Turkey-Balkans: EU candidates still don’t make the grade

11 October 2012 – Presseurop Zaman, Hürriyet, EUobserver.com

Turkey was singled out as needing improvement in the areas of individual and press freedom during the presentation of the European Commission's Final 2012 Report on Enlargement, detailing the progress made by those hoping to join the European Union. The Commission "urged Turkey to adopt a new constitution as soon as possible to solve the country's problems "and to renew discussions on entry, says English-language Turkish daily Today's Zaman.

The harsh tone of the report has surprised Ankara. The Turkish Minister of European Affairs, Egemen Bağış, called it "a huge disappointment," says the English language version of Turkish daily Hürriyet. Bağış accused the revolving presidency of the EU, currently held by Cyprus, of having influenced the tone of the report. The problem concerning the partition of the island – Turkey has occupied northern Cyprus since 1974 – is the major stumbling block in talks with the EU.

Serbia also was preached to in the enlargement report. In fact, it "came off as the big loser" in the Commission's view, according to Brussels-based web site EUobserver. Although Serbia does have the status of candidate, for the Commission, it still does not fulfil the conditions need to open entry negotiations with the EU. The Commission is asking Belgrade to show "visible and sustainable improvement" in its relations with Kosovo.

"The European Commission has said Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia should take steps forward in their bids to join the EU," notes the EUobserver. It adds that Albania will not become a candidate unless it reforms its judicial system, intensifies the fight against organised crime and revises its parliamentary rules. Macedonia, for its part, must resolve its problems with Greece which objects to Skopje's use of the name of a province which has been linked to it throughout history. Kosovo seems the farthest along and the Commission calls for the conclusion of a "Stabilisation and Association Agreement" with Kosovo even if some states do not recognise the independence of the Albanian-speaking former Serbian province.