Croatia applied for EU membership in February 2003 and was formally accepted as a candidate country in June 2004.
Any European state that respects liberty, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law is eligible to apply for EU membership. Because joining the EU often requires major political and economic reforms within the candidate country, the process moves forward at a pace consistent with the applicant’s ability to take on the obligations of membership, which require:
- Stable institutions that can sustain democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and minorities.
- A functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressures.
- The ability to apply the EU’s rules and policies (known as the acquis communautaire).
Over the last decade, Croatia has been carrying out all the reforms needed to bring it into line with EU laws and standards. In particular, Croatia has taken decisive steps to strengthen democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and protection of minorities. Its judiciary is now more independent, accountable, and professional. Croatia has a functioning market economy, which will offer new opportunities for European business and industry as part of a single EU market, with easier mobility for all.
After its accession, Croatia will share not only the benefits of EU membership, but also the responsibilities that come with it. In April 2013, Croatian voters went to the polls to select 12 new members of the European Parliament. The country also appoints an EU Commissioner, and takes an equal role in decision-making with its 27 EU counterparts.
Croatia’s accession is a positive step toward integrating the Western Balkan countries into the EU. It is a testament to the success of the EU’s enlargement policy as a powerful tool for transforming societies, spreading stability and reinforcing democracy in Europe.
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