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Turkey's military operation in Syria and its impact on relations with the EU

11-11-2019

'Operation Peace Spring', launched on 9 October 2019, is the third major Turkish military operation on Syrian territory since 2016, following the 'Euphrates Shield' (2016-2017) and 'Olive Branch' (2018) operations. Though the decision of Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to invade the north-east Syrian region governed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), may have come as a surprise to some, it is in fact consistent with the rationale of a regime that counts the fight against the Kurdistan ...

'Operation Peace Spring', launched on 9 October 2019, is the third major Turkish military operation on Syrian territory since 2016, following the 'Euphrates Shield' (2016-2017) and 'Olive Branch' (2018) operations. Though the decision of Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to invade the north-east Syrian region governed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), may have come as a surprise to some, it is in fact consistent with the rationale of a regime that counts the fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) – considered 'terrorist' not only by Turkey, but also by the United States and the EU – among its top security priorities. What is new is not the fight against the PKK, but rather Turkey's further strategic decoupling from two of its allies, the EU and the United States. This decoupling started in 2016, when the failed military coup in Turkey prompted President Erdoğan to reinforce his ties with Moscow. Since then, he has grown more authoritarian, using anti-Western rhetoric and making foreign policy choices contrary to the interests of the trans-Atlantic alliance. In light of the Trump administration's withdrawal from Syria, Turkey's military move might also be perceived as an attempt to fill a power vacuum in the region and jointly consolidate its influence there with its new ally, Russia. Turkey is a long-standing EU partner; however, negotiations on the country's EU accession have stalled since 2016, after it drifted further away from the EU benchmarks for the rule of law and fundamental rights. In 2019, the European Parliament called upon the Council of the EU and the European Commission to suspend talks on Turkey's EU accession. Despite positive cooperation on migration and the EU-Turkey agreement, under which a total of €6 billion has been allocated for around 3.6 million Syrian refugees, Turkey's incursion into north-east Syria could further damage its EU membership perspective and lead to a new wave of internally displaced persons and refugees, as well as to security threats linked to ISIL/Da'esh foreign fighters present in Syria.

North Macedonia: A step closer to EU membership

17-10-2019

On 15 October 2019, the General Affairs Council discussed the issue of enlargement as regards Albania and North Macedonia without reaching unanimity (opposition of one EU Member State) on the decision to open EU accession negotiations with these countries. The Council will return to the issue after the European Council meeting on 17 18 October. In line with the 2018 western Balkans strategy, which aimed to inject new momentum into the enlargement process, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission ...

On 15 October 2019, the General Affairs Council discussed the issue of enlargement as regards Albania and North Macedonia without reaching unanimity (opposition of one EU Member State) on the decision to open EU accession negotiations with these countries. The Council will return to the issue after the European Council meeting on 17 18 October. In line with the 2018 western Balkans strategy, which aimed to inject new momentum into the enlargement process, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President-elect, and Josep Borrell, incoming High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President-designate of the Commission (HR/VP), have declared the western Balkans to be their priority.

Autor externo

Staníček, Branislav;

Serbia at risk of authoritarianism?

02-05-2019

Among the Western Balkan countries aspiring to EU membership, Serbia is seen as a frontrunner in terms of its democratic institutions, level of economic development and overall readiness for accession. However, in November 2018 opposition politician, Borko Stefanović, was beaten up by thugs, triggering a wave of protests that has spread across the country. Week after week, thousands have taken to the streets, accusing Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of ...

Among the Western Balkan countries aspiring to EU membership, Serbia is seen as a frontrunner in terms of its democratic institutions, level of economic development and overall readiness for accession. However, in November 2018 opposition politician, Borko Stefanović, was beaten up by thugs, triggering a wave of protests that has spread across the country. Week after week, thousands have taken to the streets, accusing Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of authoritarian rule, attacks on independent media, electoral fraud and corruption. Although the protests only started recently, they highlight worrying longer-term trends. Press freedom has been in decline for several years, particularly since Vučić became prime minister in 2014. A large part of the media is now controlled either directly by the state or by pro-SNS figures. Independent journalists face threats and even violence, and perpetrators are rarely convicted. In the National Assembly, the governing coalition uses its parliamentary majority to systematically block meaningful discussions of legislative proposals. In protest, the opposition started a boycott of plenary debates in February 2019. The tone of verbal attacks by SNS politicians and their allies on independent media, the political opposition and civil society is often virulent. Criticising government policy is framed as betrayal of Serbian interests. The aim seems to be to marginalise critical voices while concentrating power in the hands of the SNS-led government. Elected to the mainly ceremonial role of president in 2017, Vučić nevertheless remains the dominant figure. If Serbia's drift towards authoritarianism continues, it could become a major obstacle to EU accession, for which 2025 has been mentioned as a possible date.

