Stepping up support for EU accession

10 Apr 2013

As the country enters into each new phase in the process of EU accession, national and local institutions will need support for reforms, to meet the requirements of the EU acquis.

 

With the launch of the High Level Accession Dialogue, in order to speed up the pace of reforms, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister approached UNDP to provide all possible assistance to the Secretariat for European Affairs.  In response, UNDP at once set about working with EU integration experts in the region to identify the most effective ways of moving the process forward.

 

The UNDP office in Skopje began working closely the UNDP  regional team of experts on EU accession to organize an intensified exchange of knowledge and practical experience.

 

“Croatia’s experience is especially pertinent for this country,” explains Filip Dragovic, UNDP Regional Advisor on Rule of Law and former chief of Croatia’s  negotiations working group on Chapter 24, “not only because of the similarities and the shared history between the two countries, but because it’s Croatia that has recently completed accession negotiations with the EU under the new format with thirty-five chapters and opening and closing benchmarks, which now apply to all other candidate countries. No other country possesses that experience”.

 

UNDP’s Zagreb office working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Croatia and its EU negotiation team welcomed the chance to work more closely on the accession process and readily came forward with leading experts with fresh experience of the negotiations.

 

“We’ve had excellent cooperation with Croatia throughout this process,” says Alessandro Fracassetti, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Skopje  “And we’ve been especially fortunate in having access to some of their top experts who’ve actually worked through every stage of the negotiation process with the EU.” 

 

UNDP was also fortunate to be able to tap into the experience of Slovenia, country that not only has experience of its own successful pre-accession process but also nearly a decade’s experience of EU membership.

 

“Once we’d gathered this international expertise together in a framework for regional cooperation,” explains Fracassetti, “we started a scoping missions on priority chapters of the acquis.”

 

The focus of the scoping missions, composed of top-level negotiators and former members of working groups on accession, was on Chapters 23 and 24 of the acquis—covering the judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security—as top priorities in the High Level Accession Dialogue, and on Chapters 11 and 22—covering agriculture and rural development and regional policy and the coordination of structural instruments—as prioritized by the Secretariat for European Affairs.

 

The scoping missions have not only facilitated a greater exchange of invaluable experience and information sharing on pre-accession know-how,  they have also resulted in two  important seminars held in Skopje for some two hundred of the country’s policy-makers from national ministries and other relevant institutions.

 

The latest mission in December 2012 composed of 9 high-level experts specifically focussed on practical ways to help the country comply with Chapter 24 of the acquis, which deals with very important issues, such as  asulym and migration, external borders, terrorism and fight against organized crime and fundamental rights. It is one of the most difficult chapters of the acquis which requires full dedication and institutional capacities to implement all the reforms.

 

At the Conference ‘Towards 2020, Sustainable Reforms’, organized by the Government with UNDP’s support last year, Deputy Prime Minister for EU integrations Teuta Arifi stated: UNDP’s support has been very valuable in tapping into the very relevant experience of Croatia in the EU negotiations process. This will significantly contribute to the further strengthening of our institutional and human capacities to effectively implement the EU accession agenda.”

 

“These efforts are part of our long-term commitment to the country’s goal of joining the EU,” said  Fracassetti. “The prospect of EU membership is a powerful incentive for reform that matches people's needs for socio-economic and political improvements, and UNDP fully shares the government’s belief that integration with the EU is the surest way to achieve rapid progress in development.”

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