The shadow of Bulgaria and Romania has hung heavily over Croatia in the days after the publication of the progress report of the European Commission, which reflects the country's achievements before its EU accession, scheduled for the 1st of July 2013. A little after the publication of the report, signals came from the German Bundestag that Croatia is not ready to join the EU and that the mistake with Bulgaria and Romania should not be repeated. Scepticism for Croatia's readiness was expressed also in one of the influential German dailies a little before the publication of the report, in which 10 tasks have been outlined for the country to implement by July 1st. Zagreb used its entire diplomatic power in mid-October to clear all doubts in its capabilities to prepare for membership. Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic met with her German counterpart in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg two weeks ago. After the meeting, Guido Westerwelle said that Germany wanted Croatia to become a EU member but vowed that there would be no compromises.
Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic also used his participation in the European Council on October 18-19 to talk to his colleagues in the EU and President Ivo Josipovic was working on the good image of his country while on a visit in France the same week. Nonetheless, however, doubts still remain. Germany has announced that it will ratify Croatia's treaty after the spring report of the Commission, which will be the last one in the monitoring process. For the country's top diplomat, though, Ms Pusic, there is no need to worry and there are no reserves in the official German position. In an interview with euinside in the margins of the meeting in Warsaw on October 25 of the foreign ministers from the Western Balkans and the Visegrad Four, Bulgaria and Romania, she said that Croatia would be ready even before the spring. She recalled that out of 51 tasks in this spring report the Commission outlined in October only 10 remaining, yet those cover only 4 chapters, not 33 as in the spring.
The only hurdle Ms Pusic sees at this stage is the banking dispute with Slovenia. It is about the former Ljubljanska banka which created issues between the two countries after the break-up of former Yugoslavia and on which two experts - one for Croatia and one for Slovenia - are working together on a solution. It is expected both experts to come up with an opinion they will present to their governments for approval. Croatia's foreign minister reiterated that the bank issue should be separated from the ratification of the accession treaty. She predicted that by the end of the year 21 member states will have ratified the Croatian treaty. So far, it has been ratified by 17 countries. The entire interview with Ms Pusic you can watch in the video file.