BRUSSELS: The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted a resolution to conclude Croatia's EU membership negotiations in the first half of 2011.
The resolution was adopted by 48 votes to 43 with 52 abstentions. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said Croatia has made substantial progress in introducing the reforms needed to join the EU but more reforms are still needed.
The fight against corruption, support for returning refugees and the restructuring of shipyards are among the remaining challenges facing the country before becoming the EU's 28th Member State.
MEPs remarked that Croatia has achieved major efforts in changing the constitution, reforming the judiciary and cooperating more closely with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
However, Croatia has not responded to the requests of important military documents by the ICTY. The resolution remarked that before granting the EU membership, Croatia must proceed quickly with the prosecution of war crimes and improve witness protection.
The Parliament considered that corruption is a serious problem in the Balkan country despite the government's efforts to fight corruption and prosecute two former ministers and a former prime minister. Few corruption cases have come to court and most remain at the investigation stage.
MEPs considered that progress has also been made in the field of refugee returns and diminishing public hostility towards returning Serbs but more effort is needed to help returnees to acquire permanent resident status, improve house reconstruction and launch social integration projects for refugees.
The biggest challenge for Croatia's membership is selling the benefits of being an EU Member State to a skeptical Croatian population. Most of Croatian citizens think Croatia's EU membership would not benefit the country, according to a Eurobarometer survey.
Croatia will need to put EU membership proposals to a referendum. In addition, parliamentary elections will take place in November 2011.
(BNO NEWS )