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Procedure : 2011/2191(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0389/2011

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 30/11/2011 - 15
CRE 30/11/2011 - 15

Votes :

PV 01/12/2011 - 6.20
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Texts adopted
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Thursday, 1 December 2011 - Brussels
Application of Croatia to become a member of the European Union

European Parliament resolution of 1 December 2011 on the application of Croatia to become a member of the European Union (2011/2191(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Treaty concerning the Accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union, the Protocol and the Final Act,

–  having regard to the application for accession to the European Union submitted by the Republic of Croatia on 21 February 2003,

–  having regard to the Commission's opinion of 20 April 2004 on the application by the Republic of Croatia to become a member of the European Union,

–  having regard to the decision by the Council on 3 October 2005 to open accession negotiations with the Republic of Croatia,

–  having regard to the Commission's regular reports on Croatia's progress towards accession covering the period 2005-2011,

–  having regard to the Commission's interim report on reforms in Croatia in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights dated 2 March 2011,

–  having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council of 19-20 June 2003 on the Western Balkan countries,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Council of 23 and 24 June 2011,

–  having regard to all its previous resolutions and reports on Croatia's progress and the enlargement process,

–  having regard to all previous recommendations of the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee,

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A7-0389/2011),

A.  whereas, twenty years after the declaration of its independence and some eight years after submitting its application for EU membership, Croatia has reached a historic milestone in its EU integration process by successfully closing accession negotiations; whereas Croatia's achievements deserve unqualified recognition;

B.  whereas the accession process has significantly contributed to Croatia's transformation into a solid and mature democracy based on European values; whereas the prospect of accession acts as a powerful catalyst for reform by mobilising the various actors in political, economic, social and cultural life; whereas reform efforts also need to be sustained beyond the completion of the negotiations and accession in order for the country and its citizens to benefit fully from EU membership;

C.  whereas Croatian membership will make the EU stronger, enrich its European culture and heritage and make an important contribution to maintaining the credibility of the enlargement process, while at the same time being a good example of how the conscientious implementation of all commitments given can lead to the achievement of all predefined goals;

D.  whereas it is essential in the accession process that each country should be judged on its own merits, that the pace of accession negotiations should be dictated by effective compliance with the Copenhagen criteria and that the degree of compliance with those criteria should also determine the final date of accession;

E.  whereas continued reforms, and their full implementation, in the fields of, inter alia, the judiciary and fundamental rights and the fight against corruption remain essential to the strengthening of the rule of law for the benefit of all Croatian citizens;

F.  whereas true reconciliation between different peoples and the establishment of good-neighbourly relations contribute substantially to a genuine European integration process; whereas prosecutions for war crimes and the reintegration of refugees and displaced persons are fundamental elements of the reconciliation process;

G.  whereas Croatia's successful accession will have wider European and regional implications and will give positive impetus to the process of European integration in both the EU and the Western Balkan region; whereas the prospect of EU membership is a powerful incentive for candidate and potential candidate countries in the region, on the path to European integration, to pursue the necessary political, economic and legislative reforms and the strengthening of peace, stability and reconciliation based on good-neighbourly relations; whereas the EU should reinforce the European perspective for Croatia's neighbouring countries and constantly encourage those countries to fulfil their obligations on their own route to full EU membership;

1.  Welcomes the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Croatia, bringing to an end almost six years of negotiation and several years of preparation that have significantly altered the country's socio-political, economic and cultural landscape; stresses the need to keep up the reform momentum and considers that this process is not complete, but should continue with the same vigour and hard work after the conclusion of the negotiations and beyond accession; is confident that the positive results of this process will strengthen support for EU membership among Croatia's citizens, and their trust in it, and will encourage people to participate in the EU referendum and support the Accession Treaty; supports the signing of the Accession Treaty and calls on EU Member States to complete its ratification in a timely manner; looks forward to receiving parliamentary observers from Croatia;

2.  Points out that the temporary provisions of the Accession Treaty introduce a derogation from the maximum number of seats in the European Parliament, as set in the Treaties, until the end of the 2009-2014 parliamentary term; is resolved to present its proposal for the decision determining the new composition of the European Parliament in good time before the 2014 elections, in accordance with Article 14(2) TEU; points out that all relevant institutional aspects of the accession must be taken into consideration in their entirety;

3.  Points out that the procedures for the adoption of, on the one hand, the Accession Treaty with the Republic of Croatia and, on the other, the protocols requested by Ireland and the Czech Republic have different treaty bases – Articles 49 TEU and 48 TEU respectively – and therefore that they could not be legally incorporated into a single act;

4.  Strongly believes that the conclusion of the accession negotiations is proof of the credibility of the EU's enlargement process; emphasises that the progress achieved on the road to membership reflects the fact that accession prospects continue to promote political and economic reforms and that European integration serves as a means of reconciling countries even beyond EU borders;

