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Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

06.11.10: Albania and Bosnia to get visa-free travel before Christmas - 0 views

  • EU interior ministers are on Monday (8 November) expected to lift visa requirements for Albanian and Bosnian citizens despite limited progress in terms of democracy, the fight against organised crime and corruption in the two countries.
  • To Bosnians and Albanians, the news is sweet after they were left behind last year when Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro got on the visa-free list. Kosovo, on the other hand, has little prospect of catching up as it is not even recognised by all EU member states. On the EU side, some capitals are unhappy about the developments. The Netherlands is opposing the move, saying there has been too little progress in terms of democratisation, organised crime and corruption in Albania and Bosnia and pointing to the political chaos in both countries. France is also reluctant, fearing a massive influx of migrants. The EU commission has given reassurances that Tirana and Sarajevo will make it clear that visa-free travel is not a ticket to asylum or residence in the EU after problems with Macedonian asylum seekers last year. But even if France or the Netherlands votes No or abstain on Monday, the decision will be adopted by qualified majority. The commission itself shares Dutch concerns. In the 2010 accession progress reports on the two countries, to be published on Tuesday and seen by EUobserver, neither Albania nor Bosnia win much praise. "Bosnia and Herzegovina has made limited progress in addressing key reforms. Incompatibilities between the Bosnian constitution and the EU convention on human rights were not removed, despite the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights," the document says. It also criticises Bosnia for lacking "a shared vision by the leaders on the overall direction of the country and on key EU-related reforms." On Albania, it says the political stalemate after 2009 elections is the biggest obstacle to progress. It adds that Albania has made too little headway to be granted the status of EU candidate country, for which it applied in 2009. "Activities of organised crime groups in Albania, having impact outside of the country, remain an issue of serious concern. Further strenghtening of co-operation at the international level is necessary, including in particular with neighbouring countries," it says.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

26.10.10: Serbia rushes to launch accession talks - 0 views

  • The EU moved closer to starting accession talks with Serbia yesterday (25 October) after overcoming long-standing opposition from the Dutch government. Belgrade said a "new era" in its history had begun. BETA, EurActiv's partner in Serbia, contributed to this article.
  • Meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers found a formula to unblock the launch of accession talks with Serbia. The diplomatic jargon adopted accommodates the Netherlands' demand that any further step in Serbia's EU accession must be conditional on Belgrade's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The move became possible after Belgrade agreed to engage in talks with Kosovo, its former province, whose declaration of independence in 2008 Serbia does not recognise. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said he was satisfied that the compromise text had put "pressure" on Serbia to fully cooperate with the ICTY. Steven Vanackere, Belgium's foreign minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, praised the "good balance" of the text. In fact, Belgium made a huge contribution to successfully reaching the compromise. It had to step aside from its own national position as its duty at the EU’s helm is to seek a common position. Jean de Ruyt, Belgium's EU ambassador, told EurActiv that his country's stance on the need for full cooperation with ICTY mirrored the Dutch view.
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.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

23.06.10: Belgium to move quietly on EU enlargement policy - 0 views

  • The upcoming Belgian EU Presidency has not specifically cited enlargement among its top priorities but is widely expected to help Croatia and Iceland reach important milestones in their accession bids over the next six months.
  • Croatia is expected to conclude its EU accession negotiations during the Belgian EU Presidency, while Iceland will formally start membership talks, political analysts told EurActiv. Although officially Belgium is being "discrete" as to its intentions (see 'Background'), Croatia can expect to finalise membership talks during Belgian Presidency, which starts on 1 July, according to Piotr Maciej Kaczyński of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

