EUROPEAN COMMISSION:

FEBRUARY 17 2009 18:20h

Croatia Has Made Great Progress In Many Chapters

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As the toughest chapters, Bendixen mentioned market competition and justice and fundamental rights.

Croatia has made great progress in its European Union accession negotiations and it might reach the end stage this year, but this does not mean that there won`t be anything left for next year, said Henrik Bendixen in Brussels on Tuesday.

If Croatia does everything it has to, there is an option that the negotiation will reach their end stage in 2009. This does not mean that we promised everything would be over in 2009. It is likely that there will be some work left in 2010, Henrik Bendixen said, who is in charge of Croatia in the General administration for expansion.

Bendixen took part in the preparation meeting of European Parliament representatives, who are members of the joint Parliamentary board EU-Croatia. The joint Parliamentary board will meet in Zagreb on February 23 and 24.

Croatia has made great progress in certain chapters

Bendixen pointed out that ht “sees no problems” in Croatia`s negotiations with the RU which could not be solved this year, however he added that the Commission “did not make any promises as to when the negotiations would be completed”. According to Bendixen, it is key for Croatia to do its part of the work and that the Commission will not anticipate lowering the criteria just to meet certain deadlines.

Bendixen said Croatia has made great progress in certain chapters: environmental protection, energy, agriculture, transport and food safety.

As the toughest chapters, which Croatia still have plenty of work to do, Bendixen mentioned market competition and justice and fundamental rights. Ship construction is the only outstanding issue in the market competition chapter.

USKOK praised, regret over Slovenia

Bendixen said that they could not state with certainty at this point that complete co-operation with The Hague tribunal was present, but he hopes th issue of The Hague prosecution would access certain documents quite soon.

He also praised the efforts of the Croatian Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) in the fight against corruption and organised crime, adding that the fight should be intensified.

Bendixen also expressed regret that Slovenia was blocking the larger part of chapters, pointing out that bilateral issues over the border have no place in accession negotiations, but that the two countries in question should solve this problem with a mutual agreement, international arbitrage or before an international court.