Croatia starts new talks on road to EU membership

Croatia opened talks on new policy chapters with the European Union and held a first round of membership talks with NATO on Monday, taking it two steps closer to the West.

Croatia starts new talks on road to EU membership
The republic opened chapters on transport and energy with the 27-member EU, marking a fresh start for talks that have been languishing for the last six months.

Zagreb was invited to join NATO, along with Albania, at an alliance summit in Romania this month and began the negotiations on Monday in Brussels. A second final round is scheduled for May, Croatia's state news agency Hina reported.

After that Zagreb will send a letter of intent to join and ask NATO members to ratify it.

Zagreb hopes NATO membership will also boost its EU bid. Croatia, which started entry talks in 2005, needs to conclude negotiations in 35 policy areas, or chapters, to join.

Progress has been slow, with only the science and education chapters agreed so far -- and talks yet to open on a further 19 policy areas.

Talks stalled in October because of Croatia's parliamentary election -- which gave Prime Minister Ivo Sanader a new term in office -- and a row with Brussels over a protected fishing ones which has now eased.

The toughest tasks include judiciary reform, restructuring a loss-making shipbuilding industry, cutting state subsidies and public administration reform.

The executive European Commission has said it hopes to wrap up accession negotiations with Croatia before European Parliament elections in June 2009.

On energy, the Balkan country must approve a new mining act to bring its law in line with EU rules on exploration and production of hydrocarbons as well as implement the bloc's regulation on electricity and gas markets.

In line with recent EU decisions for its members, Croatia should also set targets to increase the proportion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources to 20 percent by 2020 from 7 percent.

Reuters
Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2008, 17:26
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