The European Court of Auditors is currently assessing the effectiveness of EU measures to
support the rule of law – a requirement for accession – in the Western Balkans. The audit is
covering four candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and
two potential candidate countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo).
Rule of law is a fundamental European value. Although there is no formal EU definition, it is
generally understood to include the following six principles: equality before the law, legal certainty,
separation of powers, independent and impartial courts, transparent and democratic legislative
procedures and effective judicial review. Strengthening the rule of law is therefore intrinsically
linked to the fight against corruption. It is also a key condition for economic growth.
To join the EU, candidate countries must demonstrate their capacity to take on the obligations of
EU membership, as set out in the 1993 ‘Copenhagen criteria’. The first of these criteria relates to
the existence of developed, stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human
rights, and respect for and protection of minorities. The speed of accession negotiations thus
largely depends on progress made in this area.
“Rule of law is a non-negotiable prerequisite for EU membership. Yet, Western Balkan countries
are still facing issues concerning corruption and how their public institutions function, which
hinder their accession to the EU”, said Juhan Parts, the Member of the European Court of
Auditors responsible for the audit. “Our audit will examine whether the EU genuinely helps them
achieve progress in these fields, so that they can soon be on their way to joining the Union.”