Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

Croatia gets EU green light, despite lack of reforms

  • Zagreb (Photo: Valentina pop)

The European Commission has given the go-ahead for Croatia to become the 28th member of the European Union, a landmark decision that critics say has more to do with politics than real reforms inside the Balkan state.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Friday (10 June) that the moment was right to close the four outstanding 'chapters' in Croatia's EU accession negotiations. The decision paves the way for Croatian accession on 1 July 2013.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"I would like to applaud the Croatian authorities, in particular the current government, for their hard work over the last years," said Barroso.

The commission chief said his institution had "negotiated hard but fair" over the past six years of talks, "applying strict conditionality and making sure that all EU criteria and benchmarks are fulfilled".

EU member states still need to make their final evaluation before negotiations can be officially concluded, a move expected to be made on 21 June. But this is now considered to be a formality.

Croatia is then expected to sign an EU accession treaty this autumn, before the question of EU membership is put to Croatian citizens in a referendum a few weeks later. All 27 current member states will also have to ratify the treaty.

EU enlargement commission Stefan Fuele said Croatia had changed "tremendously" during the six years of EU accession negotiations, morphing into a "mature democracy based on the rule of law and into a functioning market economy."

But critics say Zagreb's reform efforts have been far from sufficient, warning that it is too early for the former Yugoslav country of 4.5 million citizens to join EU.

Author of a recent report on the subject for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Dusan Reljic said the commission's decision on Friday merely represented strong pressure from member states such as Hungary, Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic to allow Croatia to join.

"The commission is just responding to this mood which exists among the current member states," Reljic told this website.

"If you look at the commission's last fact-finding report on Croatia in February, you see it is full of criticisms. I don't have the feeling that all of this has been remedied in the short period of time since then."

The EU plans to monitor Zagreb closely between now and 2013 to make sure government reforms don't grind to a halt, but Reljic said this was likely to be purely "formal" in nature, with very little chance that "someone will blow the whistle and say 'hey, they're not fulfilling'."

"The whole thing sends a very bad message to the other western Balkan states. The message is that it doesn't really matter how well prepared you are if you have good friends. States such as Serbia and Macedonia without such friends are likely to be scrutinised far more."

Civil society groups inside Croatia also feel that the country's accession is being expedited without the proper reforms being carried out first.

Writing in a blog for EUobserver in March, Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy, co-founders of Adriatic Institute for Public Policy, said improvements in justice and fundamental rights - also known as 'Chapter 23' - were abysmal.

"Rather than implementing vital reforms, Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor's efforts against corruption reveal a deceitful cherry-picking scheme with the objective of completing EU negotiations by June, in the hopes of winning parliamentary elections scheduled for this year," they said.

EU finalises Croatia membership treaty

Member states have finalised the text of the EU accession treaty with Croatia, set to become the bloc's 28th member in 2013. There are no safeguard clauses attached as with Bulgaria and Romania, but the EU commission will "monitor" Zagreb.

Juncker: Death penalty will end Turkey's EU bid

Turkish president Erdogan said he would reinstate capital punishment, for people behind last year's failed military coup. But European Commission president Juncker says the move would end Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Opinion

Overcoming the plot against Turkish democracy

One year after an attempted coup, what Turkey needs is not biased and groundless criticism but more cooperation, dialogue and understanding, writes its Europe minister Omer Celik.

News in Brief

  1. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  2. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  3. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  4. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  5. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger
  6. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  7. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  8. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference