BRUSSELS – The reforms across the region, especially in the rule of law, need to be implemented more vigorously and to produce sustainable results, it was a message spread by the EU ambassadors to the countries of the Western Balkans after the European Commission (EC) published 2019 Enlargement Package on Wednesday.
The package contains the Reports in which the Commission present their detailed assessment of the state of play in each candidate country and potential candidate, what has been achieved over the last year, and set out guidelines on reform priorities.
The EC once again recommended opening membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia on Wednesday, as announced by Commissioner Johannes Hahn during the presentation of the 2019 Enlargement Package to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).
“Albania has moved reforms forward, especially a major transformation of the justice system, including an unprecedented reassessment process for judges and prosecutors,” said Hahn.
This was also confirmed by EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca later that day when he officially presented the Country Report to Prime Minister Edi Rama and to President Ilir Meta.
“The assessment of the European Commission is that Albania has delivered significant progress in the areas set by the Council in June 2018. On that basis of such significant progress, the Commission, therefore, recommends that the Council opens accession negotiations with Albania now and without any conditionality,” said Soreca.
He also explained that the next three weeks will be crucial when the Member States will assess the progress made on the basis of the annual report.
The green light by the Commission was also given to North Macedonia, who was, too, praised for tremendous progress made during since the last country report.
“I congratulate you on your efforts and your dedication, but also the sacrifices you made in the past period,” said EU Ambassador to North Macedonia Samuel Žbogar.
The country, as he said, met all the conditions and noted results in several areas: the rule of law, the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime, public administration reform and public administration reform.
“The country should continue to deliver visible results in key areas,“ said Žbogar after handing over the European Commission Report to President Stevo Pendarovski, adding that now when the progress has been made, the efforts to improve in these areas should be permanent.
As for the countries that have already started negotiations, Serbia and Montenegro, it is said that they need to strengthen the rule of law.
The EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi said reforms in the field of rule of law must be improved if Serbia wants to keep balance in the process of accession, after he presented the Country Report to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.
“There is progress in some areas, but Serbia needs to be more determined. A large part of the report speaks of encouraging the inter-party dialogue in order for parliament to exercise oversight function,” Fabrizi said, emphaising there is no progress in the field of freedom of expression.
On the other hand, EU Ambassador to Montenegro Aivo Orav did not want to go into the details of the report, nor to answer the press questions, stating that, it takes time for the report to be analysed.
“Montenegro does not expect and does not want the EU to turn a blind eye to it or to be admitted to the EU before it fully meets all the necessary conditions for full membership. We responsibly accept the work that is ahead of us and we also expect that our efforts and results will be recognised and confirmed in a timely manner,” said the Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Zoran Pažin at the official presentation of the report.
When it comes to Kosovo, the EU Ambassador Nataliya Apostolova said there are no shortcuts on the way to the EU and that significant gaps remain.
She mentioned that, unfortunately, the report reflects on the continued challenges the country faces and it also reflects on those decisions which undermine the overall coherence and effectiveness of the reform path Kosovo has chosen.
Aside from some progress made in the rule of law and fight against corruption, the EU Ambassador pointed out that now is the time to commit to reforms.
“Now is the time to deliver tangible results by implementing adopted laws and following through on reforms in practice to ensure an effective judiciary, effective fight against corruption and organised crime, efficient public administration and a stronger economy,” said Apostolova after the meeting with Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj and Minister of EU Integration of Kosovo Dhurata Hoxha.
This year the European Commission published the Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership. The EU Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Lars-Gunnar Wigemark explained that this opinion for the first time provides a comprehensive road map for BiH to join the European Union.
“It confirms that BiH could join the European Union and outlines the steps necessary to open up negotiations for accession. The EU stands ready to support BiH to make this happen,” said Wigemark, pointing out that for BiH to meet the political and economic criteria necessary for EU membership a clear commitment and willingness to undertake fundamental change at all levels of society is required.