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EU/CROATIA : LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL FOR ZAGREB.

Croatia is on target to conclude EU accession negotiations in 2010, although it must still intensify its fight against corruption, the European Commission has told Zagreb. The negotiations, started in 2005, "are now nearing their final phase". The EU executive's annual report, published on 14 October, adds that "If Croatia meets all outstanding benchmarks in time, the accession negotiations, including any transitional arrangements, could be concluded next year".

The Commission recognises that Croatia "continued in 2009 to make progress on key political reforms," as well as in the economic sector with the start of privatisation of six naval shipyards. It also acknowledges that the accession negotiations fell behind schedule due to a border dispute with Slovenia, a "bilateral issue, which should not affect the accession negotiations". Ljubljana only withdrew its veto in September, permitting the accession negotiations to restart in early October (see Europolitics 3831).

One major black mark remains against Zagreb, however, in justice and fundamental rights. This is one of the last negotiation chapters to be opened (see box). Croatia must accelerate its reforms in this area, "improving the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, the fight against organised crime and corruption, minority rights (including refugee return) and the prosecution of war crimes". The Commission points to corruption, which "remains prevalent in many areas". "While the number of investigations has increased, the number of prosecutions remains low. There have been very few high level corruption cases." The Commission is paying more attention to this issue since it was accused of being too lenient with Romania and Bulgaria before their entry into the EU.

Regarding war crimes, "impunity remains a problem, especially when the victims were Serbs or the people committing the crimes were members of the Croatian armed forces," the Commission notes. It is also "urgent", according to Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, to resolve the question of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The tribunal's Chief Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, is still requesting the delivery of documents on August 1995's military operation Tempest', which resulted in the end of the Republic of Serbian Krajina and ended the Croatian war (1991-1995). These documents could be used in the cases of three Croatian Generals,aAnte Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, who have been on trial since March 2008 for their alleged role in war crimes during this operation.aZagreb has assured the Commission it will do everything possible to locate the missing documents.

State of negotiations

28 chapters opened: Science and research, education and culture, economic and monetary policy, industrial policy, customs, intellectual property rights, the right of establishment and freedom to provide services, company law, statistics, financial services, financial monitoring, information society and media, consumer protection and health, external relations, financial and budgetary provisions, trans-European networks, transport, energy, free movement of workers, social and labour law, free movement of goods, justice, freedom and security, taxation, free movement of capital, regional policy, food security, policies on veterinary and pest-risk analysis, agriculture and rural development.a

12 chapters provisionally closed: Science and research, education and culture, enterprise and industry policy, external relations, economic and monetary policy, intellectual property rights, information and society and media,atrans-European networks, customs union, company law, statistics,afree movement of workers,aconsumer protection and health.
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Title Annotation:European Union
Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4EXCR
Date:Oct 15, 2009
Words:543
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