must help save some of Europe's greatest natural treasures, by making sure that EU environmental laws are properly implemented in Romania and Bulgaria". It pointed out that with the accession of these two countries, "two environmental hotspots will soon become part of the EU borders. The Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta are included in the WWF's 'Global 200', the two hundred most valuable natural areas on earth. However, both Romania and Bulgaria are falling short in implementing the EU environmental legislation, particularly the EU's Habitats and Birds Directives establishing the Natura 2000 network of specially protected sites", said WWF.

The EU Presidency said "the Council intends to thoroughly investigate the Commission's report and recommendations and make an overall assessment of the key issues. The views of the European Parliament will naturally be taken note of by the Council."

Further enlargement under discussion too

There is also discussion for continued enlargement, after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. The call from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for an institutional agreement to be reached before further enlargements (see special issue of Enlargement News of September 26) has elicited comment too.

"These internal debates, these practicalities – no matter how complex – can never be a credible reason for not opening our doors to new members", said Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner in a speech in Edinburgh on September 21. "It is our responsibility to ensure that the necessary reforms are put in place, and I believe that this can be done."

The European Liberal Democrats does not believe that EU enlargement should stop after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. “We are fully united in honouring commitments that have been made on enlargement to Croatia, the Western Balkan States and Turkey. The current accession negotiations will take years and will leave time for the adaptation of the EU institutions,” said its President Annemie Neyts.

Diana Wallis MEP, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, took a more critical view. She said: "For the future there must be a certainty that negotiations with countries like Turkey and Croatia must be exactly that: real negotiations, not just going through the motions to reach a foregone conclusion."

And during the debate on Turkey in the European Parliament on September 26, Socialist Group vice-president Hannes Swoboda insisted on the need for an update to the existing treaties, to allow for further enlargements: "Whilst the EU's capacity to take Turkey on board is an issue that we will have to address in due course, there is no reason for it to affect the negotiation process. We have repeatedly pointed out that the Nice Treaty is an inadequate basis for further EU enlargements after Romania and Bulgaria. The EU will have to bring reforms into force within the framework of the constitutional process before it can enlarge further."

The US State Department urged the EU to keep an open mind about adding other countries. A spokesman said on September 26: "The EU is wrestling with these issues of expansion and at what pace to take the talks that they have ongoing with a variety of other countries. Those matters are up to the Europeans, of course, but the United States certainly would encourage the EU to continue to keep open a European horizon for a number of states, including those in the Balkans and Turkey, as well".

"Last" meeting of EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee

The 22nd meeting of the EU-Bulgaria joint parliamentary committee took place in Brussels on September 13-14 – for what was its last meeting, since the committee will cease to exist once Bulgaria accedes to the EU. In a "final statement", the committee reiterated its "strong support" for the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, and listed extensively the recent progress made by the country in meeting accession requirements, notably in justice and home affairs, fight against organised crime, fraud, corruption, money laundering, integration of minority groups and child protection, and of agriculture.

It recognised that "Bulgaria continues to fulfil the political criteria for EU membership", noting "significant developments in all areas", and welcoming "the determination of the Bulgarian authorities to continue by paying serious attention to working on further improvement of these issues after accession". It particularly stressed "the need for giving high priority to disability in all government policies and programmes", and urged timely implementation of further measures in favour of Roma.

It said it expected measures to combat organised crime and corruption and to complete the reform of the judiciary "to be implemented vigorously and to produce tangible and visible results", and "to see clear guarantees from Bulgaria for the implementation as from 1 January 2007 of all the European standards in the area of freedom, security and justice."

And it took note "with satisfaction" that "the establishment of the Integrated Administration and Control System is drawing to a close and the establishment of the Land Parcel Identification System is progressing fast." It said it expected Bulgaria to be able to apply the Common Agricultural Policy and the requirements of the internal market efficiently from the day of its accession.

"Bulgaria’s continuing role in promoting regional security and stability in South-East Europe" won a special complimentary mention, "as well as its readiness to share with its neighbours its experience in the field of European integration".

The committee also welcomed the ratification of the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU by 21 Member States, and urged the remaining Member States that have not yet ratified it to do so without further delay.

Romanian local government seeking greater involvement

Local and regional government representatives in Romania are still dissatisfied with the degree of cooperation they enjoy with national government, according to Michel Delebarre, President of the EU's Committee of the Regions. Following his visit to the country on September 6-7, he said that local authorities are particularly concerned at the lack of clarity over the co-financing mechanisms envisaged for local government, even going so far as to suggest this may constitute a breach of EU rules.

Delebarre also heard concerns expressed during his visit over lack of consultation of local authorities in Romania's implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. "For the Committee of the Regions, it is a priority that the local and regional level should take technical and political ownership of the Lisbon Strategy, because we are convinced that local actors are key to stimulating growth and employment", he said.

