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Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

04.11.10: A first look at the European Commission progress reports on enlargement due t... - 0 views

  • "The EU's enlargement process has gained new momentum since the [European] Commission adopted its last progress reports, notwithstanding the many other challenges the Union faces."

    These are the opening words of the European Commission's Enlargement Strategy, which will be officially presented next Wednesday (10 November) together with the progress reports for the Western Balkan counties, Turkey and Iceland. WAZ.EUobserver has seen the report in advance.

  • "All need to focus on good governance, improving the rule of law, speeding up economic reform and improving their capacity to adopt and implement the acquis. Several complex problems remain, including the governance of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the name question concerning the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Open bilateral issues remain and differences over Kosovo's status have held up regional co-operation," the strategy underlines.
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

16.04.10: Albania pushes for EU talks despite political deadlock at home - 0 views

  • In an interview with WAZ before meeting Mr Berisha, Mr Füle made it clear that the country needs to improve the functioning of its political system.He suggested that the commission might have additional questions once it studies the current answers.

    "There are issues- and one particular - that makes the whole process more difficult and it is the stability of political institutions in Albania," Mr Fule said."I visited recently Albania and expressed deep concerns about the parliament still not being able to play fully its role."

    The centerpiece of the commission's opinion will be Albania's compliance with the so-called Copenhagen criteria, which make a country eligible to join the EU. These criteria include having institutions to preserve democratic governance and human rights, a functioning market economy, and readiness to meet the obligations of EU membership. Member states, which have the final say on the issue, differ on the Albania's readiness.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

15.04.10: EU Commissioner concerned about Albania's political deadlock - 0 views

  • Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha delivered in Brussels a copy of his country's completed European Union pre-accession questionnaire, and faced criticism over the country's deadlocked political situation from the EU enlargement commissioner, the Balkan Insight Web site reported Thursday.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

15.04.10: Albanian PM pleads case for EU accession in Brussels - 0 views

  • On a visit to Brussels yesterday (14 April), Berisha delivered the answers to an EU questionnaire about the country's readiness to join the European Union (EurActiv 17/12/09).

    Berisha has been at the centre of Albania's political life for the last twenty years, first as president, then as leader of the opposition and now as prime minister, a position to which he was re-elected in 2009.

    Speaking at an event in the European Parliament organised by the Robert Schuman Foundation, Berisha pleaded the case for his country's EU accession and provided numerous examples of tough measures to crack down on organised crime and corruption.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

22.03.10: EU plays it tough on Western Balkans - 1 views

  • Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle deliberately left early from a regional summit in Slovenia this weekend, signalling that the European Commission's patience with the Western Balkans has its limits.
  • On a visit to Albania, Füle used unusually tough language, warning Tirana that a prolonged political stalemate would harm the country's EU accession prospects
  • From Tirana, Füle went to Brdo pri Kranju, a resort in Slovenia, to attend – and make an early departure – from a regional conference on the European future of the Western Balkans.

    The conference was boycotted by Serbian President Boris Tadić due to the presence of Kosovo Prime Minister Hasim Thaçi. Belgrade had warned it would only attend international conferences where Kosovo is represented under its UNMIK heading, as the country was a UN protectorate before unilaterally declaring independence in February 2008 (EurActiv 08/03/10).

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

2,280 questions asked about Albania's EU readiness - 0 views

  • Albania on Wednesday (16 December) took another step towards EU membership when the European Commission sent Tirana a voluminous questionnaire about its readiness to join the bloc.
  • Helmuth Lohan, head of the EU mission in Tirana, handed the questionnaire – a 384-page document with 2,280 questions – to Prime Minister Sali Berisha, the EU Delegation in Albania announced on its website. 
  • "The questionnaire attaches particular importance to the 'Copenhagen political criteria' for EU accession. Good governance, the rule of law, judiciary reform, the fight against corruption, media freedom – these are all key issues which will form the core of our assessment," read a statement from the EU delegation. 
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  • Although Albania has changed enormously since the Communist period, when it was a unique case of autarchy vis-à-vis not only the West, but also the rest of the Communist bloc except China, it still remains a poor country. A recently published Eurostat survey puts Albania at the very bottom in Europe in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per inhabitant, expressed in purchasing power standards. 

    With an EU-27 average of 100, Albania comes last with 26% of this indicator. Another candidate country, Croatia, stands much higher with 63%, a rate similar to that of EU member Hungary, at 64%. Turkey stands at 46%, which is higher that the rate of EU member Bulgaria (41%). 

    Iceland, the Nordic EU hopeful, stands above the EU average, at 121% - higher than Sweden, which has 120%. The highest wealth per habitant is registered in Luxembourg, with 276%, followed by Ireland, a long way behind with 135%. 

