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Štefan Füle European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle on Croatia Plenary Session of the European Parliament Strasbourg, 16 February 2011

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/11/107   16/02/2011

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SPEECH/11/107

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle on Croatia

Plenary Session of the European Parliament

Strasbourg, 16 February 2011

President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

I would like to congratulate the Rapporteur for Croatia, Mr. Hannes Swoboda, and express my appreciation for his fair and balanced report.

It acknowledges the impressive progress achieved by Croatia in meeting the criteria for accession, while recognising the efforts that are still necessary to conclude the negotiations.

The EU and Croatia have provisionally closed 28 of the 35 negotiating chapters. The Ministerial Accession Conference of 19 April should be able to provisionally close additional chapters, where Croatia has either fulfilled or is very close to fulfilling the closing benchmarks. As noted by the December 2010 General Affairs Council, the conclusion of the negotiations is within reach.

As with all negotiations the most difficult issues remain to be tackled in the final phase. The Hungarian Presidency has announced its goal to finish negotiations in the first half of 2011, if all criteria and benchmarks are fulfilled. This is an ambitious goal which can only be achieved if Croatia continues to make an exceptional effort to fulfil the remaining requirements in time.

The main outstanding challenges are the closing benchmarks for chapter 23 Judiciary and fundamental rights and chapter 8 competition policy. Croatia has been working hard in both areas but now is the time to go the final mile.

As regards judiciary and fundamental rights, the main areas where Croatia is called upon to deliver on its commitments are:

  • Establishing a credible and sustainable track-record in the fight against corruption.

  • Strengthening the independence, accountability, impartiality and professionalism of the judiciary.

  • Addressing the issue of impunity for war crimes.

  • Meeting targets in the Housing Care Programme for refugees.

  • Improving the implementation of minority rights.

Full cooperation with the ICTY remains a requirement.

In each of these areas, there are clear benchmarks to be met. The Commission is currently taking stock of the progress achieved by Croatia, for each of the benchmarks, on which we will report in our upcoming interim report on this chapter due by the middle of March.

I have had a very useful and constructive meeting with Prime Minister Kosor yesterday. We have discussed the importance of maintaining the momentum of the accession negotiations and of tackling the remaining outstanding issues. The Croatian authorities are well aware of what they still need to do. Indeed, I was very pleased to be reassured of the Prime Minister's personal commitment to ensure that the work continues at full speed until the EU accession process can be concluded.

President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

I couldn't agree more with those who call on the EU neither to make 'special discounts' nor to impose artificial hurdles on Croatia.

The principles of full respect for the conditionality that applies to the candidate countries and full respect for the commitments that the European Union has made remain the cornerstones of the enlargement process. This is the essence of its credibility.

The Commission will continue to give its full support to Croatia which is working hard to achieve its goal of accession to the European Union.

I am sure that the Member States will decide that accession negotiations can be concluded as soon as we can assess that the remaining closing benchmarks have been met.

I am equally sure that when the Parliament will be requested for its consent on the draft Accession Treaty, it will play this critical role in accordance with the very constructive approach that it has shown about Croatia's accession process.

Along with your rapporteur Mr. Swoboda, I do believe that the citizens of Croatia - after being called upon to endorse their country's accession to the EU - will be able to vote for their representatives in the next elections of the European Parliament.


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