EU Enlargement Report: Western Balkan States Must Tackle Organized Crime and Corruption
The European Commission (EC) has urged Turkey and Western Balkan governments to tackle organized crime and corruption if they want to meet European Union (EU) membership requirements.
In a set of annual reports adopted today, Commissioner Johannes Hahn – responsible for ongoing EU membership negotiations – emphasized the importance of the enlargement process "to strengthen the rule of law and human rights in these countries."
While the EC said progress had been made in the past year, their press release warned that "serious efforts" were needed to show ability and willing to pursue investigations, prosecutions and final convictions against corrupt and criminal officials.
Detailed reports on several countries revealed a common theme:
• Albania was asked to finalize the "comprehensive reform of the judicial system" to tackle corruption
• Bosnia and Herzegovina was required to significantly improve "coordination and cooperation between all institutions throughout the country" to fight organized crime
• Kosovo is "at an early stage of alignment", with organized crime an issue of major concern, while its public broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo is said to be “vulnerable to undue political influence”
• Serbia has made some progress, especially in its relations with Kosovo, but "prevalent corruption and an inadequate institutional set-up" continue to hamper political and commercial development
Of the countries assessed, Montenegro was claimed to have made the most progress on benchmarks set by the EC.
It was praised for having improved the independence of the judiciary, as well as adopting a new Parliamentary code of ethics to strengthen its anti-corruption framework.
The positive words may come as a welcome boost for Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. The streets of the capital Podgorica were recently filled with protests demanding his resignation as opponents accused his government of corruption.
The seven countries addressed in the reports are at different stages in the process towards joining the EU. Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia are all engaged in accession negotiations, while Albania is a candidate country. Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have not yet attained candidate status.
On the same day as the UK Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to set out his priorities for EU reform, the attraction of joining the European club clearly still carries weight.