The Committee of the Regions President has written to European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn raising some of these concerns, and enquiring as to how the Commission assesses national cooperation with regional authorities. As Delebarre commented, the Commission already pointed out in its previous report that this cooperation needed to be improved. "We are convinced that the process of integrating Romania will not come to an end on January 1 2007 and that its success will depend in large measure on the involvement of the local and regional level."

European Parliament adopts its report on Turkey

The European Parliament went ahead with its debate on Turkey on September 26, during its plenary session in Strasbourg. The report drafted by the Parliament's Foreign Affairs committee (see Enlargement News of September 4) was adopted by 429 votes in favour to 71 against, with 125 abstentions, but with some further changes. It retained a critical tone, but some amendments had the effect of easing the sharpest passages in the draft report.

MEPs pointed to what they saw as a slowdown in the reform process. Relations with Cyprus and Armenia, as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and religion, figured prominently in the report. But MEPs welcomed some recent steps by the Turkish government in the fields of combating torture, fighting corruption and extending women's rights.

The report reiterates the Parliament's position that negotiations with Turkey are an "open-ended process, and [do] not lead a priori and automatically to accession while recalling that "the EU's capacity to absorb Turkey while maintaining the momentum of integration is an important consideration in the general interest of both the EU and Turkey."

MEPs called on the government in Ankara to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, withdraw its forces from the island and lift its embargo on Cypriot vessels and aircraft. The report reminds Turkey that a lack of progress in implementing the Ankara protocol "will have serious implications for the negotiation process, and could even bring it to a halt." It also calls on Turkey to refrain from "tension-prone military activities."

The House welcomed "the opening of broadcasting in Kurdish" while nevertheless noting the continued intimidation of civil society representatives in the South East of the country. The report "strongly condemns the resurgence of terrorist violence on the part of the PKK" and "calls on the PKK to declare and respect an immediate ceasefire." It also pleads for "a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue following Prime Minister Erdogan's encouraging statement last year."

Despite the recent acquittal of the novelist Elif Shafak, the EP remained troubled by the remaining barriers to freedom of expression in Turkey. It called for the abolition or amendment of those provisions of the Penal Code which threaten European free speech norms. The Parliament also expressed its "serious concern" about the "non-respect for women's rights" and the high role of the military in Turkish public life.

The European Parliament rejected a provision that would have otherwise called the acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide a "precondition" for Turkey's European Union accession. But it stressed that a country on the road to membership has to come to terms with and recognise its past – which means facilitating researchers, intellectuals and academics working on this question, ensuring them the access to the historical archives and providing them with relevant documents.

The EU Presidency promised to take due note of the views of the European Parliament, and said it shared the concerns over Turkey's reform process. "Full and effective implementation of the reforms is of utmost importance for Turkey to ensure the irreversibility and sustainability of the changes. Concrete results are required", said Finnish European Affairs Minister Paula Lehtomäki.

"We also share your views on Turkey's limited progress in such crucial fields as fundamental freedoms and human rights. Even if Turkey has made significant progress compared to the situation five years ago, further tangible reforms are necessary especially in the areas of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, cultural rights, women's rights, and combat against torture and ill-treatment", she said.

"The Union will continue to support Turkey in its efforts, but progress will depend on Turkey's performance. The accession process will proceed provided that Turkey respects its commitments to the carrying out of the reforms and satisfies the existing obligations", the minister concluded.

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn also noted that the momentum for reform had slowed. Progress had been made, he said, and there was an EU commitment towards Turkey. "The integration of Turkey would be of mutual benefit", he said, adding "the EU needs a prosperous and stable Turkey". But the negotiations were "an open process" with no automatic guarantees. Progress in the negotiations depends "first and foremost on the pace of reforms on the ground related to the Copenhagen political criteria", he said.

Rehn highlighted freedom of expression as a problem. "The judiciary proceedings have a chilling effect and damage the important work carried out by journalists, intellectuals and activists", he said. "It is now high time that Turkey amends the restrictive articles in the penal code and brings them into line with the European Convention on Human Rights". He also insisted on church property rights and the need to lift restrictions on the training of clergy. And in respect of south-east Turkey, he urged a government policy not purely based on security considerations. Regarding Cyprus, the Ankara Protocol must indeed be implemented, he said, but an end to the economic isolation of northern Cyprus could not be linked to this.

