In the annual report, the European Commission noted a lower average assessment of progress, recognised that only one recommendation was fully fulfilled within the fundamentals cluster, while the average assessment of readiness remained the same.
The absence of effective political dialogue and constructive approach by political parties was particularly highlighted in this year’s report, with the conclusion of a lack of direction on EU accession issues.
As part of the fundamental chapters, in the area of “functioning of the judiciary”, the assessment of the lack of progress was repeated as in 2021, making it the worst rated aspect in this year’s report. This is largely due to the fact that the work of Constitutional Court was blocked in the period from mid-September 2022 to the end of February 2023, which is covered by the report.
In terms of progress, chapters 5 (public procurement), 12 (food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary control) and 30 (external relations) were rated lower this year: “some level of progress” compared to “good progress” in 2022. On the other hand, chapters 7 and 14, on intellectual property law and on transport policy, were rated somewhat better: “good progress” compared to “limited progress” in the last year’s report. Thus, the average rate of readiness is 3.12, compared to 3.15 in 2022.
Average rate of readiness by year
In terms of readiness, neither backsliding nor progress was noted, so the average rate remained the same (3.12). To remind, since 2015, the European Commission has been applying two levels of assessment – “readiness” and “progress”. The first level refers to the assessment of the overall state of play in the areas covered by individual chapters, while the second level focuses on the time-bound assessment of the progress made during twelve months.
The absent progress in EU integration is mirrored in the reiteration of old recommendations, but also in a more direct formulation of recommendations, especially in those areas where more decisive steps have been missing for a long time, such as media legislation. Within the cluster of fundamental chapters, only one of last year’s recommendations, which refers to the establishment of a strategic framework for public administration reform, through the adoption of the Public Finance Management Reform Program, was fully fulfilled. Therefore, in the chapters which condition the overall progress in the negotiations, only one minor improvement was observed, although it still does not guarantee the delivery of tangible results.
We especially highlight as an important recommendation, which requires the preparation of a road map for the reform of state – owned enterprises, the improvement of management and supervision of their work, and the development of objective criteria for the selection of their management bodies. New and equally important is the recommendation that refers to the need to address the risk of corruption and infiltration of organized crime into the institutions of justice and law enforcement agencies, through preventive measures and a more decisive judicial response to detected cases.
Similar to previous years, frequent reorganizations and high turnover in the public administration were criticized, and the lack of improvement of the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees was particularly emphasized. The European Commission particularly emphasized that, instead of working to improve eligibility criteria for recruitment in public administration, which were downgraded in early 2021 through the changes to the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, the parliamentary majority proposed changes to the Law on Local Self-Government, which would also degrade these criteria at the local level. We, at the Institute Alternative, have previously warned about these attempts. The European Commission underlines that changes to the Law on Access to Information are still pending, although “the process of preparation and consultation has been going on for years.”
As expected, and similar to earlier evaluations from the non-paper on chapters 23 and 24, the European Commission recognized the alacrity in initiating cases of high corruption and organized crime under the new Chief Special Prosecutor. However, the contrast in the number of initiated cases compared to the almost non-existent balance of final judgments was also pointed out.