Fabian Demicoli

Croatia: The 28th State to join the EU


"The European Commission is confident
that Croatia will be ready for membership on 1 July 2013". These are the words that we read in
the last monitoring report presented last 26 March in Brussels. "It is good news – said the European
Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy , Štefan
Füle  – The results will directly benefit
the citizens."

The report, consists of 15 pages, it
specifically states that Croatia "has shown the will and ability to fulfil
all outstanding commitments in good time before accession".

But Croatia's journey to the EU has
sometimes been turbulent and it took 10 years of negotiations before they
managed to arrive to this result.

Now, however, Croatia has
successfully completed all ten so-called "priority actions" or
reforms considered essential by Europe like:

Shipyards:
As requested, Croatia has privatised the Brodosplit shipyard.

Courts:
The backlog of cases is being reduced, court presidents have been empowered,
and transparency has been increased.

Enforcement
of court rulings: The system has been adjusted and the clearance rate has
improved.

Conflicts
of interest: A Conflict of Interest Commission was established on 25 January
and has since started procedures against 26 officials (including one against
the agriculture minister, Tihomir Jakovina).

Freedom
of information: A new law on access to information was adopted in February, and
the post of commissioner responsible for access to information has been
created.

Migration:
Parliament adopted a migration strategy for 2013-15 in February that also addressed
the particular concern of how vulnerable migrants are integrated.

Border
posts: Two border crossing points will be built by the date of accession, and a
third is about to be completed.

Border
police: Croatia recruited 467 border police in 2012, as planned, and will take
on 100 more this year.

Police
law: The Commission wanted 36 by-laws adopted. These were adopted, and have
been in force since 1 January.

Translation:
Croatia has "considerably increased the pace of translating and revising" the
corpus of EU law, the acquis communautaire. By mid-March, 118,000 pages had
been translated and revised, suggesting that the task will be completed "before
accession".

This does not mean that everything is
perfect. Decreasing the load of judicial proceedings pending for example, will
take years.

Croatia must also "intensify
efforts" on the prevention of corruption, immediately putting in place
measures to identify conflicts of interest.

For Croatia to join the European
Union however is a unique opportunity, at only 22 years of independence and a
little more than ten years after the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Its excellent geographical location
and historical ties with other countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East
allow investors access to a market of 500 million people.

In addition, Croatia has had a steady
economic growth over the past four years and a low rate of inflation: this
guarantees investors a stimulating and safe environment to do business.

One should not forget that the labor
costs in Croatia is four times lower than the European average, lower than half
of the EU countries such as Hungary and Poland.

Meanwhile, waiting for July 1, Zagreb
looks at the last five Member States that need to complete the ratification
process: Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Slovenia.

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