“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 José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commissioner on 10 June 2011 in Brussels. The road is open for the closing of the accession negotiations in June.
The Hungarian Presidency will immediately start negotiations in the Council of the draft resolution to close the accession negotiations with Croatia and will do its utmost to gain the full support from the Member States, in order to achieve this during its term. This was announced by Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi on behalf of the Hungarian Presidency after Commissioner Štefan Füle had expressed a favourable opinion on the progress of the accession negotiations of Croatia, at a press conference in Brussels.
The Hungarian Presidency has welcomed the assessmeent of the Commission and congratulated the Croatian government for its achievements. At the same time it encouraged the Croatian partners, “To keep up these efforts, and work on deepening the reforms they have launched with the same commitment”.
According to the Commission, Zagreb has completed the defined tasks at an appropriate level.
„I am particularly glad to announce that today the Commission has completed its negotiations with Croatia. This means that, as far as the Commission is concerned, the work is completed. Now it is up to the Member States to make the final evaluation of the negotiations and decide whether the negotiations can be officially concluded and the Accession Treaty signed,” Stefan Füle, Commissioner for enlargement said at a press conference in Brussels.
According to the Commissioner, Croatia has not only adopted the new laws and regulations, which were requested by the European Commission, but also implemented them. “In one word, Croatia had to prove to have taken an irreversible course of action,” he stressed. Answering questions, he said, the Commission of course will monitor Croatia's progress on implementing its commitment, until the date of accession; but does not foresee any monitoring system after this date.
The Commission 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 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 chapter of judiciary the „last stumbling block” of Croatia’s accession. “I didn’t believe last year that Croatians could do it, but in one year, they have completely reformed their judiciary system and have 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 in order to conclude the above chapters with Croatia, with the unanimous support of Member States. ”Conditions for the 27 Member States for closing the accession negotiations with Croatia are met,” the press release of the Hungarian presidency states. The document emphasises that “Closing Croatia’s accession talks is a success that both the Western Balkans and the European Union need, as it draws up a vision for the future based on the openness and the acknowledgement of such achievements”.
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, which was 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.