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Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

29.06.10 Belgium to take merit-based approach to EU enlargement - 0 views

  • Although Belgium is among the most cautious in the European Union when it comes to enlargement, there is a good chance that its forthcoming EU Presidency will be particularly productive in this policy area. At their presentation of the upcoming Belgian presidency's priorities last Friday, Yves Leterme, Belgium's caretaker prime minister and its foreign minister, Steven Vanackere, sounded much like their colleagues from the Netherlands - and not just because they spoke Dutch. The Belgian approach to enlargement is similar to the stance in the Hague: no promises, no dates, just "strict and fair" rules.
  • The next six months could mark important progress for the Western Balkan countries despite Belgium's cautious line. Croatia could close all but one of the negotiation chapters. Macedonia is close to getting a date for the opening of accession negotiations with the EU. Montenegro can count on a positive "avis" (opinion) from the European Commission for its candidate status. The Serbian application could be forwarded to the EU commission for an opinion on Serbia's readiness to become a candidate as well. Kosovo might receive some kind of a roadmap for its Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania can hope for visa liberalisation before the end of the year. Croatia is well-placed to close all its negotiation chapters, with the exception of the famous No. 23 on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, which will remain to be concluded during the Hungarian Presidency in the first half of 2011. Still, problems could emerge with othe chapters, for example competition. Macedonia is close to finding a win-win solution to its name dispute with Greece. Talking to WAZ.EUobserver, EU diplomats in Brussels expressed cautious optimism that the name problem could be solved in the next months. This would allow the EU finally to set the date that Skopje has been waiting for since 2005 - for formal negotiations to start on Macedonia's entry into the EU.
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