Brussels, 8 October 2014
EU enlargement in 2014 and beyond: progress and
In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission has assessed the
progress made over the past year by the countries wishing to join the EU in the Western
Balkans and by Turkey, and the challenges ahead.
Presenting the annual Enlargement Package, Commissioner Štefan Füle said: ''Five
years ago, we set out to strengthen the credibility and the transformative power of
enlargement policy. We put a particular emphasis on three pillars: rule of law in 2012,
economic governance in 2013 and this year, we're setting out new ideas to support
public administration reform. Today, this approach is bearing fruit. The process is
credible and is bringing concrete results through reforms that gradually transform the
countries concerned, improving stability in our immediate neighbourhood.''
Fundamentals first
The enlargement strategy adopted today confirms the approach based on fundamentals –
the rule of law, economic governance and public administration reform.
The rule of law remains at the heart of the enlargement process: countries concerned
need to tackle issues such as judicial reform and the fight against organised crime and
corruption early in the accession negotiations, to demonstrate a solid track record of
sustainable results.
Drawing on the experience of the European Semester, the Commission has launched
improved processes of cooperation with the enlargement countries to strengthen their
economic governance, including through National Economic Reform Programmes, with
focus on fiscal stability and structural reforms for improved competitiveness and growth.
Finally, the new strategy places particular emphasis on the challenge of reforming public
administration, which remains weak in most enlargement countries, with limited
administrative capacity, high levels of politicisation and a lack of transparency.
Overview by country
Montenegro has taken further steps in accession negotiations. Twelve chapters have
been opened. Implementation of rule of law reforms has started. Tangible results are
now needed and will be key to determining the overall pace of the accession
The opening of accession negotiations is a turning point in the EU's relations with Serbia.
Now Serbia needs to deliver on its reform priorities in a sustained manner as the pace of
negotiations will depend on progress in key areas, notably on rule of law and the
normalisation process with Kosovo. New momentum needs to be generated in the
dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in order to tackle key outstanding issues and
open a new phase in the normalisation of relations.
The EU accession process with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is at an
impasse. Action is needed to reverse recent backsliding, notably as regards freedom of
expression and of the media and the independence of the judiciary. There is an urgent
need to find a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.
Government and opposition should take steps to restore political dialogue in parliament.
Albania was granted candidate status in June as recognition for its reform efforts and
progress made in meeting the required conditionality. The country needs to build on and
consolidate the reform momentum and focus its efforts on tackling its EU-integration
challenges in a sustainable and inclusive way.
Bosnia and Herzegovina remains at a standstill on its European integration path.
Following the October general elections, it will be essential for the country to speak with
one voice, to tackle urgent socio-economic reforms and to progress on its European
The initialling of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo in May is a
major milestone in EU-Kosovo relations. Now Kosovo needs to deliver on key reforms, in
particular the rule of law.
Implementation of certain reform commitments by Turkey has continued, such as the
2013 democratisation package, and steps have been taken towards a settlement of the
Kurdish issue. However, there have also been grounds for serious concerns regarding the
independence of the judiciary and the protection of fundamental freedoms. Active and
credible accession negotiations provide the most suitable framework for exploiting the full
potential of EU-Turkey relations. Opening negotiations on the relevant chapters on rule of
law and fundamental rights would provide a roadmap for reforms in these key areas.
Key findings of the 2014 progress report on Turkey
The Commission's 2014 Progress Report on Turkey highlights a number of important steps
taken by Turkey over the past 12 months. These steps include: the adoption of law
implementing a democratisation package and the Action Plan for the Prevention of
Violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, the signature and the entry into
force of the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement and the simultaneous launch of the visa
dialogue, as well as the continuation of the process aiming for a settlement of the Kurdish
At the same time, the report emphasises a number of concerns. These concerns relate to
the adoption of the legislation undermining the independence, efficiency and impartiality of
the judiciary, massive reassignments and dismissal of judges and prosecutors and even
detention of a high number of police officers, as well as blanket bans imposed on social
media. The tendency to pass laws and decisions, including on fundamental issues for the
Turkish democracy, in haste and without sufficient consultations of stakeholders is a
matter of concern as well. All this stresses the need to engage in an effective dialogue,
both within the country and with the EU to ensure that further reforms in the area of the
rule of law and fundamental freedoms follow European standards.
