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EC: Croatia reaches good level of alignment but increased efforts necessary in some domains

25. April 2012. | 09:08

Source: Hina

Croatia has reached great progress in its preparations for EU membership, while further efforts are needed in a limited number of issues, read a draft monitoring report for three chapters which the Europan Commission is expected to publish on Tuesday.

Croatia has reached great progress in its preparations for EU membership, while further efforts are needed in a limited number of issues, read a draft monitoring report for three chapters which the Europan Commission is expected to publish on Tuesday.

"Overall, Croatia's preparations for EU membership are on track. Croatia has reached a considerable degree of alignment with the acquis," said the draft report which was made available to Hina on Monday.

"Nevertheless, the Commission has identified a limited number of issues requiring further efforts. The Croatian authorities need to take all necessary measures to insure that the country is fully prepared for membership by 1 July 2013, in the interest of Croatia and the EU," read the document.

On Tuesday, the European Commission will adopt and publish the report on three policy chapters - Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, Justice, Freedom and Security and Competition. Croatia's Treaty of Accession with the EU stipulates that the Commission will monitor the way Croatia is meeting its obligations from the entry negotiations in the period from the end of the negotiation to its EU entry, 1 July 2013.

Pre-accession monitoring was introduced to ensure that a country is fully prepared for the admission, so that it wold not have to be monitored as a member state. The Commission issues a report every three months for the three most difficult and most important chapters. This autumn, the Commission is scheduled to release a comprehensive monitoring report which will cover all policy chapters.

This is the first report and it reforms to the period between 1 September 2011 and 29 February 2012. It describes what has been done in the said period and it gives recommendations for areas which need further progress so that Croatia could be prepared for its EU admission, scheduled for 1 July 2013.

In Chapter 8 - Competition Croatia is generally making progress towards meeting the commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations for this chapter. "Croatia can be considered broadly on track on its preparations for membership in the field of competition policy," the draft report said.

"In March 2012, the bid for the shipyard Brodosplit was accepted and Croatia has indicated that the privatisation contract will be finalised without delay and submitted to the Commission for acceptance. However, the bids for the shipyards Kraljevica and Brodotrogir were rejected by the government and the bid for the shipyard 3 maj was withdrawn by the potential investor. The government has decided to initiate the bankruptcy proceedings for Kraljevica and to seek new privatisation and restructuring arrangements for 3 maj and Brodotrogir within 92 days," the document ready.

Progress was also recorded in the most difficult chapter 23 - Judiciary and Fundamental Rights.

"The implementation of the judicial reform strategy and the action plan has continued to be generally in line with foreseen deadlines, including legislative fine-tuning in a number of areas. However, going into force of the new system of public bailiffs," the draft report said.

"The reformed state judicial and state prosecution council have continued to function independently. Both bodies have continued to appoint judicial officials, based on transparent uniform and objective criteria," the document said.

Hhowever, improvements in the implementation of transitional system of appointments of judges are needed, including greater transparency of marking oral interviews, with attention paid to ensuring equal treatment of all candidates, the document said.

In December 2010 - December 2011 period, the overall number of pending cases increased by 5.2 percent. There is a continued reduction in the backlog of all criminal cases falling by 12.3 percent in the same period. However, the number of all civil cases increased by 6.5 percent in the same period, while the number of all civil cases at first instance courts fell by 9.5 percent, according to the draft report.

"Attention needs to be paid to ensuring that higher courts, including the Supreme Court, are adequately equipped to handle disproportionate increase as cases advance through the system," the document read.

Commenting on war crimes trial before domestic courts, the draft report said that the trial for the killing of Serb civilians in the village of Grubori started. It notes that measures have been taken to protect witnesses.

"However, tackling impunity for war crimes remains a challenge especially as majority of war crimes have yet to be successfully prosecuted," the document said.

Commenting on Croatia's track record, the document said Croatia needs to continue to ensure efficient, effective and unbiased investigations in vulnerable sectors such as public procurement.

"A number of senior appointments were made in the police by the outgoing administration. Appointments and further police reforms will require close attention especially to ensure depoliticisation and increase professionalism.

The draft report also said that a bill of amendments to the conflict of interest act raises concern.

"First steps taken by the new government concerning conflict of interest rules are a cause of concern, in particular as regards supervisory and management of public companies. Earlier provisions on criteria for membership have been overturned. Croatia needs to ensure that a strong system is in place for preventing corruption in state owned companies. The concept of political accountability and zero tolerance of corruption needs to continue being developed.

Croatia is making progress in the protection of minority rights and refugee housing. The Commission urges Croatia to continue to make improvements in this area.

The Commission also noted that Croatia had continued to cooperate with the International criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Commenting on Chapter 24 - Justice, Freedom and Security - the Commission said Croatia was on the right track for meeting the criteria.

"With regard to external border and Schengen the process of alignment with the Schengen acquis has continued by further improving the system of integrated border management. Inter-agency cooperation, as well as coordination with the neighbouring country and EU bodies in this field has advanced," the document said.

The Commission gave a short overview of what has been done in other policy chapters as well. It notes that membership preparations are almost completed in ten policy chapters and that a certain number of outstanding issues remained in the other 14 policy chapters.

"Croatia has reached a generally good level of alignment but increased efforts are necessary in some domains," said the draft report.


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