Serbia-Kosovo relations: Confrontation or normalisation?

12-02-2019

After fighting broke out between government forces and separatists, the formerly Serbian province of Kosovo was transferred to United Nations administration in 1999. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. However, Belgrade continues to view its former province as Serbian territory. Over 100 countries, including 23 EU Member States, have recognised Kosovar independence, but full recognition and membership of most international organisations are still a long way off. Both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to ...

After fighting broke out between government forces and separatists, the formerly Serbian province of Kosovo was transferred to United Nations administration in 1999. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. However, Belgrade continues to view its former province as Serbian territory. Over 100 countries, including 23 EU Member States, have recognised Kosovar independence, but full recognition and membership of most international organisations are still a long way off. Both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to EU membership – Serbia as a candidate country and Kosovo as a potential candidate. The EU insists that Serbia must normalise its relations with Kosovo before joining. Since 2011, with the help of EU mediation, the two neighbours have resolved some of the technical issues, but disagreements prevent normal day-to-day interaction between them in areas such as trade, energy supplies and cross-border travel. One of the main stumbling blocks is the situation of Kosovo's Serb minority. Around one in 12 Kosovars is an ethnic Serb, and nearly half of these are concentrated in the north. Despite efforts to integrate Serb-majority northern Kosovo into the rest of the country, Pristina still struggles to control the region. In 2013 and 2015, it agreed to establish an Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, but progress on this is now deadlocked. In 2018, the Kosovar and Serbian presidents floated the idea of a 'border correction', possibly involving the exchange of northern Kosovo for Albanian-majority Serbian districts. However, the proposal has been criticised by Germany, which fears that any territorial exchange risks sparking instability by calling into question other Western Balkan borders. There is also strong domestic opposition to the move in both Kosovo and Serbia. Despite growing pressure on both sides to finally reach a deal that could unlock the door to EU membership, relations remain tense and progress towards normalisation is currently at a standstill.

Montenegro: 2018 country report

27-11-2018

The European Commission report on Montenegro, published in April 2018, makes a positive evaluation of the country's progress, with Montenegro leading the EU accession process in the Western Balkans. However, although Montenegro has been a stable country, on good terms with its neighbours for many years, the internal political situation has deteriorated over the past two years following a coup attempt in 2016. Parliament is due to vote a resolution on the report in plenary in November.

The European Commission report on Montenegro, published in April 2018, makes a positive evaluation of the country's progress, with Montenegro leading the EU accession process in the Western Balkans. However, although Montenegro has been a stable country, on good terms with its neighbours for many years, the internal political situation has deteriorated over the past two years following a coup attempt in 2016. Parliament is due to vote a resolution on the report in plenary in November.

Future EU-Turkey relations

23-10-2018

In June 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected as president of Turkey, this time with extended powers under the revised Turkish Constitution. Over the previous couple of years, his country's relationship with the EU had been challenged by issues such as the ongoing management of the migration crisis and the EU-Turkey Agreement, the attempted military coup in Istanbul and Ankara, and the ensuing purge, which the EU and international organisations criticised for its disproportionate severity. With ...