Speaking on behalf of the EPP-ED group, German MEP Elmar Brok stressed the issues of human rights, minority rights, freedom of religion and of expression. These, he said, were "preconditions" for EU membership. For the Socialists, Jan Marinus Wiersma argued that the EU "needs Turkey as a partner", and that the negotiation process was the best way to build better relations with the country. He insisted that there must be no ambiguity: the aim of negotiations was to achieve Turkish membership. UK Liberal Andrew Duff stressed that EP's role was "to promote parliamentary democracy in Turkey", which meant encouraging Turkey's modernisation, and not putting up "spurious blocks" to the process.

Cypriot MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides stressed Turkey's obligation to open its ports and airports to the Republic of Cyprus and lift the veto on the participation of Cyprus in international organisations and multilateral treaties. Italian MEP Vittorio Agnoletto, recently returned from a visit to Turkey as part of a human rights subcommittee delegation, raised the Kurdish issue: "The Turkish government cannot use the 'war on terror' to deprive millions of Kurds their political, social and economic rights. Of course we condemn terrorism but it is unacceptable that Prime Minister Erdogan continues to deny the existence of the "Kurdish question", the possibility for the Kurds to speak their own language, to have more political autonomy, to be recognised as human beings. Erdogan must officially meet with the legal pro-Kurd DTP party and work for a 'Road Map for Peace'", he said.

The final report, as voted, can be seen here

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a September 21 interview with Euronews that he is disappointed in Turkey's efforts to join the European Union. "We are not very encouraged by the news we are getting," Barroso said. "I think Turkey has to understand that it must respect its obligations and commitments".

Mandelson urges "rational" debate on Turkey

The European Union has a responsibility to ensure that the discussion of its relations with Turkey is conducted in a constructive manner, stated European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in Istanbul on September 15. And so does Turkey, he added. In a speech entitled "Globalisation, enlargement and the debate on Turkey's place in the EU", he argued that making the economic and political case for globalisation in Europe will be crucial in ensuring a "rational" debate on Turkey’s place in the EU.

In Mandelson's view, many of the EU opponents of Turkish membership are also the opponents of globalisation. "They reflect wider questions in European society: unemployment, migration, social tensions. Genuine anxieties that need to be addressed. It is hard to have a rational debate on Turkey and the EU while Turkey is the projected image of everything we fear about a changing world. So Europe has a side of the bargain to keep", he said.

Europe’s response to the economic challenges of globalisation will impact on the ongoing debate on Turkish membership of the EU, he told the audience at the Centre for European Reform Bosphorus Conference. "The economic costs of the failure to make the case for enlargement and globalisation will be felt first in Europe, in relative economic decline and a shrinking fiscal base for our welfare states. But the political repercussions will also be felt here in Turkey: in the rising argument against Turkey’s place in the EU". He went on to insist: "Europe’s responsibility is to ensure that does not happen."

But Turkey also has the power to shape perceptions and defy prejudices, he added, urging Turkey to persist with economic and legal reforms. It should also ratify and implement the Ankara protocol, he underlined. The current refusal to do so "plays into the hands of those who have reservations about Turkish accession and creates a justification for pushing the whole membership process into a siding", said the Commissioner.

"We need to keep on enlarging", says Mandelson
"On reflection, on balance, on the evidence, we need to keep on enlarging. Enlargement is central to Europe’s response to globalisation and it is often described as our most successful policy. This is a bold claim, but one that I believe is justified. In expanding from six to twenty five Member States, we have created the world's largest economy. The world’s biggest market for EU producers. A bigger magnet for inward investment. Since the completion of the single market in 1992 foreign direct investment in the European Union has multiplied 15 times, intra-European trade in goods has increased by a third, added 1.8% to EU GDP and created around 2.5 million jobs. Enlarging and uniting has made us stronger."

Turkey needs to "convince European companies that Turkey is a reliable and profitable place to do business, a hub for the Mediterranean and a logical gateway to the single market for key goods like textiles." The Commissioner stated unambiguously that Turkey’s "place should in due course be in the European Union", he told his audience: "The strongest argument Turkey can offer in the face of those who seek to slow down and even stall its accession process is an unwavering commitment to the responsibilities of membership: not as an obligation but as a choice and a European vocation."

EU Council reviews Western Balkans

EU Foreign Affairs Ministers at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on September 18 adopted conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia.

On Bosnia and Herzegovina, where elections are scheduled for October 1, the Council expressed concern at "recent cases of inflammatory rhetoric used during the election campaign" (an allusion to separatist calls from some political figures in the country). The Council "reaffirmed its unequivocal commitment to the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement and the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina". Because of the envisaged closure of the Office of the High Representative, which has until now assured international supervision of the country's political life, this election "will be particularly significant, as the leaders chosen will have to take greater responsibility for the realisation of the country's European perspective", said EU ministers.

