Croatia expects to speed up negotiations on the EU membership during the French Presidency

Croatia’s expectations of the French Presidency are very high and primarily focused on speeding up the negotiations on EU membership. It was announced through bilateral high-level contacts that Croatia might open all the remaining chapters by the end of French Presidency and conclude some of them.[1] So far Croatia has opened negotiation on 20 chapters and provisionally closed two chapters, while Croatian Government submitted reports on all the remaining opening benchmarks on 30 June.

EC Progress report on Croatia: critical but objective?

In Croatia, media coverage of the Commission’s Enlargement Strategy, as well as reactions from the Government, opposition parties and NGOs have been focussed on the Croatia 2007 Progress Report. Prevailing opinion is that the Commission’s Report is objective, but different segments of public have rather wide spectrum of views on it, whether it is positive or critical.
The Prime Minister Sanader claims that the Report is very positive for Croatia, and that the Commission recognised progress in all areas.[1] On the other hand, the opposition parties are of the opinion that the European Commission gave critical opinion on the progress towards the EU.[2] Reactions from NGOs indicate that the Commission’s Progress Report is objective, while highlights vary in line with specific interests. War veterans are concerned with political criteria, i.e. return of refugees and regional cooperation.[3] The coordination of GLTB NGOs focuses on limited progress in the area of protection of human minority rights and lack of national strategy and action plan for all types of discrimination.[4] Animal Friends Croatia highlights the necessity for implementing Directive 93/119/EC on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing.[5]

Political leaders and analysts express hopes that the EU will carry on with the ratification process

Most of the debates and reports before and after the referendum were focused on the implications of adoption or refusal of the treaty on enlargement, more precisely on the position of Croatia. Vesna Roller, journalist, elaborated legal possibilities after the positive or negative outcome of the referendum.[1] She stated that even the Europeans did not know what the consequences of the eventual refusal of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland were. Does it mean that the treaty is ‘dead’ (like it was the case with the “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe” after the Dutch and French ‘No’ three years ago), or will the ratification continue in other nine countries? The first solution meant that it would be necessary to continue work on improving the document, which was hard to expect. It was more likely that the problem would be treated as a specifically Irish one, leaving the country to find the solution for negative outcome.
Neven Mimica, chairman of the European Integration Committee of the Croatian parliament commented that the Irish citizens refused the idea of further federalisation of Europe but not the Lisbon Treaty itself. The gap between political elites and the wider population is increasing, which means that the Treaty was not well communicated to citizens. It is instructive for Croatia because it shows how important the referendum is.

Timetable for ratification vs. Croatian accession timetable

The signing of the Lisbon Treaty was very much welcomed in Croatia, having in mind the fact that it opens a clear perspective for integrating the country and the region into the EU. The signing of the Treaty was a historic day for the EU, stressed the Prime Minister Sanader at the meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels. In his opinion, the assumption for integrating Croatia (and later the other countries of the region) is to finish the process of Treaty ratification in 2008 or at the beginning of 2009, which will prepare the legal ground for the enlargement.[1]

Fight against corruption in Croatia intensifies

Nevenka Čučković

The fight against corruption remains a top priority of the government, as this area is condition sine qua non if the negotiations with the EU are to be completed by the end of 2010. The government had strived to have some tangible results from its intensified efforts with a hope that the negotiating chapter number 23 on judiciary and fundamental rights would finally be opened at the beginning of June 2010. This chapter remained closed for negotiations until fulfilment of preconditions set by the European Council: a) a full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague and b) demonstrated ability of the government to systematically fight against corruption. The stumbling stone for opening this negotiating chapter with the EU had been the inability of the Croatian government to deliver the military artillery logbooks requested by the prosecutor’s office of the ICTY in The Hague, which would serve as evidence that no excessive artillery was used while liberating the Croatian city Knin during the liberating operation “Storm” in 1995, for which some Croatian generals were indicted.

Limited attention by politicians, strong positions of NGOs

Ana-Maria Boromisa

Before the Copenhagen conference, the government, civil society organisations and the media expected that it would be possible to make a binding agreement.[1] Luka Bebić, the speaker of the Croatian parliament, expressed expectations that long-term obligations for emission reductions for the period 2020 with a view to 2050 would be finalised at the Copenhagen conference, as well as the implementation and financing of rules.[2] The media announced the conference as challenging, and expectations were rather large.[3]
The presidential campaign in Croatia took place during the Copenhagen conference; however, climate issues and energy policy were not debated much. Most of the candidates barely (or not at all) mentioned climate change in their programmes,[4] or were unaware of the issues debated in Copenhagen.[5] Ivo Josipović is one of the rare candidates who did talk about climate change in his campaign and stressed that he sees a stronger role for civil organisations and associations on advocating these issues.[6]

European economic policy, the financial and economic crisis and its consequence for Croatia

Valentina Vučković and Nevenka Čučković

The financial package to assist Greece received with relief, but worries remain

Croatia will be next

Senada Šelo Šabić

Unanimous belief that Croatia will be the 28th EU member

The political elite express confidence that Croatia will be the next member state of the EU. Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor underlines that it is her belief, and that of her government, that Croatia will conclude negotiations this year and is first in line for the next round of enlargement.[1] This belief is reiterated by EU officials. Stefan Füle expects Croatia to be able to conclude negotiations in 2010, which means that the entry year could be 2012.[2] All parliamentary parties subscribe to this view. Vesna Pusić,[3] the President of the National Committee for Monitoring Accession Negotiations, expressed conviction that Croatia could, but was doubtful whether this government can conclude negotiations this year.[4]

Van Rompuy received more attention than Ashton

Senada Šelo Šabić

The Council President received media attention with regard to Croatia’s accession negotiations