Political criteria
Reform efforts continued, notably several measure under the 3rd and 4th judicial reform
packages, as well as measures announced in the September 2013 democratisation
package were adopted and implemented. The adoption of an Action Plan on Prevention of
European Convention of Human Rights Violations was an important step aimed at aligning
Turkey’s legal framework and practice with European Court of Human Rights case-law.
The Constitutional Court continued applying the individual application procedure. It took a
number of important decisions strengthening the protection of fundamental rights in the
country, illustrating the resilience of the country's constitutional system.
The parliament also adopted a landmark law providing a legal framework to the process
aiming for a settlement of the Kurdish issue. The law strengthens the basis for the
settlement process and makes a positive contribution to stability and protection of human
rights in Turkey.
However, specific developments in the area of the judiciary and freedom of expression
were a matter of concern. Amendments – later reversed - to the Law on High Council of
Judges and Prosecutors and subsequent dismissal of staff, as well as numerous
reassignments of judges and prosecutors raised serious concerns over the independence,
efficiency and impartiality of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and the separation of
Legislation limiting freedom of expression, including the Law on Internet, was adopted and
the effective exercise of this freedom was restricted in practice, exemplified by blanket
bans on YouTube and Twitter – even if these were later overturned by the Constitutional
The political climate was marked by polarisation. Several pieces of legislation proposed
by the ruling majority, including on fundamental issues for the Turkish democracy, were
adopted without proper parliamentary debate or adequate consultation of stakeholders
and civil society.
These issues underline the importance for the EU to enhance its engagement with Turkey
on rule of law issues. It is in the interest of both Turkey and the EU that the opening
benchmarks for chapters 23 – Judiciary ad Fundamental Rights, and 24- Justice, Freedom
and Security, are agreed upon and communicated to Turkey as soon as possible, with a
view to enabling the opening of negotiations under these two chapters.
With regard to regional issues and international obligations, Turkey supported the
resumption of the fully-fledged settlement talks between the leaders of both communities
in Cyprus under the good offices of the UN Secretary-General. Turkey is expected to follow
up this support with constructive statements and concrete action. In addition, Turkey has
still not complied with its obligation of full non-discriminatory implementation of the
Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement.
Economic criteria
Turkey is a functioning market economy. After slowing down to an annual GDP
growth of 2.2% in 2012, the Turkish economy re-accelerated to 4% in 2013. However,
unemployment has risen as a result of a strongly expanding labour force. The current
account deficit has remained at an elevated level.
Turkey's recent economic performance illustrates both the high potential and continuing
imbalances of its economy. On the external side, the continued reliance on capital inflows
to finance a shrinking but still large structural current account deficit makes Turkey
vulnerable to changes in global risk sentiment, resulting in large exchange rate fluctuation
and boom-bust cycles in economic activity.
Relatively high inflation continues to be a major challenge. A rebalancing of the
macroeconomic policy mix would be helpful to ease the burden on monetary policy. For
the medium to longer term, it is essential that the functioning of the markets for goods,
services and labour are improved through structural reforms to increase international
competitiveness. These reforms should be coupled with improvements in the judicial
system and of administrative capacity, enhanced transparency of state aid, and open, fair
and competitive public procurement system.
EU legislation
Turkey's alignment efforts with the acquis continued. In 2013, another negotiation
chapter was opened. Progress was particularly noticeable on trans-European networks;
and in key areas under chapter 24, in particular migration and asylum policy. The
implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement and of the Roadmap towards a
visa-free regime is expected to continue. Further significant progress is needed especially
in the area of on judiciary and fundamental rights, social policy and employment, in
particular in the areas of labour law and health and safety at work.
State of play on accession negotiations
EU accession negotiations with Turkey began on 3 October 2005. In total, 14 out of 33
negotiation chapters have been opened, and one of the open chapters has been
provisionally closed. As a result of Turkey not having fully implemented the Additional
Protocol to the Association Agreement, the EU decided in December 2006 that eight
negotiating chapters could not be opened and that no chapter could be provisionally closed
until Turkey meets its obligations.
