Croatia Accession Treaty
Delivered in Plenary - 30th November 2011
I had the pleasure of spending my summer holidays in Croatia and seeing first hand the level of prosperity and social progress in that beautiful country. As it has negotiated all EU chapters for accession, my group, the ECR, will indeed give its assent tomorrow to Croatia becoming the 28th Member of the European Union.
Croatia has led its Balkan neighbours in the reform process in the post-Yugoslavian space, for example even imprisoning a former Prime Minister for corruption, thus demonstrating a firm commitment to the Copenhagen criteria. However, there is still plenty of work to be done, particularly in the area of fighting organised crime and the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Croatia must also ensure it cooperates fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and protect relevant witnesses so it can put behind it the dark side of its recent history in conflict.
As a small but prosperous Mediterranean country, Croatia’s accession will pose few problems, particularly if temporary derogations are in place with regard to mass labour migration across the European Union, which would of course put pressure on already stretched public resources, particularly in my country. Indeed so far, current visa liberalisation measures for Croats travelling within the Schengen Area has not resulted in large numbers seeking to abuse this concession, and sadly Balkan criminals will move freely around Europe whatever measures are in place.
Croatia will now be the second former Yugoslav country to join the community after Slovenia and I express my hope that its former Yugoslav neighbours of Montenegro –on which I am the European Parliament’s standing rapporteur and with whom Croatia seeks to resolve a small boundary dispute – and Macedonia, will similarly soon open negotiations.
Though the timing for EU membership for all other Western Balkan countries beyond Croatia is far from clear, this prospect remains the essential glue which drives their reforms and anchors them all in peace and democracy. Once Croatia becomes an EU Member State – once a referendum is passed and all the Member State parliaments ratify it – it in turn must support its former regional foes in their accession to the European Union, in particular Serbia.