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Continued EU Enlargement Key To Europe's Future


Continued EU enlargement Key To Europe's future

"Continued EU enlargement is of central importance to the future of Europe. The prospects of membership are a powerful impetus for reforms. The doors of the EU must remain open to those European countries that want to become members," says Carl Bildt, commenting on the annual European Commission reports on EU enlargement published today.

Apart from a strategy for current and future challenges, reports have also been presented on the progress of EU alignment for Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans.

The Commission notes continued progress in Croatia and emphasises the strategic importance of Turkish EU membership. At the same time, Turkey is urged to work more energetically on its reforms. Considerable efforts are necessary to strengthen freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the government's control of the military.

"Turkey must now renew its reform process, and not least, protect freedom of expression. The EU must also stand by its promise of continued negotiations," says Mr Bildt. Turkish membership of the EU will contribute to stability in the region. Turkey represents a unique link with the Muslim world and, with its strong economy, will be an asset to the EU as a whole.

"I expect Croatia to resume the satisfactory pace of its reforms and negotiations after the parliamentary election (25 November)."

The Commission also reports its assessments concerning the efforts of the countries in the Western Balkans to develop closer ties to the EU. It noted that progress has been made but also that major challenges remain in the practical aspects of continuing to align themselves with the Union.

"Further European integration for the countries of the Western Balkans is a prerequisite for long-term stability in this part of Europe. These countries are welcome as members of the EU when they meet all the requirements. It is important that they view their future from this perspective. At the same time, we are setting clear conditions, such as those on cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague," concludes Carl Bildt.

ENDS

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