Support for Croatia’s accession

Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta

Malta is very supportive of the membership of Croatia to the EU and has consistently advocated that Croatia should be admitted in the shortest time frame possible. Malta also maintains an open mind about enlargement to other potential candidates insisting of course that all applicants must meet the Copenhagen criteria prior to membership. A large proportion of the public at large remains sceptical of Turkey’s EU membership bid believing that this would dilute the process of EU integration and change the nature of EU cooperation in future.
 
The status of Kosovo
 
Malta believes that Kosovo has the right to decide upon its own future, including independence, but that any decisions taken must be implemented in a peaceful way. All measures necessary must be taken to avoid the re-emergence of instability in the Balkans again.

Luxembourg recognizes independent Kosovo

Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Européennes Robert Schuman

The Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn, made a statement in the Luxembourg Parliament to explain the Grand-Duchy’s position concerning the Kosovo conflict. This statement was followed by a debate on Kosovo, the EU–Serbia relations and the Western Balkans, where the political parties expressed their positions which, in very large parts, are similar to the government’s policy[1].
 

Support for EU “open door policy”

Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University

A positive evaluation of the European Commission strategy document on the EU enlargement
 
Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Petras Vaitiekūnas has positively evaluated the European Commission strategy document on the EU enlargement. As the Minister claimed “we agree with the Commission that we have to respect the obligations made for the countries seeking a membership in the European Union. The perspective of the membership in the EU is a strong impetus for these countries to continue the implementation of the necessary structural political and economic reforms. Consistent EU enlargement policy is a strong instrument of keeping peace, democracy and stability in the continent”[1].
 
Following the evaluation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the progress reports of the countries provided by the European Commission are rather comprehensive and objectively evaluating the preparation of the countries for the membership in the EU and the fields named by the European Commission as requiring progress and the indicated remaining problems will help the countries to continue the consistent preparation for the membership in the EU[2].
 
Lithuania strongly supports the further EU enlargement
 
The main points of the Lithuanian position on the EU enlargement are:

No particular reaction to Commission’s Communication but general support for EU enlargement in South Eastern Europe

Latvian Institute of International Affairs

 
There was hardly any reaction in Latvia to the Commission’s Communication on „Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2007-2008” of November 2007. The explanation lies in the internal affairs of Latvia at that time, rather than in general lack of interest in EU enlargement and the progress made by the candidate countries. The issues preoccupying all of Latvia were how long the unpopular government of Prime Minister Kalvitis would last and who would head the new government. Further complicating matters was the internal strife in the People’s Party, chaired by Kalvitis, and the resignation of Artis Pabriks as Minister of Foreign Affairs on 19 October 2007 and as member of that party on 8 November 2007. Maris Riekstins, a career diplomat and a newcomer to the People’s Party, became the new Minister of Foreign Affairs on 8 November 2007.
 

Italy advocate of integration of Western Balkans

Istituto Affari Internazionali

Being a strong supporter of the EU's enlargement policy and a convinced advocate of the European integration of the Western Balkans, Italy attaches a great importance to its relations with candidate countries in the region.[1] For the Italian government, it is essential that the Balkan region will be integrated into Europe, as it believes “the anchorage to Europe” is the only way to permanently stabilise this area and to make it more prosperous.
 
Italy supports EU's opening to Croatia, just as it supported the accession of Slovenia to the EU. However, Italy – together with Slovenia – is part to a dispute with Croatia over the Croatian contiguous zone of the Adriatic Sea: Zagreb’s plan to establish a restricted fishery zone has raised the anger of Italian and Slovenian fishermen. The EU, and especially Italy and Slovenia, are opposed to Zagreb’s unilateral decision. Should Croatia go on with its plans to close a huge Adriatic fishing zone, its chances of gaining entry into the EU by 2010 could be undermined. The Italian government considers this no more a bilateral problem, but a Communitarian issue that needs to be solved through a collaboration among all the Adriatic Sea states.[2]
 

Support for EU mainstream positions

Institute of European Affairs

The Irish government was supportive of the Commission's broad conclusions. In relation to Turkey specifically, it recognized that the accession negotiations with Turkey were open-ended and that there was no guarantee of eventual Turkish accession. It agreed with other member States who did not favour a full-scale debate on enlargement strategy at the December European Council.
 
