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Balkan developments

The European Commission adopts its 2022 Enlargement Package

The European Commission adopted its 2022 Enlargement Package, providing a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans and Turkey on their respective path towards the European Union.

The Commission recommends that Bosnia and Herzegovina be granted candidate status by the Council, on the understanding that a number of steps are taken to reinforce democracy, functionality of state institutions, rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime, guarantee media freedom and migration management in the country.

In the case of Montenegro, the priority for further overall progress in negotiations remains the fulfillment of the rule of law interim benchmarks set under chapter 23 and 24. To reach this milestone, Montenegro needs to intensify its efforts to address the outstanding issues, including in the critical areas of freedom of expression and media freedom, fight against corruption and organized crime, credibility of judiciary, etc.

Serbia should as a matter of priority establish a government, firmly committed to the EU strategic direction and reform path. Further work and political commitment are needed to continue and deepen reforms and address shortcomings, in particular in the key areas of the judiciary, fight against corruption and organized crime, media freedom, freedom of assembly and the domestic handing of war crimes. Serbia also needs to improve its alignment with EU foreign and security policy and tackle robustly all forms of disinformation.

Albania and North Macedonia need to further intensify efforts in key areas of rule of law, the fight against corruption and the fight against organized crime. Albania also has to address property rights, minority issues and freedom of expression.

Kosovo needs to intensify its efforts to strengthen democracy, public administration, the rule of law and to fight corruption. The Commission stands by its assessment of July 2018 that Kosovo has fulfilled all visa liberalization benchmarks.

In the area of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, Türkiye needs to reverse the negative trend as a matter of priority with addressing the weakening of effective checks and balances in the political system. Dialogue on rule of law and fundamental rights remains an integral part of the EU-Türkiye relationship.

The Netherlands avoids setting clear deadline for Romania’s Schengen accession

There could be an increase in Euroscepticism among Romanians if the country does not become part of the Schengen Area in 2022, President Klaus Iohannis said when speaking on the topic during the press conference held with Dutch Premier Mark Rutte, Digi 24 reported. “The Netherlands is in principle not against Romania’s Schengen accession, but the accession must be done when all the conditions are met. The Netherlands does not oppose Romania’s accession to Schengen, but we must do it in a transparent and fair manner”, Mark Rutte said and avoided setting a clear deadline for Romania’s Schengen accession.

Albania’s Premier Edi Rama asks the Council of Europe Assembly to annul the Dick Marty report

In a speech to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Albania’s Premier Edi Rama said that Swiss senator Dick Marty’s 2011 report on trafficking in human organs in Kosovo and Albania during the war in the 1990’s should be reviewed.  In Edi Rama’s words, the allegations against Kosovo Liberation Army officers should be reviewed as an “issue of truth and justice”. Edi Rama said there was not a single piece of evidence for Marty’s claims. According to Rama, the report’s suggestion raised false suspicions that human organs were trafficked by KLA officers and described the claims about organ trafficking as “a fantasy fabricated in the Kremlin and in a very intelligent way smuggled into the channels of international politics. After Rama’s speech, the PACE Presidency cancelled the working dinner with the Albanian Premier.”

The Euro-Asia Electricity Interconnector is officially entering construction phase

The Euro-Asia Electricity Interconnector, which will link Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, is officially entering construction phase. The inauguration ceremony of the Euro-Asia Interconnector, which will connect the national grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece via the world’s longest submarine power cable, is scheduled for Friday, October 14, ANA-MPA news announced. Meanwhile, the ferryboat line between the Turkish city of Izmir and the Greek port city of Thessaloniki was unveiled after a six-year delay. According to the Izmir Chamber of Commerce, the ship’s trips will be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The voyage between the two countries is expected to take 12 to 13 hours and the single ticket will cost between EUR 81 and 95.

Turkey’s Parliament adopts media law jailing those accused of spreading disinformation

Turkey’s Parliament adopted a law proposed by President Recep Erdogan that would jail journalists and social media users for up to three years for spreading “disinformation”. According to Article 22 of the bill, journalists and social media users face an imprisonment of up to three years for intentionally publishing disinformation or “fake news” that spreads panic, endangers security forces or the overall health of Turkish society, AFP reported. The ruling majority of the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Action Party approved the law. Burak Erbay, a Turkish opposition lawmaker, destroyed his smartphone with a hammer during his speech in Parliament to protest the new bill.

Compiled by: Ivo Ivanov

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: EPA/BGNES, ec.europa.eu, pace.coe.int, rayhaber.com, ft.com

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