Croatia to Join the EU
Croatia will receive the go ahead to start negotiations to join the EU on Friday.
According to a draft document due to be adopted by EU leaders in Brussels, Croatia will be able to start negotiations to join the EU early next year. A joint statement concludes that Croatia has met the political criteria to join the bloc. However, some thorny issues remain and the EU is warning that efforts still need to be addressed such as minority rights, refugee returns, reform of the judiciary, regional co-operation, the fight against corruption and crucially co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. The document presses Zagreb to maintain full co-operation with ICTY and urges the country to find a transfer former General Ante Gotovina. Britain and the Netherlands have heavily criticized Croatia for not being able to bring Gotovina to the tribunal. Both countries had refused to ratify an association agreement which paves the way for membership until there was increased co-operation from Zagreb. The Netherlands has now ratified the agreement and Britain is expected to do so before the summer recess of parliament. Italy is also expected to ratify the agreement after some unrelated issues were resolved. Heads of state and government are also expected to encourage other countries in the Western Balkans to move towards joining the EU. The Commission is expected to present the framework for talks before its mandate ends in October.