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EU Envisions Expansion: Endorses Negotiations with Eastern Partners

The European Commission has unveiled its Enlargement Package for 2023, marking a significant step for several countries on their journey towards joining the European Union. 

The comprehensive report assesses the current status and progress of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and for the first time includes an evaluation of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia.

A key focus of the report is the execution of fundamental reforms and the provision of explicit guidance on the reform priorities for the aspiring member countries. The EU Delegation in Serbia highlighted that accession remains a results-driven process, wholly dependent on the objective achievements of each nation.

The report notes Serbia’s continued efforts to implement reforms in alignment with EU accession, especially concerning the rule of law. It mentions Serbia’s enactment of constitutional changes in 2022 aimed at fortifying the independence of the judiciary, along with the adoption of a new media law poised to improve the regulatory landscape significantly. However, the report calls for further amendments to fully align with EU standards and acquis.

Ursula Von der Leyen

A particular emphasis for Serbia is the need to align more closely with the EU’s common foreign and security policy, including its stance on Russia. The Commission has credited Serbia with meeting the technical criteria for opening Cluster 3 negotiations, which covers competitiveness and inclusive growth. Serbia is also urged to ensure cooperation and take necessary actions to ascertain accountability for the violent incidents against Kosovo’s police and KFOR troops.

Emanuele Giaufret, the EU’s Ambassador to Serbia, conveyed the report’s significance to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, underlining the historic nature of this year’s package. The Commission has put forth recommendations for opening negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova under set conditions and for assigning candidate status to Georgia in line with the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans.

In response to the strides made by Ukraine and Moldova, and their reform endeavours, the Commission has recommended that the Council begin accession negotiations. Moreover, it is prepared to inform the Council by March 2024 of any progress concerning the requisite measures.

For Georgia, given its progress, the Commission advises the Council to extend candidate status conditional on specific further steps.

Bosnia and Herzegovina are recommended to start accession talks contingent on achieving sufficient alignment with membership criteria. The nation is called to continue efforts to address the key priorities from the Commission’s 2019 Opinion on its membership application, with an update on progress expected by March 2024.

The Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen remarked on the strategic and mutually beneficial nature of the enlargement policy, describing the completion of the Union as an intrinsic goal for the EU, beneficial both economically and geopolitically.

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