European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi presented proposals on how to strengthen the EU accession process to Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Wednesday.
The issue of EU enlargement is a top priority for this Commission, stressed Enlargement Commissioner Várhelyi on Wednesday in the European Parliament, presenting a methodology that should give renewed impetus to EU enlargement. Talking before the Committee on Foreign Affairs just an hour after the Commission published its revamped methodology, he stressed the four main principles in the enlargement process: credibility, predictability, dynamism and political steer.
The process will keep its credibility if the EU delivers on its commitments to uphold a merit-based process, said Commissioner Várhelyi. There will be clear incentives for the aspiring countries that deliver, including a gradual integration into the EU policy and market, he added. The methodology also includes reversibility, meaning if a country goes backwards in its reforms, the EU can reverse the process as well.
He told MEPs that the time between opening and closing negotiating chapters should be far shorter than it is now and should not last longer than a year. This should be achieved by clustering chapters into six main areas, with the first cluster, on the rule of law, being the one that starts and ends the whole negotiating process.
Commissioner Várhelyi reiterated that the Commission stands by its recommendations on opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia and that Serbia and Montenegro can opt in if they would like to be included in the renewed enlargement mechanism.
MEPs wanted to know more about reversibility and how the EU can support candidate countries to achieve goals in the area of rule of law. They welcomed Commissioner Várhelyi’s presentation, saying the new methodology is a positive message to the countries who want to join the EU.
Parliament will closely examine the proposals
Following the presentation, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: “I welcome the set of proposals to make the enlargement process more dynamic, coherent and effective. We need a clear set of credible rules, ensuring that the accession process strengthens fundamental values, making both the EU and its aspirants more democratic and prosperous.
Democratic transformation and irreversibility of the rule of law are at the very centre of the enlargement process. We stay committed to the European perspective of all countries in the Western Balkans.”
Parliament will deliver its own proposals on the enlargement process, including on the suggestions for a revamped methodology, in its Recommendation on the Western Balkans, which will be adopted before the Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May.
The EU currently negotiates 35 “chapters” of the EU acquis with each candidate country, which are required to adapt their administrative and institutional capacities and to bring their national legislation into line with EU legislation, before they can join the European Union.
The revised methodology comes amid disappointment over the Council’s failure to agree on opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania in October last year.
Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey have already started accession negotiations, Albania and North Macedonia are candidate countries, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate countries. / theviewer