Application by Croatia for accession to the EU

Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking Mr Baltas, the rapporteur, most sincerely for his very balanced report. Both the country from which I come and this group to which I belong are very well disposed towards Croatia, but that does not mean that we turn a blind eye, or even two blind eyes, when it comes to assessing whether it is ready for Europe. I only wish the Commission would see how important it is for Croatia that we should give a positive opinion; I agree with the previous speaker totally in that respect. It would also send a signal to all its neighbours that the way to Europe is open to them as well as and when – and provided that – they take the necessary steps towards Europe. Sadly, no country in the Balkans has done so much.Are the problems already resolved? No, they are not. Although Croatia has basically good relations with its neighbours, I believe there are still a few problems to be resolved with Slovenia. I am very pleased that there are not only good relations with neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, but that both the previous government and the present one have demonstrated that Croatia is now interested in a common Bosnia-Herzegovina and not only in the well-being of the Croatian-speaking population there.As far as the situation with the war criminals is concerned, I believe that Croatia has done a lot in the last few years and months to make progress here. I believe we must be fair and objective about this, too. I sometimes feel that many countries that have themselves taken longer to come to terms with their own past and their own crimes and to face up to them are making greater demands on Croatia. Croatia needs to know that this is a crucial issue, however, and it must therefore show every willingness to cooperate.Regarding the return of refugees, this has always been a very important point for us in talks with Croatian representatives and here in the European Parliament. I think Croatia needs to intensify its efforts to bring back all refugees, and this of course includes exchanges with neighbouring countries. With these things in mind, Mr President, I believe we should give a favourable reception to the Baltas report. Also with this in mind, I ask the Commission to be very positive in its approach to Croatia.