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Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed today Commission's recommendation to give Albania official EU candidate status subject to completion of administrative, judicial and parliamentary reforms. MEPs also supported the proposal to negotiate a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo, in a debate with commissioner Štefan Füle following closely the adoption of the 2012 enlargement package.

MEPs gave an overwhelming support to putting the rule of law in the centre of enlargement strategy, as outlined by commissioner Füle, who also asked for a new narrative of the enlargement to be turned into more effective instruments. Stress on regional cooperation in Western Balkans and seeing the enlargement as a part of the solution to the economic difficulties of the EU also received support from the MEPs.


"I do feel that Albania deserves to be given the candidate status," Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL, EL), EP rapporteur on Albania, said. While agreeing that the candidate status shall be only given on condition of fulfilling key reforms in the country, he pointed to the need to offer an incentive to Albania. As far as the political consensus is concerned, the situation in the country is however still not stabilized, he warned.


Libor Rouček (S&D, CZ), who steers the debate on Croatia membership bid, spoke out his satisfaction that the country is on track to become the 28th EU member. The fact that the enlargement process goes on is "a good signal", he said and stressed that "it is clear what still needs to be done" in terms of improving public administration, fighting corruption and the organised crime.


MEP responsible for Serbia, Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SL), noted that the lack of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade has been a continuous feature in the Western Balkans. "A step by step resolution of the issue is not a right way," he underlined, calling for a "sustainable solution in the region." All the countries in the region should be encouraged to "achieve more by the middle of next year," he said.


Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT), rapporteur on Kosovo, commended on the feasibility study's conclusion that a SAA with Kosovo could be concluded. "The fact that contractual relations between the EU and Kosovo are possible is good news," she noted. As other MEPs, she also stressed that maintaining the momentum on enlargement is crucial.


Richard Howitt (S&D, UK), rapporteur on Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), for which the Commission recommends for a fourth time to open accession negotiations, commended the Commission on "using the adjective Macedonian in line with EP recommendations" and stressed that "there is no alternative to the UN framework" as far as the name issue is concerned.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In a reaction to Commission's disappointment over Bosnia and Herzegovina that the commitments under the High level dialogue have not been fulfilled and timelines met, Emine Bozkurt (S&D, NL), shadow rapporteur on Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that "the situation has a lot to do with not taking responsibility for common institutions such as the national museum."


EP rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL), underscored that "more should be done together in the fight against terrorism." She also noted that the Commission's report shows two faces of Turkey - one progressing on reform agenda and another pointing to more "self-censorship", "culture of intolerance" towards minorities and perpetuating gender violence. Together with many other MEPs, she praised the Commission with its proposal to break the deadlock over the Cyprus issue under the UN auspices.


The rapporteur on Iceland, Cristian Preda (EPP, RO), regretted that in spite of 18 negotiating chapters opened and 10 provisionally closed, "the progress does not reflect the feelings of the Icelanders about the enlargement." A proposal in the Icelandic parliament to put a halt to the talks has however been rejected, he noted.

Maria Eleni Koppa (S&D, EL), rapporteur on the enlargement policies, criteria and the EU's strategic interests, said: "We are all united that the enlargement fatigue should not result in the stagnation, in spite of the economic crisis." She also stressed that the enlargement process should have a genuine social dimension and due attention should be paid to the social justice.

Foreign Affairs Committee will now start the thorough examination of the country-specific reports.

In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)