EU to ‘wait and see’ on Serbia, Turkey accession

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European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said he was adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude towards EU hopefuls Serbia and Turkey in light of recent developments in the two countries.

Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee yesterday (April 3), Rehn underlined that there was currently no political consensus among EU nations on signing a pre-membership Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia. 

He also indicated that progress on another key topic – visa liberalisation – would depend strongly on Belgrade, adding that Brussels would present, by the end of April, a “road map” listing the conditions that Serbia must fulfill. 

Speaker of the Serbian Parliament Oliver Dulic, who was also present at the committee meeting, insisted that his country had the administrative capacity to become an EU member soon.

But Rehn said much would depend on the upcoming early parliamentary elections in Serbia on 11 May. 

Serbia’s government collapsed in early March over an impasse between the nationalist prime minister and the pro-Western president on how Kosovo’s independence affects the Balkan country’s pursuit of EU membership. Moreover, nationalist and anti-Western feeling was given a boost in Serbia by the Western-backed independence of the Albanian-majority province of Kosovo, which had been under UN control since 1999. 

Rehn stressed that though the EU has “no vote” in these elections, it is important that a majority emerges that would be both willing and able to achieve the necessary reforms. Responding to questions from MEPs on how developments in Turkey could affect accession negotiations, the commissioner was even more prudent with respect to the country’s EU membership prospects. 

Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP-ED), Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, voiced her alarm at the activities of the ‘deep state’ in Turkey, saying: “The army is trying to paralyse the work of the Turkish state, government and parliament.” 

The issue of the Turkish Constitutional Court’s decision to hear demands to outlaw the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was also raised (EURACTIV 01/04/08). 

Rehn said the EU’s negotiating framework with Turkey clearly lays down that the Commission has “not only the right, but the duty” to report on whether “Turkey is able to meet democratic standards”. He noted that according to the 1999 guidelines from the Venice Commission, “the dissolution of political parties is an extreme measure, and only justified when parties advocate the use of violence or use violence themselves”. 

Rehn made it clear that this should not be the case here, stating: “In EU member states, these issues are decided by the ballot box, not in courtrooms.”

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