In June 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected as president of Turkey, this time with extended powers under the revised Turkish Constitution. Over the previous couple of years, his country's relationship with the EU had been challenged by issues such as the ongoing management of the migration crisis and the EU-Turkey Agreement, the attempted military coup in Istanbul and Ankara, and the ensuing purge, which the EU and international organisations criticised for its disproportionate severity. With the constitutional referendum and the subsequent parliamentary and presidential elections, President Erdogan further reinforced his position at the helm of the institutional system and raised concerns among the EU and NATO about his commitment to Western institutions. Turkey deepened its relations with Russia, buying military equipment and coordinating with it on Syrian policies on the ground. At the same time, US-Turkish relations worsened due to the Syrian conflict and the imprisonment of a US pastor by Turkey, although he was subsequently released. Negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU have nevertheless continued, despite an increasingly lively debate in some Member States about whether or not they should be halted. Some have proposed striking an economic agreement with Turkey as an alternative to membership. Others believe the outcome of the negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU might also provide a possible model for Turkey. Despite the numerous hurdles before it, accession not only remains the ultimate objective of EU-Turkey relations, endorsed by both the European Council and by Turkey, but it also provides potential for reform and dialogue regarding common standards, not least in the area of civil liberties.

Montenegro – a lead candidate for EU accession

28-09-2018

With most negotiation chapters open and a likely candidate to meet the 2025 accession date suggested by the European Commission's new 2018 enlargement strategy, Montenegro is in a leading position on its path towards EU accession, compared to the other five aspirants from the Western Balkans. In June 2017, the country also joined NATO, achieving another strategic foreign policy priority. Despite these favourable developments, Montenegro has a lot of work ahead in order to reach EU standards in areas ...

With most negotiation chapters open and a likely candidate to meet the 2025 accession date suggested by the European Commission's new 2018 enlargement strategy, Montenegro is in a leading position on its path towards EU accession, compared to the other five aspirants from the Western Balkans. In June 2017, the country also joined NATO, achieving another strategic foreign policy priority. Despite these favourable developments, Montenegro has a lot of work ahead in order to reach EU standards in areas such as the fight against corruption and organised crime, respect for the rule of law, and media freedom.

The European Council and the Western Balkans: Overview of discussions since the Lisbon Treaty

14-05-2018

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. However, the message has often seemed technical and EU leaders have appeared less inclined to offer a strategic view of future relations between the EU and the Western Balkans. The European Council has held only one strategic ...

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. However, the message has often seemed technical and EU leaders have appeared less inclined to offer a strategic view of future relations between the EU and the Western Balkans. The European Council has held only one strategic debate on the Western Balkans, in March 2017, when it discussed the then deteriorating security situation in the region and agreed to keep it under review. The strategy for the Western Balkans put forward by the European Commission in February 2018 sends a strong political message of openness and inclusiveness to the countries in the region. In April 2018, the Commission’s country reports for Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia recognised the progress made, and supported the opening of accession negotiations. In this context, EU leaders may consider enlargement at their next regular meeting, following a Council meeting on enlargement in June 2018.

Western Balkans: Enlargement strategy 2018

13-03-2018

With a resolute tone and a sense of urgency, the European Commission's new enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans sets a clear direction for the region's six countries: it offers them a credible enlargement perspective and pledges enhanced EU engagement. It indicates 2025 as a possible enlargement date. However, seizing this opportunity remains a challenge, as the aspirants must each deliver on difficult, key reforms, and solve all outstanding bilateral disputes.

With a resolute tone and a sense of urgency, the European Commission's new enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans sets a clear direction for the region's six countries: it offers them a credible enlargement perspective and pledges enhanced EU engagement. It indicates 2025 as a possible enlargement date. However, seizing this opportunity remains a challenge, as the aspirants must each deliver on difficult, key reforms, and solve all outstanding bilateral disputes.

Western Balkans in the spotlight in 2018

15-01-2018

With positive messages and increased attention coming from the EU, 2017 seems to have ended on a high note for the Western Balkans. 2018 starts with the region being high on the agenda of Bulgaria's EU Council Presidency, and promises a favourable context for advancing its EU bids. For this to happen, however, the six WB countries need to show results on the core EU-related reforms.

With positive messages and increased attention coming from the EU, 2017 seems to have ended on a high note for the Western Balkans. 2018 starts with the region being high on the agenda of Bulgaria's EU Council Presidency, and promises a favourable context for advancing its EU bids. For this to happen, however, the six WB countries need to show results on the core EU-related reforms.

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EPRS online Book Talk | The revolutions of 1989-90 thirty years on [...]
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09-11-2020
Sexual harassment in the EU institutions - Public Hearing
Audição -
FEMM
10-11-2020
The Annual Rule of Law Report by the Commission and the Role of National Parliaments
Outro evento -
LIBE

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