We will thoroughly discuss all questions on the present state of Croatia’s accession during a working dinner of the General Affairs Council’s meeting (GAC) on 23 May, Foreign Minister János Martonyi said to eu2011.hu. The Chair of the GAC believes that the next days will have key importance in setting the date of Croatia’s accession.
Why is it necessary to put the European framework for national Roma strategies on the agenda of the General Affairs Council’s meeting? In the past weeks, several other Council formations have discussed the matter.
Indeed, the European framework for national Roma strategies has been discussed and adopted by Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on 12 April, Employment and Social Affairs Ministers on 19 May, and Education and Culture Ministers on 20 May. On 23 May, the General Affairs Council also puts the matter on the agenda. It is necessary because establishing a political framework for Roma inclusion, and pooling different approaches in various policies represent a horizontal challenge. We will have to take a series of measures here, which affect many areas and almost all EU policies. The Roma matter is primarily about social, employment, educational, health care and housing problems, but of course, it has discrimination and human rights dimensions, as well. Following the GAC’s consent, heads of state and government will adopt the European Roma Framework Strategy at the European Council’s meeting in June.
Even though the primary responsibility of Roma inclusion falls on Member States, improving the situation of this minority is in our common interest, and cooperation at a Union level could be a considerable added value. It is extremely important, because at present, the EU’s Roma population accounts for 8 million, and an additional 2-4 million in neighbouring countries. Despite efforts to advance Roma inclusion, many Roma are still inflicted by deep poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. Member States have to draw up national strategies in order to improve their situation by the end of the year, and these strategies have to be organised into a European framework.
But you will also discuss Croatia’s accession, won’t you?
We will thoroughly discuss all questions on the present state of Croatia’s accession, during a working dinner. We will probably touch upon the issue of the accession’s indicative date, as well as other relevant matters.
The next days will have key importance. The European Commission is currently drawing up a proposal for the EU’s negotiating positions concerning the remaining five open negotiation chapters. As it is known, 30 chapters have already been temporarily concluded during the accession negotiations, only the ones on competition policy, fisheries, justice and fundamental rights, budgetary and financial provisions remain open, and a “miscellaneous” chapter. Croatia has remarkably accelerated its preparations in the recent weeks and will continue to do so in the upcoming days and weeks. Therefore, there is a chance to conclude the accession talks by the end of the Hungarian Presidency’s term. It would be very important for the Southeast European stability to exploit the present momentum. We should not miss this opportunity. We still think that a delay would entail unpredictable risks. We are close to the finishing line, only the last meters are left, which require special efforts from everyone concerned.
What other issues will be on the agenda?
We plan to adopt Council conclusions on the experiences of the Charter of Fundamental Right’s first year, which should be noted are quite positive. The Charter guarantees that the rights of citizens are not violated in the EU, but its enforcement requires control. If EU institutions fail to cooperate, the Charter remains a dead document. The Commission and the Council plan to strengthen this cooperation and commitment in these conclusions.
If we are not mistaken, Catherine Ashton has asked you to fulfill a task on Monday…
I am to preside at the 35th meeting of the European Economic Area (EEA), comprising of the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It will be divided into two parts. Informal political dialogues will include the issue of North Africa, the piracy problem at the coasts of Somalia and the Middle East: in this part of the meeting, as President I will indeed act on behalf of Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. At the formal meeting, we will discuss the Europe 2020 Strategy, and exchange views on major global challenges as raw materials prices or energy and climate policies. The consequences of the financial crisis and the matter of financial regulation, will also be on the agenda. During our discussion, we will primarily focus on the effects these issues impose on the cooperation in the EEA.