Croatia wants to join by 2009 despite ‘enlargement pause’

Croatia has high hopes for EU entry even though there have been calls for an “enlargement pause”. Meanwhile, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn says that the Union will stick to its commitments towards the country.

During a visit to the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFCO) on 5 October 2006, Croat Foreign Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic reiterated her country’s hopes to join the EU by 2009. She said: “We do have the right to express our expectation of course, and we have to have a target date in mind to be able to plan our obligations to fulfil all the conditions.”

Commission President José Manuel Barroso on 25 September 2006 called for an enlargement pause saying that he thought “it would be unwise to bring in other member states before we have sorted out the institutional question”. However, he added that he “would like Croatia to join as quickly as possible, if it fulfils all the criteria”.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that there should be an enlargement pause. On her visit to Turkey on 5-6 October 2006, she said: “We currently have adhesion discussions with Croatia and with Turkey, but we also know that, in the foreseeable future, we can’t accept any other member states.”

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on 5 October endorsed Croatia’s efforts and commented on the issue of a possible enlargement pause: “This means no sabbatical from our commitments to the countries of south-eastern Europe, which constitute our consolidated enlargement agenda.” He said: “While we prepare internally for a new institutional settlement, the gradual and carefully managed accession process moves on with Croatia and other Western Balkan countries. While we are cautious about any new commitments, we stick to our existing commitments to these countries. Pacta sunt servanda is a fundamental European principle.”

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