The acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates from Western Balkans have many reasons to be satisfied with the conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council and the EU– Western Balkans Summit.
The acceding countries
After deciding that the draft of the Convention was “a good basis for starting the Intergovernmental Conference”, the Council specified that the Conference would be convened in October 2003 and that its work should be completed before the election of the new European Parliament in June 2004. “The acceding States will participate fully in the Intergovernmental Conference, on an equal footing with current Member States”.
In the chapter devoted to enlargement in the conclusions of the presidency, it is recalled that the process of ratification “must be completed in time for the ten new Member States to join the Union on 1st May 2004”. They are encouraged “to keep up their efforts so that they are fully prepared to assume the obligations of membership by accession.”.
The candidate countries
The three applicant countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey) “will take part in all meetings of the [intergovernmental] conference as observers”.
Concerning Bulgaria and Romania, these countries are part “of the same inclusive and irreversible process of enlargement”, and the Union’s “objective” is to “welcome Bulgaria and Romania as new members of the European Union in 2007”. The Union supports their efforts to achieve “the goal” of concluding the negotiations in 2004. They are given the assurance that the political reforms and the new financial prospects which will be under discussion for this period “shall not impede the pursuit and conclusion of the accession negotiations”
The Council “supports the on-going efforts made” by Turkey “to fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria “ while noting that “significant further efforts are still required to this end”.
The potential candidates, i.e. the Western Balkan countries
These countries held a major position at the Thessaloniki meetings. A special EU-Balkan Summit was devoted to them and concluded by a Joint Declaration: “The future of the Balkans is in the European Union”, which will lead to an intensification of the process of stabilisation and association already in progress. Each State will be judged according to its own merits in the way in which it fulfils the Copenhagen criteria. Finally, the European Council approved the “Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans : moving towards European integration”, which describes in greater detail the policies to be implemented by both the EU and the Balkan countries to allow them to move forward along the path to EU accession, specifying in particular the financial aspects of this process.
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