Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

2012 comprehensive monitoring report on Croatia

Delivered in Plenary - 17th April 2013

Madam President

Certainly not in Strasbourg for MEPs every month. Anyway, the ECR Group has always supported EU enlargement and the benefits that it can bring to former Communist countries, both in Eastern Europe and in the Western Balkans. It has now taken Croatia nine years of negotiations to follow its neighbour Slovenia into the European Union family. This is a development that we should fully welcome.

Croatia has risen from the rubble of the Balkan wars to emerge as a mature, liberal democracy, in keeping with our values. Its improved relations with its Balkan neighbours bode well for the future. As the rapporteur for Montenegro, I am particularly pleased that the Croatian Government has provided Podgorica with its translation of the EU acquis. Having said that, the ongoing dispute with Slovenia over Ljubljanska Banka is obviously something that we must resolve as soon as possible. There must also be no going back on Serbian rapprochement. The Croatian Government was right to reach out to the Serbian community in Vukovar by introducing dual Latin- and Cyrillic-alphabet street signs. However, the huge anti-Cyrillic demonstration held in Zagreb this month indicates some of the fault lines and tensions in that society. These must be monitored closely and carefully in the coming years in order to ensure continuing regional harmony, particularly in light of Serbia’s accession negotiations.

Elsewhere, the political outlook is very positive. But as Mr Rouček’s resolution stresses, accession is not the end of a process but a milestone within it. Zagreb still has work to do in tackling corruption and organised crime, facilitating the work of investigative journalists and liberalising access to information in general. It has already taken many positive steps in these regards, and the imprisonment of the former Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader, highlights the reach of their justice system.

My final note, in what is now the last debate in this House before Croatian accession, will be to call on that country once more to do all it can to bring 1990s’ war criminals to justice, and to use all the powers of the state to help former refugees and IDPs. But we can all acknowledge the hard work that Croatia has already done on all of these points, and I look forward to welcoming its 12 newly elected MEPs into our House on 1 July.