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

13.11.09: The pace picks up on EU enlargement into the Balkans - 0 views

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    The pace picks up on EU enlargement into the Balkans
    November 13, 2009 3:59pm

    Enlargement of the European Union is, almost imperceptibly, moving forward once more.  EU foreign ministers are expected next week to forward Albania’s membership application to the European Commission for an opinion.  This is a necessary technical step on the path to entry - small, but important.
    The Commission is already preparing opinions on the applications of Iceland and Montenegro.  The opinions will take quite some time to deliver - longer for Albania and Montenegro than for Iceland - but the machinery is now in motion.
    There are signs of progress elsewhere, too.  For a long time Serbia’s efforts to draw closer to the EU have been held back by the refusal of the Netherlands to permit implementation of Serbia’s EU stabilisation and association agreement.  The Dutch insist that Serge Brammertz, the chief United Nations war crimes prosecutor, must first of all declare that Serbia is fully complying with its efforts to capture war crimes suspects - principally, Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander.
    Brammertz is due to hand his latest report to the UN Security Council in early December, and the Serbian government appears confident that it will be positive.  That would remove the Dutch veto and allow Serbia to make a formal application for EU membership.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

12.11.09: EU greenlights start of Albania accession talks - 0 views

  • EU countries have agreed to proceed with Albania's application for membership of the European Union, a first step in a long process towards possible membership of the bloc, EU diplomats said.
  • Background:

    Albania applied for EU membership in April 2009. In July, the EU Council stated that it would return to the country's application once the Albanian election procedure had been completed. Ever since the June national elections, the two main players, the governing Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the Socialist party and main challenger Edi Rama have kept on accusing each other of fraud (EurActiv 30/06/09). 

    In its latest report on Albania, the European Commission stressed that Tirana needs to make progress, particularly on the rule of law and the fight against corruption, as well as the proper functioning of state institutions ( EurActiv 15/10/09). 

  • Ambassadors from the 27 EU states decided at a meeting in Brussels to ask the European Commission to prepare an assessment of Albania's readiness to start membership talks, the diplomats said. 

    The decision is expected to be formally approved by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on 16 and 17 November. 

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

25.07.09: EU's visa-freedom dividing Balkans - 0 views

  • The “European perspective” is key concept for integrating western Balkans into EU. The main carrot for ordinary people during this millennium has been visa-free travel after some 17 years of isolation. On 15th July 2009, the European Commission submitted its proposal on visa-free travel for citizens of Western Balkans countries. After a non-binding opinion of the European parliament on the EC proposal the Council comprising EU interior ministers will take the official vote and at best case free travel to Schengen area could be possible January 2010.

    But not for all! European perspective will be true only for some when visa ban still will be existing for some countries or even to some ethnic groups inside a country. Instead of connecting people of western Balkans with western Europe the EC proposal will divide again people according their nationality or location. From EU’s side the reason for division is seen technical related to common standards; from western Balkan’s perspective the reasons for division can be seen political or even related to religion.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

29.04.09: Albania files EU membership application - 0 views

  • Albania formally applied to join the European Union yesterday (28 April), embarking on a lengthy path toward membership of the bloc, which is still digesting past enlargements and finds itself engulfed by economic crisis at present.
  • Background:

    Applications for EU membership are usually filed in coordination between the applicant country and the European Commission. Besides Albania, the only countries in the Western Balkans who have yet to file membership applications are Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kosovo, which declared independence in February 2008, is a special case, as it has not been recognised by all EU countries. 

    Last December, Montenegro surprisingly filed a formal application for EU membership during the final days of the French EU Presidency, despite the fact that the subsequent Czech Presidency is more supportive of the Balkan country's accession bid (EurActiv 16/12/08). Montenegro's move was widely expected to encourage Serbia and Albania to follow suit by formally applying for EU membership too. 

    Taking advantage of the pro-enlargement Czech EU Presidency, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced last month that his country would present its European Union membership application before the end of June (EurActiv 10/03/09). 

    In an exclusive interview with EurActiv, Erhard Busek, special enlargement adviser to the Czech EU Presidency, recently confirmed that Tirana was preparing to file its application (EurActiv 17/04/09). 

    Albania is one of Europe's poorest countries, and faces an uphill struggle to join the EU. Brussels remains unconvinced of the West Balkan country's democratic credentials. 

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

11.03.09: Albania to formally apply for EU membership - 0 views

  • Taking advantage of the pro-enlargement Czech EU Presidency, Albania will present its European Union membership application before the end of June, the country's prime minister, Sali Berisha, announced on Sunday (8 March).
  • Berisha's decision to file an EU membership application is seen in Brussels as a pre-electoral trick. Albania's political class also hopes to benefit from NATO opening its doors to the former communist country at the alliance's summit on 3-4 April. Croatia is expected to join NATO at the same time. 
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

09.02.09: What's up in West-Balkans 2009 - 0 views

  • A lot of interesting marches of progress will take or not take place in West Balkans during 2009. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of developments at least in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia (including Kosovo) where the most interesting events will occur, I suppose. The today’s topics are mostly related to historical past of the region, its different approaches towards EU, its role as playground of international politics and its various domestic tensions. Here I shortly describe few of these issues and their background. 
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

15.12.08: Albania Govt in "Communist Files" Row - 0 views

  • Albania’s right-wing coalition is expected to back a law on the cleanliness of high administration figures, which has come under harsh criticism by the opposition and interest groups.

