2nd Dec 2023

Slovenia still holding back Croatia on EU path

  • Ljubljana - a previous Slovenia-Croatia dispute over maritime borders was resolved earlier this year (Photo: EUobserver)

Croatia on Monday (21 December) closed two more negotiation chapters in its bid to join the EU, but Slovenia is blocking the opening of three other areas.

"Croatia's accession negotiations are in the final and decisive phase," Gordan Jandrokovic, Croatian minister for European integration said at a press conference in Brussels.

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"We are confident that we can bring negotiations to a successful end in the middle of 2010," he added.

Zagreb finalised negotiations in the areas of free movement of services and social policy. But in the meantime, Slovenia has blocked the opening of further negotiations on fisheries, environment and foreign and security policy.

Slovenian foreign minister Samuel Zbogar confirmed that opening the chapters would not be approved, saying it was "a question of the process of harmonising the opening of the chapter and that the point of having a solution has yet to be reached."

Mr Zbogar said that Slovenia, as well as all the other EU member states, have the right to "essential doubts regarding specific chapters."

For the past year, Ljubljana has blocked Zagreb's accession talks over a maritime border dispute. The deadlock was broken in mid-November when Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor signed an agreement with her Slovenian counterpart to allow for UN arbitration of the matter.

Slovenia is the only republic of the former Yugoslavia currently in the EU, while Croatia is hoping to become the 28th member of the bloc by 2012.

"We regret that several chapters in which Croatia is completely ready will not be opened today," Mr Jandrokovic said.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tried to reassure his Croatian colleagues that the accession process was still on the right track.

"I hope that [Slovenian opposition] can be sorted out fairly soon ...I take that for granted," he said, as the Swedish EU presidency draws to an end.

Zagreb still has to tackle some of the tougher policy areas, such as judicial reform, the fight against corruption and competition in order to finalise the negotiations with the EU. Question marks over its compliance with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague also hang over its EU bid.

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