Europa-Council conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process.

ENPNewswire-June 19, 2019--Europa-Council conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process

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Release date- 18062019 - Council conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process.

  1. The Council takes note of the Communication from the Commission of 29 May 2019 on the EU Enlargement Policy and the reports on Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo*.

  2. The Council reaffirms its commitment to enlargement, which remains a key policy of the European Union, in line with the renewed consensus on enlargement approved by the European Council on 14 and 15 December 2006 and subsequent Council conclusions. It continues to represent a strategic investment in peace, democracy, prosperity, security and stability in Europe. The Council reiterates that embracing and committing to core European values is a choice, and remains essential for all partners aspiring to EU membership. In line with this, the Council continues to expect partners to take ownership and fully commit to European values and the vigorous pursuit of necessary reforms in the interest of their people. Recalling the Thessaloniki Agenda and the Sofia Declaration, the Council reiterates the EU's unequivocal support to the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The EU is determined to strengthen and intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region's political, economic and social transformation, including through continued assistance, based on tangible progress on the rule of law, as well as on socio-economic reforms, by the Western Balkans. Turkey remains a candidate country and a key partner in many areas.

  3. In line with previous Council conclusions, and in the framework of the Copenhagen political criteria and of the Stabilisation and Association Process, which remains the common framework for relations with the Western Balkans, the Council reaffirms the need, in accordance with the renewed consensus on enlargement, for fair and rigorous conditionality and the principle of own merits. In this context, the Council stresses the importance of ensuring that the EU can maintain and deepen its own development, including its capacity to integrate new members.

  4. Taking note of the overall state of current reform efforts among partners, as reported by the Commission, the Council underlines the continued need to focus on fundamental reforms to address persisting structural shortcomings in the areas of rule of law, fundamental rights, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration reform, as well as economic development and competitiveness. A solid track record of reform implementation and concrete and tangible results in these crucial areas remain essential, in particular for the overall pace of the accession negotiations.

  5. The Council recalls that the rule of law is a fundamental value on which the EU is founded and which is at the heart of both the Enlargement Process and the Stabilisation and Association Process. Since only some partners have advanced in this crucial area, credible and sustainable progress remains one of the main challenges which needs to be addressed as a matter of priority, notably in ensuring an independent, impartial, accountable and efficient judiciary, and in the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as money laundering. Stepping up efforts in relation to the protection of fundamental rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, the implementation of commitments taken with respect to objective and free self-identification, the non-discriminatory treatment of national minorities, and tackling the discrimination of vulnerable groups such as the Roma and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons is also required. The right to property should also be ensured. The situation regarding the freedom of expression and the independence of media raises increasingly serious concerns, which need to be addressed in a determined and effective way as a matter of priority. The Council reiterates that urgent and concrete steps need to be taken to avoid intimidation of, threats to and attacks on journalists and other media actors, and to resolve such cases where they occur. Increased efforts are also required to ensure gender equality and respect for women's rights as well as the rights of children. Further progress on public administration reform, including depoliticisation and increased professionalism, is also essential for improving governance at all levels. The proper functioning and independence of democratic institutions, including enhanced parliamentary oversight, remains essential. The Council notes with concern the persistent tendencies to boycott parliaments, and reiterates that ensuring inclusive political dialogue, notably within parliaments, and a stronger role for civil society organisations remain essential elements of a well-functioning democracy. The Council reiterates the importance of free, fair and transparent elections in line with OSCE standards, as well as the need to fully implement OSCE recommendations.

  6. With regard to the economic criteria, the Council welcomes and shares the Commission's analysis of the need to improve macroeconomic, budgetary and structural policies. Noting that progress in these areas and progress in the rule of law and the judiciary system are linked, the Council encourages all partners to implement the measures included in the Joint Conclusions of the Economic and Financial Dialogue between the EU and the Western Balkans and Turkey of 17 May 2019, based on their respective Economic Reforms Programmes. It is of critical importance to ensure that foreign direct investments do not undermine socio-economic, environmental and financial sustainability, and that full transparency of all investments is guaranteed, in particular those involving public procurement procedures. Particular attention should be paid to the risk of excessive indebtedness and, in particular in the Western Balkans, to the transfer of control over strategic assets and resources. Accordingly, the Council expects the full implementation, in letter and spirit, of the Stabilisation and Association Agreements. The Council recalls that the EU remains by far the biggest trading partner of the Western Balkans and Turkey for both imports and exports. The Council reiterates the importance of tackling brain drain and of creating further opportunities and ensuring a positive perspective for youth. In this context, the Council welcomes the conference 'How to better respond to European aspirations of the young generation in Western Balkans?' held in Bucharest in May 2019.

  7. The Council strongly welcomes the historic Prespa Agreement, which represents a significant achievement, setting a positive example for the region and beyond. It commends the courage and determination of the parties involved.

    Good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation remain essential elements of the Enlargement Process, as well as of the Stabilisation and Association Process. The Council welcomes progress made and reiterates the importance of regional cooperation, in particular of connectivity within the region and with the EU. It also welcomes the Regional Roaming Agreement signed in Belgrade in April 2019, which will bring significant benefits to citizens and businesses in the region. The Council fully supports constructive initiatives and structures which reinforce inclusive regional cooperation, including EU macro-regional strategies. The Council calls for further efforts to overcome legacies of the past and to foster reconciliation, based on a climate of tolerance, inclusiveness and trust, and with strong involvement of civil society. Efforts in the area of missing persons should be stepped up. Statements and actions which negatively impact on good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes, must be avoided. Decisive efforts and the strongest political determination remain needed to ensure that outstanding bilateral disputes are solved. The Council recalls the importance of implementing bilateral agreements, including the Prespa Agreement and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria.

    The Council continues to reiterate the importance of effectively handling domestic war crimes cases without discrimination, addressing impunity and ensuring accountability, including through meaningful regional cooperation and full cooperation with and support to the work of the...

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