15.06.09: Croatia's EU talks to resume after long dispute - 0 views

  • Slovenia is expected to unblock Croatia's EU accession talks at a ministerial meeting today (15 June). The two countries have clashed for several months over disputed territories on the Adriatic coast.
  • Background: During the French EU Presidency, Slovenia blocked the opening of nine out of ten negotiating chapters with Zagreb due to an unresolved border dispute (EurActiv 18/12/08).  The Czech Presidency has so far failed to make any progress in the negotiations. Indeed, the EU recently postponed an accession conference after the two countries had failed to show any sign of conciliation (EurActiv 24/04/09).  Diplomats have serious doubts about the viability of Croatia's objective of wrapping up accession talks by the end of the year (so as to be ready to join the bloc in 2010) if the bilateral dispute is not resolved soon (see EurActiv LinksDossier on 'EU-Croatia' relations).  The border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia concerns small pockets of land along the Adriatic coast, which could prove important if accompanied by exclusive access rights to deep-sea zones. 
  • However, this may not be the end of the region's problems, as similar obstacles are expected to emerge in the Western Balkan accession process as a whole, diplomats told EurActiv.  EU diplomats said the lack of a clearly defined border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina could soon create problems "one hundred times worse" than the current dispute between Ljubljana and Zagreb, in which the European Commission has invested a huge mediation effort. 
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  • The Netherlands and Belgium are blocking the ratification of the EU's Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia as long as Mladic is at large. Diplomats say that imposing such conditions makes it difficult for the reformist government in Belgrade to withstand the surge of nationalist and anti-European forces. 
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

19.02.09: "Montenegrin EU application blocked" - 0 views

  • PODGORICA -- Montenegro's application for EU candidate status has been blocked in the EU Council of Ministers, Podgorica-based daily Vijesti reports on Thursday. This took place before the European Commission even presented its opinion on the country's readiness to gain candidate status. Referring to information published by the EU press agency, Agence Europe, the daily says that several member states within the Enlargement Working Group, above all Holland, Spain, France and Belgium, object to the issue being shifted to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), and then to the Council of Ministers.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

23.04.08: Dutch urged to clear path for Serbia EU agreement - 0 views

  • According to EU diplomats, the Netherlands is under pressure from other EU countries to drop its opposition to the signing of a pre-accession Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia, in a bid to boost the pro-European camp ahead of the parliamentary elections on 11 May.
  • The Netherlands objects to signing the SAA with Serbia if Belgrade does not "fully cooperate" with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The conditions include the handover of General Ratko Mladic and former political leader Radovan Karadzic to the Hague tribunal of war criminals. Serbia denies both men are on its territory. 
  • The Dutch position can be partly explained by the fact the country is hosting the ICTY. But it is also due to bad memories from the recent past. The Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995, when an estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by the army of Republika Srpska and other paramilitary units, took place despite the presence of 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers in the area.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

01.04.08: Serbia says it remains committed to European perspective - 0 views

  • Despite its steady opposition to the EU's policy on Kosovo, the largest country in the Balkans will continue its move towards EU membership, Serbia's foreign minister Vuc Jeremic told his EU counterparts at their informal meeting in Brdo last weekend (28-29 March).
  • Much will depend on the forthcoming elections in Serbia on 11 May, he added, describing them as "a critical battle for the European souls of the Western Balkans". 
  • Underlining his country's EU commitment, Jeremic said that the Serbian government was ready to sign the SAA "immediately" and continue moving forward rapidly. This step, in addition to an agreement over a road map for the adoption of a visa-free regime, could help counter Serbian concerns fostered by uncertainty over Kosovo, Jeremic suggested.  The Netherlands and Belgium remain opposed to signing an SAA with Serbia before it hands over the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic to the court in The Hague.  Jeremic said that "we are very much aware of our obligations to the ICTY," adding that "the only way we'll be able to finish what we started […] is to keep building Serbia's road to Europe".
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  • European Union Presidency: EU Foreign Ministers Discuss the Western Balkans (29 March 2008) Presidency: Brdo Presidency Statement: New focus on the Western Balkans (29 March 2008) Commission: Communication on the Western Balkans (5 March 2008) Commission: EU-Serbia relations Commission: Strategy and Progress Reports 2007 Commission: Key findings of the progress reports on Kosovo and the potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia (06 November 2007
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