Press Release – Dr. Marcoullis chaired the General Affairs Council on issues of enlargement
12.12.2012, 07:59 (CET)
Cyprus’ Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, chaired on Tuesday, December 11, the discussions on enlargement issues of the General Affairs Council (GAC), which took place in Brussels.

The GAC discussed and adopted Conclusions on EU enlargement and the stabilisation and association process for the Western Balkans. 

The Council took note of the Commission Communication of October 10 on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges, and Progress Reports on candidate countries and potential candidates, as well as the feasibility study for a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo (this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence).

Committed to drive the enlargement forward

The General Affairs Council reaffirmed the EU's commitment in taking the enlargement process forward on the basis of agreed principles, in line with the renewed consensus on enlargement approved by the European Council in December 2006 and the Council Conclusions of December 2011, with each country being assessed on its own merits.

"We reaffirmed our commitment to the enlargement process, which is one of the most efficient means for reinforcing peace, democracy and stability in Europe", stated Dr. Marcoullis at a Press Conference following the conclusion of the Council, adding that enlargement has been one of the main priorities of the Cyprus Presidency and that, in her capacity as chair of the GAC on enlargement issues, she visited the candidate and potential candidates of the Western Balkans and Iceland, to send a strong message of support and encouragement for a swift process of reforms.

In the relevant Conclusions, the GAC noted with satisfaction the ongoing process of ratification of the accession treaty with Croatia. It also confirmed the prospects for the accession for Turkey, Iceland and Montenegro on the basis of agreed principles and recalled the conditions set in that regard. The renewed consensus on enlargement, approved by the European Council in December 2006, continues to form the basis for the enlargement process, with each country being assessed on its own merits.

"As regards the Western Balkans, we reaffirmed our commitment to the European perspective of the region, considering it essential for its stability, reconciliation and future.  We also recalled the need to respect fair and rigorous conditions", said the Cypriot minister. She also reiterated the position of the Council that, by making solid progress in economic and political reforms and by fulfilling the necessary conditions and requirements, the remaining potential candidates in the Western Balkans should achieve candidate status in accordance with their own merits, with EU membership as an ultimate goal.

Turkey and Iceland

On Turkey, Minister Marcoullis stressed that the Council Conclusions on Turkey constitute an objective, fair and balanced assessment of EU - Turkey relations during the past year.  "The Council recalls that Turkey has not yet implemented in a full and non-discriminatory manner the Additional Protocol, expresses deep regret for Turkey's stance towards the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU and notes with growing concern the lack of substantial progress by Turkey towards fully meeting the political criteria", stated the Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs.  She pointed out that the Council has sent a clear message that Turkey will be able to accelerate the pace of negotiations only by advancing in the fulfilment of benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the negotiating framework and respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU.

The Council also welcomed Iceland’s good progress in the accession negotiations over the past year, also noting that the negotiations are now moving towards a decisive stage.

Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina

On Montenegro, the Council welcomed the launch of accession negotiations and positively noted Montenegro’s progress in addressing issues related to human rights, corruption and the judiciary. ln addition, the Council  called on Montenegro, to build on the progress that has been achieved so far.

On Albania, the Council welcomed the progress made by Albania to meet the 12 key priorities laid out in the Commission's 2010 Opinion and noted the recommendation of the Commission to grant Albania candidate status subject to completion of key measures. With a view to deciding whether to grant candidate status, the Council invited the Commission to report to the Council as soon as necessary progress has been achieved.

On Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Council noted the progress made at the start of 2012 and reiterated its support for the country’s EU perspective, but it also expressed regret that this momentum was not maintained and disappointment that progress on the EU agenda has stalled and that the use of divisive rhetoric has continued.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

“On the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia we have now a non static and forward looking text that clearly spells out the incentives and the further steps to be taken”, stated Dr. Marcoullis. She added that this text of Conclusions can create the necessary momentum and spark positive developments to the benefit of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and of the wider region, provided that the conditions spelled out in the Conclusions adopted today by the Council are met.

“This would contribute towards the further advancement of the relations between the EU and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and aims to lead towards a possible decision by the European Council to open accession negotiations with Skopje within next semester”, the Cypriot minister pointed out.

Serbia and Kosovo

On both Serbia and Kosovo the Council recognises the progress achieved, while also referring to the issues that still need to be addressed.  “The text is forward looking, aiming to encourage the two sides to achieve further progress in the period to come in the Belgrade --- Pristina dialogue”, said Minister Marcoullis. 

In this context, as regards Serbia in particular, the Council refers to the possibility of starting accession negotiations when relevant progress is accordingly achieved, on the basis of a report to be presented by the Commission and the HR/VP in spring 2013. 

With a view to a possible decision to open negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo, the Council will examine, also on the basis of a report to be presented by the Commission and the HR/VP in spring 2013, progress on all relevant issues and make an assessment during the next Presidency.

Presidency Spokesperson in Brussels
Nikos Christodoulides

Coreper II

Telephone: +32 27395152
Mobile: +32 473400441
Communications Officer
Charis Christodoulidou

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Telephone: +357 22401165

Watch the press conference here

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11.12.2012 - 11.12.2012