Croatia to be the 28th EU Memeber State?

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A meeting of the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee has concluded that,

“Croatian Accession negotiations can be concluded in the first half of 2011 provided that Croatia meets all the outstanding closing benchmarks in the remaining chapters.”

Swedish EPP MEP, who co-chairs the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee stressed the importance to the Balkans of Croatia joining the EU.

“Both for the EU and for the region, it is important that the conditionality linked to a credible EU enlargement process remains a strong incentive for reform. In this sense, the Croatian case is very important for regional dynamics because it can swing the doors wide open for the rest of the region. The goal is to have mutually cooperating countries of the Western Balkans inside the EU. We also expect that Croatia, as a Member State, will be actively contributing to EU policy in the region.”

“A credible enlargement also means Croatia has to be fully prepared for membership. Since our last meeting, the country has substantially advanced in EU negotiations and the end is in sight. It is now very important that Croatia engages all its reform potential in order to make sure that there are no hesitations left in anybody’s mind when the time comes to say yes to EU accession.”

Currently 34 (out of 35) accession chapters have been opened for negotiations between the EU and Croatia, and 25 chapters have been provisionally closed. So Croatia is making good speed on implementing the acquis communautaire of the EU.

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Montenegro now a Candidate Country for EU Membership

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The European Commission has decided to add Montenegro to the list of Candidate Countries. In an opinion issued on the 9th of November the Commission stated:

On Montenegro, the Commission concluded that Montenegro is ready to become a candidate country to EU membership, while further reforms are needed in a number of key areas, as set out in the opinion, before the country is ready to start accession negotiations.

Montenegro still has criteria to meet under a few headings, Political Criteria, Economic Criteria and EU Legislation.

Political Criteria

Montenegro needs to address the following:

  • The effectiveness of anti-discrimination policies,
  • Freedom of expression,
  • Government relations with civil society
  • The situation of displaced persons from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Economic Criteria

In this area Montenegro needs to

needs to further address internal and external unbalances, as well as weaknesses, notably in the financial sector and the functioning of labour markets. To be able to cope in the medium term with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, Montenegro needs to continue implementing reforms and reducing structural weaknesses.

EU Legislation

In this area Montenegro needs to work on the following areas to align them with EU Legislation and Rules,

  • freedom of movement for workers, services and capital,
  • public procurement,
  • competition,
  • services,
  • information society and media,
  • transport policy,
  • energy,
  • economic and monetary policy,
  • consumer and Health Protection.

With this, Montenegro joins Croatia, Iceland, FYR Macedonia and Turkey as Candidate Countries.

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Conference: The European Union and Turkey: The Accession Negotiations and Beyond

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I meant to post this during the week. I received this via email from the Centre for the Study of Wider Europe in NUI Maynooth, during the week and some readers may find this interesting.

To coincide with the visit to Dublin of Mr Egemen Bağiş, Turkey’s Chief Negotiator with the European Union, The Centre for the Study of Wider Europe (www.widereurope.ie ) at the National University of Ireland Maynooth is to host a one day conference on 18 November 2010 on Turkey’s relationship with the EU.

Amongst the papers tabled for delivery are contributions on Turkey’s historic relationship with Europe; recent patterns of democratization and Europeanization; minority rights in Turkey; civil-society relations, and new directions in Turkish foreign policy. The event will be addressed by Mr. Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s chief negotiator with the European Union. The keynote address will be delivered by Professor Ilter Turan, one of Turkey’s most renowned public intellectuals and Professor of Political Science at Istanbul Bilgi University. Other speakers confirmed include:

  • Dr. Bill Park of King’s College, London;
  • Dr. John O’Brennan of NUI Maynooth,
  • Dr. Edel Hughes of UL
  • Professor Eddie Moxon-Browne of UL
  • Dr. Neophytos Loizides of Queen’s University, Belfast.

The event will be chaired by Mary Fitzgerald of the Irish Times. The conference is sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs ‘Communicating Europe’ programme and the Turkish embassy in Dublin.

The full timetable is here. Contact John(dot)obrennan(AT)nuim(dot)ie for more information.

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Re-Opening Lisbon

After reading this headline

MEPs set course to re-open Lisbon treaty

Queue lots of shouts of “nooooooooooooo” from me. It is a headline from the European Voice, about MEP’s on the constitutional affairs committee voting for an IGC on the Lisbon Treaty.

This is all about the extra 18 MEP’s that are to be elected under Lisbon Treaty Rules, but weren’t as the election was under Nice Treaty Rules. You get that?

So to add these MEPs we need to revise the treaties. This can be done two ways. Either a new Treaty, which will do more than just deal with the parliament, cause I know someone will want to change something else, or it can appended to the Croatian Accession Treaty.

If it is a seperate treaty it will probably mean yet another referendum here in Ireland and if its part of the accession treaty, it may not, but it will be for the courts to decide I think.

I wonder what will happen? Watch this space

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Where does Europe End? – The future challenges of EU Enlargement.

Where does Europe End, is one of the often asked questions when talking about the enlargement of the European Union.  With the current negotiations with Turkey progressing (albeit slowly) the next challenge will be where next? Will the accession of Turkey see Syria (Middle East) or Armenia (Western Asia) applying for membership?

That is of course dependent on Turkey being integrated into the EU’s structures as that itself will involve reform of the institutions. Turkey if its joins will be the second largest EU member state in terms of population, second only to that of Germany. This will mean that voting weights and seats in the European Parliament will have to be moved around to satisfy the older member states. The accession, or possible accession of, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Iceland, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, do not present the same challenges to the EU institutions and can easily be absorbed into the institutions, though maybe not all at once.

But after Turkey will the EU expand beyond the Balkans? Will the Ukraine or Belarus (both with large populations) apply to join? Belarus may be a long way off, but Ukraine may apply before negotiations with Turkey finish. Will the Europe Union start looking beyond Europe for members? Will Morocco reapply? Could Cape Verde, due to its close ties to the EU and proximity to the Canary Islands, apply?

These are the challenges that face the EU after it deals with the issue of Turkish accession. That is dependent of course on there being an appetite for the further expansion of the European Union. Older Member States seem reluctant to expand the EU further. Opposition to Turkish accession seems to be strongest in the likes of Germany and France. There is a quasi racism to this opposition, but also there is a weariness of expansion. This is evidenced by the fears of the “Plombier polonaise”, Polish Plumber, in France after the accession of Poland and the other Central and Eastern European States in 2004.

Beyond France the limits on the immigration of workers from Bulgaria and Romania after accession in most EU member states shows the unwillingness of member states to completely open up to new members of the union.  This shows the reluctance of member states to fully open up to new members. This in the future translate could translate to the end of enlargement of the European Union after the accession of the current candidate states.

The accession of more states from Eastern Europe and the Balkans will mean a further move of power away from Western Europe. Upon the accession of the Balkans, they will be a formidable Eastern European bloc within the EU. This will again see more changes being made to the institutions of the EU. Again the interplay here with Turkey on its accession with other member states and would it be more Eastern or Western in its outlook is what has most political leaders worried.

Another issue at stake is the feelings of ordinary European Citizens. While citizens of applicant states get a say in whether or not a country joins the EU, normally through referenda,  the citizens of countries already members have no say. There is growing resentment to this situation and this in turn fuels far rights groups as they promise referenda on future EU enlargement, often though this has been offered by not so far right groups in ordinary to entice voters back!

EU enlargement is turning into a minefield and the EU, member states and applicant states must be cautious on how they approach it.

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