(E) Decision on Croatia's EU candidate status by June
Ireland hoping for decision onCroatia's EU candidate status by June
10 February 2004
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, on Tuesday said he hoped a decision on Croatia's bid to join the bloc will be made during the EU summit in June.
"Ireland will facilitate its consideration by the council with a view to a possible decision on candidate status at the June European Council," Cowen told reporters at a joint press conference with his Croatian counterpart Miomir Zuzul.
Croatia formally applied for EU membership in February 2003 and hopes to acquire official candidate status in June and full membership in 2007.
Cowen commended Croatia for making "remarkable progress in recent years both economically and in the wide-ranging reform process".
Zuzul pledged that his country would continue in that process as it was fully determined to meet all the criteria for membership.
The Croatian minister is due in London on Wednesday for talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Defense Minister Geoff Hoon.
Britain and the Netherlands have refused to sign an EU association agreement with Croatia because of Zagreb's failure to fully cooperate with the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
In particular, Croatia has been told its EU bid could be in doubt as long as it refuses to extradite fugitive war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina, accused of murdering ethnic Serb civilians during the country's 1991-95 war.
Zuzul will head to Berlin for two days from Thursday, where he will meet German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.