In three resolutions adopted by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday, Parliament says it wants Iceland to join the EU and it calls for a date for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to start accession talks. However, it is concerned at the limited progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as a potential candidate.
Parliament notes the political divisions in Iceland over EU membership but hopes that it will join. Iceland is one of Europe’s oldest democracies and MEPs are pleased with its progress towards meeting EU standards.
"Progress is visible," said rapporteur Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, RO) in the debate. "This last year has shown that the discussions have gained momentum." MEPs point out that the Icesave dispute has not been settled but say it should not hold up Iceland’s membership. They point out that the EU and Iceland still disagree on mackerel fishing quotas and on whale-hunting, which is banned in the EU. They also call for more progress in tackling state intervention, particularly in the banking, energy, air and transport sectors.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Parliament wants this country, an EU candidate since 2005, to be given a date to start accession negotiations. It says the Council’s failure to set one is causing "legitimate frustration and dissatisfaction" in public opinion. "This is a country which belongs inside the EU and accession talks must start without delay", said rapporteur Richard Howitt (S&D, UK).
MEPs regret that its accession prospects are blocked by the name dispute with Greece. They welcome Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle's initiative to launch an informal "high-level accession dialogue" on 15 March to boost reform momentum.
They welcome the election of the new parliament and swift formation of the coalition government but are worried about fundamental freedoms, pointing for example to media concentration.
Corruption is a "serious concern", says Parliament, though it is pleased with the efforts to tackle it. Parliament also wants greater efforts to combat the segregation of children from different ethnic groups in the education system. The country’s economic performance is good, it says, though unemployment and poverty levels remain high.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Parliament is concerned at the limited progress of BiH with the reforms needed for potential EU membership. It says its future lies in the EU but insists that it can only have a prospect of EU membership as a single, sovereign and united country, with the state powers needed to meet EU accession criteria.
MEPs welcome the formation of the new state government, hoping that this will spur the necessary constitutional and other reforms. Rapporteur Doris Pack (EPP, DE) said: "In six weeks, more has happened than we could have expected in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Now that the EU has reinforced its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Parliament wonders about the international community's future role. It invites it "to consider the necessity of, and find solutions" to "pave the way for the dissolution of the Office of the High Representative (OHR)."
Parliament is concerned about extremist threats in the Western Balkans region and calls on the BiH authorities "to combat extremism, religious hatred and violence in close collaboration with the international community".