EU leaders confirmed that accession talks with Croatia may wrap up by the end of June and that a Croatia-EU accession treaty can be signed by the end of the year.
“The future accession of Croatia brings new momentum to the European vocation of the countries in the Western Balkans,” the EU President Herman Van Rompuy said in Brussels on Friday, at the end of a summit of EU leaders.
According to the summit’s draft conclusion, negotiations with Croatia should conclude by the end of June, and an accession treaty will be signed by December. The ratification process by the member states will probably last until June 2013.
The decision comes at the time when Croatia marks 20 years of independence. With that also in mind, ahead of her trip to Brussels, Croatia’s Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, said it was a historic moment for her country.
“This is a historic week for Croatia and for all its citizens,” Kosor said on Thursday, “because after a long time, since June 2004 and since the country obtained candidate status, we have come to the end of the talks”.
The centre-right leader welcomed a rise in pro-EU feeling in Croatia, as evidenced by recent opinion polls.
According to a survey that GfK market research agency conducted for the RTL commercial TV network, over the past month public support for Croatia’s accession to the EU has risen to 51 per cent, while the number of opponents and those who are undecided has dropped.
The same survey shows that Croatians believe Kosor deserves credit for the completion of Croatia’s EU entry talks.
Kosor said that the talks had lasted long, had been marked by ups and downs, that two years ago they had been completely blocked, but that progress was now visible in all areas, notably the judiciary, the fight against corruption and crime, and judicial reform.
“Most importantly, those processes are irreversible and they create the foundation for the fight for everyone’s human rights. I am well aware that we have to continue making efforts,” Kosor said.
The Prime Minister noted that Croatia might be the first country since Greece to enter the EU alone, instead of in a group. “Also, one should add to this the difficult legacy of an imposed war, war crimes and refugee returns,” she added.
“We have successfully dealt with all of that, but after signing the accession treaty we shall continue working, just as we will have to continue working hard. after we enter the EU,” Kosor said.