EU ministers will not grant Albania the EU candidate status at next week's meeting, diplomatic sources told EURACTIV. However, they will likely give the green light to opening accession negotiations with Serbia, if a number of conditions are respected, such as improving relations with Kosovo.
At least one country, the Netherlands, has strongly objected against giving the candidate status to Albania, EURACTIV has learned as European Affairs ministers are expected to discuss enlargement-related issues at their meeting on Monday (10 December) in Brussels.
The Commission recommended in October that the European Council put Albania in the club of candidate countries that now consists of Turkey (1999), Macedonia (2005), Montenegro (2008) Iceland (2010) and Serbia (March 2012). Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been promised EU accession perspective, but have not yet reached the stage of candidate country. Croatia is due to become a member next year.
Western diplomats told EURACTIV that they don’t anticipate a decision on Albania for the time being, adding that the country had to do 'more,' to qualify, especially on the 12 conditions outlined by the Commission in its October report.
The running of elections is a matter of concern, they added [more].
As the country is to hold elections in June, next year, the decision will unlikely be taken before EU countries are reassured that democratic election standards are applied and that voters are able to choose for a new Parliament and government, without the tensions of previous occasions.
Encouraging text for Serbia
EU ministers are expected to approve a text on Serbia that will be integrated in the 13-14 December summit conclusions, according to which the EU would “looks forward to open negotiations” with the country, on the basis of the conditions which according to diplomats “are not new” for Belgrade.
Serbia strives to open accession negotiations and could only be partially satisfied by such text, but diplomats insisted they wanted to convey the message that the momentum of relations is kept.
The conditions, they said, were the usual and included the normalisation of relations between the Serb-populated Northern Kosovo and the rest of Kosovo, as well as the so-called “integrated management” of border crossings in Kosovo, to be managed jointly by Serbian and Kosovar border guards.
“We consider that the conditions have been set, now they need to be fulfilled. It is not about adding new conditions or removing any of them. We need to work on the basis of what has been agreed,” a high-ranking diplomat said.
He added that the implementation of the conditions would also allow the EU to advance on Kosovo’s EU integration process, as a positive bilateral relation would enable to launch an agreement of stabilisation and association, a stage already fulfilled by all other EU hopefuls.
After the "big bang" of 2004-2007, the EU enlargement is losing steam. The European Commission's voluminous yearly reports look at the state of play of the EU hopefuls' relations with Brussels.
Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia are candidate countries, whereas Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo are considered potential candidates. Croatia is due to joint the EU in 2013.
Macedonia was granted candidate status in December 2005. However, the former Yugoslav republic has been unable to start accession negotiations due to a dispute over the country's name, which is identical to a Greek province.
In the Commission documents, Macedonia and Kosovo do not even appear under those names: Macedonia is referred to as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and Kosovo called, under an asterisk, "Kosovo under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/99" because the country's unilateral independence has not been recognised by all EU countries.