The Council also regretted that many key reforms necessary for advancing the talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement had been delayed in 2006, and it called for early agreement on and implementation of the reforms necessary to conclude the talks. In particular, the Council expressed concern over the lack of progress towards the implementation of the October 2005 agreement on police restructuring, and looked forward to "swift removal of this obstacle".

On Montenegro, the Council welcomed the peaceful and orderly conduct of the September 10 elections, and the International Election Observation Mission's preliminary assessment that the elections were conducted largely in accordance with international standards. The Council called upon authorities in Podgorica to address the remaining challenges listed in the Mission's assessment.

The Council also looked forward to the smooth formation of a new Government and a swift agreement in the Parliament on the procedures for adoption of a new Constitution, in line with European standards. The adoption of the new Constitution will require, the Council stressed, a continuous dialogue between the new government and the opposition. The Council also expressed its expectation that the new Government will pursue the European reform agenda in line with the European Partnership, in particular in the area of freedom, justice and security and building up the administrative capacity. The Commission's intention of an early re-launch for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Montenegro was welcomed by EU ministers.

Montenegro - political dialogue
The Council also approved a joint declaration on political dialogue with Montenegro in line with the stabilisation and association process and the 2003 Thessaloniki agenda for the Western Balkans. The declaration sets out conditions under which the Parties agree to a regular political dialogue. This will in particular support the political and economic changes underway in Montenegro and contribute to establish new forms of cooperation, in particular taking into account Montenegro's status as a potential candidate for EU membership.
The political dialogue is aimed at:

  • reinforcing democratic principles and institutions as well as rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • promoting regional cooperation, development of good neighbourly relations and fulfilment of obligations under international law;
  • facilitating the integration of Montenegro to the fullest possible extent into the political and economic mainstream of Europe.
    The political dialogue will take place through consultations and contacts in high-level meetings between representatives of Montenegro on the one hand and representatives of the EU in troika format on the other, at parliamentary level, as well as in the framework of the EU-Western Balkans forum established at the EU-Western Balkans summit held in Thessaloniki in 2003.

On Serbia, the Council repeated the EU's readiness to resume negotiations with on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement as soon as there is full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. EU ministers urged the Serbian authorities to step up their efforts in implementing their Action Plan in order to meet this criterion.

The Council also adopted a joint action establishing an EU team to contribute to the preparation of a future international civilian mission in Kosovo, and took note of a request by the Greek delegation for the EU to strengthen its relations with the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, and to develop a comprehensive policy towards the Black Sea region, so as to act more effectively at a regional scale. The Commission indicated that it would present, before the end of the year, a new communication on the European Neighbourhood Policy which would address the Black Sea region.

Still hopes for a Kosovo settlement this year

"A durable solution to the last major issue related to the break-up of Yugoslavia" is what the Kosovo future status process should deliver, according to the Kosovo Contact Group, which met in New York on September 20. The group reaffirmed its commitment to all possible efforts being made to achieve a negotiated settlement in the course of 2006.

The Contact Group brings together ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States, as well as European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and senior UN and NATO officials.

The group recognised that "distance remains between the positions of Belgrade and Pristina". But it urged all parties to respect the United Nations process and to work constructively to bridge the gaps between their positions. "The Contact Group will monitor closely the extent of constructive engagement from both parties and will draw conclusions accordingly", it said in a statement issued after its meeting. "Striving for a negotiated settlement should not obscure the fact that neither party can unilaterally block the status process from advancing", it said. It also renewed its call on Belgrade to cease obstruction of Kosovo Serb participation in Kosovo’s institutions.

And during the Security Council debate on the United Nations Mission in Kosovo on September 13, Kirsti Lintonen, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, said: "resolving the status is necessary in order to maintain stability in the Western Balkans region". Speaking on behalf of the European Union, she said: "The status quo is unsustainable and must be replaced with a solution that provides lasting peace and stability in the region, as well as promoting Kosovo's European integration".

Citing the EU's "long-term commitment to Kosovo", she also expressed support for UNMIK's efforts - together with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo - to make progress on standards implementation. "The implementation of the priority requirements are crucial to ensure a multi-ethnic Kosovo, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that all of the standards are important for Kosovo's future", she said. Progress is encouraging in democratic institutions, the rule of law, and sustainable returns and rights of communities – but success "requires further effort on the part of all the parties".

It is also necessary, she said, to prepare for a phased transition - from a reform process driven by the UN standards, to a reform process based on the requirements of European integration. "The gradual transition has already started", she said. Meanwhile, the EU has already integrated the essence of the Kosovo standards into the European Partnership for Kosovo, and welcomes the Kosovo government's recently adopted "European Partnership Action Plan", said Lintonen.

