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Prospects for countries hoping to join EU-FACTBOX February 17, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Stefan Fuele, who is expected to become the European Union’s enlargement commissioner, has reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to taking in new members during parliamentary hearings.

But most countries hoping to join the 27-country bloc face a long wait. Below are brief portraits of countries looking to join the European Union, the progress they have made so far in their bids and the challenges they face.

ALBANIA

Albania applied for candidate status in April 2009. It will be able to start full membership talks only once the European Commission has assessed its readiness, a process which can take years. The former communist country is likely to have to carry out sweeping reform of its judiciary and political administration to make progress.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Bosnia signed its Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in June 2008, the first step towards entry. But any hopes of joining the EU are on hold as long as ethnic and political divisions prevent meaningful reforms in Bosnia.

EU diplomats say talks can start only when Bosnia ceases to be supervised by an international peace envoy. That situation is unlikely to change while the threat of violence remains between Bosnia’s Muslim population and Orthodox Serbs.

CROATIA

Croatia hopes to conclude negotiations with the EU in 2010 and join the bloc in 2012. But it must do more to tackle corruption and organised crime, strengthen the judicial system and cut state subsidies to loss-making industries.

Zagreb must also prove it is cooperating fully with the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which has requested documents that Croatia has not yet provided. Its membership bid has also been held up by a border dispute with Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic that is now in the EU.

ICELAND

Iceland expects to be able to start formal entry negotiations early this year. It applied to join in 2009 after the collapse of its banking system devastated the economy.

It is the best-prepared among the hopefuls but its entry bid could face resistance from Britain and the Netherlands if it fails to repay debts linked to the financial crisis. It also faces tough negotiations over fishing quotas.

KOSOVO

In May 2009, Kosovo signed an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) with the EU. This gave it access to 60 million euros ($84.24 million) for projects that would help it prepare a membership application.

Kosovo needs to strengthen its judiciary and do far more to fight organised crime and graft. The United States and more than 60 other countries have recognised Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia but some EU member states, including EU president Spain, have not. Serbia opposes Kosovo’s independence.

MACEDONIA

Skopje is waiting to start accession negotiations after the European Commission last year recommended the start of talks, five years after Macedonia applied for membership. Its bid may be delayed because of a dispute with Greece over the name Macedonia, which is also the name of a northern Greek province. This dispute has prevented the country joining NATO.

MONTENEGRO

Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic, filed its EU membership application in December. The EU Council of Ministers has yet to decide whether to accept it and open negotiations. It needs to show progress in fighting organised crime and corruption.

SERBIA

Serbia applied for EU membership in December, after years of delays because of slow reforms and conflict. Its membership hopes hinge largely on success in catching people suspected of atrocities in the wars fought in the 1990s following the collapse of Yugoslavia.

TURKEY

Ankara started EU entry negotiations in 2005 but talks are suspended in several policy areas because of Turkey’s failure to open its ports and airports to EU-member Cyprus.

Its membership is a divisive issue in Europe. Critics say cultural differences with the predominantly Muslim state will hamper integration. Turkey also has to introduce economic and political reforms and improve its human rights record.

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