On 12 October 2022, the European Commission (the “Commission”) adopted the 2022 Enlargement Package providing insights into the recent developments regarding the EU enlargement policy and progress made by the Western Balkans countries and Turkey on their way towards the EU. The Commission assessed in detail the reforms in the particular countries and recommended granting the “candidate status” for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The package consists of Communication on EU enlargement policy and seven country reports. It was presented by Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, who emphasised the key role of the EU’s enlargement policy in building long-term peace and security, in particular, in light of the current geopolitical situation marked by Russia’s war against Ukraine. Commenting on the recommendation of the candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commissioner underlined that it was “a historic moment for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina”. He observed that granting candidate status comes with high expectations. In particular, several constitutional and electoral reforms recommended by the European Council in June 2022 should be advanced “as an utmost priority”. 14 key priorities identified in the Commission Opinion of 2019 remain unchanged: their fulfilment is strictly necessary for starting the EU accession negotiations.
In its Communication, the Commission recognised the efforts made by Albania and North Macedonia in implementing EU reforms. The accession negotiations process with both countries started on 19 July 2022 with the holding of the first political intergovernmental conference. The countries will need to conduct a number of reforms in key areas of rule of law, the fight against corruption and the fight against organised crime. For Montenegro, the fulfilment of the rule of law interim benchmarks constitutes the priority for further progress in negotiations. The Commission expressed its satisfaction with regard to the country’s alignment with the EU foreign and security policy. As for Serbia, the Commission recognised the progress made in the field of the fight against corruption and pointed out that the country should continue implementing EU accession-related reforms. As a matter of priority, Serbia needs to enhance its efforts in aligning with the EU's position on foreign policy. Concerning Kosovo, a due account was taken of its efforts in strengthening democracy, rule of law and the fight against corruption. The EU expects both Serbia and Kosovo to engage actively in the process of normalisation of the relations between the two countries.
The relations between the EU and Turkey remain complex. The Commission’s assessment reveals that the country has not reversed the negative trends concerning backsliding in the areas of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. In relation to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Commission recalled that Turkey must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU Member States. In the field of foreign policy, Turkey needs, in particular, to align with restrictive measures against Russia.
The recommendations included in the Package will be now examined by the Council which will take the decisions on the future steps in the EU enlargement process. As Commissioner Várhelyi observed, this year’s Package has been adopted in a particular geopolitical context. Only several months ago, in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia formally submitted their request to join the EU. In June 2022, the European Council decided to grant the status of candidate country to Ukraine and Moldova and the status of “potential candidate” to Georgia. Mr Várhelyi announced that by the end of this year, the Commission will present the assessment of the situation in these three countries with regard to their readiness to join the EU.
Alicja Słowik, 2022 Enlargement Package: a new assessment of EU accession-related reforms in Western Balkans and Turkey, actualité du CEJE n° 24/2022, 24 octobre 2022, disponible sur www.ceje.ch