The still-incomplete participation of all ethnic communities in the Provisional Institutions gave rise to continued concern, said the ambassador. "We share the Secretary-General's concern of the governance of the portion of Kosovo territory which lies north of the Ibar river. We once again encourage the Kosovo Serb participation in Kosovo's governance structures. As the Secretary-General points out, the current lack of engagement of Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo's institutions remains an obstacle to the fulfilment of certain standards. All Kosovo’s citizens should benefit from the same levels of social and administrative services. The Serb community living in Kosovo should be clearly and actively encouraged to participate in the Kosovo institutions, in which they can most effectively advocate their own interests."

There are three main components to the plans for the EU's engagement in Kosovo after a settlement: the EU contribution to a possible future international civilian presence; a possible European Security and Defence Policy operation in the broader field of rule of law; and an EU presence related to the European perspective of Kosovo. Preparations are underway in all these areas, and an EU Planning Team has already been established and deployed in Kosovo to make preparations for a possible ESDP operation in the fields of police and justice, which are considered crucial areas for the security and the stability of the region. The EU Council last week established an EU team to help in preparations for a possible international civilian mission in Kosovo, working with the international community and the Kosovo institutions, and in close coordination with UNMIK. The decision complements the April establishment of an EU planning team for a possible EU crisis management operation in the field of rule of law in Kosovo.

New former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Prime Minister in Brussels

The newly elected Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, visited Brussels on September 12-13, where he held talks with European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and other senior EU figures.

After their meeting, Commissioner Rehn welcomed the emphasis in the new government platform on fighting corruption and organised crime. He also said they had discussed the importance of economic development and boosting employment, in which the EU would be a reliable partner, he promised. "We support and share the country's goal of moving towards Europe", said the Commissioner.

Rehn also stressed the need for political stability and compliance with the Ohrid Framework – the internationally-sponsored agreement underpinning Albanian minority rights, which defused violent inter-ethnic tensions in 2001. Gruevski's centre-right VMRO-DPMNE opposed the Ohrid implementation legislation adopted by the previous centre-left government. It was vital that there were well-functioning channels of communication between the government and opposition, Rehn underlined. "It is important to have a broad political consensus on a country's road to EU membership. The government and opposition must show the willingness for political dialogue that one can expect from a mature democratic country", he said.

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, congratulated Gruevski on his appointment and told him that he looked forward to working with his Government with a view to further integration of his country in the EU. Solana encouraged the new Government to push ahead with the EU reform process: full and sustained implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement was a fundamental element in the EU integration process, he stressed, urging constructive dialogue with all the political forces of the country in order to carry out the required reforms.

Gruevski also visited the headquarters of the European People’s Party in Brussels, where he met EPP President Wilfried Martens and EPP Secretary General Antonio Lopez-Isturiz. According to Martens, "Prime Minister Gruevski has a clear vision for his country and he’s determined to implement European political and economic norms and standards. The EPP is looking forward to the important work of his administration and his active involvement in the activities of our political family".

EU welcome for Montenegro election conduct

The general elections held in Montenegro on September 10 received a general endorsement from the European Union. The General Affairs and External Relations Council of September 18 welcomed the peaceful and orderly conduct of the September 10 elections, and the International Election Observation Mission's preliminary assessment that the elections were conducted largely in accordance with international norms.

The European Commission noted with pleasure that preliminary findings by international observers suggested that the elections were conducted largely in accordance with international election standards. "The principal challenges that Montenegro now face are the continuation of reforms and the consolidation of the rule of law. It is vital for the new government to build a widespread consensus for adoption of the new constitution and all the reforms needed, especially in the area of freedom, justice and security. Particularly important in the context of European integration is the need to improve the country's institutional capacity", said the Commission statement, adding that the aim was to re-launch the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Montenegro at the end of September.

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, expressed satisfaction on September 11 that the elections were "largely conducted in line with international commitments and standards". He congratulated the citizens and the authorities of Montenegro for the calm and orderly way in which the elections were conducted, and said he expected the Government to be formed to continue with its European reform agenda, including facilitating an agreement on a new Constitution fulfilling European standards. "The High Representative and the EU stand ready to support Montenegro's efforts in getting closer to the EU", said a statement from Solana's office.

Outgoing prime minister Milo Djukanovic's centre-left coalition, which earlier this year led the country of 650,000 inhabitants to independence from Serbia, won 41 out of the 81 seats in the parliament (while the two main pro-Serb parties won 23 seats between them). "This is a triumph for Montenegro's European policy," said Djukanovic, a long-standing advocate of his country's independence and of closer ties with the EU. "These elections have shown that Montenegro is stable and firmly on the European track."

Montenegro's President, Filip Vujanovic, said on September 18 he would propose Djukanovic for a new four-year mandate – despite remarks from the 44-year-old, who has led the country as prime minister or president for fifteen years, that he might consider stepping down after the election.