There was very little media coverage of the annual strategy document on EU enlargement. The focus of the scant media coverage was centred on the prospect for future EU enlargement before 2010. It was reported in The Irish Times that Croatia is the only country likely to join the EU within that timeframe.
 
While the Irish government has not yet decided how it will react to a possible Kosovar declaration of independence, it is generally expected that it will join most other EU member States in recognizing an independent Kosovo.
 
The Irish government position broadly agrees with the official EU communication regarding the status of Kosovo or the future of EU-Serbia relations. They do, however, place a strong emphasis on the importance of a unified European Union approach. In the context of the EU/Serbia negotiations, Ireland attaches importance to Serbia demonstrating "full cooperation" with the ICTY.
 
Issues of interest
 

Vital interest in Western Balkans

Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Hungary is situated in the direct neighbourhood of the Western Balkans, therefore it is very much interested in the credible progress of all these countries towards prospective EU membership. Croatia and Serbia are regarded as most important partners among the Western Balkan countries for Hungary, due to direct geographic proximity (and in the case of Serbia, due to the presence of a non-negligible Hungarian minority).
 
Unlike in a number of other EU member states, there is no clear opposition in Hungary against the future EU membership of Turkey. The only aspect where serious doubts occur is the EU budget, namely, the potential effect of the inclusion of Turkey into the system of EU transfers. From this point of view, Hungary is interested (without stating it officially) in a later EU-entry of Turkey.
 
Due to differences in size, but also to geographic proximity and economic opportunities, such fears do not occur in the case of the Western Balkan countries. The region is one of the main fields of Hungarian outward foreign direct investment (which, in a number of cases, means investments by multinational enterprises via their companies in Hungary), and a stable development of this region enhances these opportunities (and increased stability can make these markets available for other, smaller Hungarian firms as well).
 

Europe should tread carefully in our neighbourhood

Greek Centre of European Studies and Research

Greece used to have a clearly negative position regarding independence (or independence-equivalent) solutions, insofar the final status of Kosovo is concerned. Greek public opinion has been steadily supportive of Serbia – and welcoming Russian support to Serb positions over Kosovar independence. Still, as the final initiative in Kosovo was getting closer (certainly in fall 2007), Greek official positions started to waver and an Ahtisaari-based outcome now looks more palatable to Athens – at least insofar it bears an EU seal of approval. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni is credited (or debited, depending on one’s position) with this shift, which has not been closely monitored by the media nor has raised much interest in public opinion.
 
The never-ending FYRoM issue
 

Focus on Turkey and Kosovo

Institute for European Politics

Need for stronger reform commitment in the Western Balkans
 
Germany continues to support the accession of the Western Balkan states to the European Union. As Chancellor Merkel said, “the future of the Western Balkans lies within the EU”.[1] However, while many important steps have been taken already, substantial reforms especially in the areas of justice and administration have not yet been devised. Here, „every state forges its own destiny“.[2] The accession conference with Croatia under the German EU Presidency on June 26th 2007 allowed for the opening of accession negotiations in six further chapters. Yet, with the salient issue of the ecologic and fisheries protection zone[3] Croatian commitment to reform has come under scrutiny – as have the reform endeavours in all Western Balkan countries. Both ruling parties in the grand coalition – Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) – are concerned about the progress and the sustainability of the reforms in the Western Balkan region, brought up by the European Commission’s enlargement strategy paper and progress reports on the (potential) candidate countries.
 

Turkey dominates debate on enlargement

Centre européen de Sciences Po

Reactions to the strategy document on EU enlargement
 
French observers generally highlighted the mixed progress made by most candidate countries, and in particular the Balkan states, which would slow the enlargement process by a considerable amount. Croatia is touted as a prime example for other candidate countries and confirms its status as the “next country to become a member of the EU”. French newspapers, however, insisted on the corruption problems which make the accession prospects slower than Zagreb might expect. The newspapers also emphasized the fact that this issue also implicates other candidate countries.
 
In France, debates on enlargement are still dominated by Turkey’s accession. Thus, the publication of the strategy document was in many respects an occasion to tackle this issue. Le Figaro insisted on the fact that, according to the Commission report, Turkey’s progress was rather limited.[1] France is opposed to the opening of negotiations with Turkey on institutional, budgetary or monetary issues, because it would imply that accession is taken for granted.