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On November 8, 2023, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, have given a press conference in which the Enlargement Package 2023 was adopted. The enlargement Package is a set of documents, adopted annually, providing a detailed assessment of the progress made by accession countries, whose Communication lies at its core. It examines the state-of-play of the candidate and potential candidate countries, the challenges encountered and reforms to be addressed and sets out proposals for the way forward. 

This year's main novelty is that it contains ten Country Reports by including Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia (apart from Western Balkan partner countries and Türkiye). Commissioner Várhelyi will further present this package in the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, before it officially enters the European Council meeting agenda of 14 and 15 December 2023 (provisional agenda here). 

At the political level, the strong political momentum for EU accession by the Western Balkan partner countries has been acknowledged, although it was clarified that EU accession is a merit-based process, whose speed depends on the implementation of the reforms. As regards Kosovo*-Serbia relations and the impact for Kosovo*’s accession process, it was highlighted that the latter needs to upscale the very clear goal to join the EU and deliver on expected reforms, such as the implementation of the new rule of law statute, while both countries need to work on improving bilateral relations.

The main takeaways of the 2023 package refer to 3 Commission proposals: 1) opening of accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and giving candidate status to Georgia; 2) a new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans; and 3) a new financing instrument to provide Ukraine with financial support of EUR 50bn in grants and loans for 2024-2027.

Accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and candidate status to Georgia

European Commission President von der Leyen acknowledged the positive steps done by Georgia, such as the action plan for de-oligarchization and, thus, recommended granting candidate status under the condition of implementing crucial reforms.

A new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans

Commossioner Várhelyi acknowledged the clear progress on the ground for the Western Balkans partner countries and the strong incentives provided. He characterized the EUR 6bn Growth plan as a big decision to close the gap between the EU and the Western Balkans region, in terms of actual (as opposed to institutional) integration on the ground, expected to increase the region’s GDP by 1/3.  Its great novelty is that payments will be linked to reforms. The significance of regional cooperation was highlighted by requesting Western Balkans countries to treat each other the same way as they do with the EU.

A new financing instrument for Ukraine

European Commission President von der Leyen highlighted that the new Ukraine Facility will support efforts to sustain macro-financial stability and will promote recovery. The plan is for the Facility to be endowed with EUR 50bn in grants and loans for 2024-2027. Through a ‘Team Europe’ approach, the EU, its Member States and financial institutions have so far mobilised EUR 82.6 billion, including funding made available to host refugees in the EU.

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Nov 08, 2023