The European Court of Auditors is currently assessing the effectiveness of EU measures to support the rule of law - a requirement for accession - in the Western Balkans. The audit is covering four candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and two potential candidate countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo).
Rule of law is a fundamental European value. Although there is no formal EU definition, it is generally understood to include the following six principles: equality before the law, legal certainty, separation of powers, independent and impartial courts, transparent and democratic legislative procedures and effective judicial review. Strengthening the rule of law is therefore intrinsically linked to the fight against corruption. It is also a key condition for economic growth.
To join the EU, candidate countries must demonstrate their capacity to take on the obligations of EU membership, as set out in the 1993 ‘Copenhagen criteria’. The first of these criteria relates to the existence of developed, stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities. The speed of accession negotiations thus largely depends on progress made in this area.
“Rule of law is a non-negotiable prerequisite for EU membership. Yet, Western Balkan countries are still facing issues concerning corruption and how their public institutions function, which hinder their accession to the EU”, said Juhan Parts, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the audit. “Our audit will examine whether the EU genuinely helps them achieve progress in these fields, so that they can soon be on their way to joining the Union.”
Press Release: Auditors scrutinise EU support for rule of law in Western Balkans