Joining the club: accession and press freedom
Accession to the EU is often described as one of the most effective democracy promotion projects in the world. Countries vying for membership must prove themselves on a range of political and legal criteria that include provisions on standards for human rights, freedom of expression, and press freedom. Currently, five countries—Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey—are negotiating with Brussels, with Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo as so-called potential candidates. None has a respectable press freedom record. “They score significantly below the EU average,” notes Jennifer Dunham, project manager at the U.S.-based watchdog organization Freedom House. CPJ research has documented systemic press freedom failings, all confirmed in the European Commission’s annual progress reports, which assess the countries’ conformity with EU norms.