Croatia is approaching the finishing line in its EU membership negotiations, but steps still need to be taken in a number of difficult areas - particularly the judiciary, public administration, corruption and minority rights (EurActiv 24/03/10).
"Croatia has made excellent progress in recent months and we are very much in the final stage of accession negotiations. I cannot see any issue or challenge that Croatia won't be able to overcome with the assistance of the European Commission," Füle said.
Asked if monitoring mechanisms like those put in place for Bulgaria and Romania were envisaged for Croatia, the EU's new enlargement commissioner said:
"We are so focused on the quality of accession negotiations that speculation about an eventual monitoring mechanism does not have any place and I take my responsibilities very seriously in this regard. I am not in the business of running an accession process that requires such a mechanism."
"Many lessons have been learned" from past enlargements, Füle said, adding that the focus is now on "benchmarks" for closing negotiating chapters and guaranteeing that the EU hopeful is fully prepared to join the bloc.
Asked whether "lessons learned" did not in fact mean learning from mistakes made in 2007, when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU without having fully complied with its requirements, the commissioner replied, "no, I think that the whole enlargement was generally a success".
"Each and every accession process has had its challenges and I use this phrase again – 'lessons learned' – because we want to apply these lessons to the next enlargement to make it even more streamlined and more effective. This is exactly what we are doing with Croatia," Füle said.
The Commission recently unveiled its sixth monitoring report on Bulgaria and Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (EurActiv 24/03/10).
Despite much-publicised efforts to curb organised crime (EurActiv 12/02/10), the Commission said the Bulgarian judiciary was continuing to produce very limited results in high-level corruption cases.
As for Romania, the Commission deplored the fact that for the last six months, Romania had been unable to keep up the momentum of reforms.