EC, Belgian Presidency: Croatia Set to Join EU in 2013Bulgaria in EU | December 22, 2010, Wednesday // 16:53| views
(L-R) Croatian Foreign Minister Jandrokovic, EU General Affairs Council head and Belgian FM Vanackere, EU Enlargement Commissioner Fuele at a news conference, Dec. 22, 2010. EPA/BGNES
Croatia has completed three more chapters of its EU accession negotiations, and is likely to wrap up the entire process by June 2011.
The chapters on justice, freedom and security, on environment, and on foreign, security and defense policy were formally closed on Wednesday with a meeting between the Belgian EU Presidency, and senior EC and Croatian officials.
With seven chapters still to go for Croatia out of the total of 35 areas of policy and legislation harmonization, which are obligatory for each aspiring EU member, the Hungarian government that will take over the rotating EU Presidency as of January 1, 2011, hopes to be able to complete the process.
This will usher into the phase for ratification by the European Parliament and the 27 member states, which is expected to take about 18 months, meaning Croatia could become the 28th EU member in early 2013.
"This leaves (us) closer to the end of the road for Croatia's EU perspective. The remaining chapters are of course among the most challenging. I'm confident that the Croatian government is very much aware of the challenge ahead," Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere warned, speaking for the EU's rotating Presidency as cited by DPA, after he met with Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic.
"A huge step has been made by Croatia on the road to fulfilling its European goal," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele told reporters after today's negotiating session in Brussels as cited by Bloomberg. He pointed to "important challenges" next year including meeting EU standards for civil liberties.
Fuele expressed hopes that Croatia's post-accession progress in problem areas will not have to be monitored the way Bulgaria and Romania's progress is still under scrutiny by the European Commission.
"We need to reach a stage where all (existing EU) member states are comfortable about Croatia's accession without the need for a cooperation and verification mechanism," he said, as quoted by DPA referring to the scrutiny scheme that was imposed on Bulgaria and Romania after their accession.
Bloomberg points out that "he indirectly acknowledged that the country was being held to closer scrutiny than previous EU-applicants Bulgaria and Romania, whose 2007 entry was approved despite their unconvincing record in stamping out organised crime and corruption.
Fuele made it clear Croatia's progress in reforming the judiciary and public administration, rooting out corruption and privatizing its loss-making state-owned shipyards "will determine the pace of this final lap."
"I'm sure that at the end of the day it will be a success story fro Croatia, for the EU and also for south east Europe. Sanader's case has shown that the rule of law in Croatia is unquestionable, that the institutions are functioning and the principles on which rest the EU are embedded in our state and society. It will not harm our political scene and political stability. On the contrary: it will strengthen our democracy, it will strengthen our rule of law and the Croatian state," Croatian Foreign Minister Jandrokovic declared.
The recent arrest of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on charges of abuse of power in connection with the Croatian expansion of Klagenfurt, Austria-based Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank International AG has marked a push by Croatian authorities to investigate alleged corruption and embezzlement cases.
The prosecution of former war criminals from the wars in the former Yugoslavia has been one of the major factors delaying Croatia's EU aspirations over the past decade.
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