ENLARGEMENT: STEERING CROATIA SAFELY TOWARDS ACCESSION.

Like Belgium and a few other previous EU Presidencies, Hungary has placed enlargement policy high on its agenda. Budapest is hoping that the conclusion of the accession talks with Croatia - the frontrunner in the enlargement process - will be one of the highlights of its six-month Presidency. "I'm deeply convinced that it is feasible," Peter Gyorkos, permanent representative of Hungary to the EU, told a conference, on 26 November, referring to Zagreb's self-imposed deadline to wrap up accession talks in the first half of 2011. Hungary - the Western Balkans' direct neighbour - is hoping that a happy end to Croatia's EU membership bid will create a positive atmosphere in the region. According to Gyorkos, Zagreb can become a "role model" for other Western Balkan countries also hoping to join the EU one day.

However, it is not yet clear if Croatia will manage to meet all the remaining requirements in order to wrap up talks during Hungary's Presidency. Zagreb has yet to close five chapters, including the two most difficult: competition policy and judiciary and fundamental rights. In these two crucial areas, it has to meet 14 closing benchmarks. The moment of truth will come in March, when the European Commission is due to publish its assessment of Zagreb's progress and give its green light or postpone closure of the accession talks.

Budapest is also keen to continue Turkey's accession process. The prospect for progress in this area is, however, bleak. Due to Ankara's failure to normalise its relations with Cyprus, 14 chapters in...

To continue reading

Request your trial