Wednesday 8 November 2006 on Europe by Satellite

Special interview with Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Enlargement


On the strategy paper on enlargement issued on November 8 and whether it will be adopted by the Council

I am reasonably confident and we have consulted, discussed with our member states very intensively and we know where they stand and in our view this strategy is a very solid base for a renewed consensus on enlargement which combines two things at the same time. First our historic mission to extend the zone of peace and prosperity, liberty and democracy in Europe, in South Eastern Europeand at the same time to ensure the EU’s capacity to function and gradually integrate new members.

On the statement that no large groups will enter the EU and that next enlargements are foreseen in a medium to long term

We all have our own concepts of short, medium and long term. In fact in EU enlargement policies there are some specific definitions for this. Usually we mean by short term priorities e.g. we mean priorities that should be addressed in the next one or two years, by medium term we usually mean three to five years and then the long term is beyond five years. Of course that is not precise but that is something which sort of guides generally our thinking. In that regard it’s important that we recall that each and every candidate country will be analysed, assessed on its own merits and therefore there is not necessarily going to be a new big bang like in 2004. It depends on each and every country. Of course if certain countries are ready around the same time then they may join the EU in the same time but that is not a must, that is not the primary concern.

On Bosnia and Herzegovina’s police reform: if strong resistance in republika Srpska persists can it block EU integration further?

Bosnia and Herzegovina(B and H) has made some progress in meeting European standards and the technical negotiations on Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) has progressed well. The negotiating team is competent and professional. If the reforms that are conditions to conclude SAA can be achieved soon then we can also conclude negotiations soon and sign the agreement and start implementing it. That would be something which I trust people in B and H would wish and I do wish but it means that certain reforms such as the police reform along the lines, along the principles that have been agreed in 2005 should be implemented. We are waiting to see concrete results in this regard so that we can make progress on the EU road of B and H.

Are the constitutional reforms a condition for concluding SAA?

It is, literally taken, not a necessary condition but and I want to underline but, it is in the interest of the citizens of B and H that they have an effective state structure, an effective public administration and therefore there is a need for constitutional evolution, not a revolution, but evolution which will provide the citizens of B and H with a more effective and better serving public administration.

On the lack of political dialogue in Macedonia: a danger for implementing laws such as police law? And is there a risk of destabilisation?

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia there were and there have been certain worrying signs as regards political stability and maturity of democratic development because of rather strong tensions between the government and the opposition. I hope, I trust this ill be sensibly solved so that the country can achieve a sufficient political consensus on the EU related reforms and their implementation. That remains to be seen but we want to see that the country moves forward and we support the country but it really is now in the hands of the government but also of the opposition to agree on a minimal degree of consensus to make progress in the reforms related to public administration, and police reform and many other issues.

Macedoniahas not met some obligations of the European Partnership partly because it was an electoral year. How much should be done to get an opening of negotiations?

Elections tend to happen in democratic countries and FYROM is fortunately a democratic country. It is not and should not be taken as an excuse that elections take place they take steam out of the reform process. Anyway it is not up to the Government, the Parliament to show that the country can move forwards and instead of providing any target dates it is better we and especially the country itself focuses on the reforms on the ground.

On Croatia’s cases of high corruption in European Commission’s focus

I don’t want to go to any individual cases but we are concerned on the relatively slow start of the reform of the judiciary which is now being started. One of the lessons we learned from the previous round of enlargement is that it is necessary to tackle some difficult issues such as judiciary reform and the fight against corruption and crime early on, at an early stage of the accession process, not to leave it at the last meters of the process. And therefore my friendly and strong advice for corruption is please tackle this issue soon. It is according to opinion surveys number two problem for ordinary Croatian citizens after unemployment and therefore it is even a further reason that we expect that the government administration would make serious substantial progress on this issue without delay.

Relations with Serbia and Turkey are challenging for the EU. Why Serbia?

I think it is rather obvious because Serbia faces, has faced and continues to face a year of challenges or should I say two years of challenges, after that I guess we still have new challenges, in other words the referendum on independence in Montenegro was difficult and Serbia handled that well, played by the book, respected the rules. Serbia has unfortunately not been able to meet the condition of full cooperation with ICTY. It has slowed down its road towards EU and Serbia faces the Kosovo status process as well. I think for Serbia the key thing is that Serbia would know clear its past, leave the nationalist past behind and focus on the European future because Serbia has a very concrete, tangible European perspective which matters to its citizens in terms of better economic prospects, better possibilities to travel, better security, better democracy and Serbia has tremendous economic and intellectual potential waiting to be liberated, I hope Serbia seizes the moment and makes serious progress so that it can catch up and pursue its European aspirations with full determination.

Is there a new target date for the SAA negotiations for Serbia?

In fact we are quite far in the technical negotiations, moreover we adopted a renewed, revised negotiations mandate after the velvet divorce of Serbiaand Montenegro, therefore we can resume the talks on the SAA even on the very same day when Serbiais able to meet the condition for ICTY cooperation. After that the negotiations can be concluded rather rapidly, quickly and I would expect that Serbiathanks to its considerable administrative capacity will be able to implement it properly which would lead us rather quickly to next steps in Serbia’s European road or the road of Serbiatowards EU. It is really now in the hands of the Serbian government, citizens, they are going to elect a new Parliament, and I truly hope, carpe diem, but that Serbian citizens seize the moment and make that European perspective materialize.

On Kosovo’s legal clarity necessity

It is important because we need to have a counterpart which has Treaty making powers so that we can negotiate a SAA with Kosovo, so that we can negotiate a visa facilitation agreement because that’s important for people to people contact, Europeanization of the civil society in Kosovo, like in the other countries of the Western Balkans, and that Kosovo can enter into a contractual relationship with international financial institutions, all that is important so that we can help Kosovo to help itself and after the seven years of legal limbo we need now legal clarity and we need a strong foundation so that Kosovo can pursue economic and social development together with the region and together with the EU.

Recommendations to the new state of Montenegro?

It is to reinforce its administrative capacity for the sake of tis citizens and for the sake of being one day able to implement a SAA with the EU