The European Commission has recommended that the European Union conclude accession talks with Croatia. A treaty is to be signed with Croatia, possibly in December, with Membership to follow in July 2013. Monitoring will continue right up until Croatia joins.
This is regarded as being good news, especially by Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor who hopes this will enable her to go to the country with an achievement that she thinks will help her win an election.
However, the announcement does not mean plain sailing for Croatia. First up will be a referendum for Croatia. This will take place not too long after Croatia signs an accession treaty with the EU. Euroscepticism is high in Croatia. There will have to be a lot of heavy lifting by the Croatian government to ensure a ‘yes’ result. Look also to the EU perhaps making a significant effort here. A ‘no’ result at a referendum would be a humiliation for Brussels, which would no longer be in a position to claim everyone wants to join it. It would be a blow to its much publicised ‘soft power’.
Should the Croatian people vote ‘yes’, it is still not over. All 27 states have to ratify its accession. Croatia’s traditional opponents such as the UK and the Netherlands will have plenty of opportunity to create delay in this way, and could quite easily claim Croatia is not doing enough on corruption, human rights etc – whether Croatia actually is or not.
Despite today’s fine words, there is still some way to go.
..And Sanader gets in on the act
In a bizarre twist, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who is being held in Austria on extradition request from Croatia now wants to return to Zagreb, having previously fought the extradition process. He says that he does not wish his name to be connected with negative connotations in the EU process. The timing of his announcement of course links him with the Commission’s announcement – it may be he feels that being connected to the negotiation of EU accession will benefit him in some way.