José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Ivo Josipović, President of Croatia
Brussels, 17 June 2011
Good afternoon! It is a pleasure to welcome President Josipović to Brussels at this historical moment for Croatia.
As you know, the Commission proposed last Friday to close the accession negotiations with Croatia. This paves the way for Croatia to join the EU as the 28th Member State. The Council of Ministers is now assessing the Commission's reports, and I think we may expect developments already at next week's European Council.
Mr. President, let me congratulate you very sincerely and very warmly on this achievement. It is a very important achievement for Croatia which would not have been possible without your hard work and that of the Croatian authorities, in particular, I would like to underline that, the very competent work of the current government of Croatia.
The Commission has negotiated hard but fair over the last years. We applied strict conditionality and we made sure that all criteria and benchmarks were fulfilled.
This firm commitment has paid off: Croatia is now ready to move ahead.
EU enlargement is about credibility: Credibility from the candidates in respecting all criteria and enforcing the required reforms, but also credibility on the EU's side in moving forward once the agreed conditions have been met.
So our job is not yet complete. We must all remain committed and focused. It is critical that Croatia keeps its momentum in the period before accession. The enforcement of reforms on the ground, notably in crucial areas such as judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organized crime and economic restructuring - these efforts must not cease or be slowed down.
The Commission will of course continue monitoring, advising and supporting Croatia all the way to accession.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This decisive step forward by Croatia is also a clear signal to the rest of South Eastern Europe. I would like to send a message to the other countries in the region.
Croatia's progress shows that enlargement works, that the EU is serious about its strategic commitment, and that "pro-European" reforms are not only necessary for the accession process, but absolutely worth it - for the benefit of our partner countries and their citizens.
In the same vein, I hope that Croatia's accession gives further momentum to regional reconciliation. President Josipović is a key actor in this regard, and I am sure he will continue his efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A credible enlargement policy remains the European Union's most important tool for strengthening stability and prosperity in South Eastern Europe. Croatia's progress should therefore be an inspiration to our other partners.
As I have stressed during my recent two trips through the region:
It is the countries themselves that hold the key on their path to the EU. They must boost their reforms. They must deliver - to the benefit of their own people. And they should draw confidence and courage from Croatia's success.
So Mr President, again: congratulations! All the best! We are in the process of opening a new chapter in Croatia's rich history, 20 years after your independence as a country.
Thank you very much.