Croatia has met the political preconditions for EU membership spelled out in its accession roadmap. Progress has been made in most areas, particularly regarding respect for the rule of law. However, more needs to be done, especially in the fields of judicial and administrative reform, the fight against corruption, minority rights and the return of refugees.
Croatia has met the political preconditions for EU membership spelled out in its accession roadmap. Progress has been made in most areas, particularly regarding respect for the rule of law. However, more needs to be done, especially in the fields of judicial and administrative reform, the fight against corruption, minority rights and the return of refugees. Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been sustained, but the European Commission has expressed concern over the difficulties encountered by the ICTY in accessing important documents.
In terms of economic issues, Croatia is already considered to have a functioning market economy as advanced and stable as some existing EU member states. The Commission has recognised the country's efforts to achieve "a considerable degree of macroeconomic stability with low inflation".
Financial assistance for Croatia is provided under the new Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The 2009 IPA programmes amounted to €151 million. Croatia will also benefit from a €200 million IPA crisis package for the Western Balkan region.
In its enlargement strategy adopted on 5 November 2008, the Commission put forth a roadmap for reaching the final stage of accession negotiations with Croatia by the end of 2009. According to the October 2009 Commission report, the roadmap has successfully prompted Croatia to initiate and complete the reforms necessary to close twelve negotiation chapters.
A bilateral border issue with Slovenia dashed Croatia's hopes of joining the EU in 2009. Despite Croatia's advances in many areas, a number of chapters could not be formally closed due to Slovenia's blockages in the Council. In September 2009, the standstill came to an end after Slovenia decided to lift the informal veto on Croatian accession.
Another positive signal that Croatia is heading for EU membership is linked to guarantees offered to the Czech Republic by the European Council of 29/30 October 2009. Czech President Václav Klaus made his signature of the much awaited Lisbon Treaty conditional on a guarantee that Germans expelled from Czech Republic after WWII would not be in a position to claim their land back once the Treaty has entered into force (Euractiv 30/10/09).
EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed to attach these formal guarantees as a new declaration to Protocol 30 of the Lisbon Treaty. But the impossibility of amending the Lisbon text at this stage of the ratification process implies that the modification must take place at another time. According to Czech sources, the clause is expected to be added to Croatia's EU accession treaty, implying that Croatian membership is a fait accompli.