EU/Kroatien — Tenth meeting of the Accession Conference at Ministerial level with Croatia

The tenth meet­ing of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Con­fer­ence with Croa­t­ia at Min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el was held today in Brus­sels, fol­low­ing the start of the nego­ti­a­tions on 3 Octo­ber 2005. The Euro­pean Union del­e­ga­tion was head­ed by Miguel Angel Morati­nos, Spain’s Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs and Coop­er­a­tion. The Croa­t­ian del­e­ga­tion was led by Gor­dan Jan­droković, Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs and Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion.

The Con­fer­ence, which is the fruit of exten­sive work over sev­er­al months, dealt in total with eight chap­ters and rep­re­sent­ed a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Croatia’s acces­sion process with the open­ing of the last three screened nego­ti­at­ing chap­ters: Chap­ter 8 — Com­pe­ti­tion Pol­i­cy; Chap­ter 23 — Judi­cia­ry and Fun­da­men­tal Rights and Chap­ter 31 — For­eign, Secu­ri­ty and Defence Pol­i­cy.

In addi­tion, the Con­fer­ence pro­vi­sion­al­ly closed nego­ti­a­tions on two fur­ther chap­ters: Chap­ter 5 — Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment and Chap­ter 16 — Tax­a­tion, and con­firmed at Min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el the pro­vi­sion­al clo­sure of Chap­ter 1 — Free Move­ment of Goods and the open­ing of Chap­ter 13 — Fish­eries and Chap­ter 27 — Envi­ron­ment ─ which were pre­vi­ous­ly dealt by Acces­sion Con­fer­ences at Deputy lev­el.

On all these chap­ters the EU under­lined that it would devote par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to mon­i­tor­ing all spe­cif­ic issues men­tioned in its com­mon posi­tions with a view to ensur­ing Croatia’s admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty and its capac­i­ty to ensure prop­er imple­men­ta­tion and enforce­ment of the rel­e­vant acquis. The EU will, if nec­es­sary, return to these chap­ters at an appro­pri­ate moment.

Details on the spe­cif­ic chap­ters are pro­vid­ed below:

Chap­ters opened

On the basis of the nego­ti­at­ing posi­tions of Croa­t­ia, the Union close­ly exam­ined Croatia’s gen­er­al state of prepa­ra­tions for Chap­ter 8 — Com­pe­ti­tion Pol­i­cy, Chap­ter 23 — Judi­cia­ry and Fun­da­men­tal Rights and Chap­ter 31 — For­eign, Secu­ri­ty and Defence Pol­i­cy. On the under­stand­ing that Croa­t­ia will con­tin­ue to make progress in the align­ment with and imple­men­ta­tion of the acquis, the EU under­lined the main issues regard­ing the clos­ing bench­marks to be met by Croa­t­ia, name­ly:

Chap­ter 8 — Com­pe­ti­tion Pol­i­cy

– Croa­t­ia con­tin­ues to build its admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty and to demon­strate a sat­is­fac­to­ry enforce­ment record in the area of com­pe­ti­tion;

– Croa­t­ia com­pletes the leg­isla­tive align­ment with the EU acquis;

– Croa­t­ia adopts an updat­ed nation­al restruc­tur­ing pro­gramme for the steel sec­tor and indi­vid­ual busi­ness plans, accept­ed by the Com­mis­sion, in line with the require­ments of Pro­to­col 2 on steel prod­ucts to the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment; and;

– Croa­t­ia ensures full respect of the EU state aid rules in the ship­build­ing sec­tor.

Chap­ter 23 — Judi­cia­ry and Fun­da­men­tal Rights

– Croa­t­ia updates its Judi­cial Reform Strat­e­gy and Action Plan and ensures effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion;

– Croa­t­ia strength­ens the inde­pen­dence, account­abil­i­ty, impar­tial­i­ty and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the judi­cia­ry;

– Croa­t­ia improves the effi­cien­cy of the judi­cia­ry;

– Croa­t­ia improves the han­dling of domes­tic war crimes cas­es;

– Croa­t­ia estab­lish­es a track record of sub­stan­tial results in the fight against organ­ised crime and cor­rup­tion at all lev­els includ­ing high lev­el cor­rup­tion, and in vul­ner­a­ble sec­tor such as pub­lic pro­cure­ment;

– Croa­t­ia estab­lish­es a track record of strength­ened pre­ven­tion mea­sures in the fight against cor­rup­tion and con­flict of inter­est;

– Croa­t­ia strength­ens the pro­tec­tion of minori­ties, includ­ing through effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Act on the Rights of Nation­al Minori­ties;

– Croa­t­ia set­tles out­stand­ing refugee return issues, and;

– Croa­t­ia improves the pro­tec­tion of human rights.

