A monitoring mechanism to be imposed on Croatia after its accession to the EU to evaluate the track record of conflict of interest, corruption and organised crime, as well as the implementation of the plan for reform of the judiciary, Romanian MEP Monica Luisa Macovei (EPP) proposes. She is one of the depositors of many proposals for amendments to the draft resolution of the European Parliament on the progress report of the European Commission.
Monica Macovei became famous around the Bulgaria's and Romania's accession to the EU with the very successful reforms in the fight of corruption and the judiciary. She was a minister of justice at the time when Romania was struggling to meet the requirements for EU accession. Ms Macovei became popular in the country and the EU with the elimination of communist remnants in the judiciary and with the disbanding of the secret services in the Ministry of Justice. She was even expected to become the first Romanian commissioner in the EU, but she did not.
The idea for a post-accession mechanism she lays out in an entirely new paragraph to the draft resolution of European Parliament rapporteur on Croatia Libor Rouček (Socialists & Democrats, Czech Republic). The Romanian representative also proposes to be noted that corruption remains a serious problem in Croatia and that crime, corruption and mismanagement in the country have reached the amount of 11.3 billion euros in the period 2011-2010.
During the Croatia's negotiations process there were rare calls on the country to be applied the mechanism invented specifically because of the unpreparedness of Bulgaria and Romania for accession and which proved too ineffective, while in the same time the conditions for membership for Croatia tightened significantly. At this stage no one is officially demanding such a mechanism. Although they do not call for it openly, some member states fear that Croatia could prove a failure like Bulgaria and Romania. Germany, for instance, is awaiting the last European Commission report in the spring before it completes the ratification process.
In the draft resolution it is pointed out how central an element of membership the independent judiciary and rule of law are for strengthening democracy and in support of investments and economic activity. Croatia is called upon to undertake additional actions to improve the independence and efficiency of the judiciary by reducing the number of backlog cases and by upgrading the legislation on decision enforcement. Franziska Katharina Brantner (Germany) and Marije Cornelissen (The Netherlands), on behalf of the group of Greens and the European Free Alliance add, however, that the judiciary must be accountable, unbiased and professional. For accountability calls the rapporteur too in an amendment to his own text.
In general, the tone of the resolution and the proposed amendments is positive and the areas where there are calls for actions are not many. For instance, it is pointed out that Croatia is on track with the implementation of the remaining requirements. But Franziska Katharina Brantner and Marije Cornelissen recommend to be underlined that more efforts are needed, especially on enhancing the rule of law and the fight against corruption. The draft resolution calls on the government in Zagreb to complete the ten specific tasks the Commission outlined in its report in October, but the two MEPs point out that it is important this to happen in a transparent and inclusive way with the participation of the Croatian parliament and the civil society.
Most of the proposals of Monica Macovei are in the area of judiciary. To the text of the draft resolution which notes "with satisfaction" that Croatia has created a solid institutional and legal framework to fight corruption and which calls on the Croatian authorities to benefit as much as possible from the available instruments to ensure unbiased and successful prosecution, she proposes a call to be added on the Croatian authorities to improve the implementation of the legal framework for confiscation of assets following the principle "follow the money". She wants to be underlined also that independent investigative journalism should be encouraged because it is vital for the exposure of corruption and organised crime.
Another proposal for amendments of hers is related to the work of the newly established Commission for Conflict of Interest which was one of the ten tasks of the European Commission. Monica Macovei calls on the government to consolidate the framework for prevention of corruption and fraud, especially in the public administration. She also insists on full application of the legislative package for public procurement and for the financing of political parties and election campaigns.
When will Croatia join the EU?
The answer to this question could seem to you quite obvious, but judging from the proposals for amendments to the draft resolution of the European Parliament there is a difference, though very thin. Each country joins the EU when its treaty is ratified by all member states of the Union. In Croatia's treaty the date July 1st 2013 is enshrined for accession. So far 22 member states have ratified it and probably by July all countries will have done it. Doubts, however, raises the conflict between Slovenia and Croatia around the unresolved post-Yugoslav dispute because of which Ljubljana refuses even to begin the ratification procedure. In his draft resolution, the rapporteur has written that Croatia is set to accede on July 1st 2013, but his Slovenian colleague Alojz Peterle (EPP) proposes an amendment which says that Croatia is set to join on July 1st, pending the successful completion of the ratification procedures.
In other words, there is some conditionality that if the procedure is not completed, the country will not be able to become a fully fledged member on the planned date. The two countries have recently intensified their efforts for finding a solution and express will that to happen in time. Moreover, Croatia's Foreign Minster Vesna Pusic hoped that it is possible Slovenia to ratify the treaty by the end of February. Everything depends, though, on how will the contacts between the two parties continue. Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who has been at the centre of a severe political crisis for several weeks, recently refused to resign, one of the reasons being the ratification of the Croatian accession treaty.
Human rights, neighbourly relations and the Hague tribunal
This is a major group of proposals for amendments, although the criticisms are not many, especially against the backdrop of the problems Serbia has, but Serbia has a long way to go until it approaches membership. Ivo Vajgl (ALDE, Slovenia) proposes to the call on the Croatian authorities to be vigilant for the respect of human rights and to continue fighting against any forms of discrimination to be also added that some statements and actions by the Catholic Church in Croatia in no way contribute to the strengthening of European standards and respect for different minorities. According to the MEP, some high Church officials regularly use a language that openly calls for intolerance to homosexuals.
In the past half a year since I have been following closely the developments in Croatia, the economic issue was replaced only once from its central place in society. That happened in the beginning of 2013 when the conflict between the government and the Church exploded, caused by the decision of the cabinet of Socialist Zoran Milanovic to introduce health education in school. In the curriculum for high school, aside from the sexual topics, are also included homo- and trans-sexual topics. This caused outrage within the Church and led to exchange of sharp remarks and even accusations in Fascism by the Church authorities against the government. Zoran Milanovic was forced to ban his ministers from answering back to Church officials.
Another amendment that affects the rights of homosexuals is proposed by Franziska Katharina Brantner and Marije Cornelissen who proposes an entirely new paragraph which says that the rights of LGBT communities have progressed significantly, including in the area of employment, but nonetheless Croatia should consider additional legal improvements. It is suggested the country to abolish the requirement of surgery in the procedures for administrative change of gender, as well as to continue ensuring adequate police protection of the annual Pride events.
Regarding war crimes, it is recommended Croatia and Serbia to cooperate in the prosecution of war crimes to achieve justice and real reconciliation in the region. This text is again proposed by Franziska Katharina Brantner and Marije Cornelissen. They fear possible negative consequences of the law on invalidation of certain legal acts of the judicial bodies of the former Yugoslav National Army, the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and of the Republic of Serbia.
Bulgarian MEP from the EPP group Nadezhda Neynsky proposes the efforts of the governments of Serbia and Croatia for normalisation of relations to be welcomed. She calls on the two countries to strengthen cooperation. Regarding the dispute between Slovenia and Croatia, she calls on the two sides to find a solution in a constructive way and recalls that bilateral issues should not hamper the process of integration of the candidate countries. The draft resolution will be viewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on February 18th. Then we will see which proposals for amendments have been taken into account in the final text.