Croatia likely to be next EU member

13:16, October 15, 2009      

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Croatia is likely to join the European Union next year, said the European Union's executive Commission in annual report released Wednesday.

"If Croatia meets all outstanding benchmarks on time, the accession negotiations could be concluded next year," the Commission said in an annual progress report on EU hopefuls.

The Commission did not give Croatia an accession date and urged it to do more in curbing corruption, fighting organized crime and cooperating with a United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Croatia received the positive review as its status improved after settling a border dispute with EU member Slovenia earlier this month.

The dispute led to the freeze of accession talks for a year.

On Macedonia, the Commission said that it would consider recommending the opening of accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav republic.

Macedonia "has made important progress and has substantially addressed the key accession partnership priorities", said the progress report.

"The Commission considers that the country sufficiently fulfils the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and the Stabilization and Association Process and therefore has decided to recommend the opening of accession negotiations," it added.

On Turkey, which began membership negotiations in 2005 with the EU, Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn asked the country to speed up its reforms and normalizing ties with EU member Cyprus.

The Commission also recognized progress made in Turkey.

"Turkey has shown renewed political reform efforts. Progress with its accession negotiations hinges on this momentum, especially the consolidation of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law," Rehn said.

Talks between the EU and Turkey have gone into deadlock because of its tense relations with Cyprus. Besides, Germany and France have been reluctant to take it as an EU member.

The report urges other Western Balkan countries such as Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro to conduct further political or social reforms in order to come close towards the 27-nation bloc.

Source: Xinhua
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