Croatia on course to become EU's 28th member... but not before 2012 - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Croatia on course to become EU's 28th member... but not before 2012

Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Negotiations for FYROM should 'begin in the near future' while Turkey still no closer to joining.

Croatia is poised to become the first country to join the EU since the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 as the latest report on the country's progress in 2009 towards accession, adopted unanimously by MEPs this morning, stated negotiations are likely to be concluded later this year.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously by the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) in Brussels this morning, commends Croatia for its continued progress in meeting accession criteria and stated its confidence she "will meet and overcome the considerable challenges remaining as regards the benchmarks set out in the negotiating chapters."

The report's rapporteur Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT) , speaking at a press conference after the vote, said that "negotiations with Croatia can be concluded in 2010 if the country ensures commitment to strengthening public administration and pursuing reform of the judiciary more resolutely," but stressed that "although not impossible, it is unlikely they will enter on 1st January 2012."

Mr Swoboda commented that the last major obstacle remaining is the country's continued lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in providing documents needed for warcrimes trials, but Croatia's eventual accession would give fresh positive impetus to the enlargement project.

"Croatia's successful accession is a key to opening up the path to European integration for the rest of the Western Balkan region," he said.

Bernd Posselt, the EPP spokesman on Croatia, said after the meeting that "if things proceed at the current pace, as we all expect them to, this will be the last Progress Report that we will have on our table."

"We have confirmed that the target date for Croatia to finish the negotiating process is during this year - 2010," he said, "Therefore, in a year's time, we could be dealing rather with Croatia's Accession Treaty and I am very much looking forward to that."

Since the launch of accession negotiations with Croatia in 2005, 28 out of the 35 chapters have been opened and 17 have been provisionally closed.

Map of Europe - click to Enlarge (Photo: Europa.eu)In the same meeting, the committee also adopted resolutions on Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) whose negotiations MEPs expect should "begin in the near future."

In the resolution on Macedonia, MEPs asked the Council to confirm, at its March 2010 summit, that it accepts the Commission's recommendation to open negotiations and they expressed satisfaction at the new Greek government's suggestion of a "symbolic and motivational target date of 2014" for the EU accession of Western Balkans countries.

However, the FYROM, it notes, still has to reform its public administration, its judiciary, fight corruption and improve women’s rights and inter-ethnic relations, and resolve the dispute with Greece over the country's name (Greece claims that use of the name Macedonia constitutes a veiled claim to its province of the same name.)

Rapporteur Zoran Thaler (S&D, SL), however, was optimistic about Macedonia's negotiations beginning shortly and described the EU's enlargement project, through the analogy of a bicycle, as a means of promoting peace and stability in the region.

"Enlargement is just like riding a bicycle," he told reporters, "the further you go, the more stable you get. But if you stop, you fall down."

"Yes, I think there is a risk of destabilisation there if no progress is made, and if that happens it will not just be costly for the country, but for the EU also."

However the third progress report, this time on Turkey, was not so optimistic as despite revealing progress had been made on certain fronts, "many obstacles still remain."

In the adopted resolution, MEPs deplored the fact Turkey had for the fourth consecutive year not implemented the Ankara Protocol, and they further expressed their profound regret at the country's Constitutional Court's decision to ban the Kurdish Democratic Society Party, not withdraw its troops from Cyprus, and to annul the legislation limiting the jurisdiction of military courts.

Rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL) said these constituted "a serious setback in Turkey's reform efforts" and rallied a call for the Turkey Constitution to be rewritten.

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