    The draft-law would dismiss from office judges and prosecutors that worked during Albania’s half-a-century-long period of communist rule, led by former Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha.

    The Albanian opposition has slammed the law as unconstitutional and claims that the government is aiming to get rid of the prosecutors that are investigating high profile corruption cases.
  • Experts argue that the drafting of the law is problematic because according to the Albanian constitution, to dismiss a supreme court judge, a simple majority is not enough, but two-thirds of parliamentary votes.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

18.11.08: Only a third of Croats enthusiastic for EU membership - 0 views

  • Citizens from the western Balkans have mixed feelings regarding their countries' EU future, with Kosovars and Albanians being particularly optimistic, but barely a third of Croats consider EU accession to be "a good thing," a new survey has shown.

    While those living in Kosovo and Albania back their countries' EU integration almost unanimously (89% and 83% respectively), only 29 percent of Croats think Zagreb's EU membership would be beneficial, while 26 percent say it would be a bad thing, according to a Gallup survey presented in Brussels on Monday (17 November).

  • The Gallup survey also looked into the western Balkan citizens' general perception of their lives, economic situation, relations to the neighbouring countries, or their attitudes towards their respective governments.

    It also asked respondents about their views on international institutions and organisations – such as the International Crime Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), with which most countries of the region have to fully cooperate in order to be let into the EU.

    People in the different countries were divided on the issue, with a majority of Albanians (69%) and Kosovars (68%) saying the tribunal was helping reconciliation and strengthening peace in the region.

    A majority of Macedonians (52%), Croats (53%) and especially Serbs (64%) disagreed however, and thought that not only did the ICTY not serve the interest of the region, but it was simply fuelling past conflicts.

    Only a third of Croats enthusiastic for EU membership
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

06.11.08: Western Balkans still way off EU entry criteria - 0 views

  • EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn made clear yesterday (5 November) that Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Kosovo, are still a long way away from getting clear persprectives of EU accession.
  • In spite of the EU executive's insistence that its assessments are based on objective criteria, the countries in the region are increasingly aware that enlargement is no longer fashionable in the EU, especially in the context of the current financial crisis and uncertainty following the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by Ireland. 

    European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said on Tuesday that "perhaps with the exception of Croatia," no enlargement was possible without the Lisbon Treaty. This statement contradicts strong views, expressed repeatedly by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, that no enlargement whatsoever was possible before the Lisbon Treaty comes into force (EurActiv 20/06/08). In fact, the Nice Treaty provides institutional arrangements for only 27 member states, but some countries believe that it may be possible to find a compromise to accommodate Croatia. 

  • Links

    European Union

    European Commission: Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009

    European Commission: Key findings of the progress reports on the candidate countries: Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

    European Commission: Key findings of the progress reports on Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo

    European Commission: 2009 the year of the Western Balkans

    European Commission: Croatia 2008 Progress report

    European Commission: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2008 Progress report

    European Commission: Albania 2008 Progress report

    European Commission: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2008 Progress report

    European Commission: Montenegro 2008 Progress report

    European Commission: Serbia 2008 Progress report

    European Commission: Kosovo (under UNSR 1244/99) 2008 Progress report
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

AriRusila's BalkanBlog - 0 views

  • Welcome to Arirusila´s BalkanBlog - a personal perspective on events in western Balkans. Topics of interest: Serbia, Kosovo province, EU enlargement, UN peacekeeping operations, crisis management. Other interests - middle East and Caucasus.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

06.05.08: Albania told to implement reforms before winning closer EU ties - 0 views

  • When the commission is "convinced that the reforms are consolidated, only then we will be in a position to guarantee the next step," he stressed.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

03.04.08: NATO to enlarge to two Balkan countries - 0 views

  • NATO leaders gathered in Bucharest on Wednesday (2 April) agreed to admit two Balkan countries – Croatia and Albania – to the organisation, but an unsolved dispute between Skopje and Athens has delayed Macedonia's invitation.
  • Croatia and Albania also link NATO membership to their EU integration.

    "Membership in NATO will be a stimulus to our partners on the other side of the table to accept Croatia as a full member of the European Union", Croatian premier Ivo Sanader was quoted as saying by daily Javno on Thursday (3 April).

    For his part, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha told the Associated Press that joining NATO would represent for his country "the most important development since independence."
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