Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Croatia and the magic of the future membership

Dessislava Dimitrova, July 1, 2011

A couple of months ago I said we were in the last ten minutes of a soccer match, it could be that the last seconds were even more exciting than the entire match,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told a news conference following the EU-Croatia accession conference in Brussels. Literally in the last few hours of the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union, Croatia has officially closed the last four accession chapters, after six years of accession talks.

As of July 1, the presidency will be run by Poland and Martonyi said he hoped Croatia would sign the accession treaty in its mandate. EU Commissioner Stefan Fule, in his turn, said he was excited that for the first time in his capacity of an enlargement commissioner a negotiation process was being closed and he hoped it would not be the last during his mandate.

In mid-June Martonyi said that the accession of Croatia would have a “magical” effect on the rest of the countries of the Western Balkans, as the achievements of Croatia had re-energised the efforts of other countries in the region too. “If you only think of Serbia, it is quite clear that they have also mad a push forward. This is the magic of the process. They take the message, and take the energy and then react,” Martonyi said back then.

And in the last day of the Hungarian Presidency he reiterated that the end of the talks did not mean automatically an end of the efforts of the Croatian authorities. Both the Commission and the Members States will monitor the pace of reforms until the actual date of accession and every six months evaluation reports on the results will be published. The Hungarian Presidency also noted that it was not Croatia or another candidate state that made the monitoring necessary, but the process had changed so that it could be in line with various enlargement experiences; and now, conditionality has become an essential factor.

On Croatia’s government website there is a link, reading: “Here we belong” which opens the most important benchmarks and documents of the accession process. Croatia’s Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor compared the end of the accession talks with the end of a marathon: “During the last stretches when it is very difficult to run, but when you know that someone is applauding you and is supporting you, then all hurdles can be overcome".

In the beginning of the week, in an editorial, entitled Jadranka Kosor’s diary, in the Zagreb-based daily Jutarnji List, Kosor shares both the emotions from the last days of the accession talks and her first days in the prime minister’s office. Her most emotional memory is from the EU-Croatia summit in Brussels last week. There, among all the congratulations, she had a very special moment: a greeting card and a bouquet from her Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor with the message: “You are no even aware how important you were yourself for the end of the talks”.

The good neighbours Croatia and Slovenia had numerous disagreements over their sea border, which also delayed the accession talks. Now, when these disagreements are in the past, the question remains about what will be Croatia’s message as the EU’s 28 the member state to the rest of the Western Balkans countries.

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