- Title: BELGIUM/FILE: EU says Croatia near accession but more progress needed in Turkey
- Date: 10th November 2010
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (FILE) (REUTERS) MAN ARRIVING AT EUROPEAN COMMISSION EU LOGO
- Embargoed: 25th November 2010 12:00
- Location: Turkey, Croatia, Belgium, Iceland, Montenegro
- Country: Turkey Belgium Iceland Montenegro Croatia
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA946S9KR71NJNVWZN1J4OI4A6L
- Story Text: The European Union (EU) told Croatia that it was entering the final phase of the negotiations to join the 27-member bloc on Tuesday (November 9), but requested more efforts from Turkey, Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo or Albania.
It also recommended Montenegro be granted EU candidate status, but deferred opening talks with that country because of concerns over rule of law there. Also looking to join is Iceland.
The EU assesses the progresses of countries aspiring to join the bloc once a year.
The EU did not give Croatia a date for completing talks or joining the 27-member bloc because it wants the former Yugoslav state to provide more evidence that it is serious about fighting corruption and coming to terms with the legacy of war.
But EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele offered encouragement.
"Accession negotiation have reached the final phase and let me quote 'the Commission considers that negotiations should be concluded has met outstanding closing benchmarks in particular in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights including fight against corruption,'" he said.
Iceland, the last country to have opened negotiations to join the EU, was told it must inform its citizens about the meaning of belonging to the bloc.
Turkey's bid for membership has met resistance from powerful member states such as France and Germany and Fuele criticised the pace of reforms -- or rather the lack of it. Turkey has so far failed to comply with a 2005 deal -- known as the Ankara Protocol -- under which it was obliged to open its ports to Cyprus.
"No one can be satisfied with the current pace of negotiations and let me quote 'it is now urgent that Turkey fulfills its obligations of full, non discriminatory implementation of the additional protocol to the association agreement and makes progress towards normalisation of bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus,'" Fuele said.
The Commission postponed giving official candidate status to Albania and delayed starting talks with Montenegro. Both countries struggle with graft and organised crime.
"Negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened once the country has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria and in particular the Copenhagen political criteria requiring the stability of institutions guaranteeing notably democracy and the rule of law," Fuele said.
The report also praised Serbia for some improvement in relations with Kosovo, its former province, while reminding Belgrade that more cooperation with the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is needed if its membership bid is to move forward.
About a dozen states in Europe hope to become members of the wealthy 27-state bloc in the coming decades, but their success depends on extensive democratic and market reforms and on the EU's ability to shake off reluctance to grow.
Since admitting 12 mostly eastern European countries in the last decade, the EU has taken a slower approach to enlargement, shifting its focus to institutional reforms and efforts to solve its economic problems.
Growing eastward would allow the EU to develop better transport corridors for trade and energy whilst going south with Turkey could give the bloc more influence over the Middle East and the energy-rich Caucasus, and expand Europe's security eastwards.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
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