The head of the European Commission Delegation to Zagreb, Vincent Degert, said on Thursday that accession negotiations with Croatia were progressing well, citing the fight against organised crime and corruption and the reform of public services and the judiciary as key issues the country would have to address on its path to EU membership.
Speaking to reporters in Zagreb ahead of the anniversary of the opening of accession talks on October 3 and a regular progress report due to be released on October 24, Degert said that the legislation screening process was nearing completion and that Croatia was making good progress. He said that Croatia had made positive steps forward in the domain of legislation to ensure an effective fight against corruption and organised crime, but that its citizens still had an impression progress was not being made fast enough.
Citizens must feel that no one is outside the law, Degert stressed. Degert said that the extensive report which was compiled by experts in the fight against organised crime who had visited Croatia this summer and which was carried by Croatian media, did not represent the official position of the European Commission. The report is first given to Croatia for consideration, it is then discussed by the European Commission, after which it gives its final opinion, he explained. The European Union wants to deal with the issue of corruption and organised crime in Croatia as soon as possible so that Zagreb would not find itself in a similar situation like Romania and Bulgaria. We want to avoid that in Croatia so that we do not find ourselves in the same situation in three or four years’ time, Degert said. Degert went on to say that benchmarks would be introduced for the negotiating chapter on free movement of capital because things were not moving fast enough in this domain.
Describing this policy chapter as sensitive because it includes issues relating to the sale of property to foreign nationals, he said that this issue should be handled only by the Ministry of Justice and not by the Foreign Ministry. On the subject of the progress report, Degert said that last year’s report focused on strategies and the action plan to ensure full cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal, while this year’s would concentrate on achievements and results. He announced that Enlargement Commission Olli Rehn would visit Zagreb this autumn, without specifying a date.