Croatia’s chief negotiator on EU membership, Vladimir Drobnjak, told EURACTIV he hopes that conditions are met to create a working group in the Council to draw up an accession treaty.
“Three negotiation chapters have been provisionally closed today,” announced Vladimir Drobnjak, Croatia’s chief negotiator, after the eighth meeting of the Croatia accession conference at deputy level.
The three chapters closed are financial services (chapter 9), energy (chapter 15) and consumer and health protection (chapter 28). “It raises the number of provisionally closed policy chapters to 15,” said Drobnjak.
The chief negotiator expects another intergovernmental conference in December. “We hope to open chapter 13 on fisheries, chapter 27 on environment and chapter 31 on common foreign, security and defence policy,” he said, three key chapters that had been blocked by Slovenia. A recent vote in the Slovenian parliament re-launched the negotiation process (EURACTIV 30/09/09).
“Two more chapters could also be provisionally closed,” he added: free movement and services (chapter 3) and social policy and employment (chapter 19).
Croatia thus expects 17 chapters to be closed and 30 or 31 to be opened (out of 35) before the end of the year.
The two chapters to be opened next year are the judiciary and fundamental rights (23) and competition policy (8).
The opening of the chapter on the judiciary and fundamental rights depends on Croatia’s cooperation with The Hague war crimes tribunal, and specifically the submission of artillery logs sought by the tribunal (EURACTIV 26/11/09). The opening of the chapter on competition policy is related to the issue of government grants to the shipbuilding sector.
“We hope that with such a number of chapters closed, the conditions are met for activating in the Council working group for the accession treaty,” Drobnjak said.
His wishes were echoed by Per Sjoegren, representing the Swedish EU Presidency, on 26 November in Strasbourg. “If Croatia makes sufficient progress, we will convene an ad hoc working group to draw up an accession treaty on the basis of the text prepared by the European Commission,” he said.
Croatia’s chief negotiator plans to have closed all the chapters by mid-2010. The former Yugoslav country could join the EU in 2011 or 2012, when all 27 member states have ratified the accession treaty.