June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Croatia’s path to the European Union has already been longer than that of other eastern European countries. It’s about to get longer.
The European Commission will probably recommend today completing Croatia’s entry talks, almost six years after they started. It will take at least two more years of monitoring and ratification by all 27 EU states for the Balkan nation to become the second former Yugoslav republic to join the world’s largest trading bloc.
European Commission President Jose Barroso, EU President Herman Van Rompuy and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who holds the bloc’s rotating presidency until the end of June, have supported the Croatian bid.
France and the Netherlands last month proposed monitoring for the Balkan to ensure it stays committed to working toward complying with EU standards before the final approval, the DPA news service reported on June 6.
Croatia “shouldn’t worry” about complying with the monitoring, said Vesna Pusic, head of the country’s committee for overseeing the talks, after meeting Dutch lawmakers on June 8. “These obligations cover the minimum, not the maximum of our efforts. Our ambitions should really be greater.”
Croatia would gain access to at least half the 1.5 billion euros ($2.2 billion) allotted to it in the EU’s 2013 budget by joining the bloc on July 1, 2013, Pusic said.
The country has completed talks in policy areas including agriculture, environmental protection, fisheries and trade. It improved competition by selling its state-subsidized, unprofitable shipyards and started reforms in education, government administration and health care.
Unlike Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia also had to overcome the effects of the Balkan wars during the breakup of Yugoslavia that devastated the region’s economy and led to the creation of the United Nations war crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
Risking backlash from its constituents, the government extradited to the court three generals that most Croats regard as heroes. Two of them, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, have been convicted of war crimes against Serbs. The third, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted.
June 10, 2011