Annual EU enlargement package presented

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The EU's Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Füle, has denied that expansion of the EU is merely a "box-ticking exercise for the Commission".

Presenting the annual enlargement package on 16 October 2013, he said the previous year had been a "good year" for EU enlargement, with Croatia joining the EU, and Serbia paving the way towards joining.

He said that despite the EU's economic problems, "[enlargement] strengthens political and economic stability in the aspiring countries and the EU as a whole."

The annual enlargement contains a formal recommendation from the Commission to grant candidate status to Albania.

For the fifth time in a row, the Commission has urged the opening of accession talks with Macedonia. These have continually been blocked by the Greek government, as the country says that the name "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim on the ancient areas of Macedonia, part of which is in modern-day Greece. Therefore the country is officially known under its interim title of "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

The key findings of Mr Füle's report are as follows:

  • Albania: The Commission recommends granting candidate status, but formal membership talks may not begin until more action is taken to tackle corruption and organised crime
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina: remains a potential candidate, but results achieved by the country's government in carrying out reforms remain "below expectations" and relations with the EU are currently "at a standstill"
  • Iceland: it is still a formal candidate country, but the newly elected government put membership talks on hold in May 2013
  • Kosovo: a potential candidate, but its independence is still not formally recognised by some EU countries. Negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU are expected to start shortly
  • FYR Macedonia: it remains a candidate country, and the Commission has repeated its call for the fifth year in a row for membership talks to begin
  • Montenegro: formal membership talks are ongoing and the Commission has given a "positive assessment" to the current state of negotiations.
  • Serbia: membership talks are expected to begin during 2014, following the signing of an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo earlier in the year. There is praise for the "reinvigoration" of the momentum of political reform
  • Turkey: despite having applied for membership in 1987, and with talks ongoing since 2005, progress remains slow, with only one negotiating chapter currently closed so far.

The individual progress reports will be debated and voted on by the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in the coming months.

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