Full transcript of the interviews with the experts of the European Commission’s DG Enlargement on the Annual Reports on Western Balkans
Press conference with European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn presenting the Progress Reports (PR) for the Western Balkan countries and Turkey 2006
Cutaways Clive Rumbold, desk officer for Albaniain European Commission DG Enlargement
On the positive and negative aspects of the PR for Albania
Well, each year we are objective. We are not necessarily more positive one year than another. We simply reflect what we see on the ground. We do see some positive tendencies this year. We see new determination to fight corruption and organised crime. We see some moves towards making plans to meet European Partnership priorities. Those are positive aspects. On the negative aspects, I think it is important that in terms of technical aspects required to implement the SA Agreement there is still some work in important areas.
On the economy
In the economy there has been progress. Macro economic stability continues and there is economic growth. But Albaniastarts from very law point and there is a need for more progress in that area. One of the things Albanianeeds to do is to work on its economic capacity to export. Because that is how it can take advantage from the SAA and in the short term the Interim Agreement.
On the judiciary reform
There has been progress in terms of legislation. There is a proposed new law on how to change some aspects of how the judiciary is run, that is positive, particularly the aspects in the new legislation which gives provisions of random allocations of cases to judges. But overall there is still a great deal of work on judiciary. There is improvement of the execution of judgements.
On the confrontational political situation
The confrontational political situation is one of the most negative aspects. It is holding back the country in number of areas, most immediately on electoral reform in the prospect of the forthcoming local elections. The parties are going to need to agree on wide range of political and institutional reforms which are necessary to implement the SA Agreement and the Interim Agreement. Now, the commitments made in the Interim Agreement and SA Agreement is not one party commitments. There are important for the country. So, the EU integration agenda is not a party agenda, it is a national agenda and should be addressed as such. The practical political cooperation is very important.
Cutaways Jose Sanchez Allegre, European Commission, DG Enlargement, desk officer for Bosnia and Herzegovina
On the police reform
I think the first element is that the police directory for the reform of the police is now working through an Action Plan. We understand that this Action plan will be available towards the end of November, the deadline is the 20 November but perhaps it will take a little bit longer. This document should be used as a basis for discussion on this matter. We expect from all political forces and also from the experts on police that on the basis of this report they are able to achieve an Agreement, to agree on an Action plan that is credible and will be implemented and that it unblock the situation that we perceive regarding the Police reform.
I would say that the time has to be used now. The election have give some results and although the formation of the Government can take still a bit of time I think that dialogue could start in order that the final outcome already agreed by the political leaders can be endorsed very quickly by the new executives.
On the Constitutional reform
The EC has been very clear in saying that Bosnianeed a revolution of the current constitutional framework. The reason is very simple. If Bosniais to become a member of the EU, there are many things that need to be done and in order to do this things we need functional and operational institutions. This means that to adopt and use the thousand of pages of legislation of the Community acquis, we could not afford to have problems as we have seen in the past to adopt the single law, where months and moths were needed. This is one example of why this revolution of the Constitution is necessary. Bosniahas to have a constitutional framework that helps the country to better deal with the challenges that EU integration implies.
Pierre Mirel, director for the candidate countries in the European Commission DG Enlargement, on Croatia
On the Political criteria where Croatiaprogresses and in which it slides down
Coming back to the question of political criteria there are three key issues: judiciary, public administration reform and fight against corruption which are for us core issues. One point regarding corruption is that we have noted very strong declarations on the highest political level in Croatia, the President, and the PM saying that the fight against corruption should be priority. This is very welcome and this is an important new development. Now what we are looking for is the Government to deliver on these commitments. One of the issues in our report is that certainly the organisation responsible for the fight against corruption, Uskok, should be strengthened. That is for corruption. Regarding judicial reform, the process has started; it should now be speeded up, implemented, more rapidly to make sure that in particular the length of court proceedings will be reduced. It takes some time. The network of courts should be restructured. And that the decisions of courts would be implemented sooner rather than later. For the time being is later rather than sooner. So this is important developments that we are waiting for. Public administration reform which is another issue, again, there has been an important development, the Civil Servants law which has been adopted in 2006. What is missing is an overall strategy to reform the administration so that the Croatian administration would become more stable, there is a very high turnover for the time being, more transparent and more efficient. But there has been progress in these issues either through strong comittement or through start of implementation of reforms.
