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Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy

EU accession of the Republic of Croatia

European Parliament Plenary Session

Brussels, 30 November 2011

President, Honourable Members of Parliament,

Today is a decisive moment: You are called to give your consent to Croatia becoming the 28th Member State of the European Union.

The Commission has already given its favourable Opinion on 12 October.

I hope that your vote of tomorrow on the recommendation and resolution, prepared by Honourable Member Mr Swoboda, will be positive. This will allow the Council to take its decision on the admission of Croatia so that the Accession Treaty could be signed on 9 December.

Your vote is

  • A vote for Croatia

  • A vote for the Region

  • A vote for the European Union

First of all it is a vote for Croatia.

A Croatia that is very different to the country that applied for accession to the European Union nearly a decade ago. A Croatia where the transformative power of the enlargement process can be clearly seen in many regards:

The economy is ready to form a part of the internal market and has coped with the financial crisis, although in today's challenging times, Croatia should however not neglect further economic reform.

Most importantly, democratic principles and fundamental rights are respected and the rule of law has been strengthened through a number of reforms.

This is the result of the hard work Croatia has done across the board.

Following the renewed consensus on enlargement, Croatia is the first candidate country that completed accession negotiations in line with an adapted negotiating methodology, which involved a systematic use of benchmarks.

Croatia has been able to demonstrate that it met the strict conditions and will therefore be ready to become a Member State on 1st July 2013.

A specific focus has been placed on judiciary reform and the fight against corruption. This helped and guided Croatia during the negotiation process. It has also led to substantial results on the ground: for example, the way the Croatian prosecution and judicial authorities are addressing corruption cases.

This is not the end of the story. Croatia now has to demonstrate that it will live up to the commitments taken in the context of the negotiations. Preparations will continue until accession. Completing these preparations will be a key priority for the government which will be formed after the elections in December.

I can assure you that the Commission will continue monitoring and reporting on Croatia's respect of the commitments taken, thoroughly and objectively, all the way to accession. We will continue to assist Croatia in this final phase of preparation.

The Commission will also continue keeping the European Parliament fully informed and I am at your disposal to discuss our findings with you.

Mr Chairman

This is also a vote for the region: Croatia's progress has shown the way to others. It has shown that the benefits of European integration are within their grasp.

  • Enlargement offers huge political, social and economic benefits.

  • Enlargement has served as an anchor of stability and regional cooperation.

  • Enlargement is a driver of democracy and the rule of law.

  • Economically, enlargement has led to increased living standards in the new member states,

The enlargement process is not just about aligning legislation to the acquis communautaire. Above all it is about changing society, about accepting the values on which our Union is based.

These values are closely linked to the areas of 'Judiciary and fundamental Rights' and 'Justice Freedom and Security'. We have therefore developed a new approach and in future negotiations we suggest tackling these issues first and closing them last.

President, Honourable Members,

We must not forget that this vote is also a vote for the European Union.

Enlargement is in our strategic interest, for our security and our prosperity.

  • The adoption by the Western Balkans of our values ensures stability and irreversible political reform.

  • Integration into the internal market benefits our exporters and investors.

  • Adoption of the acquis enables us to better meet our strategic policy objectives in fields such as energy transport the environment and other strategic interests.

A credible enlargement policy is our most effective tool to support this process of reform and transformation. That the accession of Croatia is now a reality proves the credibility of this policy.

I would like to conclude by thanking you for your co-operation and support. Without it I doubt that we would be here today making history.

Today I have listened to a very interesting debate and I am encouraged by the broad support you have given to the accession of Croatia. I hope this is translated tomorrow in a positive vote.

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