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Croatia: After opening three remaining chapters, Croatia is closer than ever to EU accession. Gunnar Hökmark MEP

EPP”After today’s decision by the EU to open the last three remaining Chapters of accession negotiations with Croatia, Croatia’s EU entry seems imminent,” said Gunnar Hökmark MEP (EPP, SE), Chairman of the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee reacting to the outcome of the meeting of the Intergovernmental Accession Conference (IGC) with Croatia.

The IGC today opened three chapters of accession negotiations (Competition policy, Judiciary and Fundamental rights and Foreign, Security and Defence policy) and closed an additional two (Public Procurement and Taxation), bringing the tally to all 33 Chapters opened, and 20 Chapters closed.

”After the result of the Slovenian referendum on border arbitration between the two countries, I called on the Council to open the three remaining Chapters of Croatian accession negotiations. In my view, today’s decision will enable Croatia to demonstrate its reform capabilities, particularly in Chapter 23 on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights. Anything else would have been detrimental to the country’s reform efforts at this late stage in the negotiations,” said Hökmark.

Judiciary and Fundamental Rights has been the most challenging area to reform in all past enlargements. In the Croatian case, there is an additional criterion of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

”I think it is fair to say that Croatia is now closer than ever to EU membership and that it has jumped over an important psychological hurdle where it can now concentrate on building a reliable justice system to the benefit of its citizens. Full cooperation with the ICTY still remains a criterion,” added the JPC Chairman.

”At the beginning of the Spanish Presidency, Croatia had set itself an ambitious goal of opening all Chapters by June. This goal has been successfully accomplished, and the country is still well on track for EU membership in 2012,” concluded Gunnar Hökmark MEP.