The Euro­pean Union also under­lined that full coop­er­a­tion with ICTY remains a require­ment for Croatia’s progress through­out the acces­sion process, includ­ing for the pro­vi­sion­al clo­sure of this chap­ter, in line with the nego­ti­at­ing frame­work adopt­ed by the Coun­cil on 3 Octo­ber 2005.

Chap­ter 31 — For­eign, Secu­ri­ty and Defence Pol­i­cy

– Croa­t­ia con­tin­ues to fur­ther strength­en imple­men­ta­tion and enforce­ment capac­i­ties as well as trans­paren­cy of arms-relat­ed infor­ma­tion and ensures that the Nation­al Strat­e­gy is in line with the EU strat­e­gy to com­bat the illic­it accu­mu­la­tion and traf­fick­ing of small arms and light weapons and their ammu­ni­tion. The EU also reit­er­at­ed the impor­tance of region­al coop­er­a­tion and good neigh­bourly rela­tions in the process of mov­ing towards the Euro­pean Union and of pur­su­ing efforts aimed at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion among cit­i­zens in the region.

Chap­ters pro­vi­sion­al­ly closed

On the basis of the infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by Croa­t­ia and the con­sid­er­able progress made with prepa­ra­tions in all areas under Chap­ter 5 — Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment and Chap­ter 16 — Tax­a­tion, the EU not­ed that, at this stage, these chap­ters do not require fur­ther nego­ti­a­tions.

Fur­ther­more, the EU and Croa­t­ia also con­sid­ered pro­pos­als for tran­si­tion­al arrange­ments con­cern­ing tax deduc­tions for trans­ac­tions involv­ing build­ing land, the exemp­tion of inter­na­tion­al trans­port of pas­sen­gers from VAT, with right to input tax deduc­tion, and the over­all excise duties on cig­a­rettes. In addi­tion, the EU and Croa­t­ia con­sid­ered a pro­pos­al for a dero­ga­tion to apply a low­er VAT exemp­tion and reg­is­tra­tion thresh­old for tax­pay­ers.

Chap­ter 5 — Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment

The nego­ti­a­tions on Chap­ter 5 — Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment were opened on 19 Decem­ber 2008 at the Acces­sion Con­fer­ence at Min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el. At this meet­ing of the Con­fer­ence the EU not­ed that, in order for the chap­ter to be pro­vi­sion­al­ly closed, Croa­t­ia would have, inter alia, to adapt its nation­al leg­isla­tive frame­work cov­er­ing all areas of pub­lic pro­cure­ment, to demon­strate that the nation­al insti­tu­tions respon­si­ble for pol­i­cy mak­ing, enforce­ment and imple­men­ta­tion can prop­er­ly ful­fil their tasks; and to demon­strate, through the pre­sen­ta­tion of a con­vinc­ing track record, that it has tak­en appro­pri­ate mea­sures to ensure the prop­er enforce­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of nation­al leg­is­la­tion at all lev­els in good time before acces­sion.

Chap­ter 16 — Tax­a­tion

The nego­ti­a­tions on Chap­ter 16 — Tax­a­tion were opened on 2 Octo­ber 2009 at the Acces­sion Con­fer­ence at Min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el. At this meet­ing of the Con­fer­ence the EU not­ed that, in order for the chap­ter to be pro­vi­sion­al­ly closed, Croa­t­ia would have, inter alia, to make sig­nif­i­cant progress towards align­ment in the fields of VAT and excise duties, to demon­strate ade­quate admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty to imple­ment and enforce its tax leg­is­la­tion, and to reach suf­fi­cient progress in devel­op­ing all relat­ed IT inter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty sys­tems. With today’s Con­fer­ence, of the 351 nego­ti­a­tion chap­ters, all the 33 screened chap­ters have been opened for nego­ti­a­tions and 20 chap­ters have been pro­vi­sion­al­ly closed. Fur­ther Acces­sion Con­fer­ences will be planned, as appro­pri­ate, in order to take the process for­ward.

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union