Croatia and the EU Accession Process
Since its founding in 2004, The Adriatic Institute for Public Policy has clearly articulated the significance of preparing a cost-benefit analysis of joining the European Union. The government by HDZ and its negotiators have refused to provide Croatia's citizens and taxpayers with an independent report. The opaque negotiating process has raised serious questions within Croatia regarding the nation's exclusive economic zone and the future of Croatia's agriculture sector.
From Open Europe:
Relevant link: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/events/#2006
Natasha Srdoc of the Adriatic Institute condemned the non-existence of a cost-benefit analysis of Croatia joining the EU, and the lack of debate. At an event in London, UK, hosted by Open Europe in 2006, Srdoc clearly her concerns for Croatia's future and the lack of transparency in EU negotiations.
Less than a month ahead of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, on 8 December Open Europe hosted a lunch on the theme of EU enlargement. Participants heard speeches from the Ambassador of Bulgaria to the UK, H. E. Dr. Lachezar Matev, the acting Romanian Ambassador to the UK, Raduta Matache, the Croatian Ambassador to the UK H.E. Josko Paro, and Natasha Srdoc, President of the Adriatic Institute in Croatia.
The Romanian and Bulgarian Ambassadors agreed on the importance of the EU accession process for driving reform in their respective countries, with Raduta Matache saying Romania wouldn’t have undergone the transformation it has without the prospect of EU accession. She said “enlargement is the EU’s most powerful tool to spread security and prosperity”, and that nothing can replace it, but added, “that’s not to say that the EU should enlarge forever.” She said Romania will form part of the consensus to take forward institutional reform once it joins the EU. She concluded that the EU’s approach towards Romania over the past seven years was a “perfect mixture of carrots and sticks.”
Dr. Lachezar Matev noted that the EU accession negotiation process has changed a lot over the years, and that the process for Romania and Bulgaria was “completely different” than for the ten member states that joined the EU in 2004. He said for example that in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, these countries were allowed to enter the EU without having implemented all the legislation, while this is not the case for Bulgaria and Romania. He said, “With each new enlargement the bar rises higher and higher”, and said this trend will continue for the countries hoping to join the EU in the future. He also said his government believes there is a need for consensus on the EU Constitution, and that it is against “cherry-picking”, but is not excluding the possibility of a “mini-treaty” as suggested by French Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Dr. Matev said he was disappointed with the UK’s decision to restrict labour market access for Bulgarians and Romanians. He also said that Bulgaria would spend over €10 billion implementing EU environmental legislation.
The Croatian Ambassador Josko Paro talked about the “extremely cumbersome” accession procedures his country has already had to go through as part of its negotiations to join the EU, which are more difficult again than those faced by Romania and Bulgaria. He said the problem was not just the complexity of the rules, but the fact that they are “still not clearly defined.” He said 21,000 pages of legislation have been completed so far, involving 2,000 people and 429 administrative bodies, but that the process has been too slow – in a whole year of negotiations Croatia (and Turkey) were allowed to open and close only one ‘chapter’ of the accession conditions. He said it is sometimes “impossible to feel the sense of movement and direction.” He said that only 40% of Croatians are now in favour of joining the EU, “due to the procrastination of our accession.” He noted that despite the lack of a “favourable wind” of support the Croatian Government were “rowing hard” to keep up movement towards membership, but that there was now an “adverse tide” against further enlargement. The UK Government is to work with Croatia to produce a cost-benefit study of Croatian membership. If it completes the negotiation process, Croatia could have a referendum on membership in 2009.
Natasha Srdoc of the Adriatic Institute condemned the non-existence of cost-benefit analysis of Croatia joining the EU, and the lack of debate. She said EU accession represents many opportunities for Croatia, such as implementation of free market reforms, but also noted several “threats”, such as loss of sovereignty, and the possible harmonisation of social policies and taxes. She argued that what Croatia needs is strong leadership to help bring about the rule of law and eliminate corruption, and that if it had this, it wouldn’t necessarily need EU accession.