EU membership prospects of Albania and Kosovo July 26, 2010Posted by Yilan in Albania, EU, Kosovo.
Tags: Albania, EU, Kosovo
Albania has made progress on reform, but must do more to curb corruption, and all EU Member States should back a common approach to Kosovo, says the Foreign Affairs Committee in two resolutions, approved Wednesday, on these countries’ EU membership prospects. Provided the Copenhagen EU eligibility criteria are met, Parliament should back the eventual EU membership of all Western Balkan countries, it adds. Both resolutions are to be put to a plenary vote in July.
MEPs acknowledge Albania’s progress on reform, but stress the need for further substantial efforts to consolidate democracy and the rule of law and foster the country’s sustainable development, including a reform of the judicial system and the fight against corruption, which “is still a prevailing problem”, says a resolution drafted by Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL, EL).
The resolution also calls for a solution to the current political stalemate following the parliamentary elections of June 2009. It notes that “fully functioning institutions, especially the Parliament, are the backbone of a consolidated democratic system and (…) an important political criterion for EU integration”.
Reform of the judicial system
Another prerequisite for Albania’s joining the EU is judicial reform, including the enforcement of court decisions and ensuring the separation of powers in a democratic society. A transparent, impartial and efficient judiciary, independent of any political and other pressures or control, is fundamental to the rule of law, stress MEPs.
Towards visa-free travel for Albanian citizens
Albania’s initiatives to waive visa obligations for the EU neighbourhood countries are seen as a positive step that facilitates people-to-people contacts and enhances regional reconciliation. But these initiatives should be taken in parallel with the visa liberalisation process under way between the Schengen countries and countries of the region, say MEPs.
The European Commission proposed on 27 May 2010 that citizens of Albania (and Bosnia and Herzegovina) be permitted to travel with biometric passports to the Schengen countries without needing a visa. The proposal is conditional upon Albania’s remedying remaining shortcomings in reintegrating Albanian returnees and enforcing laws to combat organised crime and corruption. According to the European Commission, the monitoring exercise could take place over the summer, so that the Parliament and Council can take a final decision by the end of 2010.
The resolution was approved in the Foreign Affairs Committee with 59 votes in favour and one vote against.
MEPs “would welcome the recognition by all Member States of the independence of Kosovo”. Taking note of Kosovo’s declaration of independence of 18 February 2008, which has been recognised by 66 countries, the resolution states that “22 EU Member States have recognised Kosovo as an independent country and 5 have not”. To make EU policies more effective for everyone in Kosovo, EU Member States should “step up their common approach towards Kosovo”, says a resolution drafted by Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT) and approved with 45 votes in favour, 14 against and 2 abstentions.
Whilst acknowledging that officially recognising Kosovo is not currently a feasible political option for the Belgrade government, MEPs nonetheless call on Serbia to be pragmatic on the status issue and to refrain from blocking Kosovo’s membership of international organisations. The forthcoming advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence should not hinder all parties involved from clearly committing themselves to effective cross-border, regional and local co-operation in the best interest of the whole population in and around Kosovo, they add.
EU-Visa liberalisation prospects
MEPs call for practical steps to make the benefits of co-operating with the EU more tangible to Kosovo’s citizens, suggesting that Kosovo should also benefit from the prospect of eventual visa liberalisation, once all conditions are met. To this end, the Commission should communicate without delay to the Kosovo authorities the steps that need to be taken before preparing the visa liberalisation road map, they add.
Need for reform, especially to combat corruption
2010 is a crucial year both for the Kosovo government and for all levels of the administration to make progress on key reforms such as the fight against corruption and organized crime, decentralisation and public administration reform, stress MEPs, who are “extremely concerned by the widespread corruption, which remains one of the biggest problems in Kosovo together with organised crime”.
Another cause for concern is northern Kosovo, which suffers from severe shortcomings in the rule of law, increased pressure and intimidation of civil society by radical groups and from organised crime. The EU’s EULEX rule of law mission efforts should be stepped up in the north so as to foster good inter-ethnic relations, and inform the local population about EU action, say MEPs.
No to forceful repatriation
As Kosovo is not yet in a position to provide proper conditions for reintegrating forcefully repatriated Roma, MEPs urge EU Member States to stop repatriating them. The German and Kosovo authorities, for example, have agreed to repatriate 14,000 refugees to Kosovo, of whom about 10,000 are Roma, gradually.
Minority rights and education
Even where Kosovo has passed laws to protect human and minority rights, their implementation “remains unsatisfactory”, note MEPs. Minorities, in particular the Roma, are discriminated in “access to education, housing, social services and employment” says the draft resolution. MEPS call for more active policies to fight discrimination on all grounds (ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability and others).
The authorities should gradually introduce common classes, and the teaching of minority languages, particularly Serbian, to pupils of Albanian ethnicity, and of the Albanian language to all the minorities, since education provides not only skills needed to enter the labour market, but also contributes to the reconciliation among different ethnic groups, says the resolution.