Hübner offers a reminder of the reasons for enlargement

"The essential objective of enlargement of the European Union is to extend the area of peace, prosperity, and stability on our continent", said Danuta Hübner, Member of the European Commission responsible for Regional Policy, in a speech at Edinburgh university on September 21. "This was clearly the case in the most recent enlargement of 2004 which consolidated the reunification of a Europe divided in 1945. But it was also the case for earlier enlargements, and it remains the case for those that will follow".

She said "this latest enlargement is bringing all of the benefits we predicted. The doomsayers – and there have been many of these - have been proved clearly wrong." The countries which joined the Union in 2004 undertook extensive reforms prior to accession, she said, and are fresh democracies with fully functioning market economies. "They have not collapsed under the pressure of exposure to competition which some predicted. Rather they have brought to the Union a degree of dynamism that is badly needed. They have growth rates which are more than twice the average of the others, and a process of economic catch-up which is well underway".

On the two accession countries– Romania and Bulgaria – she said that the record is "just as impressive" - a dynamism that "is the direct result of the spectacular economic and democratic transformation that has taken place in the last 15 years in central Europe, a transformation for which EU accession has been the main driving force."

Hübner underlined that the economies of the EU15 are not being destroyed by unfair practices of the newcomers – or by relocation. She pointed out that in 2004 the share of total EU15 foreign direct investment that went to the new member states was only 4% - compared to 12% to the US, and 53% from one of the EU15 to another. "The new Member States are a small part and cannot be blamed for job losses and industry relocation", she said.

"Enlargement is part of the solution to our economic problems in Europe, and not the cause of them. By creating a larger and more integrated internal market, enlargement has created the conditions for the whole European economy to become stronger and more dynamic, and ultimately to be better equipped to deal with increased global competition", said the Commissioner.

At the same time, she said, enlargement has not led to an uncontrolled explosion in costs of the EU to be borne by European taxpayers, and the Union's institutions have not been paralysed by the arrival of ten new Member States. On the contrary, "Enlargement has added a degree of vigour to our deliberations", she said.

ENLARGEMENT NEWS IN BRIEF

SAA negotiations launched with Montenegro
Negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement were launched with
Montenegro, in Podgorica, on September 26. Until earlier this year, as part
of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, it was involved in the joint
negotiations with the EU. Now, as a newly independent state, Montenegro is
resuming SAA talks in its own right, picking up from where the joint
negotiations were left off. Concluding a SAA is an indispensable preliminary
step for the countries of the Western Balkans on their path towards closer
relations with the EU.

Upcoming enlargement reports
The European Commission's progress reports on Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia (including Kosovo) and Turkey, will be published on 8 November. On the same date, the Commission will also publish its enlargement strategy paper.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development assistance
Recent assistance from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the countries covered by the EU's enlargement policy includes:
* €3 million for an equity stake in Opportunity Bank Serbia – a dedicated microfinance bank to be set up as a result of conversion of the Serbian micro-finance institution, Opportunity Stedionica. Owners of micro and small businesses will benefit from an increased range of financial services and products allowing them to build new or develop existing businesses.
* a €6 million loan to Mikrokreditna Organizacija EKI, the third-largest non-bank micro finance institution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to enable owners of micro and small enterprises to gain more access to finance to expand or build their businesses.
* €5 million for Romania’s BT Leasing Transilvania, to finance small and medium-sized enterprises across the country. The loan is being provided under the leasing window of the EU/EBRD SME Finance Facility, funded jointly by the EU and the EBRD.

Bulgarian presidential election campaign starts
The official electoral campaign for the Bulgarian presidential election started on September 9. The vote will take place on October 22, and seven pairs of candidates (for president and vice-president) are standing. The current President, socialist Georgi Parvanov, is standing for re-election (accompanied by Angel Marin as candidate for vice-president). The centre-right candidate is Nedelcho Beronov, who is currently the president of the Bulgarian constitutional court (accompanied by Yuliana Nikolova). The other candidates are the left-wing former army chief of staff General Lyuben Petrov (and actress Neli Topalova), nationalist Professor Grogor Velev (and Yordan Mutafchiev), currently deputy parliament speaker Petar Beron (and Stela Bankova), Volen Siderov (and Pavel Shopov) from the Ataka nationalist party, and former constitutional judge Georgi Markov (and Maria Ivanova).

Netherlands opens up further to new member states workers
The Dutch government has decided to further ease its controls on workers from the eight central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004. Employers in sixteen sectors can now take on workers from the new member states without having to demonstrate that they are unable to obtain Dutch workers. The new scheme, which came into effect on September 17, applies to the wood and metal industries, bakeries, the meat trade, the retail and wholesale sectors, telecommunications, hotels and catering, health and social services, some business services and branches of central and local government, and designated subsectors in the construction industry. But the measure is accompanied by tougher controls on illegal work, particularly in construction and craft industries.

