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Dr Dimitrij Rupel leads EU-Croatia Association Council meeting

The president of the EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council, Slovenian foreign minister Dr Dimitrij Rupel, today led a meeting of the EU-Croatia Association Council in Luxembourg. The Croatian delegation was led by foreign minister Gordan Jandroković. The meeting looked at relations between the EU and Croatia and Croatia's progress in its preparations for EU membership. After reviewing the state of the negotiations, Dr Rupel confirmed, in line with the conclusions the European Council of December 2007, that the Union is maintaining its commitments to countries in the enlargement process and underlined that the progress of enlargement negotiations will be guided by the progress that Croatia has made so far – and will make in the future – with regard to the benchmarks for the opening and closure of chapters, and by the meeting of requirements from the negotiation framework, including the satisfying of Croatia's obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

With regard to the specific Copenhagen political criteria, Dr Rupel warned that further sustained efforts are needed in several areas. He pointed out that the establishing of an independent, impartial, reliable, transparent and effective judicial system is of the utmost importance and a fundamental condition for strengthening the rule of law and the suitable implementation of the aquis, for which considerable efforts are required. The fundamental basis for the successful implementation of the aquis is a professional, responsible, transparent and independent public administration.

With regard to other issues, Dr Rupel stated that it is important for Croatia to continue to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); he welcomed the progress in connection with the return of refugees and the rights of minorities, and their inclusion in political life, but warned that a number of questions remain unsettled. While welcoming Croatia's progress in the sphere of regional cooperation, Dr Rupel encouraged Croatia to continue to work towards good neighbourly relations, which remain of key importance.

The EU calls on Croatia to strengthen its efforts above all in the search for mutually acceptable definitive solutions to all open bilateral issues with neighbouring countries, particularly as regards borders, and to continue efforts for reconciliation among citizens in this area. He emphasised the importance of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations in the process of European integration.

Finally, Dr Rupel welcomed the decision of the Croatian parliament, adopted on 13 March 2008, that in the light of the agreement of June 2004 and related conclusions of the European Council, Croatia will in no respect apply the ecological and fishing protection zone to EU Member States.


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Date: 02.05.2008