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Croatia – one step closer to the EU

Croatia – one step closer to the EU, provided there is full cooperation with ICTY[1]

The European Commission has proposed a negotiating framework for membership talks with Croatia. This document lays down the guiding principles, the substance and the procedures for the accession negotiations. It serves as basis for the Member States to conduct the negotiations with Croatia.

The European Council in December 2004 decided that accession talks can start with Croatia on the 17th March 2005, provided there is full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The Commission’s proposal will allow the Member States to define the framework for the negotiations with Croatia necessary for the conduct of these negotiations, in due time ahead of the target date. Presenting the negotiating framework Commissioner Rehn said: “The Commission has delivered its part of the job in timely fashion. Now it is up to the Croatian authorities to prove that they fully cooperate with the tribunal in The Hague. If the Commission were to give its recommendation on the basis of today's information, I could not recommend opening negotiations with Croatia. I trust the Croatian government will take this message seriously. There is no shortcut to Europe, just the regular road, which means the respect of the rule of law.”
What are the principles governing the negotiations?

Accession negotiations with candidate countries are conducted in Intergovernmental Conferences where decisions are taken by unanimity.
The fulfilment of the political criteria[2] is a precondition for the start of the negotiations. The Union expects Croatia to continue to fulfil these criteria and to improve its record throughout the negotiations. In case of serious and persistent breach by Croatia of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the Union is founded, accession negotiations may be suspended.
The negotiations will be based on Croatia’s own merits and their pace will depend on Croatia’s progress in meeting the requirements for membership.
This progress will be measured against a number of requirements, as laid down in 1993 in the ‘Copenhagen criteria’[3] which examine the political and economic situation of the country as well as its ability to adopt the obligations of membership. In addition, full cooperation with the ICTY, strong contribution to closer regional cooperation and resolving border disputes in conformity with international law and principles will be required.
What is the substance of the negotiations?

In order to become a Member State, Croatia will have to adopt the rights and obligations of the European Union, which are not negotiable and Croatia will have to fully apply them by the time of accession.
If need arises during the accession talks for certain transitional measures in favour of Croatia, the Union may agree to them, provided they are limited in time and scope. Transitional measures and specific arrangements, in particular safeguard clauses, may also be agreed in the interest of the Union.
How are accession negotiations conducted?

Negotiations start with an examination phase[4] to obtain preliminary indications of the issues that will most likely come up in the negotiations.
EU legislation and standards are broken down into 35 chapters and negotiations will be conducted chapter by chapter. The Union will also specify benchmarks for the provisional closure and where appropriate also for the opening of individual chapters.
To follow-up on Croatia’s progress, the Commission will closely monitor the fulfilment of the commitments made during the accession negotiations.
[1] International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
[2] Political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, later enshrined in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union and proclaimed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Account is also rtaken of the Stabilisation and Association Process conditionality established by the Council in 1997. Parallel to the accession negotiations, the Union and Croatia will continue their intensive political dialogue.
[3] *the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
*the existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union;
*the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union and the administrative capacity to effectively apply and implement the acquis.
[4] Screening: formal process of examination of the EU legislation and standards, in order to explain them to the Croatian authorities, to assess the state of preparation of Croatia for opening negotiations in specific areas and to obtain preliminary indications of the issues that will most likely come up in the negotiations.

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