Croatia is ready to join the European Union, the European Commission announced in its last Monitoring Report released on Tuesday and which clears the way for Hungary’s southwestern neighbour to become the EU’s 28th member on 1 July.
On track with months to go
“Croatia has completed the ten priority actions identified in the previous report in October, and has shown the will and ability to fulfil all outstanding commitments in good time before accession,” the Commission said.
Croatia has met its commitments or is making progress towards meeting them in the fields of competition policy, particularly in the shipbuilding industry, of judicial reform and fundamental rights, of the handling of domestic war crimes cases and of the fight against organised crime and corruption, and of its external borders, according to the 15-page report.
“This report is positive news,” Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle said when presenting the report in Zagreb. “Croatia has worked hard and kept the pace of reforms. The country is now ready to take its place in the EU as planned.”
Efforts to crack down on corruption, including sentencing former prime minister Ivo Sanader in December to ten years in jail for accepting bribes from Hungarian energy group MOL in 2008 and from an Austrian bank in 1995, have nonetheless failed to dispel concerns over the country’s capacity and willingness to effectively tackle high levels of corruption and organised crime, which non-governmental organisations describe as endemic.
Crackdown on corruption
“Effective and dissuasive sentences in cases of corruption and serious and organised crime are needed to continue developing a sustained track record and avoid creating a climate of impunity,” the EU report read, noting that “the level of sentences in organised crime cases remains low”.
Croatia’s accession treaty still needs to be ratified by five EU member states, including Slovenia which recently solved a EUR 270 million banking dispute with Croatia over which it had threatened to veto the accession.