Parliament gave its consent to Croatia’s EU membership, as required by the treaties, in a vote on Thursday. However, it called on Zagreb to address remaining challenges, especially in the field of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime. Croatia could become the EU’s 28th Member State on 1 July 2013.
The proposal for Parliament to consent to Croatia joining the European Union, steered through the House by Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT), was passed with 564 votes in favour, 38 against and 32 abstentions. MEPs greeted the decision with a standing ovation in the plenary chamber.
"Today is a good day for Croatia and the EU", underlined President Jerzy Buzek after the vote. He added "the European Parliament had thrown its full weight behind Croatia's EU accession. We have given a clear sign of the extent to which the EU wants Croatia". "Croatians will soon be able to show their support for the EU through a referendum", he emphasised.
The next step will be for Croatia and the EU Member States to sign the accession treaty at the 8-9 December European Council meeting, after which it can be ratified by all 27 Member States. Croatia is expected to join the EU on 1 July 2013.
In an accompanying non-binding report, also by Mr Swoboda, and adopted with 550 votes in favour, 34 against and 41 abstentions, MEPs welcome the conclusion of the accession negotiations, urge Croatians to turn out for the EU referendum and vote for the accession treaty, and call on Member States to complete the ratification process swiftly. They look forward to receiving Croatian observers in Parliament.
MEPs emphasise that they will follow the pre-accession monitoring process and ask the Commission to keep Parliament abreast of the extent to which the Croatian authorities honour the commitments made in the negotiations.
While acknowledging Croatia’s preparedness for accession, MEPs invite Zagreb to tackle remaining challenges, especially concerning judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime.
They urge Croatia to step up its efforts to prosecute war crimes, comply with all International Criminal Tribunal recommendations for the former Yugoslavia and encourage the return of war refugees, especially Serbs.
Finally, MEPs call on Croatia to continue making structural reforms to its economy, stimulate employment by reviving the labour market and pursue fiscal consolidation in order to boost competitiveness.