Key dates
September 1959: Turkey applies for associate membership of the European Economic
Community (EEC)
September 1963: Signature of the Association Agreement, aiming at enhancing economic
cooperation and achieving a Customs Union between Turkey and the EEC
April 1987: Turkey presents its formal application for membership of the European
Economic Community
January 1995: Turkey - EU Agreement creating a customs union
December 1999: the European Council recognises Turkey as a candidate country
December 2004: The European Council agrees to start accession negotiations with Turkey
October 2005: Start of accession negotiations
December 2006: The Council decides that 8 negotiating chapters cannot be opened and no
chapter can be closed until Turkey meets its obligation of full, non-discriminatory
implementation of the additional protocol to the Association Agreement
May 2012: European Commission and Turkey start the implementation of the Positive
agenda for Turkey
November 2013: Chapter 22 on Regional Policy and coordination of structural instruments
becomes the 14th chapter on which negotiations are opened
December 2013: the EU-Turkey readmission agreement is signed in parallel with the
launching of the visa liberalisation dialogue.
October 2014: the EU-Turkey readmission agreement enters into force.
More information at:
MONTENEGRO: candidate - applied in 2008, obtained candidate status in 2010.
Accession negotiations were opened in June 2012. Twelve negotiating chapters have been
opened, of which two provisionally closed. The screening process was completed in May
2014. The rule of law chapters, chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24
(justice, freedom and security) were opened in December 2013, after Montenegro adopted
comprehensive action plans for these chapters.
SERBIA: candidate - applied in 2009, obtained candidate status in March 2012. The EUfacilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was launched in March 2011. The First
agreement of principles governing normalisation of relations was reached between
Belgrade and Pristina in April 2013. The momentum of reforms has also been
reinvigorated in Serbia. The European Council decided in June 2013 to open accession
negotiations and the first Intergovernmental Conference on Serbia's accession
negotiations was held in January 2014. The EU accession negotiations are now underway.
The analytical examination of the acquis, or screening process, is ongoing and is planned
to be completed in March. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) entered into
force on 1 September 2013.
country continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria and it is at a high level of
alignment with the EU acquis. The Commission maintains its recommendation to open
accession negotiations, but regrets the backward steps of the past years. Decisive action
is needed to address concerns about increased politicisation and growing shortcomings
with regard to the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression so that its
recommendation can be sustained in future years. It is responsibility of both government
and opposition to ensure that political debate takes place primarily in parliament and to
contribute to creating the conditions for its proper functioning. The Commission has
recommended six years in a row that accession negotiations be opened. The Council has
not yet taken a decision on this. The Commission believes that if screening and the
Council discussions on the negotiating framework were under way, this process would
have also contributed to creating the conditions to finding a negotiated and mutually
accepted solution to the name issue.
ALBANIA: candidate - applied in 2009; granted candidate status in June 2014, based on
the Commission's assessment that Albania continued to implement and consolidate
reforms, in particular in judiciary and the fight against organised crime and corruption.
Work on this has continued, with major operations against drug-related crimes. For
opening accession negotiations, Albania will need to consolidate and intensify reforms in
key priority areas, notably as regards the rule of law. It is responsibility of both
government and opposition to ensure that political debate takes place primarily in
parliament and to contribute to creating the conditions for its proper functioning.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: potential candidate - has a European perspective like the
rest of the Western Balkans. Country remains at a standstill in the European integration
process with the Stabilisation and Association Agreement still not in force. Bosnia and
Herzegovina’s leaders need to decisively engage in a comprehensive reform agenda after
the October general elections. They need to address the socio-economic concerns of the
citizens and improve efficiency and functionality of institutions at all levels of government
as well as the coordination between them, necessary to progress on the EU path.
KOSOVO: potential candidate – shares a European perspective with the rest of the
Western Balkans region. The EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was
launched in March 2011. The First agreement of principles governing normalisation of
relations was reached between Pristina and Belgrade in April 2013. Negotiations on a
Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo were concluded and the agreement
was initialled in July 2014.
TURKEY: candidate - applied in 1987. Accession negotiations started in October 2005; 14
chapters are opened of which one provisionally closed. Chapter 22 – regional policy and
coordination of structural instruments, was officially opened in November 2013. The
Commission underlines the importance for the EU to enhance its engagement with Turkey,
so that it remains the benchmark for reforms in the country.
ICELAND: following a decision of the Icelandic government, accession negotiations have
been put on hold since May 2013.
More information
The documents can be found at:
Contacts :
Peter Stano (+32 2 295 74 84)
Anca Paduraru (+32 2 296 64 30)