The European Commission has reiterated its assessment that Albania and North Macedonia meet the requirements to open accession negotiations, adding that Serbia is ready to open two new clusters, while Bosnia and Herzegovina has made only slight progress in meeting the EU membership criteria, Croatian state agency Hina said late on Tuesday.
The Commission on Tuesday adopted its 2021 Enlargement Package, including progress reports on six Western Balkan countries and Turkey.
Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said that North Macedonia and Albania met all the conditions to open accession negotiations, expressing hope that member states would give the green light before the end of this year.
The two countries received the same opinion last year, but there was no agreement among member states, which need to approve each step in the accession process unanimously. First, France demanded a new methodology in the negotiating process, which was put in place last year, and then Bulgaria blocked North Macedonia’s path over issues that affect the national identity of the Macedonians. The Commission is trying to mediate between Sofia and Skopje, but so far without success.
Montenegro and Serbia agreed to the new methodology, under which 35 negotiating chapters are no longer opened individually but are grouped in six thematic clusters. Negotiations on each cluster are opened or closed as a whole, after the opening benchmarks have been fulfilled. Progress depends on progress in the first, key cluster, which includes the chapters judiciary and fundamental rights; justice, freedom and security; financial control; public procurement; and statistics. This cluster is opened first and closed last. The other clusters are internal market; competitiveness and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources, agriculture and cohesion; and external relations.
Serbia has fulfilled the benchmarks for opening clusters 3 and 4 – competitiveness and inclusive growth, and green agenda and sustainable connectivity. It has so far opened negotiations in 18 chapters, but closed only two.
Montenegro has opened all the chapters, but has temporarily closed only three.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is still violating the European Convention on Human Rights because it has failed to implement the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdic-Finci case. The court has found that the country’s electoral law is discriminating because members of ethnic minorities are not allowed to run in elections for the state presidency. Bosnia and Herzegovina has also failed to implement the Constitutional Court rulings relating to the representation of the constituent peoples.
“Inclusive process of electoral reform, through genuine dialogue and in line with European standards that would eliminate all forms of inequality and discrimination in the electoral process, is paramount,” the report said.
All six Western Balkan countries were called upon to make progress in implementing reforms, in particular with regard to the rule of law, media freedom, fight against corruption and organized crime.
Turkey, which opened accession negotiations together with Croatia in October 2005, again received the worst progress report. The country has been moving away from the EU for years and its accession negotiations are at a complete standstill.