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Foreign Affairs | Western Balkans and European Union membership

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress of European enlargement with particular reference to the Western Balkans; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of applications for European Union membership that are currently in progress in relation to each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Ireland has always been, and will remain, a strong supporter of enlargement of the European Union, provided that candidate countries meet the necessary conditions for membership. We recognise the value of enlargement as a transformative driver for stability and peace in candidate countries.

There are currently seven recognised candidates for membership of the European Union: Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Kosovo are recognised as potential candidates by the EU.

The EU officially launched accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in July 2022. This progress is a very welcome development, as it sends an important signal to the entire Western Balkans region that the EU remains serious about enlargement.

The EU is encouraging greater reform efforts in Serbia and Montenegro to accelerate their accession paths, particularly in relation to rule of law and good governance. Serbia’s non-alignment with the EU common position relating to Russia has been of concern recently.

Candidate status was granted to Ukraine and Moldova in June 2022, on the understanding that reforms are taken in a number of areas. The Commission will monitor the progress of both countries in meeting these reforms, and report on them by the end of the year.

Accession negotiations with Turkey have largely stalled due to backsliding in the areas of democracy, rule of law, and fundamental rights.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia have formally submitted applications for membership and both are recognised as potential candidate countries, but further reforms will be required in each country before any granting of candidate status can be considered. Kosovo has a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, and has indicated an intention to submit a formal application for EU membership during 2022.

Ireland believes that the accession process needs to be improved and accelerated where possible. The new accession methodology is a positive step in this regard, but more must be done to maintain the reform commitment and aspirations of those seeking to join, including through use of the accelerated integration procedures provided for in the new methodology.

Ireland will continue to strongly support the EU enlargement process and offer any practical assistance it can to candidate and potential candidate countries engaged in accession negotiations to the EU.

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