(10 November 2015) – In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission has assessed where the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey stand in preparing to meet EU membership requirements, and sets out what needs to be done to address the remaining challenges.
In its enlargement strategy, the Commission reaffirms the strong focus on the principle of “fundamentals first” in the accession process. Core issues of the rule of law, fundamental rights, strengthening democratic institutions, including public administration reform, as well as economic development and competitiveness remain key priorities.
Progress is being made, in particular with the adoption of relevant legislation and establishment of necessary administrative structures. However, across the board effective implementation is very often lacking.
With respect to the rule of law, judicial systems are not sufficiently independent, efficient or accountable. Serious efforts are still needed to tackle organised crime and corruption.
While fundamental rights are often largely enshrined in law, shortcomings persist in practice. Ensuring freedom of expression is a particular challenge, with negative developments in a number of countries.
The functioning of democratic institutions also requires attention. There is a need to work even more closely with local civil society actors to anchor reforms across society.