Regional countries to seek EU observer status

31/03/2014

A new initiative proposes EU member candidate states be given an opportunity to more readily present their views in Brussels.

By Miki Trajkovski and Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Skopje and Belgrade -- 31/03/14

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Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro seek observer status at European Council summits and EU council meetings. Herman Van Rompuy (right) is president of the European Council and Jose Manuel Barroso (centre) heads the European Commission. [AFP]

Turkey is gathering support for a new initiative with Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia to obtain observer status at European Council summits and EU council meetings, officials said.

States that have completed the EU membership negotiations have so far been present at EU summits and meetings as observers.

This is still a preliminary idea, said Gul Bujukershen Oral, first counsellor at the Turkish embassy in the EU.

"But, as the initiative matures, we will gladly publish it," Oral said.

One day these countries will be seated at the EU table even though some of them already function within the common market, said Ivica Bocevski, former Macedonia deputy prime minister for European integration.

"The EU countries have nothing to lose, and every step taken toward EU integration is more than welcome for the regional countries," Bocevski told SETimes.

Bocevski said each EU summit and meeting presents an opportunity for officials to discuss relevant issues with representatives of other nations, and under the new initiative the candidate countries would be able to present their views.

"I therefore see everything good and nothing wrong with this initiative, although I do not expect the EU will implement it immediately," he said.

Tanja Fajon, European parliament member from Slovenia, said it is unlikely the initiative will be implemented given the existing EU legislative framework.

"Still, the EU membership process is defined in such a way as to intensify exchange of information among relevant EU institutions and future members. We should therefore ... encourage wider access to relevant information. This is exactly what we are trying to achieve in the European Parliament," Fajon told SETimes.

The initiative is positive and realistic if there is political will to implement it, said Risto Nikovski, former Macedonian ambassador to the United Kingdom.

"Obtaining observer status will mean a serious step in the convergence of all these countries to the EU as well as added transparency in the functioning of the Union. We also need to know who is saying what over there," Nikovski told SETimes.

EU member candidates have a complex job until they sign the accession agreement with the EU, said Ana Vujosevic, EU integration coordinator at the Centre for Civic Education in Podgorica.

"Participation there will be very significant for the candidate countries as it will open up space to present the issues of special importance for them," Vujosevic told SETimes.

Vujosevic said while the initiative is still informal, it has a stimulating effect on the candidate countries to co-operate.

The EU has stated regional co-operation is vital to improving political stability, security and economic development.

"Co-operation, obviously, has to be institutionally reshaped, more functional and recognisable," Dragan Djukanovic, of the European Movement in Serbia, told SETimes.

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The new initiative will also provide a new dynamism and motivation for Euro-Atlantic integration, he added.

Vujosevic pointed out that many of the challenges the candidate countries face are common and demand continual communication and open relations.

"Therefore, initiatives that are an expression of the interests of the states that start them, and in their foundation include these EU conditions, regardless of whether they are formal or informal, are of great help," Vujosevic told SETimes.

What should the EU answer be to the initiative of the member candidate countries to obtain observer status? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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