Foreign affairs MEPs praised Commissioner Stefan Füle’s approach of “fundamentals first” in assessing countries’ readiness for EU membership, in a debate with him on Wednesday. They also backed the Commission’s fifth recommendation to the Council to open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM).
The committee overwhelmingly supported Mr Füle’s “five fundamentals” underpinning the enlargement process: the rule of law, strengthening economic governance, support for democratic institutions, respect for fundamental rights and ties between the enlargement countries and EU member states
MEPs also welcomed his confirmation that the Copenhagen enlargement criteria, established in 1993, remained valid.
The EP rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SL), praised the “historic importance of the Brussels agreement between Serbia and Kosovo”, noting that it would have been “hardly imaginable without the prospect of EU membership”. However, “we shall not lose sight of the rule of law and minority rights” in the country, he stressed, “including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people”, or of the “fight against organised crime”.
Marije Cornelissen (Greens/EFA, NL), speaking for the EP rapporteur for Kosovo, Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT), said her group was “afraid about the expiration of the EULEX mandate next year”. “We don’t have faith all its tasks have been taken on board,” she added, and wondered if there would be “any consequences for the success or failure of the elections in Northern Kosovo”.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The MEP responsible for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Doris Pack (EPP, DE), stressed that “In the past ten years, the Dayton Agreement had been repeatedly used to proclaim ethnic origins and to withdraw.” She added “We need to create some hope” but stressed that the EU must also maintain leverage over the country’s politicians to ensure that they meet their obligations.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM)
“We have lost too much time on this country,” said Richard Howitt (S&D, UK), rapporteur for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM). He feared the impact in Skopje if the country with “the longest candidate status” was again left waiting. He also said that “screening of and opening of chapters 23 and 24” could alleviate member states’ concerns about the country.
Nikola Vuljanić (GUE/NGL, HR), rapporteur for Albania, said it had “made tremendous moves” and “has become a quite normal European country.” He supported the Commission’s recommendation to grant Albania candidate status subject to certain conditions and he hoped it would be followed up as it was important for the EU “to show once again” that the association with Albania was “wished for”.
“Normalisation is more than ever needed,” Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL), said. While the next judicial package and September democratization package, the talks with the PKK and the creation of the office of ombudsman were positive developments, the absence of a culture of compromise, the way the Gezi Park protests were handled and the lack of freedom of expression and media plurality were on the minus side, she said.
The rapporteur for Iceland, Cristian Preda (EPP, RO), noted that the new Icelandic government’s decision to put the accession talks on hold meant that there was no progress report as such, only a report on Iceland. “Our door remains open”, he underlined.
The Foreign Affairs Committee will now begin its detailed examination of the country-specific reports.