Monitoring report: Croatia “on track” for 2013 accession
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Tuesday 24 April 2012
Croatia is doing well in its preparations for EU membership, the European Commission says in its interim monitoring report, published on 24 April. The country must, however, address a certain number of issues for it to be ready to enter the Union on 1 July 2013 as planned. “Croatia has reached a considerable degree of alignment with the
acquis,” the report reads. “Nevertheless, the Commission has identified a limited number of issues requiring further efforts.”
The report, which is part of the regular six-monthly monitoring as foreseen by the accession treaty, focuses on Zagreb’s performance in three specific areas: competition policy, judiciary and fundamental rights, and freedom, security and justice. “Croatia is making progress towards meeting the commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations” in all three areas and can be considered “broadly on track in its preparations for membership” in said fields. In addition, preparations are “almost complete in the field of freedom of movement for workers, company law, intellectual property rights, financial services, economic and monetary policy, statistics, trans-European networks, science and research, education and culture, as well as foreign, security and defence policy”.
However, the 12-page report lays out a long list of “outstanding issues” in most of the
acquischapters. In the area of free movement of goods, for example, the Commission believes that the authorities must give urgent attention to the requirements imposed by Croatia for additional intermediate storage of imported petroleum products. With regard to enterprise and industrial policy, the report states that efforts are necessary to improve the business environment. And in the field of customs union, Croatia still needs to finalise the preparation and deployment of all the IT systems required for interconnectivity and interoperability with the EU customs systems. In total, the report identifies 20 areas in which Croatia should make further efforts.
“I am convinced that Zagreb will take all the final steps necessary to ensure that the country is fully prepared for membership,” Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said in a statement. But the issue of privatising the country’s shipyards - a major remaining obstacle to Zagreb’s final accession - remains. Zagreb’s efforts in this area will be assessed in a future Commission report, due out in autumn 2013. Finland, the Netherlands and the UK have already warned Croatia that they will not start ratification of the accession treaty before the country receives a positive report from the Commission on this issue. In addition, if the shipyards are not privatised before the country officially joins the EU, they will have to repay up to €2 billion in state aid, an EU source explained.
“Although in the final stage before entry into the European Union, Croatia’s hard work in credibly preparing for membership did not end with the signature of the Accession Treaty last December,” Füle noted. “We want Croatia to be a success story for EU enlargement and we will continue closely monitoring its progress up to the date of accession,” he concluded.
The Council of the EU welcomed, on 24 April, the Court of Auditors’ special report (14/2011) on the impact of the Union’s pre-accession assistance on Croatia’s capacity for managing post-accession funding. While the court noted that the EU had made a significant contribution to Zagreb in this area, it also concluded that pre-accession funding had so far been only partially successful and that implementation of assistance had been delayed. The Council also reiterated the importance of ensuring that Croatia is fully prepared to take on the obligations of EU membership upon its accession and called on the Commission to “provide adequate follow up to the recommendations of the court”.