Written answers

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

European Union

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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107. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of countries that have applied to join the European Union; the present status of their applications; the position being adapted by this country to these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59389/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Ireland has always been, and will remain, a strong supporter of enlargement of the European Union, provided that candidate countries meet the necessary conditions for membership. We recognise the value of enlargement as a transformative driver for stability and peace in candidate countries. It was welcome that the Declaration adopted at the EU-Western Balkans Summit this year contained a clear signal of the continuing priority afforded by the EU to the Enlargement dossier and to achieving early progress in advancing the accession process.

There are five recognised candidates for membership of the European Union: Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Serbia. Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are recognised as potential candidates by the EU. Bosnia and Herzegovina has formally submitted an application for membership, while Kosovo has a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU.

The European Commission presented Member States with the main findings and recommendations of the seven country reports on 19 October in this year’s ‘Enlargement Package’. While situations vary from country to country, the report noted limited progress in the enlargement process overall due to both the impact of the pandemic and ongoing delays and blockages in the enlargement process. It also notes a general stagnation in progress in the crucial areas of fundamental rights and rule of law.

While technically remaining the two front-runners in terms of EU accession, there is general agreement within both Council and Commission that  both Serbia and Montenegro need to increase the dynamism in their reform agenda. Serbia needs to accelerate its reforms regarding fundamental rights and the rule of law, and make significant progress in the normalisation of relations with Kosovo. In Montenegro, more intensive efforts in relation to freedom of expression, media freedom and the fight against corruption and organised crime are required. We also urge intensified dialogue among all parties in Montenegro to address those issues currently giving rise to tensions within the country

Both North Macedonia and Albania have clearly fulfilled the conditions necessary to commence accession negotiations. In our view, shared almost unanimously within the Council, the negotiating frameworks for both countries should be agreed and Intergovernmental Conferences held as soon as possible to start the accession process.

Kosovo is a potential candidate for Membership of the EU. The Commission’s report on Kosovo in 2021 noted that the political situation there remains challenging. Rule of law, judicial reform, public administration reform, organised crime and normalisation of the relationship with Serbia are just some of the areas that must be comprehensively addressed in order for Kosovo to advance on its European path.

The EU has clearly set out the fourteen priority areas for reform which need to be progressed, if Bosnia and Herzegovina is to advance on its European path. We call on all parties and leaders within Bosnia and Herzegovina to avoid further delay in progressing this urgent reform agenda, including in the areas of electoral and constitutional law.

Turkey remains a candidate country for EU membership. However, given recent concerns regarding the rule of law and respect for human rights within the country, there are no proposals at present to open or close further chapters and the accession process effectively remains frozen.  Ireland has been clear that if Turkey wants to make real progress in its relationship with the EU it will need to show a readiness over a longer period to promote a genuine partnership with the EU and to resolve differences through dialogue and in accordance with international law.

Ireland will continue to support strongly the enlargement process and offer any practical assistance it can to candidate countries engaged in accession negotiations to the EU.


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