Croatia moves closer to EU membership

March 13th, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by admin  

Brussels, March 13 (DPA) Croatia moved closer to becoming the 28th member of the European Union Thursday after a top official in Brussels said accession talks were likely to be concluded by the autumn of 2009. “I have every confidence that Croatia will be able to meet the conditions (for EU membership)” and that “it should be possible to conclude the technical negotiations next year,” said Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

Barroso said that as long as Croatia fulfilled the conditions set out by the EU, he expected such negotiations to come to an end before his mandate expires, in the autumn of 2009.

Such conditions include improving the way it manages European aid, Barroso said.

The commission president also confirmed that his executive would unveil an “indicative timetable for the technical conclusions of the accession negotiations” after the summer.

Barroso was speaking after a meeting in Brussels with Croatia’s prime minister, Ivo Sanader.

Sanader’s visit came just hours after the Croatian parliament finally bowed to EU pressure and provisionally scrapped a limited-fishing zone along its coastline.

Croatia’s “ecological belt” in the Adriatic Sea had threatened to block Zagreb’s EU accession talks amid opposition from Italy and Slovenia, who complained that it was unfairly limiting its fishermen.

Barroso said Thursday that he understood Croatia’s concerns and announced that his fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg, was ready to work on a proposal to establish a fisheries protection area in the Adriatic.

He also noted that the EU is already helping to make Croatia’s fisheries more competitive, with financial commitments of some 12 million euros ($18.6 million) until the end of 2009.

Sanader said he was “very confident that Croatia would be the 28th member of the European Union”.

“We want Croatia to be a success story and a model for other countries in the region,” he added.

Croatia and the EU formally opened membership talks in October 2005.

Countries in the region that are also aspiring to become EU members include other parts of the former Yugoslavia, such as Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia.

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