Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/croatia : Zagreb Aims to Wrap Up Accession Talks by 21 June

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/croatia : Zagreb Aims to Wrap Up Accession Talks by 21 June

Article excerpt

Croatia is mobilising all its forces in a bid to conclude its accession talks with the EU ahead of the country's independence day, on 25 June. According to diplomatic sources, Zagreb intends to wrap up technical negotiations on 21 June so that the EU's leaders can rubber-stamp the formal conclusion of talks at their scheduled 24 June meeting. "If this best-case scenario comes true, we will have more than one good reason this year to celebrate on 25 June," a Croatian diplomat told Europolitics New Neighbours.

Prior to that, however, Zagreb has yet to close five chapters, including the two most difficult ones: competition policy and judiciary and fundamental rights. In these two crucial areas, it has to meet 14 demanding closing benchmarks. The moment of truth will come on 11 March, when the European Commission is due to publish its assessment of Zagreb's progress in the area of judiciary and give its green light or postpone closure of this chapter. The latter would mean a delay for the whole process by another couple of months.

However, Croatian diplomats remain optimistic, pointing to the recent arrest of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on charges of abuse of power in connection with the Croatian expansion of the Klagenfurt, Austria-based Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank International AG as an example of the proper functioning of the country's justice system. The Sanader and other cases "show that the rule of law in Croatia is unquestionable, that the institutions are functioning and the principles on which the EU rests are embedded in our state and society," Croatian Foreign Minister Goran Jandrokovic has said. …

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