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9 November 2016
Enlargement
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Statement by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic on the adoption of the 2016 Enlargement Package

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic welcomes the adoption of the European Commission’s 2016 Enlargement Package, which contains assessment reports concerning the individual candidate countries and potential candidates for EU membership. We recognise the fact that this year’s package is centred around an assessment of the implementation of last year’s strategy, while also taking stock of trends in the region in key areas such as the rule of law, fundamental rights, migration, the functioning of public authorities, economy and regional cooperation. The reporting methodology introduced last year was expanded to cover additional areas. This has facilitated a better assessment of the overall progress made over the past year, as well as mutual comparisons between the individual applicants.

We are pleased with the continued progress of Montenegro in its accession talks with the European Union. When it comes to the countries of the Western Balkans, Montenegro is maintaining its leading role in preparations for European Union membership and is recognised for aligning its foreign-policy decisions with the positions of the EU.

We also recognise the statement on Serbia’s constructive attitude to regional cooperation, including the normalisation of relations with Pristina, as well as further progress in the fulfilment of political criteria, including the opening of chapters 23 and 24 during the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU.

We note with satisfaction the positive evaluation of Albania’s implementation of the five key priorities, particularly with regard to the judicial reform, which has translated into a conditional recommendation by the European Commission to launch accession negotiations with the country.

We also embrace the largely positive evaluation of developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina in recent months, as the fulfilment of the requirements made it possible to adopt conclusions whereby the Council has requested the European Commission’s opinion on the country’s application to join the EU.

Meanwhile, the profound and persistent political crisis in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia along with the fact that the country has been clearly lagging behind in its integration efforts have been disappointing. The negative assessments in the areas of the rule of law and the state of democracy are also disconcerting. We are hopeful that the conditional recommendation to open accession negotiations with the EU will be a positive incentive for the country to remedy the shortcomings.

As regards Turkey, the repercussions of the coup d’etat attempt in July 2016 have had a negative impact on the assessment. The Slovak Republic continues to support Turkey’s rapprochement with the EU but, as with every candidate country, it requires that all accession criteria be fulfilled, including the principles of the rule of law, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the principles of democracy, including freedom of expression. We recognise the positive evaluation of Turkey when it comes to addressing migration by implementing the EU-Turkey joint action plan for refugees and the management of migration.

The progress made by Pristina, as noted in the European Commission’s report, attests to Kosovo’s commitment to fulfil its European perspective. We especially welcome the fulfilment of commitments concerning the establishment of the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecution Office in The Hague. The European Commission’s assessment indicates the need to implement agreements from the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, where shortcomings remain on both sides to the dialogue.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic continues to actively endorse the enlargement process as one of the most successful foreign-policy instruments of the European Union. The European Commission will not present the next enlargement package until spring 2018, which will enable an alignment with the calendar year in the production of statistics, and with the cycle of the economic reform programmes. However, it is important to ensure that this extra time has no adverse effect on the adoption of decisions with respect to individual countries in the fulfilment of their integration efforts.

 

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