After the successful Enlargement of the European Union with 10 New Member States in 2004, and with Romania and Bulgaria on 1 January 2007, the enlargement process presently covers the following candidate countries:
In order to join the Union, countries need to fulfil the economic and political conditions known as the 'Copenhagen criteria' according to which a prospective member must:
As a key element of the accession process, negotiations are held with each country to determine their ability to apply EU legislation (acquis). An underlying principle of the negotiations is that countries have to fully transpose and implement the EU legislation by the time of accession. Transitional measures can be granted for specific pieces of the legislation, provided that the measures are limited in limited in time and scope. In the field of Environment no transitional periods are granted to horizontal legislation (Environmental impact assessment, Access to information etc.) Nature legislation or framework legislation (Waste framework legislation, water framework legislation etc.).
In order to conduct the accession negotiations, EU legislation and standards are broken down into 35 chapters which are negotiated one by one. DG Environment is assisting the countries particularly in preparing to comply with the Environmental Legislation.
The assistance from DG Environment includes:
Negotiations with Croatia were opened on 3 October 2005. In relation to Turkey the European Council of December 2004 decided to open negotiation talks on 3 October 2005. The screening process destined to evaluate the level of transposition and implementation of the EU legislation took place for both Croatia and Turkey in April to June 2006. For Croatia , the Chapter 27 (Environment) will be open for negotiations once the benchmark on strengthening of administrative capacity and increase of financial resources is fulfilled. For Turkey , the Council reached agreement on the Screening Report for Environment on 3 October 2007 and 2 opening benchmarks were agreed:
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was declared a candidate country in December 2005. Opening of negotiations will depend on the progress made in aligning with the EU acquis.
The European Union approach to South Eastern Europe is governed by the Stabilisation and Association process. The process was launched in 1999, gave the countries of the region the eventual possibility of EU membership, and the Thessaloniki Summit of 2003 confirmed that all countries and territories were "potential candidates". The Stabilisation and Association Process is already showing results with Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's now candidate countries to the EU.
Regional co-operation is a key obligation of the Stabilisation and Association Process. Environment, by the number of EU laws covering this sector and through its regional nature, assumes a prominent role in the implementation of this policy. The process covers the following countries:
The Stabilisation and Association Agreements with Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Albania set out the contractual relations between the EU and these countries. Montenegro signed the SAA on 15 October 2007. Negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are ongoing; negotiations with Serbia will resume as soon as possible.
A key step of the approximation process was the establishment of the European Partnerships (these documents are available via the above country links) for each country and territory of South East Europe. These documents set out the short and medium term priorities that the countries and territory need to fulfil in their approximation to EU norms and standards.
Progress reports on the approximation efforts of the "potential candidates" (previously known as Stabilisation and Association Reports) are issued every year.
The European Commission has been the driving force in the development of the Regional Environmental Reconstruction Programme (known as REReP). This programme seeks to provide a framework in which environmental actions can be pursued at a regional level in the Balkans. Aiming to bring about the necessary reforms for sustainable environmental protection it currently focuses on four principal themes, institution building; civil society; support to existing regional mechanisms and reducing environmental health threat.
In June 2007 a meeting of Ministers for Environment from the Western Balkans and Turkey was organised to discuss the proposal of an enhanced regional cooperation in the field of environment. The Commission presented a discussion paper and the proposal of an enhanced regional cooperation with the candidate and potential candidate countries in the field of environment. The proposed framework building on the results achieved so far by REReP will facilitate exchange of experience and best practice between the Member States and the region, as well as among the participating countries; help to jointly tackle environmental challenges and provide a forum for the Commission to communicate to the whole region inter alia the recent developments in the EU environmental policy.
The cooperation will be conducted at ministerial and working level. The former will set priorities for actions and ensure political commitment; the latter will implement the work programme through seminars, workshops etc. Until 2009 financing of current regional activities (incl. REReP) is ensured by CARDS 2005. From 2009 onwards support from IPA may be considered.Participants welcomed the initiative as outlined in the discussion paper and expressed readiness to engage in activities aiming at exchange of information and experience. The regional cooperation was considered a useful tool helping the countries concerned to better structure their pre-accession process and to tackle environmental challenges. A road map for the future regional co-operation (RENA) is presently being developed.
In line with the Commission’s aim of simplifying and co-ordinating the delivery of external assistance, for the period covered by the next Financial Perspectives (2007-2013), pre-accession assistance is now being implemented through a single Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).
IPA is an accession driven instrument, fulfilling all the requirements stemming from the accession process, notably in terms of priorities, monitoring and evaluation. IPA replaces the 2000-06 pre-accession instruments notably:
IPA covers the countries with candidate status (currently Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey) and potential candidate status (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo under UNSCR 1244).
IPA establishes a differentiation between the two groups of countries, in order to take account of the political decision which “promotes” a country from potential candidate to candidate status, and address the differences between potential candidates and candidates in terms of their administrative, programming and management capacity.
In terms of support, assistance to potential candidate countries under the IPA concentrates on institution building, in particular to strengthen the Copenhagen political criteria, enhance administrative and judicial capacity and encourage some alignment with the acquis communautaire.
Ongoing projects from the old instruments are still being implemented, inter-alia a number of Phare multi-country programme on Environment and Enlargement, which covers Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey. These programme are designed to strengthen the ability of the countries to ensure full compliance with the EU environmental acquis as well as developing capacity of the environmental authorities for implementation and enforcement and for preparation of investment projects. The programmes will also help to reinforce the ability of other stakeholders to play their full role.
The Commission is seeking to improve implementation &
enforcement of EU legislation by developing new working methods
with Member States at all stages of implementation. Such methods
have also proven relevant in the pre-accession phase in order
to ensure that the candidate countries transpose and implement
correctly the "acquis communautaire" within the
agreed timeframes. Implementation is supported by participation
in the following networks:
former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Handbook for the Implementation of EU environmental legislation: provides a planning framework and a step-by-step guidance on the approaches and specific activities required to implement EU environmental legislation - updated in 2003.