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Annual enlargement package

The European Commission published its annual report on the enlargement process and assessed where the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey stand in preparing to meet EU membership requirements, and sets out what needs to be done to address the remaining challenges. The report was strongly influenced by the refugee crises which has seriously affected the region. Turkey alone is is providing substantial support to more than 2 million Syrian refugees on its territory. While the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia have managed a substantial amount of third country nationals transiting their countries since the beginning of the year.

The Commissions’ report shows that while there has been important progress over the past year, major challenges remain. In particular; the judicial systems are not sufficiently independent, efficient or accountable. Serious efforts are still needed to tackle organized crime and corruption, in particular to establish track records of investigations, prosecutions and final convictions. While fundamental rights are often largely enshrined in law, shortcomings persist in practice. Ensuring freedom of expression is a particular challenge, with negative developments in a number of countries. Public administration reform needs to be pursued with vigour, to ensure the necessary administrative capacity as well as to tackle high politicisation and a lack of transparency. The functioning of democratic institutions also requires attention. There is a need to work even more closely with local civil society actors to anchor reforms across society. Most countries also face significant challenges in terms of economic governance and competitiveness.

Presenting the annual Enlargement Package, Commissioner Johannes Hahn said: “The current refugee crisis shows how crucial close cooperation between the EU and the countries in south-east Europe is. The EU enlargement process, covering the Western Balkans and Turkey, is a powerful tool to strengthen the rule of law and human rights in these countries. It also boosts the economy and promotes regional cooperation. A clear European perspective gradually transforms our partner countries and strengthens stability around our Union. Our firm commitment to EU enlargement, and to the conditions it involves, is therefore a long-term investment in Europe’s own security and prosperity”.

Progress by particular state can be seen here:

 

Source: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5976_en.htm

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