"EU policy gives Croatia power over membership hopefuls"

EU's recommendations for the Western Balkans mean that Croatia has a hold over all its neighbors who wish to join the EU, Croatian media are reporting.

Source: B92, Jutarnji list
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(Getty Images, file)
(Getty Images, file)

These reports cite those published in neighboring Slovenia, which state that the reason for the situation is the issue of border disputes.

The Croatian media are singling out as an important point from the newest EU enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans that the issue of future membership will be conditioned with the solving of border disputes.

In this context, EC President Jean Claude Juncker is cited as saying that the dispute between Croatia and Slovenia - who are already EU members - must be urgently resolved, and that it is a bilateral, but also a European issue.

These reports then stress that Juncker also said there can be no further accession for Western Balkan countries without border disputes having first been resolved.

Former Slovenian Ambassador to Serbia Borut Suklje is quoted as telling Slovenian website siol.net that the new strategy and the warning about open border issues was not made with Slovenia in mind - because that country has no problem with respecting the rule of law, court decisions, and arbitration decisions - instead, he said, it was a message to Croatia.

Croatian daily Jutarnji List further cited Suklje as saying that he expected pressure to now be exerted on Croatia - a country that has unsolved border issues with all its neighbors except Hungary - all the more so because one of these neighbors is Serbia, "and the EU is interested in making it an EU member."

Slovenian daily Vecer, cited by Jutarnji List, had a sharp commentary, saying that EU's new strategy was wrong, because it would lead to Croatia holding hostage the whole region.

Although the strategy states enlargement as its priority, the report continued, the European Commission has put so many hurdles on the road to membership that enlargement is not realistic at all in the foreseeable future - and Juncker "spiced it all up by saying there would be no enlargement until all border disputes have been resolved - and that will affect especially Serbia."

"This way, the whole Balkans could become Zagreb's hostage. Croatia has not solved border issues with any of its neighbors, except Hungary. That means it is potentially in conflict with Serbia regarding the border on the Danube, with Montenegro because of the sea border and Prevlaka, and with Bosnia-Herzegovina along almost the entire border. One could say descriptively that Croatia now has the entire Balkans 'by the balls'," the newspaper said.

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