Croatia Set to Open More EU Accession Chapters

Croatia will resume accession talks with the European Union Friday and is expected to open at least two more chapters in the negotiating process, which aims for the full membership of the country in the EU.

The Netherlands had expressed its reservations about the possibility of opening the chapter on judiciary and fundamental rights, but dropped its objections last Friday and thus opened the way for the continuation of the accession process.

Chapter 23 of the accession talks, which covers judiciary and fundamental rights, was seen in Croatia as one of the most crucial and difficult chapters in the membership negotiations.

Several EU states objected to the opening of chapter 23 after Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, expressed his dissatisfaction with Zagreb’s cooperation with the Tribunal in his latest report.

He was particularly criticial of Zagreb’s lack of progress in locating crucial military documents needed for the Tribunal in the trial against former Croatian general Ante Gotovina.

The UK, Denmark, Finland and Belgium dropped their objections to the opening of the chapter earlier this month, and the Netherlands lifted its reservations after the confirmation that the authorities in Zagreb had formed a task force to deal with locating the necessary documents.

In more good news for Croatia, Ljubljana also last week dropped its objections to opening further chapters in the accession talks. Slovenia had blocked the opening of three chapters at the last accession conference in December.

Croatia has thus far opened 28 of 33 total chapters and closed 17. The European Parliament has indicated that Croatia will likely be able to conclude accession talks in the course of this year.

Although no one in Brussels likes to speculate about dates, Croatia is aiming to become a full member of the EU in 2012.

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