The European Commission will
ensure that any instability surrounding the fate of Kosovo will
not affect EU enlargement prospects in the region, Emerging
Markets has learnt. In particular, front-runner Croatia
remains on track to join, even as an impending declaration of
independence in Kosovo threatens to antagonize Serbia and
reawaken regional tensions.
Croatia has completed 14 of 35
negotiating chapters, and is progressing towards entry at
cruising speed, Krisztina Nagy, spokesperson for EU
enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, told Emerging
And Vladimir Drobnjak,
Croatias chief negotiator with the EU, echoed this
sentiment, expressing confidence that his countrys
aspirations will not be derailed by rising ethnic tensions in
The EU is a force for
stability in the region and our joining will set an example to
our neighbours. The question among member states is not if
Croatia will join, it is when, and I can safely say it will
come before the end of the decade.
Although he argued that the
Kosovo situation would have no direct bearing on Croatias
accession prospects, he said he is hoping there will be a
unified EU position on Kosovo, which would make it
much easier for all member states.
Drobnjak acknowledged that the
tormented disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s had left
some obstacles to EU membership. Croatia remains in dispute
with neighbouring Slovenia over sovereign waters and fishing
rights. The issue could take on extra significance next year,
when Slovenia assumes the rotating presidency of the EU council
It is something we take
very seriously, I am convinced that Croatias actions are
firmly in line with the international law of the sea,
Drobnjak said, adding that he favoured seeking a settlement in
the International Court of Justice.
Enlargement should not stop with
Croatia, the ambassador added, given the importance of the EU
for regional stability.
The EU should do
everything it can to facilitate Bosnias entry. In any
case, the EU is coming closer to Bosnia once Croatia
joins [Bosnia] will almost be surrounded by EU
The EU last week signed a
Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Bosnia,
potentially a first step towards the countrys accession.
This is a further reason for optimism that EU enlargement will
stay on track, said Goran Saravanja, chief economist of
Zagrebacka Banka in Croatia.
It is a signal that the EU
is far more focused on the region than it was in the early
1990s, and is looking not to repeat the mistakes of then
theyre sending a clear signal to Bosnia and therefore to
the wider investor community about their intentions,
Saravanja told Emerging Markets.
He added that Croatian accession
was also important to the EU, because the country is a
source of stability and progress, some sort of example to the
rest of the region.