Croatia Begins EU Talks
Croatia's team led by Sinisa Petrovic and European Commission officials on Monday began the explanatory stage of screening the level of adjustment of Croatian legislation governing intellectual property protection to the European Union's acquis communautaire. "There is a high level of adjustment of the Croatian laws to the acquis, but the key issue is implementation," Petrovic said. In 2003 Croatia overhauled the legislation regulating intellectual property protection. In the coming period Zagreb should strengthen its capacities for the implementation of relevant laws, notably in the fight against piracy and forgery.
On Wednesday, Croatia and the EC will start the explanatory stage of negotiations on social welfare and employment.
(Brussels/Zagreb, DTT-NET.COM)- Croatia’s government is gaining ground on its calls that Western Balkans countries should join existing free trade agreement of Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and avoid creating a new one as suggested last week by European Commission.
Officials from EU presidency and Stability Pact (SP) for South-East Europe told DTT-NET.COM on Friday that countries from Western Balkans are not obliged but are free to choose whether they want to join Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania at CEFTA organization created in 1992 or negotiate a new agreement for free trade zone in the region.
A spokesperson of EU presidency- the Austrian government- said that nations of the European bloc have nothing against the possibility of enlarging CEFTA.
“If the countries from the Balkans want to join CEFTA then that’s OK for us” the spokesperson said. Same reactions had also officials from SP charged since 2001 by the EU to help the regional countries on technical aspects of free 31 bilateral trade agreements signed so far.
“It’s up to the countries to decide”, Dragan Barbutovski the spokesperson of SP told DTT-NET.COM. However both officials said that CEFTA 15 year’s old regulations on trade should be upgraded and also criteria of the membership should be changed in order Balkans countries can join. Countries to join CEFTA must be members of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and have institutional relations with EU.
Austrian spokesperson of EU presidency and Barbutovski said that “CEFTA should ease and smooth its procedures to accept Balkan countries”.
Croatian government have already proposed the same in order to open the CEFTA door to its neighbours (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia).
Macedonia last year has completed negotiations for membership at CEFTA and is expected to join soon. Croatian government on Thursday said that Ukraine should also join the organisation.
The EC said last week that the new regional FTA agreement is expected to be concluded by mid-2006 and enter into force 2007, but following Croatia’s rejections; it’s most likely that plans are to be put on stand by until countries from the region and EC have not agreed between CEFTA and new regional free trade zone.
European Commissioner in charge of EU enlargements Olli Rehn last week called on Western Balkan countries to speed up efforts to create a new single trade area in the region, in order as it says, to better promote trade and economic development. EC said in a statement that current 31 bilateral free trade agreements between the countries of the area are insufficient and they should be transformed in a single regional agreement.
But following the strong rejection of the proposal by Croatian government, Rehn then said that the EC is keeping options opened and CEFTA could be the alternative to his proposal.
“We are still considering whether it should be based on CEFTA or something else. I think that CEFTA is a possibility which we are considering carefully,” Olli Rehn told Croatian National TV on Tuesday.
Croatia’s government argued that there is no need for duplication of existing organization.
Croatian public reacted harshly to the proposal fearing that the it has political connotations and eventual plans by Brussels to create a new family between countries based on former Yugoslavia model, a claim which was dismissed by EC and also by officials of Stability Pact for South-East Europe.
CEFTA is a multilateral agreement for creation of a free - trade zone by a gradual removal of duties for industrial goods, liberalization of trade for agricultural products, and free competition on the territories of the countries - members.
As Bulgaria and Romania are to join the EU in January next year or at latest in January 2008, they are to walk out of the trade network with Balkan region and also from CEFTA.
Earlier members of the organisation: Poland; Czech Republic, Slovakia; Hungary and Slovenia left as they joined the EU in May 2004.