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Croatia is expected to join the EU in July 2013 – the second former Yugoslav state to do so. A Croatia Accession Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, would allow the UK to ratify Croatia’s accession treaty. All existing EU Member States must ratify the accession treaty before Croatia can join the EU. There will not be a referendum in the UK.

The Bill would also cover the Protocols to the Lisbon Treaty put forward by the Czech and Irish Governments, and the proposed decision to maintain the number of EU Commissioners at one per Member State, although these are not part of the accession treaty.

The European Commission is still monitoring Croatia’s progress, with particular attention to the judiciary and corruption (dealt with under a new negotiating ‘chapter’) and privatising the shipbuilding industry. The UK and some other countries are likely to wait until they see the results of the Commission’s autumn 2012 report on Croatia before they ratify the treaty. Despite some political pressure for a speedy accession, the ‘conditional’ accession of Bulgaria and Romania before those countries were fully ready is still in people’s minds.

Although the European Commission is satisfied that Croatia’s reforms are now secure and that it will be ready to join the EU by July 2013, some questions remain for the UK and other Member States. Are issues around the judiciary and corruption sufficiently resolved? Can Croatia afford to join the EU – and can the EU afford Croatia? Should controls be placed on immigration from Croatia, and if so to what extent?

In the light of its experience with Croatia, the European Commission is thinking about how to improve the way it monitors how candidate countries implement reforms. But no other country is likely to join the EU in the next few years.

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