On corruption cases
On corruption, what we think is that the prosecutor has been doing a very good job over the past month. We have seen that recently with the Glavas case. But probably it needs to have a reinforcement of new resources, sometimes he must have a feeling that he is a very alone person. He needs to be reinforced to be able to deal with it. This is one very important point that we mentioned in the report. When there are allegations of corruption they should be investigated. And we need court case should be open.
Cutaways, Khaldoun Sinno, desk officer for Kosovo in the European Commission, DG Enlargement
Areas of concern
There are certain, we are indicating in the report, positive and negative areas which still need to be worked on. Some areas of concern concern the focus on status, that has have some positive regards when pushing towards some priority standards, but the focus on status has also limited the capacity, or ability or even willingness of the Kosovo institutions to pursue the reforms. Some areas of concern under the political chapter are the civil service which is relatively week and very expensive to the Kosovo budget, the judiciary is a serious area of concern, the back up of criminal (?) has increased rather than decreased. The economy is not developing as we have hoped. In terms of European sector policy there has been progress. The legislation has been created sometimes but the implementation structures are still lacking. For the positive developments we realise that Kosovo has remain stable/ All Kosovo main political parties have tried to work in a constructive way also in the status. The succession of the late President Rugova was organised in a democratic and open manner. The Assembly has improved its working methods. In terms of the economy the privatization efforts are ongoing which is positive. The overall macro economic financial framework has been established which is also very positive and one of the thing we have pressed Kosovo to do. Some sector policies have moved ahead but in terms of implementation there is still something to be done.
On the remaining tensions
We realise that there are several unfortunate developments related to this. The first is the continued boycott of the Kosovo Serbs of the PSG. So we encourage Kosovo Serbs to join the PSG to work to make Kosovo a home for themselves. We acknowledge the outreach efforts done by the President and PM starting this spring and trying to engage them to join the PSG. At the same time it is clear that significative returns still has not happened and minority groups, Serbs but the other also, are still in the disadvantage situation In Kosovo because of security concerns and this is still; a problem that needs to be worked on.
Pierre Mirel, director for the candidate countries in the European Commission DG Enlargement, on Macedonia
On the remaining reforms to be done in order to get a date for membership negotiations
The EU Council conclusions of last year when the country got the candidate country status is clear on what has to be done. There are number of areas to be tackled. Where it concerns the judiciary, Police Law or other issues. And there is very important section, that reform process, obligations to be fulfilled to get the agreement on the opening of negotiations this is not a question of laws to be adopted. Law remains a text that has to be implemented and enforced. And in many texts, not only you need the law, but you need the buy-laws, regulations and this is the case with the Police Law where some 70 buy regulations need to be adopted or little bit less. But anyway, a great number of texts. So this is not just a question of a law to be adopted, but the all the surrounding and also implementation to see how successful it will be in implementing. What we mean by that in the report and actually in the strategy paper in the conclusion, the idea of the track record. That is, to be able to check whether the implementation on the ground has started in the smooth manner.
On the Police Law and the need for wide political consensus
This Law is a very important one but there are others to implement. To continue the implementation of the judiciary reforms or public administration reform, those are main political issues which have an, impact on the whole process of the implementation of the bilateral agreement SAA and that will have an impact on the negotiations, it is important to have the widest political consensus possible. This is one of the lessons of the fifth enlargement. You shall look at countries, new member states, which joined in May 2004, the most successful countries in achieving the reforms on the smooth manner, you will identify immediately countries where the political consensus was high. Under the previous government for some time there was no political consensus. Some parties, if I remember correctly, boycotted the Parliament, after the elections. In a sense it is a similar situation with a different party. But now that we are getting closer to the possibility for the country of getting a date for negotiations, it becomes a much more important issue. And therefore, all the political parties have a responsibility in making sure that they commit themselves into having this dialogue. They commit for the country, they are responsible for the future of the country.
