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EC: Croatia has made progress in all areas

13. October 2011. | 08:49

Source: tportal.hr

Over the past year Croatia has made significant progress in all areas, which has made possible the completion of the accession talks, and the remaining work should be done by the date of its EU entry, 1 July 2013, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Over the past year Croatia has made significant progress in all areas, which has made possible the completion of the accession talks, and the remaining work should be done by the date of its EU entry, 1 July 2013, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The EC today adopted the so-called Enlargement package containing reports on the progress of all candidate and potential candidate countries, a favourable opinion on Croatia's accession to the EU, an opinion on Serbia's candidacy, and an enlargement strategy for 2012.

Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele first acquainted members of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee with the content of the adopted documents, after which he was expected to hold a news conference.

The latest report on Croatia's progress is the last such report. In June this year, Croatia completed its accession talks and after it signs a treaty of accession on December 19, it will get the status of an acceding country and will no longer have candidate country status.

In the report the EC says that Croatia has made good overall progress, in particular in the fields of judiciary and fundamental rights and in the area covered by the policy chapter on justice, freedom and security, noting that the remaining commitments should be met before accession.

"Good progress has been made in the area of rule of law. New legislation has strengthened the independence of the judiciary and adequate measures were taken to improve its efficiency. Anti-corruption efforts have yielded positive results including in cases of high level corruption. New improved laws regarding access to information, conflict of interest and the financing of political activities have been enacted. Progress has been made with the impartial handling of war crimes trials.

"Croatia has committed to continue ensuring sustainable results in particular in the fields of judicial and administrative reforms, fight against corruption, minority rights, refugee return and war crimes. The track record of effective handling of corruption cases needs to be further developed and the new preventive legal framework increasing transparency in public procurement, party financing, and conflict of interest needs to be fully implemented. Further efforts are recommended to continue building a modern, reliable, de-politicised and citizen oriented public service," reads the report.

The Commission also says it will carefully monitor the progress made by Croatia in all areas up to the date of accession.

Croatia's economy has recently shown signs of a mild expansion following three years of recession which has resulted in higher unemployment, public deficits and debt. Although the current account deficit has fallen sharply, external debt has continued to increase and remains a key vulnerability of the economy. Monetary policy has maintained exchange rate and financial stability. Further efforts are needed as regards structural reforms, including reforms of the labour market and improvements in the business environment, says the report.

Additional efforts are needed in certain areas such as to finalise the restructuring process for the shipyards and to strengthen further the administrative capacity necessary for the proper implementation of the EU legislation, and standards, as well as the absorption of EU funds, according to the report.

Croatia is the first country to have negotiated its EU membership under more strict criteria and benchmarks for the opening and closing of the negotiating areas. EC officials say that Croatia is an example of the EU's transformation power and that today the country is different from what it was before the start of the accession talks.

The experiences gained in the accession talks with Croatia will be used in the future in talks with other candidates.

One of the lessons learned is that negotiations on the policy area No. 23, Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, and the policy area No. 24, Justice, Freedom and Security, should be opened at the very start of the negotiations and closed at the very end of the negotiating process. The two policy chapters cover areas regarding the rule of law and the management of the EU's external borders, police cooperation between the member countries, the fight against organised crime, and judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

In the two policy chapters the EU particularly insists on the real implementation of reforms and wants proof of it, which requires a certain amount of time. The EC will therefore see to it that talks on those two policy areas are opened as soon as possible so that by the end of its negotiating process a candidate country can show convincing results.


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