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European Commission Recommends Membership Talks with Croatia

On 20 April, the European Commission recommended that the EU open membership talks with Croatia, dpa reported. Commission President Romano Prodi said that "Croatia has made major efforts to advance along the road to EU membership," adding that a decision to open talks with Zagreb "will hopefully encourage the other countries of the region to redouble their efforts to make progress toward European integration".

EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said, however, that Croatia must still help arrest fugitive former General Ante Gotovina, whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted, Britain's "The Times" reported.

Patten added that Croatia must still improve its performance in the fields of minority rights, refugee returns, regional cooperation, judicial reform, and anticorruption measures.

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said in Zagreb that the European Commission's decision means that the EU recognizes Croatia as a "mature democratic country," adding, however, that EU membership will not solve all of Croatia's problems.

EU leaders are expected to formally decide in June to invite Croatia to begin admission talks.

(RFE/RL 21.iv.04)

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