Brussels, 10 June 2011
Statement by Commissioner Füle on the occasion of the recommendation by the Commission to close the remaining chapters with Croatia
I am particularly glad to announce that today the Commission has completed its negotiations with Croatia. This means that, as far as the Commission is concerned, the work is completed. Now it is up to the Member States to make the final evaluation of the negotiations and decide whether the negotiations can be officially concluded and the Accession Treaty signed.
We are confident that this will happen because negotiations have been in depth and substantial. The negotiations have been structured along 35 different chapters covering the complete range of areas which fall under the competence of the European Union. For each of these chapters, Croatia had to fulfil clear criteria to open and to close the negotiations.
The Commission has been in constant contact on all levels with the Croatian authorities to support them in meeting these demanding benchmarks. We have provided advice, funding and assistance. We have reported about the achievements and the remaining work to be done in our regular Progress Reports.
Croatia has been asked not only to adopt new laws and regulations, but also to implement them and prove to be able to do so. In one word, Croatia had to prove to have taken irreversible course of action.
We will continue to work with Croatia until the moment when it will join the European Union, closely monitoring and reporting about the implementation of the commitments taken by Croatia to be achieved before the date of accession.
It is a very important moment, the end of a long journey that started in October 2005. Almost six years have passed,
six years during which Croatia has changed tremendously;
six years that have transformed the country into a mature democracy based on the rule of law and into a functioning market economy;
six years that have helped the society to grow stronger and more dynamic.
I cannot say that this has been only because of the negotiations with the European Union. But I can certainly say that these negotiations have helped and have accelerated the process, acting as a catalyst for reforms.
The Government, the Parliament, all the institutions, all the citizens of Croatia have to be proud for what they have achieved. And I would like to thank and congratulate them all for the hard work that has been done.
Preparation for membership is certainly a tough exercise. Putting the house in order is always painful, but also worthy. Croatia can soon reap the fruits of this work. Let me try to mention some of them:
the Croatian market will be fully integrated into the EU market. It means that Croatian products will benefit from a potential market of more than 500 million people;
Croatian citizens will be able to establish themselves freely in the EU territory;
Croatian farmers will benefit from substantial funds to help rural development;
new competition rules will be established to ensure a level playing-field for all economic operators;
the judiciary system has been reformed to make it more efficient. New judges and prosecutors will be appointed on the basis of their professional merits;
effectively fighting corruption will provide a secure legal environment for all the citizens;
human rights, minority rights, civil liberties have been upheld.
And the list could continue covering important sectors such as fisheries, environmental protection, social policies …
But becoming a member of the European Union is not only an economic or social gain. It is first and foremost a sense of belonging. Belonging to the European family, belonging to a community based on the rule of law, belonging to an area of peace, stability and prosperity.
My message for the country that has emerged from a war in the recent past and which will celebrate in a few days its 20 years as an independent republic, is straight and clear: I am looking forward to welcome you as the 28th Member State of the European Union.
From my own experience coming from the central Europe I can testify that enlargement is the most successful policy, bringing tangible benefits to both member states and aspirant countries.
I am also confident that today's new stage on the path of Croatia joining the European Union will be a tremendous signal to the rest of the Western Balkan countries and its people as it ca help to create a new momentum needed for the enlargement process to continue and accelerate in that region.