Thursday

7th Jul 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"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.

Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?

It is Tibor Navracsics, an ex-EU commissioner and minister without portfolio in Orban's new government, who was reportedly picked to work on closer relations between Fidesz and the European People's Party.

Column

'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Some modest headway in recognising the unrelenting tide of discrimination and violence facing women worldwide was made at last week's largely self-congratulatory and mostly irrelevant G7 talk-fest. But no one mentioned abortion, just days after the Roe vs Wade decision.

News in Brief

  1. Danish ministers no longer allowed to delete text messages
  2. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  3. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  4. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  5. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  6. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  7. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  8. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  2. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  3. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  4. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  5. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  6. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  7. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  8. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us