Meanwhile, the European Citizens Action Service has published a report describing free movement of workers since the EU enlargement of 2004, and which looks forward to the next enlargement. It says that job seekers from the new member states represent only 0.2% of the total EU15 population, and that migration patterns often pre-date actual enlargement – as is the case, it says, for Bulgaria and Romania. The report also finds that migration has benefited the economy of the host country and that “applications for income support or social assistance are very low indeed”. It recommends that no transitional controls on workers should be applied to Bulgaria and Romania when they join. Further information from http://www.ecas.org

Romanians happy despite tough times, says EU survey
Romanians are very optimistic about the future, and show high levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness, despite meagre material conditions, poor quality of housing and unusually long working hours, according to the European Foundation’s European Quality of Life Survey for Romania. Two out of five Romanians are experiencing difficulties in making ends meet, the September 19 report reveals. It shows that there are still large income inequalities in Romania, with particular pressure on the unemployed and families with one breadwinner, elderly retired people, single parents and large families. Three out of four Romanians cannot afford a week’s annual holiday, and one in three household have accumulated debts regarding utility bills such as electricity, water and gas over the past 12 months. One third of Romanian households also find their accommodation to be inadequate, citing problems such as lack of space, leaking in the roof or no indoor flushing toilet. More information www.eurofound.eu.int

Guarded EU welcome for BiH legislative progress
"It is very encouraging that the Parliament passed important legislation establishing the Directorate for Economic Planning", said Michael Humphreys, Head of the European Commission Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, following the September 18 vote in the country's House of Representatives. The measure has direct relevance to the European Partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina. "This institution will give the Council of Ministers greater ability to set out the economic agenda and create conditions for economic development. I look forward to its final adoption by the House of Peoples", he continued. But Humphreys expressed disappointment that at the same session the Parliament did not adopt the Law on Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices, even though there was a cross party consensus on it. "Issues such as the location of the headquarters should not be stumbling blocks for legislation which directly affects the health of BiH citizens", he said. "In the process of implementing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, BiH will have to establish a number of institutions and agencies as well as adopt many pieces of legislation. If there are months of delay for each one, the European path will take decades, rather than years."

EU assistance projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina
A new European Union information centre was opened in Banjaluka on September 19, adding another link to the chain of centres intended to provide citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina with easy access to EU-related information, and to promote EU programmes in the country. The centre was formally opened by Ambassador Michael Humphreys, Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who also visited the "Vasa prava BiH" association in the town, which is receiving €1.2 million from the EU to provide free legal advice for asylum seekers, refugees, human trafficking victims and persons under international protection. He also took part in a formal handover of €600,000 worth of sophisticated forensic and surveillance equipment to the Republika Srpska police, supplied via an EU project to boost police capability to fight crime and produce court evidence.

Meanwhile, a new reception centre for irregular migrants is being set up in Bosnia and Herzegovina with €1 million of EU money and €250,000 from the national budget. The Memorandum of Understanding on the project was signed in Sarajevo on September 13 between the government, the European Commission and the International Organisation for Migration, which is also involved in the project. The centre is a part of the country's priorities for combating irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, which also include a migration information system, a service of foreigners, and amendments to the current law.

A 24-month twinning project providing support to the state veterinary Office also held a kick-off workshop in Sarajevo on September 13. The EU is providing €980,000 to fund the project, in which officials from Bavaria will help develop legislation and practice. On September 21, the Delegation of the European Commission organised a conference on "Ensuring the Implementation of Local Environmental Action Plans in Bosnia and Herzegovina", part of a European Union project on support to environmental field inspection.

MEPs on Turkey visit to assess human rights
A five-member delegation from the European Parliament's Sub-Committee on Human Rights travelled to Turkey on September 18 for a five-day assessment of the human rights situation in the country. They visited Ankara and the eastern province of Hakkari, one year on from their last fact finding mission, and had meetings with the Turkish Foreign Minister, the Justice Minister and the Chief EU Negotiator, as well as with NGOs and human rights organisations, religious minority representatives, journalists and writers. In Ankara they met Sakharov Prize winner Leyla Zana. According to British centre-right Member of the European Parliament Simon Coveney, part of the delegation, "Turkey has made rapid progress in the human rights field in the build-up to the commencement of formal accession talks. However, since then progress in this area has been worryingly slow. As a human rights spokesman in the European Parliament one of my roles is to assess annually Turkey's progress or lack of progress in the human rights field in the context of possible accession to the EU at some stage in the future."

