EU enlargement

The European Union is founded upon the values of ³respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.´ It also stipulates that any European state that respects and is committed to promoting these values may apply to become a member of the EU. EU enlargement is therefore a powerful mechanism for helping to improve human rights records in countries wishing to join the EU.

The Government is a strong supporter of EU enlargement, and is committed to supporting the membership aspirations of any European country that meets these criteria, and its right to progress towards membership on the basis of its own merits. We will encourage the EU to conclude accession negotiations only when we are confident that a candidate country is able to meet the political, economic and legal obligations of membership. These include the protection of human rights. Furthermore, we will be active in determinin g how the membership criteria are met, for example, by setting benchmarks which tackle important issues at an early stage in the process. We will also work within the EU to influence the allocation of EU pre -accession assistance to ensure that aspirant countries tackle effectively and at an early stage those issues that matter most to us, including human rights violations.

In 2010 we provided technical support to human rights reform in candidate and pre-candidate countries in order to help these countries meet EU standards. We worked with the government of Croatia to improve court administration by introducing modern case management techniques to reduce the backlog of cases and improve the quality of court service. We also supported the Croatian governme nt¶s introduction of a national probation system to reduce prison populations and improve offender community reintegration. We will undertake similar future projects under the auspices of the EU twinning mechanism to introduce a probation service in Croat ia and to strengthen their capacity to manage a sexual offender database.

We lobbied hard to achieve comprehensive benchmarks under Chapter 23 of Croatia¶s accession negotiations dealing with the judiciary and fundamental rights. As a result of this, Croatia is taking steps to ensure it has an independent and efficient judicial system. For example, the government has adopted new legislation that strengthens judicial independence and the case backlog has been further reduced. Croatia is strengthening its fight against corruption at all levels, as demonstrated by the indictment in December of former Prime Minister Sanader on corruption charges. Croatia is improving the handling of domestic war crimes trials, strengthening protection for minorities, and settling outstanding refugee return issues. The revised constitution now explicitly lists all 22 national minorities and the government¶s self-imposed 2008 benchmark for the provision of 1,400 accommodation units for refugees under its housing care programme has been met. We also helped to ensure that full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is a requirement for closure of this chapter.

Although Croatia is making progress on human rights issues, work remains to be done. The EU will continue to monitor these areas in 2011 and in March will produce a report on Croatia¶s progress under Chapter 23. We will continue to support and monitor this progress and will ensure that Croatia is upholding EU human rights standards and has met the requirements of the chapter, before agreeing to its closure.

In Serbia , where minorities remain under-represented in public institutions and public companies, we funded several election -related and capacitybuilding projects to strengthen Bosniak and Albanian minority rights. Among other achievements, these projects have led to the setting up of an Albanian national minority council and a multi -ethnic local government in Bujanovac in southern Serbia and more balanced representation of Alb anians in state- and local-level institutions. In 2011 we will continue to communicate the achievements of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of which many Serbs still have limited understanding; support the work of the Regional Council for Reconciliation; and strengthen protection for LGBT and ethnic minority rights.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina we promoted human rights in a range of areas, including improving access to justice and reconciliation; helping ensure that war crimes cases are dealt with impartially and effectively; improving prison management in line with European best practice; supporting the identification of missing persons; supporting the promotion of human rights; strengthening civil society organisations and their role in policy dialogue; and strengthening independent and investigative media. Specific projects included enhancing the effectiveness of the State Prosecutor¶s Office on Srebrenica -related war crimes and supporting the International Commission on Missing Persons. We worked closely with EU member states, including on implementing the EU¶s Human Rights Defenders Strategy and designing a local strategy to combat violence against women. In 2011, we will focus on improving the ability of Bosnia and Herzegovi na institutions to implement legislation and tackle human rights violations more effectively. This includes implementation of the 2008 National War Crimes Strategy and the State Law on Missing Persons, as well as building the capacity of the Bosnia and He rzegovina justice and security institutions. We will support the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities¶ work to ensure an efficient and sustainable system for processing war crimes cases before the State Court and State Prosecutor¶s Office, particularly focu sing on crimes committed in Srebrenica area.

Despite the adoption of a human rights strategy and action plan in 2009,
Kosovo made limited overall progress during 2010. However, progress was

made on the return and re -integration of minority communities in Kosovo, a subject on which we worked closely with the government of Kosovo. April saw the completion of a UK-funded project, managed and implemented by the UN Development Programme, which enabled nine Kosovo -Serb families to return to the village of Soft aj/Softovic. We also funded an income generation project for returnees from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities and supported the strengthening of the rule of law in Kosovo through the secondment of expert staff to the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kos ovo

(EULEX), including two judges, three prosecutors and the head of the organised crime unit.

In 2011 we will continue to support Kosovan efforts to improve the human rights situation; for example, by working with the Kosovan Ministry of Communities and Returns on a returns project in the historic town of Prizren. This is the first urban returns project in Kosovo and it will reconstruct homes for 10 returning Kosovo-Serb families and refurbish homes for up to a further 10 families. In Macedonia in 2010 we addressed the lack of a legal and institutional framework within the prison management system by supporting the introduction of the UK¶s Offender Assessment System to Macedonian prison staff and a feasibility study on the applicability of a probation se rvice in Macedonia. Both initiatives were designed to reduce the load on overcrowded prisons and improve prison management. We also worked with the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association to s trengthen judicial practice in the fight against corruption and o rganised crime, through a project to enhance the efficiency of the Macedonian judiciary that will ensure free and efficient access to justice services.

We supported the multi-ethnic fabric of Macedonia through continued insistence on the full implementati on of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. We encourage all political parties to adhere to its spirit, in particular in the areas of: language, education, decentralisation of budgets, interethnic relations and religion. The UK¶s public administration effectiven ess project enables more transparent and effective management within the civil service, including on recruitment of minorities under the provisions of the Framework Agreement . Our work in Albania has focused on transparency, democracy and equality. We have funded a high -level mentoring project which works closely with judges to improve the efficiency and transparency of the Albanian Supreme Court. We also pushed for a settlement to the long -standing political impasse between the government and the opposition. In addition, we worked with the

British Council to promote diversity and equality in Albania. The London 2012 Diversity Champion David Morris visited Albania in 2010, and the Embassy will again support the British Council¶s ³Inclusion Week´ in April 2011. Our support has helped the Inclusion Week to achieve a markedly higher profile for disability issues in Albania, as demonstrated by an unprecedented publicrally of disabled people¶s groups in Tirana as well as action from the Tirana authorities to improve wheelchair access across the city . We continued to support Turkey¶ s EU accession process and strongly encouraged them to make progress with their reform agenda. The September Constitutional Reform referendum was a positive step and demonstrated wide support for judicial and military reform. We will continue to emphasise to the Turkish government the importance of swift and effective implementation of the reform package. Turkey has made progress in certain areas of human rights, but there is more work to be done before it meets EU standards, particularly on freedom of expression and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. We support Turkey¶s efforts to address these issues and in 2010 we agreed to fund the largest ever number of human rights projects across the widest ever range of issues in Turkey, including on LGBT, children, women and disability, and helping refugees and asylum seekers better understand their rights a nd access legal remedies. The year 2011 promises to be an important year for Turkey. Several key pieces of legislation have been drafted and will pass through the Turkish parliament, including on anti -discrimination, data protection and human rights. Ther e is a parliamentary election in June, and should the current government retain power it has announced it will draft a new constitution. This would give renewed impetus to Turkey¶s reform programme. We will continue to encourage the government of Turkey to make progress towards EU standards.