Les négociations d’adhésion de la Croatie à l’Union européenne

Lors de sa visite de travail à Paris, le négociateur en chef pour l’adhésion de la Croatie à l’Union européenne, M. Vladimir Drobnjak, a donné une conférence en anglais intitulée « Les négociations d’adhésion de la Croatie à l’Union européenne – Un an après l’ouverture ». M. Drobnjak a fait le bilan de l’état d’avancement des négociations de la Croatie avec l’Union européenne, ouvertes officiellement le 3 octobre 2005. La
conférence a été donnée au siège de la Représentation de la Commission européenne en France.


« Les négociations d’adhésion de la Croatie à l’Union européenne – un an après l’ouverture »

Monsieur Vladimir Drobnjak, ambassadeur
Négociateur en chef pour l’adhésion de la Croatie à l’Union européenne

Siège de la Représentation de la Commission européenne en France
– Paris, le 23 octobre 2006 –



It is my great pleasure and honour to be here today with you in my capacity as Chief Negotiator of the Republic of Croatia for negotiations on accession to the EU.

It is a timely opportunity to mark two events - the first anniversary of the opening of negotiations (3 October 2005) and the conclusion of the screening process (18 October 2006). Moreover, it is a good occasion to look back on the year behind us and to present to you the state of play and Croatia's achievements in accession negotiations thus far.

The opening of accession negotiations with the EU a year ago, on 3 October 2005, started a new phase in EU – Croatia relations, aimed towards fulfilling one of Croatia's main strategic goals – full EU membership.

For over a decade Croatia has been making efforts to prepare for its application for EU membership and eventual accession. For a country whose people, history, culture and values are linked to those of other EU nations, this seemed like a natural choice. However, the war imposed on us resulted in circumstances that prevented Croatia from taking part in the EU enlargement process at an earlier stage and joining other countries of post-communist Europe in the fifth enlargement.


Le Figaro du 03/11/2006 (PDF)
La conférence "La Croatie européenne" du Premier ministre croate Ivo Sanader donnée lors de sa visite à Paris en novembre 2005
L'arrestation du général Gotovina aux Canaries espagnoles

However, as you all may be well aware, over the last decade and a half Croatia has come a long way in every aspect. Let me remind you that it was only when its statehood had been secured that Croatia was able to fully embark upon a comprehensive process of transition and reforms, which has included not only the process of political and economic transformation into a parliamentary democracy and a functioning market economy, but, unfortunately, also the process of overcoming the traumas of war and helping the country and society as a whole to return to the path of peace, stability and development. It is also against this background that Croatia’s efforts and achievements should be scrutinised.

Over the last year, following the opening of the negotiations, Croatia made strenuous efforts with respect to further implementation of all membership criteria, and particularly those referred to as political criteria.

Croatia is aware that sustained fulfilment of the political criteria is a key prerequisite for further progress in accession negotiations. In this regard, I would like to reiterate Croatia’s strong commitment in investing additional efforts in the fields of minority rights, refugee return, judiciary reform and the fight against corruption, as well as in maintaining full cooperation with the ICTY. We continue to actively contribute to regional cooperation, in particular during our current chairmanship of the South East Europe Cooperation Process.

There is a political consensus in Croatia on the country's European future. General public support sometimes oscillates, but amounts on average to 55%.

Croatia remains committed and determined to make further efforts with the aim of fulfilling all the criteria and obligations by 2009 in order to become the 28th member of the EU before the end of the decade.

Negotiations – state of play

Let me give you a brief overview over the current situation in the negotiation process:

At this point, the accession negotiations are progressing well. After the opening and provisional closing of the first chapter Science and Research at the IGC in June, they have entered a new, more substantial phase.

I am pleased to tell you that Croatia successfully concluded the screening process, having screened 33 negotiating chapters with the European Commission. The process was completed on Wednesday last week with the bilateral screening of Chapter “23. Judiciary and fundamental rights”, a new chapter in accession negotiations.

M. Bozidar Gagro, ambassadeur de Croatie en France (à gauche), M. Vladimir Drobnjak, négociateur en chef pour l’adhésion de la Croatie à l’Union européenne, M. Yves Gazzo, chef de la Représentation de la Commission européenne en France, et M. Guy Legras, ancien directeur général à la Commission européenne (Agriculture et Relations Extérieures) et conseiller actuel du gouvernement croate pour les questions d'agriculture.

