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Commission: Croatia can join EU in 2013

“The European Commission has just proposed to the EU Council of Ministers to close the last four chapters in the accession negotiations with Croatia. This paves the way for Croatia to join the EU as the 28th Member State as of 1 July 2013, if this indicative date proposed by the Commission were to be retained by the Council”, said President José Manuel Barroso on 10 June 2011 in Brussels.

Commissioner Stefan Füle expressed a favourable opinion on the progress of the accession negotiations of Croatia. According to the Commission, Zagreb has completed the defined tasks at an appropriate level.

The assessment concerned the still open negotiations chapters, which are known to be the most difficult ones. These chapters relate to competition policy, financial and budgetary provisions, judiciary, and fundamental rights; as well as other issues. In the first two areas significant economic and financial implications, these have caused difficulties; while in the third group of issues, Zagreb has had a backlog concerning the judicial reform, the fight against corruption, prosecution of war criminals and the provision of assistance to the re-adoption of refugees.

Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship called the latter the „last stumbling block” of Croatia’s accession. “I didn’t believe last year that Croatians could do it, but in one year time, they completely reformed their judiciary and made it irreversible,” The Vice President of the Commission said in a statement before the 10 June meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxemburg.  

By the favourable position of the Commission that was adopted on 10 June, the Hungarian Presidency has received the necessary mandate to conclude the above chapters with Croatia, with the unanimous support of Member States.

Closing accession negotiations with Croatia by 30 June is one of the key priorities of the Hungarian Presidency.

Last stage of accession negotiations

Croatia, which became a candidate country in 2004, started accession negotiations in 2005, which has reached the final stage during the term of the Hungarian Presidency leaving only the most complex and difficult chapters left to be closed.

The fisheries chapter was closed during the last round of Croatia’s accession negotiations, held in Brussels on 6 June 2011. According to the agreement, Croatia can temporarily keep its traditional fisheries technology in some areas, and will have to renounce it only after a certain transition period.

Prior to that, in the negotiations on 19 April, the topics concerning agriculture, regional policy and structural instruments had also been closed.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated, in Budapest on 30 May, that: It would be wrong to delay Croatia’s accession to the EU. “If no results are achieved, this could keep Balkan countries off the European track, we will be risking the region’s stability. If we cannot offer a real perspective, we will lose face,” he said. The accession of the country would make European integration palpable for the region, strengthening the stability of the Western Balkans and its commitment to the values of the EU, he added.

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