Nine months, six bilateral meetings with Croatia. Over one hundred bilateral and multilateral meetings, with member states and the European Commission, with Croatia’s accession on the agenda. So far this is my personal balance of the matter. But the sum total, is further raised if you add the meetings of Ministers of State, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister. We will do our best to close the accession talks with Croatia. It is one of the most important priorities for our Presidency.
In my previous blog post, I wrote about the Schengen Area enlargement. Right now, I am flying to Helsinki about this matter. The plane will land in about half an hour. Now it is cruising over the frozen sea. I wrote back then that this is not a simple task. Now I am doing the same for Croatia’s accession. It is not easy, but then again, none of the Presidency’s tasks seems easy. We have set up a rather tight schedule, which is only feasible if all participants (not only Hungary and member states, but also the Commission and Croatia) work in a disciplined and committed manner, with a one hundred percent performance.
There is no excuse for delays: we cannot afford the luxury of postponing things. In our view, every wasted day or week will mean a lag of months or years; not necessarily for Croatia, but certainly for the countries, south of Hungary. Any delay threatens with reducing the credibility of the accession process. hence triggering unpredictable processes in the West Balkans.
This puts a huge burden on all parties involved. Perhaps, the heaviest one is carried by Croatia, which has to make the final, but most painful decisions, to ensure that the accession timetable established by the Presidency and supported by every actor - the member states, the EU institutions, and Croatia itself - should remain feasible. Some days ago, the Commission published a report on Croatia’s performance in the most delicate subjects: justice and fundamental rights. The report is not at all bad and it communicates significant progress, but Zagreb still has a lot to do. It has to intensify its already highly strained efforts, to address each lag identified in the report.
This is a huge task, and we ask a lot from Croatia. But if the country accomplishes its objective, it will make as much progress as many efforts it is doing. The Hungarian Presidency will also double its efforts to remain a partner in this assignment.