Croatia New EU-member 2013 – and Serbia to Start Talks about Membership

October 17th, 2011   Articles | Croatia | Serbia | The European Union

In a report issued on October 12, the EU Commission stated “that Croatia meets the political criteria and [the Commission] expects Croatia to meet the economic and acquis criteria and to be ready for membership by 1 July 2013.” At the same time the Commission recommended that the Council grant Serbia the status of candidate and give green light for accession negotiations with Montenegro.

In a set of annual reports – issue on October 12, 2011 – the Commission informed on the progress towards EU accession made by the Western Balkans, Turkey, and Iceland over the past year.

Croatia applied for membership in 2003 and will hold a referendum in regards to the EU-membership probably early next year. Since 2006 the support amongst Croatian citizens towards EU membership has all along been above 50%. Though, the support has to some extent decreased over the years. An opinion polls carried out in September 2011 shows that the expected referendum turnout would be 82%, 14% respondents would not vote, whereas 4% are undecided about participation at the referendum. Out of those respondents who would vote at the referendum, 58% would vote in favor of Croatia’s EU accession, 31% of respondents declared themselves against, while 11% remain undecided.

“The transformative power of the enlargement process of the European Union can be seen most obviously in Croatia,” said Commissioner Štefan Füle when the report was issued. “Today, Croatia is very different to the country that applied for accession to the European Union a decade ago. Democracy functions. Fundamental rights are respected. The economy has weathered the financial crisis.”

In addition, to establishing a date for Croatia entering the EU, the Commission also announced that accession negotiations ought to be opened with Montenegro, a Balkan country that applied for membership in 2008. And that Serbia should be granted EU candidate status – Serbia applied for membership in 2009.

The arrest of the two remaining ICTY indictees definitely removed a major stumbling block from Serbia’s European path. Though, the suggestion to start negotiations with Serbia is not unconditional. The Commission stated that talks could start as soon as Serbia “achieves further significant progress in meeting the following key priority: Further steps to normalize relations with Kosovo in line with the conditions of the Stabilization and Association Process by: fully respecting the principles of inclusive regional cooperation”.

Serbia is encouraged by the Commission to maintain the momentum of reforms in pursuing “the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria, with particular attention to the rule of law, and to continue its constructive engagement in regional cooperation and in strengthening bilateral relations with neighbouring countries”.

“The positive opinion on the Croatian application for EU membership will for sure give additional impetus to our SEE [South East Europe] partners to continue with the reforms on their euro integration path,” stated the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.

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