5.  Expects the Commission to monitor further preparations for accession with objectivity and to help the Croatian authorities fulfil their commitments and obligations entered into in the negotiations; welcomes the reference in the Accession Treaty to civil-society involvement throughout the monitoring process and calls on the Commission to make full use of this clause and consult closely with representatives of civil society; takes the view that the pre-accession monitoring mechanism is a way of providing Croatia with additional support in its continued reform efforts; calls on the Commission to ensure that the aid granted through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) continues to be as appropriate and effective as possible;

6.  Underlines the need to focus in particular on commitments given on the judiciary, home affairs and fundamental rights – including protection of the freedom of the media, as one of the crucial instruments of democracy, as well as the continued implementation of judicial reform and efficiency, the impartial handling of war-crime cases, the fight against corruption, the protection of minorities, border management, police cooperation, the fight against organised crime and judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters – as well as commitments on competition policy with a view to the adequate and efficient restructuring of the shipbuilding and steel industries; considers it important that Croatia builds up a positive track record in these areas before accession;

7.  Will follow the monitoring process, and calls on the Commission to keep it regularly informed of the extent to which the Croatian authorities honour the commitments given in the Accession Treaty so as to assume their membership obligations fully upon accession on 1 July 2013; calls on the Croatian authorities to implement the commitments in a transparent and inclusive manner, involving the Croatian Parliament and civil society, and to evaluate the progress of reforms regularly; reserves the right to address recommendations to the Commission and the Croatian authorities throughout the monitoring process;

8.  While acknowledging the good progress made on judicial reform, encourages Croatia to continue to implement reform of the judiciary, in line with the Commission's recommendations, because an efficient, independent and impartial judicial system is important for economic development and strengthens citizens' confidence in the rule of law; invites Croatia to address the remaining challenges in this area, especially with regard to improving judicial efficiency and implementing the provisions on the independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary and on objective and merit-based criteria for the appointment and promotion of judges;

9.  While welcoming Croatia's determination to fight corruption, considers it one of the highest priorities to continue to combat, in particular, high-level corruption – in the judiciary, law-enforcement agencies, the public administration and state-owned companies – which must be pursued with determination wherever it occurs, by rigorous enforcement of the law and by developing a track record of successful prosecutions; notes the need further to strengthen transparency and integrity in public administration and in the police; believes it essential to implement public procurement legislation effectively, to ensure transparency in the public sector, to give citizens access to information on public expenditure and to increase the transparency of party financing;

10.  Calls on the Croatian authorities further to strengthen the administrative capacities of anti-corruption bodies, including by following EU best practice, and to foster a culture of political, public sector and judicial accountability as a prerequisite for building and strengthening the rule of law; stresses that continued efforts are needed to develop further the track record on handling organised-crime and corruption cases effectively and to strengthen legislation that prohibits companies with links to criminal organisations from participating in public procurement; considers it important to continue reforming law-enforcement agencies with the goal of making them efficient, effective, depoliticised and respectful of civil rights and freedoms;

11.  Encourages Croatia to step up its efforts on the prosecution of war crimes, to implement the new strategy on impunity, which is a key to ensuring justice and achieving lasting reconciliation in the region, and to address impunity cases where the victims were ethnic Serbs or the alleged perpetrators were members of the Croatian security forces; invites the Croatian Government, as an important step in the fight against impunity, to allocate adequate financial resources and provide full support to the Croatian judiciary in order to speed up the investigation of war crimes; furthermore, encourages the Croatian authorities to continue active cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and to comply with all remaining recommendations of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY; invites Croatia and Serbia to cooperate fully in the field of justice, particularly as regards the prosecution of war crimes;

12.  Invites the Government to encourage further, and effectively facilitate, the return of refugees and displaced persons, paying special attention to the situation of ethnic Serbian returnees, and to improve their living and working conditions; calls on the Croatian authorities to continue launching social and economic recovery projects for vulnerable groups, especially the refugees, and seeking effective and sustainable ways of implementing housing and employment measures in a manner consistent with other social and employment programmes; expects all the countries of the region to have open-minded policies on refugee return;

13.  Welcomes the progress made in the area of women's rights and gender equality; is concerned, however, that women continue to be severely under-represented in economic and political decision-making bodies; calls on the Croatian authorities swiftly to finalise implementation of the Gender Equality Act, to promote the participation of women in politics more actively, to strengthen the position of women on the labour market and to introduce the principle of equal pay;

14.  Supports efforts to promote a climate of tolerance in the country; encourages the Croatian authorities to pursue further efforts to combat all kinds of discrimination, to implement the anti-discrimination legislation and resolutely to address cases of hate crime, hate speech, racial threats and intolerance directed against ethnic and LGBT minorities; further calls on Croatia to continue to act in the spirit of tolerance and take appropriate measures for the protection of those who may still be subject to threats or acts of intimidation;

15.  Is deeply concerned by the violence against participants in the LGBT pride march in Split on 11 June 2011 and the inability of the Croatian authorities to protect the participants; urges the Croatian authorities fully to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed and to develop strategies for preventing similar incidents in the future; calls on the Croatian authorities quickly to adopt and implement an action plan against homophobia;