With the screening now completed we can express our satisfaction with its overall quality and dynamics. It represented an important tool for preparing the substantive negotiations and has proven to be helpful in better understanding the acquis and detecting incompatibilities that Croatia needs to overcome before accession. It has also been an opportunity to present to the EU Croatia’s achievements and continuous progress in individual chapters of the acquis. During the screening process, the cooperation with the Commission’s services has been fruitful and has provided us with an outstanding expert assistance and support. Croatia has been commended for the professional and sound preparation as well as the high level of dedication, expertise and knowledge of the acquis in the screening meetings.

Up to now, 16 screening reports have already been presented to the Council (3 are currently being debated in the Council), making up almost half of all the screened chapters. Others are in the pipeline, and in coming months we expect further screening reports.

In that regard it should be noted that at the beginning of the process the preparation and discussion of the Screening Reports for individual chapters had been taking somewhat more time than initially envisaged, but this has now changed and the process has gained momentum.

Croatia has been invited to submit its negotiating positions to the Accession Conference for 7 chapters (Science and Research, Education and Culture, Customs union, Right of establishment and freedom to provide services, Intellectual property law, Economic and monetary policy and Enterprise and industry), and I am delighted to tell you that we have submitted all of them.

Following the first benchmarks received for the opening of negotiations with respect to 6 chapters - Public Procurement, Competition, Social Policy and Employment, Justice, freedom and security, Free movement of capital and Free movement of goods - the Croatian Government is already undertaking substantial measures and engaging its administrative capacities with a view to presenting the implementation of benchmarks to the EU. In that regard, we abundantly draw on the expertise and assistance of the European Commission and co-operate on an issue-specific basis with EU Member States.

Process of accession negotiations

Compared with the 2004 enlargement, the overall atmosphere and context in which the accession negotiations of Croatia and Turkey are being conducted have been altered, across both the political and technical spectrum.

Let me firstly take the political aspect – the negotiations now take place in a different political atmosphere within the EU. The discussion on the future of the Constitutional Treaty, absorption capacity of the EU and future borders of the EU dominate today's political agenda in the EU. Plus – there is a question of enlargement fatigue.

We are confident that the EU will be capable once again of finding right solutions and that the enlargement will continue.

The situation changed as to the technical aspect of the process as well. The methodology and the approach to accession negotiations have become increasingly rigorous, more complex and demanding for both the EU and Croatia.

In that regard I am referring to the new principles and procedures governing the negotiations, in particular the mechanism of benchmarks. We understand the reasons behind the introduction of benchmarks into the process ("lessons learned"). We consider benchmarks to be a valuable mechanism and a useful tool in guiding Croatia in fulfilling the requirements and conducting comprehensive reform processes. Accordingly, benchmarking could be beneficial in double degree: (i ) as a impetus for reforms in Croatia, and (ii) as a proof of Croatia's preparedness for the membership at the end of the negotiating process. However, Croatia deems it highly important that benchmarks are tailor-made, precise and well substantiated, unencumbered with bilateral considerations which are not part of the acquis and set in full conformity with the principle of individual approach.

Furthermore, the volume and substance, i.e. the acquis communautaire, evolved over the years. Hence Croatia does not only have to negotiate on the greater volume of legislation but has to do it with increased number of Member States.

Given the overall complexity of the process and in order to be able to adequately steer and advance it, Croatia decided to apply a specific approach to establishing the negotiating structure. Thus, the Croatian comprehensive model of the negotiating structure is unique in that it has wide and heterogeneous membership of around 2000 people coming from government (line ministries, agencies etc.) and non-government (academia, business community, NGOs, trade unions and companies) sector. The structure is designed in this way in order to ensure transparency, enhanced quality, adequate speed and efficiency, expertise, democratic quality and didactic value. For us, the entire Croatia negotiates, not only the Negotiating Team.

In addition, as a result of the firm consensus over the EU accession across the political spectrum, the National Committee for Monitoring the Accession Negotiations has been established in the Croatian Parliament as a special working body to generally supervise and evaluate the course of negotiations.

Croatia's accession to the EU – a win/win situation for both the EU and Croatia

The EU enlargement brings political, economic, and cultural benefits to the EU and to the acceding country respectively. In general, it is a ‘positive-sum’ game.

Recent reports indicate that the last enlargement has been very successful. In the last fifteen years, Central European countries have transformed their economies, public sectors, societies, ensuring increased prosperity for their citizens in a secure framework. The magnetism of EU membership has brought long-term stability and long lost unity to the European continent.

Speaking in economical terms one could claim that the benefits of enlargement outweigh the costs.

What are the benefits for the EU?

Croatia is part of European shared history, heritage and culture, and as such desires to contribute to a joint project of developing further the enlarged EU. Croatia's accession to the EU would mark a further step in European unification.

