Brussels says Croatia must do more to investigate war crimes, and make its judiciary more independent, if it is to join the European Union. More will also need to be done to fight corruption.
Croatia needs to address the past if it wants to join the EU
Croatia needs to address some difficult questions - with the prosecution of war crimes among them - if it is to become a member of the European Union.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule told the European Parliament on Wednesday that the government in Zagreb would have to improve efforts in a range of policy areas and address issues lingering from the bitter 1991 to 1995 war of independence from Yugoslavia.
Croatia would have to ensure that war crimes from the conflict do not go unpunished, Fule said. The commissioner also stressed that Croatia had to guarantee the rights of a Serbian minority that live in the country.
"We will be looking at what is achieved there very closely," Fule told delegates in Strasbourg.
Serbian war crimes in Croatia during the Balkan conflict have been well-documented. However, Croatian troops are also blamed for atrocities such as the Gospic massacre, in which some 100 Serbian civilians disappeared.
EU ratification process could begin by autumn
Fule stressed that Croatia had a range of issues to look at
Other matters of note were a need to see a "credible and sustainable track record" in the fight against corruption. Fule also noted that Croatia needed to do more to strengthen its judiciary and harmonize policies on competition.
The ratification process for Croatia to become a member of the EU could begin by the autumn, said Austrian delegate Hannes Swoboda, parliamentary rapporteur on the issue.
Croatia is likely to be the next country to join the EU, possibly by 2013, although Zagreb would like to join even earlier. It has already successfully negotiated 28 out of the 35 "policy fields" necessary to join the bloc.
Author: Richard Connor (AFP, AP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler