RFE: Thirteen EU members demand expansion to Western Balkans in a non-paper?
France sent an informal document to EU members, demanding a "renewed approach" in the enlargement process of the Western Balkan countries, RFE has learnedSource: Beta, RFE
France requests the European Commission (EC) to publish a new methodology of the negotiations with the candidate countries by January 2020.
RFE had insight into the so-called "non-paper" which, among other things, said that political, economic and social transformations required for future accession to the European Union are said to be "too slow" and that concrete benefits for citizens in the candidate countries are insufficient.
The non-paper which RFE had seen also said that “once the negotiations start, the process would not be based on the opening of new chapters, but on several successive phases which would form coherent blocs of policies and a scheme established by the EU, taking care about specifics of each candidate, where it is appropriate", the document says.
”The document insists on the rule of law and fundamental rights as integral demands from the start of negotiations and a part of all areas in the process".
It is anticipated that the transition from one stage to the next would be presented in great detail, and would be largely based on "continuous, irreversible progress in the field of the rule of law". Candidate countries would have to adapt institutional and administrative capacities to the need of effective participation in different policies. Final accession would be decided on the basis of meeting the tangible goals of economic and social convergence.
It is also said in a document that “the final aim would be full accession,” and that the whole process should be “more gradual and more incentive.”
France also envisages additional financial aid in the pre-accession process of the Western Balkans countries, meaning more pre-accession instruments, but also the access to structural funds now reserved for the EU member states only.
The leading Paris demand is to include the reversibility principle to secure credibility and incentive nature of the process.
Paris considers that principle needed in resolving the situations in which a candidate country partially or not at all fulfills some criteria or if it stops implementing its commitments.
In this case, according to a French paper, the EU response would be gradual and proportionate to the size and seriousness of the oversight, and would range from suspending financial assistance to general suspension, if the EU's core values were called into question. Paris paper confirms "unequivocal support" for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries and states that the whole region belongs to Europe in view of history, culture and geography.
"Closer ties with the European Union are the only way for these countries to consolidate, based on the rule of law and open and pluralistic societies, dealing with their economic and social development", the French document reads.
So-called "non-paper" is an unofficial document usually circulates in close negotiations within the EU institutions, especially in the Council of Ministers of EU member states, and serve to help to reach agreement on a disputed political issue.
France has repeatedly emphasized the need to change its approach to the EU membership negotiations and to condition the opening of new negotiations by changing the accession methodology. This was also the reason why France blocked the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania at the EU Summit in October.