Romania's membership of the EU in 2007 seemed to promise a continuation of the growth trajectory and an eventual catching up with EU living standards. It was a promise that seemed plausible until 2008. In the six years after Romania started its accession negotiations, GDP per capita rose from 30 to 47 per cent of the EU average. Romania remained poor, but salaries were rising. A new middle class – university graduates employed by multinational companies – found itself with money to spend. It began heading off with low-cost airlines for weekend trips. Timisoara airport offered daily direct flights to more than 20 European destinations.
In the end it seemed almost inevitable. Croatia submitted its EU membership application to the Greek EU presidency in early 2003. At a referendum in January 2012 two thirds of Croatian voters supported their country's accession to the European Union as its 28th member. The referendum came after national elections in December 2011 in which all of the main political parties had backed EU membership. Although some observers noted that less than half of all eligible voters participated in the referendum, given the large number of "dead souls" in the voting registry and the fact that many Croatians living abroad did not vote, the percentage of resident voters who participated appears to have been above 61 per cent. Turnout was thus considerably higher than in Hungary (46 per cent) and comparable to Slovenia (60 per cent) and Poland (59 per cent). The January 2012 referendum concluded a decade in which successive Croatian governments had all assumed that there was no credible alternative to meeting the conditions put forward by the EU to become a full member. But there was nothing inevitable about Croatia's evolution: it took significant political leadership, as well as courage and perseverance, to repudiate the values and policies of the 1990s. It also took, at key moments during this period, smart EU interventions. The Croatian experience, as well as the lessons it holds for the rest of the Western Balkans, is worth exploring in more detail.
In December 2013 the EU-Turkey visa liberalisation process was launched. ESI recommends that EU member states now commit to five goals to support this process. These goals can be achieved by each member state through steps fully in compliance with existing EU visa rules.
The prospects of obtaining visa-free travel and signing the Association Agreement and DCFTA soon are both good news. At the same time Moldova desperately needs economic development and increased foreign direct investment. For this a clear long-term EU membership perspective would be crucial. If the EU wants Moldova to become a true success story in the Eastern neighbourhood, it should be prepared to go further.
This report argues that the future of election monitoring on the European continent depends on how decision makers – in the European Parliament, in the Council of Europe, in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and in European governments – react now. It is vital to revisit the facts and analyses behind the different assessments, and to retrace how different groups of observers could arrive at radically diverging conclusions. The relationship between long- and short-term election observers needs to be rethought.
В настоящем докладе утверждается, что будущее наблюдения за выборами на европейском континенте зависит от того, какой будет реакция лиц, принимающих решения – в Европейском парламенте, Совете Европы, Парламентской ассамблее ОБСЕ и в европейских правительствах – на произошедшее в Азербайджане. Крайне важно тщательно рассмотреть факты и анализ, приведшие к столь различным оценкам выборов, и отследить, каким образом различные группы наблюдателей могли прийти к диаметрально противоположным выводам. Также следует пересмотреть отношение между долгосрочными и краткосрочными наблюдателями за выборами.
Macedonia submitted an application for EU membership in March 2004. Almost a decade later it has still not opened EU accession talks. Albania submitted its application in April 2009. More than four years later it is not even an official candidate. Then there is Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter: Bosnia). Bosnia has already broken every record when it comes to its Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU. It started negotiations in November 2005. Eight years later, the agreement has not yet entered into force. No other Balkan country has taken so long. Bosnia has also not yet submitted an application for EU accession. If the experience of Albania and Macedonia is anything to go by, it might not start accession talks for another decade.
In December 2009 the European Court of Human Rights found – in its judgement in the case Sejdic and Finci vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina – that the constitution and election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina violate the European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols. Bosnia’s laws require that political candidates identify themselves as “Bosniak”, “Croat” or “Serb” in order to be able to run for president or become a member of the upper house of the state parliament. Behind the international interest in this case lies a strong sense of moral outrage. How can a country in today’s Europe prevent a Roma or a Jew from running for head of state? Is this not a racist constitution?
Turkish tourists and European justice. The Demirkan ruling and how Turkey can obtain visa-free travel
On 24 September 2013 many eyes across the EU and Turkey turned to Luxembourg. There, at just after nine-thirty in the morning, the Court of Justice of the European Union (or European Court of Justice, ECJ) delivered a judgement in one of its most important cases this year. The issue at stake was visa-free access to EU countries for Turkish citizens.
On 24 September 2013 at just after nine-thirty in the morning the Court of Justice of the European Union (or European Court of Justice, ECJ) will deliver a judgement in one of the most important cases it will decide this year. The outcome will affect millions of Turkish citizens. It could also have a profound impact on the future of the Schengen visa system.