The Minister for Europe, David Lidington, welcomed the publication 16 October of the European Commission’s Annual Enlargement Package containing the EU’s Enlargement Strategy 2013-14 and Country Progress Reports for each enlargement country.
I welcome these reports. Enlargement is one of the EU’s greatest achievements, and the UK strongly supports further enlargement - once the conditions are met - to all of the Western Balkans and Turkey, as part of our vision of an open, flexible Europe. Preparing for EU membership can transform countries. It encourages them to carry out far-reaching reforms that help to entrench the EU values of democracy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms, building the foundations for prosperity, security and stability across the continent, and helping to tackle UK priorities such as organised crime, migration crime and corruption.
In 2013, we have already seen significant progress, including the successful accession of Croatia on 1 July and the historic agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo in April. We want to build on this momentum at the December European Council, where we hope to underline the EU’s support for future enlargement, coupled with a firm-but-fair approach that applies tough conditionality and rewards progress made by individual countries strictly on merit. It is vital for the credibility of the enlargement process that countries only join the EU when they are fully ready to do so.
I therefore welcome the focus in these reports on ensuring that all countries are tackling the “fundamentals first”. From the outset, countries must address issues such as the rule of law, organised crime and corruption, protection of democracy and fundamental freedoms, good economic governance and the resolution of bilateral disputes. The UK Government will study carefully the detail and conclusions of the Commission’s reports in the coming days. They will also be studied carefully by Parliament.