Croatia has received strong support from the European Union (EU) for its plan to become a member of the Schengen Area. The Croatian Minister of the Interior, Davor Bozinovic, met with the EU Citizenship Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos in Brussels to discuss Croatia’s progress in meeting the required criteria.
Mr Bozinovic said: “After meeting Mr Avramopoulos, I can say that Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area is a shared interest of Croatia and the European Commission.”
He said the EU recognized the importance of what Croatia had been doing for European security and that Croatia had created conditions to enable the Schengen Area to restore the values which had existed before the migrant crisis.
Croatia has long borders with non-EU countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro which makes it challenging to control immigration. If Croatia does join the Schengen Area it will be on the frontline as the region has one, shared, external border. Croatia therefore needs to meet specific criteria before it becomes a member.
Strengthening and investing in border security
The Ministry of the Interior said it had continued to invest in improving the capacity of the border police, including providing training and technical equipment. Croatia has also been making efforts to meet the other criteria, including laws regarding data protection and firearms.
Bozinovic thanked Avramopoulos for the extra funding Croatia has received from the EU to help it strengthen its border. Croatia hopes its efforts will eventually be rewarded with the decision to allow it to join the Schengen. They want the decision to be made before it takes over the chairmanship of the Council of the European Union in 2020.
Božinović and Avramopoulos discussed immigration into Europe from the Western Balkans. They agreed on the importance of a comprehensive unilateral approach to migration and Avramopoulos promised further financial support in the future.
Croatia’s accession to the European Union
The Croatian Government will hope that the process of joining the Schengen will be quicker than the length of time it took them to join the EU.
Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003 and the decision was granted in the following year by the European Council. However, border and immigration issues were a complication and slowed the process.
Slovenia blocked Croatia’s attempt to join over long-standing border issues, particularly the Piran Bay boundary. Slovenia subsequently accepted the ruling of United Nations arbitrators which resolved the issue
Negotiations between the EU and Croatia continued until 2011 when the Treaty of Accession was signed. A referendum was held in January 2012 and 66% voted in favour. Croatia eventually became a part of the EU on 1 July 2013, ten years after the initial application.