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Croatia Judiciary Reform Still Needed Ahead of 2013 EU Entry

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Croatia still needs to improve its judicial system, competition and human-rights policies as it prepares to join the European Union in July 2013, the European Commission said.

While Croatia has “continued to make progress” in implementing EU legislation, “further efforts” are necessary in judicial efficiency as well as justice, freedom and security, the Brussels-based commission said in a report today.

The Adriatic Sea nation is set to become the 28th member of the world’s largest trading bloc nine years after Slovenia became the first former Yugoslav republic to join the bloc. Croatia, trying to emerge from a recession, will receive hundreds of millions of euros in EU regional and infrastructure development funds.

“For Croatia, this is the finale, no doubt about that,” European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said in Brussels.

Fule outlined 10 areas in which Croatia needs to concentrate, such as completing the sale of state-owned shipyards, implementing a fresh set of measures to strengthen the judiciary and improving conflict-of-interest and freedom-of-information laws.

“It is essential that Croatia sharpens its focus to ensure that its preparations are completed on time,” the commission said in the report, adding that a final assessment on the country will be presented in Spring 2013.

Once Croatia becomes a full EU member, there will be no further monitoring, EU Ambassador to Zagreb Paul Vandoren told reporters.

Policy-Area Talks

Croatia has completed talks on policy areas including agriculture, environmental protection, fisheries and trade. It improved competition by selling state-subsidized, unprofitable shipyards and started reforms in education, government administration and health care.

“This is a positive report,” President Ivo Josipovic said on state radio. “It merely outlines a list of things Croatia still needs to do.”

Croatian authorities in the past years investigated hundreds of corruption cases, targeting government officials and ruling-party members, including former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who is on trial for abuse of power and corruption.

Croatia also had to overcome the effects of the Balkan wars during the breakup of Yugoslavia that devastated the region’s economy and led to the creation of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at

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