Since 1st July 2013 the work of the Croatian Parliament (Sabor) and especially European Affairs Committee has significantly changed. European Affairs Committee of the Croatian Parliament was founded with the entry of Croatian into the European Union in July 2013, as a successor to the European Integration Committee. The latter existed for 13 years, since 2000, and was a parliamentary committee whose competence was to monitor compliance of Croatian legislation with the European Acquis. Monitoring of accession negotiations was in the scope of another committee, the National Committee, which was the result of the national consensus on the strategic importance of EU membership for Croatia.
While the European Integration Committee was a passive transferor of the existing European legislation, the European Affairs Committee participates in the creation of the new Acquis. This is done directly and indirectly. Directly, the European Affairs Committee exercises powers given to national parliaments in the Treaty of Lisboan. This concerns subsidiary checks and involvement in political dialogue on the basis of draft European documents delivered directly to the Croatian Parliament, as well as other national parliaments of EU Member States. Indirectly, the European Affairs Committee may affect the EU decision making process through scrutiny of national positions on particular documents. For this purpose annual Work Programme for the Consideration of the Positions of the Republic of Croatia is adopted by the European Affairs Committee. Committee also participates in the nomination procedure of Croatian candidates for the institutions and bodies of the European Union. As it is customary in all EU Member States’ national parliaments, the European Affairs Committee as a rule exercises the powers of the Croatian Parliament as a whole in the area of European affairs.
And while the new Committee spends most of its time deliberating on new EU legislation or has hearings on strategic EU policies, EU enlargement and “Europeization” of the region is still in the focus of our members. Croatian Parliament has been dedicated to cooperation with the countries of the region and to provision of assistance in pre-accession process. Eventual membership of all the countries in the region is in Croatian interest and Croatia will be among the most active advocates of future enlargements.
With the EU membership Croatian Parliament can use more models and channels to represent the interests of the Western Balkans countries on the European level. One of them is Interparliamentary cooperation which is mainly realised through COSAC – Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union. COSAC has proven to be a lively forum for the exchange of information, experiences and best practices among national parliaments and European Parliament. COSAC meetings are attended by representatives of European integration Committees of candidate countries, who participate as observers. European Affairs Committee of the Croatian Parliament regularly exchanges views with colleagues from the Western Balkans states on the margins of COSAC, strongly supporting the continuation of the EU’s enlargement policy as one of its most successful policies. In that sense, on the occasion of the plenary COSAC meeting in Rome in December 2014, Croatian delegation proposed an amendment to the Contributions of the LII COSAC addressing the need to give impetus to enlargement policy.
On the regional level European Integration Committee was a member of COSAP, a conference established on the model of COSAC, gathering European integration committees of national parliaments of countries covered by the Stabilisation and Association Process. Members of the European Affairs Committee continue to participate in COSAP meetings as special guests whenever possible. During the last COSAP meeting held in Belgrade earlier this month further cooperation was agreed upon between the European Affairs Committee and the European Integration Committee of the Serbian National Assembly, showing that such meetings provide fertile ground for deepening of the interparliamentary cooperation. In the case of Montenegro our Committee held ten bilateral meetings in the last two years with different delegations from Podgorica with the purpose to exchange experience in different matters concerning negotiation chapters (especially Chapter 23.) and mechanisms of cooperation with European Parliament. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina our Parliament is devoted to full cooperation in capacity building projects that can help BiH more easily accept and implement the Stabilisation Agreement.
Croatian Parliament is also an active member of Croatia’s Centre for Excellence, a governmental body that offers knowledge, experience and hands-on-help to future members of the EU and through which substantial exchange of experience already happened with Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, BiH and Kosovo.
In the end let me address one more question – enlargement in the program of the new European Commission. The Commission president Juncker’s announcement of no further enlargements in the next five years is more of a reflection of current statuses of pre-accession processes in the Western Balkans than of EU’s lack of will to enlarge. Taking into account the fact that only the process of ratification of the accession treaty lasts between one and two years, it is clear that even without Juncker’s announcement, neither of current candidate countries would be able to become a Member State before the end of Juncker Commission’s term of office. History of EU is history of enlargement and enlargement is also to most successful policy of the Union that will not end in any foreseeable time in the future. Western Balkans countries are the next to “come in” and on their European path they can rely on Croatia since negotiations process can be lengthy and sometimes candidate countries can feel “pressured” from the Brussels and even feel that they are treated unjustly. In those moments our doors are open for help and advice.
Author: Daniel Mondekar MP, Chairman of the European Affairs Committee of the Croatian Parliament