Warsaw to wrap up drafting of Croatia’s accession treaty
By Joanna Sopinska | Thursday 30 June 2011
Following the last minute completion of the accession talks with Croatia at the end of June, the Polish Presidency has been tasked with finalising drafting of the Accession Treaty. To meet Zagreb’s challenging accession schedule, Warsaw needs to conclude within the coming months all remaining legislative work so that the text of the treaty is translated into Croatian and all 23 EU official languages and ready for signing by the end of the year. Otherwise the tight timetable for Zagreb’s entry into the EU, on 1 July 2013, might slip. Warsaw has frequently declared that it would do its utmost to duly fulfil its part of the work, paving the way for the next stage, namely the ratification process in Croatia and the 27 member states within the next 18 months.
At their summit, on 23-24 June, the EU’s leaders set 1 July 2013 as the target date for Croatia’s accession to the EU. Before then, however, future EU Presidencies will need to tick two key boxes. Everything must be ready for signature of the several hundred pages long treaty by the end of 2011, so the ratification process can be launched at the beginning of Denmark’s six-month term of office, on 1 January 2012. The final phase of the 18-month process is expected to take place under the Irish Presidency (1 January- 30 June 2013). If these deadlines are met, Croatia will become the EU’s 28th member.
In the meantime, the EU will use a special pre-accession mechanism to closely monitor Zagreb’s track record in meeting all its membership commitments, particularly on justice and competition. Any failure on Croatia’s side could delay accession.
The Poles also aim to bring other Western Balkan countries a step closer to membership. Warsaw believes that enlargement is part and parcel of the Union’s success and that it should continue regardless of any political or economic problems member states might encounter. Given their current track record in meeting EU requirements, three countries - Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia - are the most likely candidates to move to the next stage. All are in the waiting room to opening accession talks with the EU. Unlike Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have still to receive the European Commission’s green light. Provided the EU executive issues a positive recommendation in October on their readiness to open membership talks, the Polish Presidency will be in a position to put the issue on the Council’s agenda, paving the way to move it up to European Council level, in December. Member states, on the basis of unanimity, would then decide whether to open accession talks with the three countries.
ICELAND AND TURKEY
Following the formal launch of substantial negotiations with Iceland, at the end of June, the Polish Presidency is expected to move the process forward. Reykjavik has set an ambitious goal for Warsaw. It expects that around half the remaining chapters will be opened in the second half of 2011, including the two most difficult ones: fisheries and agriculture. To date, four out of 33 have been opened and two are already closed. “It is necessary to increase the momentum created today by the launching of substantial negotiations,” Össur Skarphédinsson, Iceland’s foreign minister, said, on 27 June, referring to the Polish Presidency’s agenda. Most progress is expected on ten chapters, which are fully in line with the EU acquis due to Reykjavik’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA).
In contrast, prospects for progress in talks with Turkey are rather bleak. Due to a protracted stalemate in Cyprus’ unification talks, Poland might follow the lead taken by Belgium and Hungary – the two previous Presidencies – which failed to open or close any new chapters in talks with Ankara. Due to Turkey’s failure to normalise its relations with Cyprus, 14 chapters in Turkey’s accession talks have been blocked either by the Commission (December 2006) or Cyprus (December 2009). Another four have been put on ice by France over certain political reservations. That leaves just three chapters free from any political hurdles: competition, public procurement and social policy and employment. These are, however, highly complex, requiring difficult reforms.