Saturday, April 16, 2005
The Prime Minister of Hungary, Ferenc Gyurcsány, has heavily criticised the governments of several other European Union countries over the decision not to start EU accession talks with Croatia in March. Hungary is one of the biggest supporters within the EU of Croatia joining the organisation.
Croatia, which has the status of candidate country within the EU, said in 2004 that its target is to join the EU in 2007, along with Bulgaria and Romania, even though the EU has as of yet refused to start accession negotiations, which usually take in excess of two years. For this reason, the earliest Croatia could feasibly join is in early 2010, with accession negotiations ending in late 2007 and a further two full years during which the Accession Treaty is signed and the country prepares for final EU accession.
The country was scheduled to start negotiations in mid-March of this year, but these were postponed indefinitely by the EU, which accused Croatia of its alleged failure to co-operate fully with the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. The allegation lies on the fact that the EU believes Croatia knows information about the whereabouts of fugitive General Ante Gotovina, accused of ethnic cleansing against the Serbs. The Croatian government has repeatedly maintained that it knows nothing about Gotovina and therefore cannot extradite him to the Hague.
While Hungary wanted negotiations to start in March, a group of countries, led by the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands, said that the Southeastern European country is not yet prepared politically to start accession talks.
Hungary also said that it feels pressured by other EU governments to not support Croatia’s bid. Prime Minister Gyurcsány said that, “Some diplomats came to us saying that these sort of governments would not be happy if we support Croatia.” He went on to say that the case against Croatia starting negotiations is made up only of rumours and allegations without any evidence.
Croatia is home to a a sizeable minority of Hungarians. After fellow EU member Slovenia, Hungary’s closest partner country is Croatia. Economic co-operation between Hungary and Croatia is also quite large.
Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, along with several other Central European, Baltic and Mediterranean countries.