Further protests over media treatment in Serbia and Kosovo
The South East Europe Media Organisation wrote on September 13 to Serbian Minister of the Interior Dragan Jocic, to express alarm at death threats received by a journalist in Serbia and – it says – "the dismissive reaction of the police". The grouping of editors and journalists claims that Slavica Jovanovic, a journalist from Macvanski Prnjavor, not only suffered death threats and attacks on her family members, but that the local police refused to allow her to file an official complaint. SEEMO views these threats as a very serious violation of press freedom and journalists’ rights, and it has asked the minister to do everything in his power to protect the life of the journalist and her family members, as well as to investigate why the local police failed to react immediately. On September 27 SEEMO wrote again to the Minister of Justice, Zoran Stojkovic, condemning the suspended jail sentence given to Serbian journalist Snezana Nikolic for criminal defamation. "A suspended sentence encourages self-censorship and is another method of preventing journalists from practicing their profession", said SEEMO. And on September 26, SEEMO wrote to Kole Berisha, President of the Assembly of Kosovo, complaining of an attack by an Assembly security guard on a journalist working for the Pristina-based Lajm daily, who was waiting to meet a member of the parliament

Turkey@Europe_Week plans
A week of events will be organized in early October in Brussels, Paris and Berlin to mark the first anniversary of the start of Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU. The initiative is largely driven by TÜSIAD, the Turkish business association. Leading political, cultural and business figures from Turkey will visit the three capitals and discuss the challenges and perspectives of Turkey’s EU accession. For more information, see www.turkey-europweek.org

EU support for river clean-up in Bosnia and Herzegovina
"Let my Kreševnica River Run Clean" is the title of an EU-funded project that took place in the town of Kreševo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina on September 14, as part of a wider programme to cut waste. Members of the public and pupils from local schools collected waste from the banks of the river, along with employees of the Public Utility Company. The schoolchildren also carried out related class projects on reducing the use of plastic bags and cutting down on the pollution they create.

By coincidence, a conference in Sarajevo the same day marked the end of the EU technical assistance project on establishing Environmental Funds in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This €400,000 project, implemented mainly at entity level, has helped develop environmentally oriented and financially sustainable environmental management practice in the country – although, despite good cooperation, Environment Funds have not yet become operational.

Albanian railways joins CER
Albanian railways, Hekurudha Shqiptare, has joined the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Managers as of 1 October. It is an integrated railway operator and infrastructure manager, with traffic units of about 121,000,000 in 2005.

Serbia joins European Travel Commission
Serbia has joined the European Travel Commission, the association of national tourism organisations in Europe. It is the 35th member of the organisation created in 1948 to promote Europe as a tourism destination to long-haul markets. The president of ETC, Arthur Oberascher, said at a September 26 a press conference in Belgrade that the invitation to Serbia was part of ETC’s strategy to extend its membership to the entire continent. “Tourism is a dynamic force for stability and economic growth”, said the ETC president adding, “in southeast Europe, tourism can help transform the region’s economy and, equally important, its image from political tinderbox to vacation playground”.

Solana meets new UN envoy to Kosovo
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, met Joachim Rücker, UN Secretary General Special Representative in Kosovo, on September 26. Solana, at his first meeting with Rucker since the German took on his new task, expressed full support to the new SRSG for his efforts in Kosovo and stressed the commitment of the European Union to work together with UNMIK and Kosovo's provisional institutions to move the territory forward. They discussed political and security developments in Kosovo as well as progress on standards implementation and the economy.

ECJ to allow PKK challenge on "terrorism" listing?
On September 27, European Court of Justice Advocate General Kokott said Kurdish leader Osman Ocalan is entitled to challenge the 2002 inclusion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – the PKK - on an EU list of terrorist organisations. This runs counter to a 2005 ruling by the EU Court of First Instance that the Council decision could not be contested. The opinion of the Advocate General is not final. The ECJ will give its final ruling in coming months.

Qualifications crossing enlargement borders
More than 100 people from the countries in line to join the EU took part in a September 25 international conference in Bucharest on the EU's recently-agreed European Qualifications Framework, which makes different national qualifications more understandable across Europe, and supports mobility of workers between countries. The conference was intended to help future EU member states and candidate countries link into this framework. Romania was chosen as the venue because of the progress that it is making in the development of a framework for qualifications. The country is also about to present a policy document on this topic.


ENLARGEMENT NEWSLETTER is prepared for the Information Unit of the Enlargement Directorate General of the European Commission by an independent journalist. As part of its communication strategy on enlargement, the Commission makes this bulletin publicly available. However, this newsletter does not represent the official view of the European Commission or the European Union institutions, and the European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to its content. Comments are welcome and should be addressed by e-mail to elarg-newsletter@ec.europa.eu