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Eastern & Central Europe

Latest news about eastern and central Europe and EU enlargement. Since it was founded in 1958, the EU has regularly accepted new member countries. Each applicant country must meet certain requirements before membership is permitted. Regular enlargements have seen the EU grow from its original 6 founding members to 28 in 2013. Any country that satisfies the conditions for enlargement can apply to be a candidate. The European Commission, at the request of the European Council, assesses the applicant’s ability to meet the conditions of membership. If the opinion is positive and the Council agrees a negotiating mandate, discussions are formally opened between the applicant and the EU. At the start of 2013, five countries had been accepted as EU candidate countries: Iceland, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo (under UN Security Resolution 1244) have the status of potential candidates.

Fulfilment of visa-free requirements by Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries
The European Commission reported on 19 December on its assessment of the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation benchmarks by the Western Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as well as the Eastern Partnership countries: Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. This annual report shows that the visa liberalisation requirements for the concerned countries continue to be met but that action - in some cases immediate - is required for a number of countries in specific areas to ensure this continues to be the case.

Bulgaria and Romania Cooperation and Verification Mechanism Reports 2018
The European Commission issued on 13 November its latest reports on steps taken by Bulgaria and Romania to meet their commitments on judicial reform and the fight against corruption, and in the case of Bulgaria organised crime, in the context of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

Bulgaria makes progress, Romania backtracks on judicial reform, corruption
Bulgaria has made good progress in fighting corruption and organised crime, but Romania has gone backwards, particularly with regard to judicial reform, the EU said in its annual review published Tuesday.

Ukraine needs to step up fight against corruption: EU report
Ukraine has made progress in important areas, but the pace of reforms in areas of the judiciary and anti-corruption measures is too slow, the EU said Friday in its Association Implementation Report.

EC requests Maltese anti-money laundering watchdog to step up supervision of banks
The EU Commission requested the Maltese anti-money laundering supervisor Thursday to take additional measures to fully comply with its obligations under the fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive.

Brussels okays Slovakia state aid to Jaguar Land Rover
The EU Commission gave its approval Thursday to Slovakia's EUR 125 million investment aid to Jaguar Land Rover, saying it is in line with EU State aid rules, and will not unduly distort competition.

MEPs cut support for Turkey by EUR 70m over EU values
MEPs on the EU Parliament's budget committee agreed Tuesday to cancel EUR 70 million in pre-accession funds earmarked for Turkey, as they say conditions to improve the rule of law were not met.

EU takes Poland to court over judicial independence
The European Commission referred Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU Monday due to the violations of the principle of judicial independence created by a new Polish Law on the Supreme Court.

Court upholds EU sanctions against Russian banks
The General Court of the EU upheld Thursday restrictive measures taken by the EU Council against a number of Russian banks and oil and gas companies in connection with the crisis in Ukraine.

EU steps up legal action against Poland over judicial independence
The European Commission took another step in its infringement procedure against Poland over the rule of law Tuesday, pursuing efforts to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court.

Russia loses WTO claims against EU energy policy
Russia lost most of its claims against EU energy policy measures at the World Trade Organisation Friday, over alleged incompatibility of the EU's third energy package with the multilateral trade rules.

EU takes legal action against Hungary over migrants
The Commission has referred Hungary to the EU Court of Justice for non-compliance of asylum and return legislation with EU law, and sent a letter of formal notice concerning new Hungarian migrant legislation.

Ease of doing business compared for 25 European cities
A new report from the World Bank Tuesday assesses the support and obstacles entrepreneurs find in setting up and expanding businesses in 25 cities in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Slovakia.

Doing Business in the European Union 2018: Croatia, Czech Republic, Portugal and Slovakia
Doing Business in the European Union 2018: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Slovakia - the first report of the subnational Doing Business series in these countries - assesses the business regulatory environment and its impact on local entrepreneurs in 5 cities in Croatia (Osijek, Rijeka, Split, Varazdin and Zagreb), 7 cities in the Czech Republic (Brno, Liberec, Olomouc, Ostrava, Plzen, Prague and Usti nad Labem), 8 cities in Portugal (Braga, Coimbra, Evora, Faro, Funchal, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada and Porto), 5 cities in Slovakia (Bratislava, Kosice, Presov, Trnava and Zilina). The report measures regulations relevant to 5 stages in the life of a small to medium-size domestic firm: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property and enforcing contracts.

EU launches legal action over Poland's Supreme Court changes
The EU Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland Monday over changes to Polish law on the Supreme Court, which it says undermines the principle of judicial independence.

Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan
The primary objective of the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) initiative is to achieve an open and integrated regional electricity and gas market between EU countries in the Baltic Sea region, ending energy isolation. The initiative's members are the European Commission and Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, and Sweden. Norway participates as an observer.

Baltic states sign energy synchronisation agreement with EU
The heads of state or government of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland signed a roadmap Thursday for synchronising the Baltic States' electricity grid with the continental European network by 2025.

Synchronisation of Baltic States' electricity networks with the continental European network (CEN)
On 28 June, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signed, jointly with leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland a political Roadmap for synchronising the Baltic States' electricity grid with continental Europe.

Malta breaking EU law on wild birds: EU Court
Malta has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law in its adoption of a derogation regime to allow the trapping of seven species of wild birds, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

EU extends sanctions against Russia over Crimea
EU ministers decided to extend sanctions against Russia for another year Monday, as the EU continued to punish Russia for the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sebastopol.

No fine for Gazprom as EU settles antitrust dispute
The EU Commission settled its antitrust dispute with Russia's Gazprom Thursday, imposing conditions on the state-controlled energy giant to enable free flow of gas 'at competitive prices' in east European gas markets.

Summit reinforces EU links with Western Balkans
A summit between leaders of the Western Balkans and the EU ended Thursday confirming the region's 'European perspective' and a strengthening of cooperation in connectivity, security and the rule of law.

Commission recommends membership talks for Albania, Macedonia
The Commission's annual Enlargement Package, adopted Tuesday, recommends that the Council open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and with Albania.

Logging in Bialowieza Forest broke law: EU Court
Increasing logging operations in Poland's Białowieza Forest nature reserve infringed EU law, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday in a final judgement.

EU continues dialogue with Turkey over rule of law
EU leaders conveyed continued concern over the rule of law in Turkey Monday, as Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined them for a wide-ranging discussion on EU-Turkey relations and the way ahead.