Cutaways Vassilis Maragos desk officer for Montenegro, European Commission DG Enlargement
Areas of concern
Montenegrois a small place and this is where the concern, comes not only for the EC but also for the member states of the EU, about its administrative capacity. As I sad before, we see the willingness, we need to see the investment in all the sectors; actually, in each particular sector we have a challenge for Montenegrobecause it needs to create all the structures which are required by the acquis. Probably it could be done by seeing what other member states of the EU which are of a similar size, have done in order find solutions for the creation of the various new administrative structures and bodies which are needed. This is one type of concern. The other type of concern and this is also an element which exists in transitions countries, it was a problem in Montenegroand we have to see very solid progress there, this is the whole area of rule of law, its consolidation, fight against the corruption and organised crime. Montenegroreally needs to advance very solidly on this field and to show progress on the ground. This is an essential element of the RU integration process and it needs to continue the reforms in the area of the police, to start with determination the reform of the judiciary and to continue the reforms of the public administration, the whole law enforcement system in Montenegrohas to be fully depoliticized.
Furthermore, Montenegrowill face now a very important challenge in the creation of the new institutions of the new independent state. It needs to adopt a Constitution in line with the European standards, it will have to be adopted with a wide consensus of all the political forces and this is something which will certainly contribute to the improvement of the political situation in Montenegro, but also to the smooth dealing with the challenges related to the European integration. Without a political consensus, without mobilization of all the active forces in the society, economy, in the civil society and within the administration, Montenegro will face a lot of difficulties to be able to deal with the huge tasks related to the EU integration, with the introduction of the European legislations, with the implementation of this legislation and also with the use of all this framework by the economy and the society, by the young people who need to understand what is going to happen in order to be able to profit form the this process.
Antonio Cammarata, desk officer for Serbia, European Commission DG Enlargement
Areas of progress
The report that the EC adopted on Serbiashows that there has been progress in the number of areas. In terms of political criteria we have noted that Serbiahas responsible attitude further to Montenegroindependence and this has lead to the smooth process of dissolution of the state union and of taking over the competences of the former state union by Serbia. The adoption of the new Constitution is a welcome development and in terms of administrative reform we are pleased to note that the legal framework for the civil service is now up to European standards and in did Serbiahas demonstrated a considerable administrative capacity in the context of the SA Agreement negotiations. In terms of economic criteria, we see that Serbiahas advanced with economic integration with the EU. There has been a boost in foreign direct investment and economic growth has continued. Concerning the overall spectrum of EU policies we have noticed that there has been progress in several areas and that the country continues to be (?) with the administrative capacity which one day will be necessary for the implementation of the SAA.
On the economy and political criteria
Starting with economy, what of course is important is the pace of reforms is sustained and that the macroeconomic stability is kept in the months to come. So there is need for continued responsible fiscal policy. In terms of political criteria of course the Constitution presents some areas where further monitoring is necessary especially as regards independence of the judiciary. We would like to see the fight against the corruption and the organised crime stepping up in line with the trends, and of course major challenges for Serbiaare on one hand the need for constructive attitude towards Kosovo issue and the need for achieving full cooperation with ICTY. This in did will allow for a prompt resumption of the SAA negations as stressed by the Commissioner Rehn.
On the judiciary and military reforms
The adoption of the judiciary reform strategy is certainly a good step. What is important now is that this reform goes on the right track. I repeat the importance that the independence is guaranteed, Serbian judges and prosecutors to be selected on the basis of objective professional criteria. It is important to have the modernization and rationalisation of the courts system so that the judiciary becomes more efficient to the benefit of the Serbian citizens. In terms of military reforms we have noticed that there has been a progress although there are also differences within the military structures and the democratic and civilian control over the military remains insufficient. But the effect of the new Constitution in did provide for civilian control in the necessary bases for more effective control of the military. We are also pleased to note that recently amended rules of procedures over the Parliament are increasing the role of the Serbian Parliament in monitoring the functioning of the military structures in the country.
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