Fundamentals first level of preparation and progress

In 2016, the country reports preserved their focus on the ‘fundamentals’, and the overall message was that the enlargement policy continues to deliver results. Previously recognised challenges remained, and reforms had advanced, albeit mostly slightly. Unlike Turkey, whose 2016 report often mentioned the word ‘backsliding’, the Western Balkans presented, according to the Centre for European Policy Studies, a ‘mixed’ picture, with ‘modest, if not decidedly negative assessments’ regarding their reform processes. While naming Albania as 2016’s winner for its significant reform efforts concerning the rule of law, think-tank Oxford Analytica remarked that reforms elsewhere had not been as pronounced. Montenegro, the ‘leader’ in the accession process, continued to be a steady achiever and had fully aligned itself with the EU’s foreign policy positions. Serbia’s progress was rated ‘remarkable’, as it had held credible elections, opened key negotiation chapters with the EU, and shown a constructive attitude both to regional cooperation (including the EU-led dialogue with Pristina) and the migration crisis. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took important steps that brought it nearer to candidate status. Least favourably, FYR Macedonia was deemed ‘a captured state’ for its inefficient and corrupt institutions, compromised democratic process and divisive political culture.