Croatia is situated in the heart of Europe, at the crossroads of the Danube basin and the Mediterranean. Being both a maritime and a continental country, Croatia can serve as a bridge between Western and South-East Europe.

The perspective for integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU gives an important incentive for these countries to deliver political and economic reforms. Starting accession negotiations with Croatia serves as an example and incentive for other countries of the region.

Croatia is already highly integrated with its EU neighbours through extensive trade and investment links. The EU is Croatia’s main trading partner. In the structure of Croatian goods exchange the largest portion of imports and exports was realised with EU Member States

You are well acquainted with the natural beauties which Croatia can offer to the European family. Croatia's cultural heritage has been recognized by UNESCO as part of Europe's cultural heritage.

What are the benefits for Croatia?

EU membership is expected to bring stability, security and prosperity;

EU membership is expected to provide access of Croatia to bigger market and bring increased employment opportunities; it is expected to attract more foreign investments;

EU membership is expected to ensure continuation of economic reforms and completion of economic transition;

EU membership is expected to bring Croatia to the "decision making table" together with other EU member states and to jointly provide for more efficient responses to the challenges of globalisation;

EU membership is expected to provide an environment for faster and stable growth, full social security and well-being for all its citizens. EU membership is expected to bring better quality of life to Croatia's citizens.

Enlargement/Constitution/institutional arrangements

In the context of ongoing discussions and reflections of EU Member States on the Constitutional Treaty and the future functioning of the EU, we strongly believe that the continuation of EU enlargement is in the interest of all European citizens.

The recent study by the European Commission confirms this with clear and strong arguments stipulating that the 2004 enlargement can be considered a success with multiple positive and beneficial effects across the democratic, political, economic and administrative board.

We are confident that the result of internal discussions on the constitutional issues will include the institutional and other arrangements for the EU that will ensure its efficient functioning and at the same time allow it to accept new members. The EU's plan to take the necessary decisions in this regard during the second semester of 2008 – i.e. during the French Presidency – matches well with Croatia's ambitions to complete accession negotiations by the end of 2008. In this respect the support of the French Presidency in the second half of 2008 will be of particular importance to Croatia.

Croatia realizes that dates should not become a goal unto themselves, but they are nonetheless necessary for internal purposes, to design plans in order to be able to move the process forward, keep the momentum for reform processes and thus fulfil our goals and ambitions.

We strongly believe that the dynamics of the enlargement process should be preserved with the Western Balkans countries next in line. EU must keep its promises.

Croatia has been following with interest the recent discussions on EU's capacity to absorb (integrate) new members, which has been especially elaborated in France. A Commission report on all aspects of the Union’s absorption capacity, coming up on 8 November, will be of particular importance. In this regard, we are confident that the subsequent European Council conclusions in December will allow smooth and timely accession of Croatia to the EU.

It is very important to involve citizens of both – candidate countries and Member States - in the European integration process and to objectively present to them the advantages and challenges of EU membership, including all the rights, privileges and obligations that membership entails.

Concluding remarks

Croatia hopes to maintain good pace in negotiations and achieve further progress in a number of chapters during the Finnish and German Presidencies respectively, in terms of opening and provisionally closing of some of the chapters and of fulfilling the set benchmarks.

Croatia will further pursue the path of internal reforms in order to meet the conditions for opening and closing of the negotiation chapters and to substantially strengthen its administrative capacity necessary for the full and efficient implementation of the acquis.

In the accession process Croatia is not competing with any other country. It is competing with itself in order to achieve the best results. Croatia expects to be treated according to its own merits and in line with the principle of individual approach.

We are grateful to all EU Member States that are providing and offered to provide their expert assistance in especially difficult fields (such as environment, competition, justice, fisheries and agriculture). In this regard, I would like to thank the French Government and Mr. Guy Legras who is our adviser for agricultural issues.

To conclude, I am certain that enlargement has a good perspective. It has demonstrated the Union's commitment to extend the process of European construction to all those European states ready and willing to participate in it. It has proven to serve the EU well, both for its internal development and for its global role.

Finalement, permettez-moi de conclure par une citation de Robert Schuman dans son dernier ouvrage “Pour l’Europe” qui semble convenir au contexte actuel: « Il appartient à l’Europe de se doter d’une structure nouvelle. Dans un monde bouleversé et inquiet, c’est la contribution qu’elle se doit d’apporter à l’humanité ».

Je vous remercie de votre attention.

Siège de la Représentation en France de la Commission européenne.
Lundi 23 octobre 2006 à 18h30
- 288, boulevard Saint-Germain (2e étage), Paris 7e.


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