Foreign Affairs | European Union membership accession
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which enlargement of the European Union continues; the action that has been taken to encourage applicant countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which and when Ukraine might be in a position to join the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which countries in the Western Balkans are being assisted towards membership of the European Union; 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. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the clear need for continuing, ever-closer cooperation between the EU and our partners in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership regions.
There are currently seven recognised candidates for membership of the European Union: Türkiye, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Kosovo are recognised as potential candidates by the EU.
2022 has seen significant developments with regard to EU enlargement.
In June 2022, candidate status was granted to Ukraine and Moldova, on the understanding that reforms are taken in a number of areas. It was also recommended that candidate status eventually be granted to Georgia, once a number of priority reforms have been addressed. The Commission will monitor the progress of all three countries in meeting these reforms, and report on them by the end of the year.
In July 2022, the EU officially launched accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. This progress is a very welcome development, as it sends an important signal to the entire Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership regions that the EU remains serious about enlargement.
In October 2022, the European Commission recommended granting candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the understanding that reforms are carried out in eight key areas, primarily on judicial reforms. It is expected that the European Council will revert to the issue in December, following its earlier agreement in June that it is ready to grant BiH candidate status, on the basis of the implementation of 14 key reforms.
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. Current political instability in Montenegro and Serbia’s non-alignment with the EU common position relating to Russia are areas of concern.
Accession negotiations with Turkey have largely stalled due to backsliding in the areas of democracy, rule of law, and fundamental rights.
Kosovo has a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, and has indicated an intention to submit a formal application for EU membership in the near future.
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.
The accession process must also remain rigorous, to ensure that candidate countries are suitably prepared before they join the EU. Candidate countries must meet the necessary criteria set out in 35 chapters, grouped into six thematic clusters. It is not possible to predict when a candidate country may join the EU, as this is dependent on the political will and ability of its leaders to implement the necessary reform agenda.
However, to assist in implementation of the necessary reforms, the European Union has established several support programs. The primary support tool is the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), which the EU has been using to support reforms in the enlargement region with financial and technical assistance since 2007. For the period 2021-2027, the IPA III budgetary envelope is over €14 billion. EU Member States are also able to support candidate and potential candidate countries through TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange) and Twinning. Via TAIEX and Twinning, EU Member States can directly support public administrations in enlargement countries through workshops, expert missions and study visits.
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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