16.  Calls on the Croatian authorities to continue to tackle human trafficking;

17.  Encourages Croatia to further strengthen labour and trade unions rights, to strengthen social dialogue within the decision-making process and in policy design, and to promote capacity-building for the social partners, including by further strengthening the Economic and Social Council;

18.  Recognises that freedom of expression is provided for in Croatian law and is generally respected; encourages the Croatian authorities to take further steps to ensure media independence and professionalism; calls on the Croatian authorities to continue to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that the media sector operates without political interference and that the independence of regulatory bodies is guaranteed;

19.  Calls on Croatia, in light of the existing economic problems, to continue its structural reforms of the economy, to stimulate employment by reviving the labour market and to pursue fiscal consolidation in order to boost competitiveness, enabling it to catch up with EU Member States and to benefit fully from accession to the EU; considers it important that economic recovery is accompanied by environmental modernisation, including through improved energy efficiency, the reinforcement of policy on renewable energy sources, and the harmonisation of spatial development and energy policies; encourages the Government to improve the overall business environment, to pay particular attention to small and medium-sized enterprises and to pursue further efforts to reform Croatia's social system in order to secure sustainability of public finances; calls on the Croatian authorities to make the process of spatial development more transparent and to respect in full the public interest and environmental standards;

20.  Calls on Member States to apply decisions on transitional provisions concerning Croatian workers' access to their labour markets on the basis of factual information and only in the situation of serious disturbance of the national labour market;

21.  Calls on Member States that want to apply transitional periods, limiting free access to their labour market, to inform the Commission of the numbers of workers expected on their territory;

22.  Points out that the financial consequences of the enlargement have to be fully addressed in the upcoming negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 and in decisions concerning the Union's own resources system;

23.  Calls on all involved parties to associate Croatia, to the greatest extent possible, in its capacity as an acceding country, in all exchanges of views and negotiations on the MFF 2014-2020; believes that the Croatian observers in the European Parliament, representatives in the Council and observers in the Committee of the Regions should seize the opportunity to promote their vision for the Union and contribute to shaping the EU budget and priorities for the period to 2020;

24.  Takes note of the EU's position on the financial and budgetary provisions defined in the Conference on the Accession of Croatia and based on an accession date of 1 July 2013; notes that the required financial envelopes for Croatia's accession, by heading and sub-heading of the budget, for the last semester of the last financial year of the current MFF would substantially increase expenditure in the EU budget; notes that the allocation for Croatia reserved under the IPA will be reduced from the amounts originally envisaged for 2013, offsetting to some extent the net impact on the EU budget;

25.  Notes Coreper's position whereby the overall level of expenditure should not be changed for the financial year 2013, but recalls nevertheless that the current MFF, when presented, negotiated and adopted in 2006, did not take into account the potential accession of Croatia during the lifetime of this MFF;

26.  Urges the Commission therefore to propose as planned, in early 2012 following signature of the Accession Treaty in December 2011, and as provided for in point 29 of the Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA), a revision of the MFF for the financial year 2013 in order to avoid financing Croatia's accession by redeployments;

27.  Encourages the Croatian authorities – given that weaknesses remain in the administrative capacities of relevant Croatian institutions – further to reinforce the administrative structures and institutional capacities necessary for proper implementation of the acquis, so that the country can maximise the benefits of EU membership after accession;

28.  Welcomes the adoption by the Croatian Government in July 2011 of the declaration on promoting European values in South East Europe; invites Croatia to continue to advocate EU enlargement and promotion of the European values of peace, prosperity, freedom, the rule of law, democracy and the social market economy in the region; encourages Croatia to continue to enhance good-neighbourly relations, to remain an important and proactive promoter of regional cooperation on all levels and to maintain its commitment to translating reconciliation efforts into practical steps of economic, social and human benefit to all citizens of the region;

29.  Calls for increased use of the financial instruments that support SMEs, infrastructure development and the business environment as part of the multi-beneficiary programmes throughout the Western Balkans; notes that regional cooperation is of the utmost importance for the economic development of, and fruitful cooperation with, Croatia's neighbouring countries;

30.  Calls for progress on resolving outstanding bilateral issues with neighbouring countries, in particular with Serbia, mainly regarding border demarcation, missing persons, property restitution and refugees, and strongly believes that while open issues of a bilateral nature must not halt the EU accession process of candidate and potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans , they should in general be settled before the accession, and therefore welcomes the Croatian Parliament's declaration of 21 October 2011 to this end;

31.  Considering that the success of accession depends to a large extent on the support and commitment of citizens, encourages the Croatian authorities and civil society to conduct, with the help of the Commission, a wide-ranging and objective information campaign on the obligations, consequences and advantages arising from EU accession so that the Croatian people will be fully aware of their choice in the referendum and that they see the European project as belonging to them too;

32.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Republic of Croatia.

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