The EU and Croatia has reached an agreement on two more chapters on 19 April 2011 in Brussels, during the Croatia’s accession conference. Out of 35 negotiation chapters, 30 are now closed. This marks an important step as concluding negotiations is in sight.
“These chapters are not like the others,”János Martonyi said in the press conference held after the Inter-governmental Conference on 19 April.The Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs stressed that chapter No. 11 on agriculture and chapter No. 22 on regional policy and structural instruments cover roughly 70-75 per cent of the overall EU budget. These were always the key subjects for each and every accession negotiation. Therefore, by the agreement on these two chapters, Croatia has made an important step towards closing the accession negotiations.
Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovićexpressed his satisfaction that Croatia’s, “Interests regarding both chapters have been recognised and fully protected.”Concerning agricultural policy, he stressed, “huge adjustments”were necessary for the country in the field of agriculture to adapt to the rules of the Union. “As a result, it has also made the Croatian agricultural sector more competitive with European agriculture”–he added. Concerning the chapter on regional policy, the Minister for Foreign Affairs highlighted that it envisages the country’s participation in structural funds and equal development of all Croatian regions.
“The fact that we have managed to close both of these chapters, is a huge step forward,”Mr Martonyi said.He reiterated that the Hungarian Presidency shares the objective of Croatia to conclude negotiations by the end of June. “This is –we know –a very ambitious but achievable target, which can be reached, providing Croatia completes the work on the remaining closing benchmarks,”he added.
The toughest part is yet to come
To close negotiations in June, agreement must be reached on five additional chapters, namely: competition policy; fisheries; judiciary and fundamental rights; financial and budgetary provisions, and other issues. Politically speaking, these are, perhaps, the most difficult chapters. Especially chapters No. 8 on competition policy, and No. 23 on judiciary and fundamental rights. These two in particular, required much effort from Croatia side. In the case of the former, the privatisation of state-owned ship factories must be brought in harmony with the EU regulations on state aid, while in the case of the latter achievements must be demonstrated concerning several performance-measurement benchmarks.
After the accession conference the EU-Croatia Stabilisation and Association Council convened. According to the body in charge of controlling the implementation of the EU-Croatia Stability and Association Agreement signed in 2001, Croatia must continue its reform efforts, particularly in key areas such as judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime, and prosecution of war crimes, to build up a convincing track record in these areas. Moreover, the Stabilisation and Association Council now concludes that the closing of the negotiations is within reach.
Fishery is also one of the difficult negotiation subjects. On this chapter Zagreb has already met the conditions, but it is still negotiating with the Commission on certain provisional exemptions. Croatia and Slovenia are also negotiating on the issue of historical fishing rights.
“I can say with confidence that Croatia is fully committed to tackling these issues. (…) We are looking forward to welcoming Croatia as the 28th EU Member State as soon as possible,”EU Commissioner for Enlargement Štefan Füle said.
Croatia can only go forward
“Compared to how I felt a few weeks ago, I am now feeling much more optimistic,”János Martonyi stated at the press conference in Brussels.The Hungarian Foreign Minister underlined: The success of Croatia, points way beyond its own borders, the closing of the accession negotiations would strengthen the credibility of the enlargement process, so the entire West Balkans and the whole EU would benefit.
According to the Hungarian Presidency, Croatia’s commitment to the reforms is so strong that it cannot bypass the task of implementing them. In the press conference Mr. Jandrokovićstated that Croatia is, “Fully aware of the challenges”that it faces. “Croatia is working really hard on the chapters that still remain open,”the Minister underlined.
Turkey aims for full membership
After consulting with Croatia, Mr Martonyi and Mr Füle also took part in the EU-Turkey Association Council’s 49th meeting, chaired by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on behalf of Turkey. “The EU noted that a number of positive steps have been registered on civilian oversight of the security forces and implementation of the judicial reform strategy; but further progress is needed,” Mr Martonyi said, at the follow-up press conference. The Foreign Minister stressed, “Although we may have some differences on several issues, we still have the same vision. It is a vision that makes us deploy all possible efforts, also on the part of the presidency so that the process be taken forward,” concluded Mr Martony.
“We can say that Turkey and the EU have very deep rooted relations, but because of the political obstacles we are faced with, the accession negotiations are not going on at the pace that we would like it to move forward,” Mr Davutoğlu said, he also underlined that Turkey has the “Perspective for accomplishing full membership”.
The EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Mr Füle, contributed to the discussion by stating the importance for giving new momentum to the negotiations. “Turkey has made substantial efforts in order to meet the opening benchmarks regading the competition chapter. If Turkey takes the few remaining steps in time, the Competition Chapter can hopefully be opened during the Hungarian Presidency,” said.