Helping countries prepare for accession
European Parliament in Strasbourg
© picture-alliance/ANP XTRA
In order to help (potential) candidate countries implement reforms, thus ensuring that enlargement is prepared as thoroughly as possible, the EU developed a pre‑accession strategy as a framework for the accession process.
The accession partnerships are an important element of this strategy: the EU agrees these partnerships separately with each (potential) candidate country and progress in meeting the set targets determines how fast accession negotiations proceed. The EU agrees on “European partnerships” with the countries of the Western Balkans as an instrument of the stabilization and association process there. These agreements identify the priorities (targets) the EU expects candidate countries to address as well as the financial resources to be made available – under specific conditions – for this purpose. Progress in meeting these targets determines how much funding is made available and decides when accession negotiations will start, or how quickly they will proceed.
As part of the pre‑accession strategy, candidate countries also have the chance to participate in EU programmes and agencies. This strengthens cooperation between the candidate state and the EU and gives candidates a practical insight into the Union’s instruments and policies.
Instrument for Pre‑Accession Assistance (IPA)
Since 2007 the EU’s assistance for (potential) candidates for accession has been delivered through one single instrument. The IPA has replaced the previous pre‑accession instruments PHARE (Poland and Hungary Action for the Reconstruction of the Economy), ISPA (Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre‑accession), SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) and the financial instrument CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilization).
The IPA incorporates five components, giving (potential) candidates for accession financial assistance in the areas of institution-building, regional and cross-border cooperation, regional development, rural development and human resources development. Only recognized candidate countries are eligible for IPA assistance in the three last-mentioned areas, for the intention is to help prepare them to manage assistance from the Structural Funds, the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. For potential candidate countries this is incidentally an additional incentive to pursue reforms and thereby acquire the candidate country status that will make them eligible for assistance in areas III to V. Thanks to these various components, IPA is flexible enough to adapt rapidly to any new priorities arising during the pre‑accession process. In the 2007‑2013 Financial Framework, the EU is making available a total of 11.5 billion euro in pre-accession assistance.
Last updated 12.01.2012