EU Accession: Monitoring Report Primarily Positive
The report identified 10 areas where Croatia still needs to increase efforts before the expected 1 July 2013 EU Treaty ratification and full EU membership The EU Comprehensive Monitoring Report on Croatia is part of the 2012 Enlargement package adopted by the European Commission (EC) on 10 October. The EC concluded that the country has continued to make good progress overall and is now completing its alignment with EU legislation and standards. The EC identified areas where further efforts are necessary and a limited number of issues where increased efforts are required. The EC will continue to closely monitor the progress made by Croatia in all areas and present a last monitoring report in spring 2013. The report identified 10 areas where Croatia still needs to increase efforts before the expected 1 July 2013 EU Treaty ratification and full EU membership. These areas range from finalising the restructuring process for shipyards to continued reform and efficiency of the judiciary to preparations to implement EU funds. Even though there are evident concerns with the new government regarding public procurement transparency, conflicts of interest and politicisation of public companies and services, it is evident from the report that the EU and EC have decided that Croatia’s entrance into the EU is a fundamental geo-strategic priority and takes precedence over these issues, which will be further addressed after EU membership. The primarily positive report confirms the EC consensus to ratify Croatia’s EU membership by 1 July 2013. Through September, 16 of 27 Member States have ratified the EU Treaty. Slovenia is taking advantage of the ratification process to lobby for a favourable resolution to the bi-lateral disagreement over the compensation for Ljubljanska Bank. In the end, this should actually be a determining factor of Croatia’s entrance into the EU or delay the final timetable for EU membership. Influential Member States, such as France, Germany, UK, still have not ratified Croatia’s EU Treaty and their ratification will be another telling sign of how the process is proceeding. This monitoring report confirms that the July 2013 timetable is not in question. However, the upcoming 8 months can also be expected to be a period of focused attention by the EC and individual EU member states to exert pressure on the Croatian Government in the areas of foreign policy, trade, competition protection, market liberalisation, etc. This is obvious through basically all proposed legislation changes, which essentially need to go through an EU/EC “filter”/review before it is sent to parliamentary procedure and final ratification. Also, along with the pressure exerted by Slovenia, this 8-month “window of opportunity” to exert pressure is also presently being exerted by Hungary, through Prime Minister Orban’s direct support of MOL in its management fight with the Croatian Government. The final spring monitoring report can be expected in June 2013, which will formally confirm that Croatia has fulfilled all EU expectations, and this “window” will finally be closed.