The European Parliament gave the ‘green light’ to the accession of Croatia to the European Union – but with several caveats including one on gay, lesbian and transgender rights.
MEPs adopted the accession a resolution by a 564 to 38 margin. It clears the way for Croatia to become the 28th member country of the European Union, possible as early as July 2013.
Among the caveats, the text of the resolution calls on Croatia to combat homophobia and prevent homophobic violence. The Parliament’s call follows this year’s Pride march in Split, which was subject to violent attacks.
In the text adopted today, the European Parliament says it “is deeply concerned by the violence against participants in the LGBT pride march in Split on 11 June 2011 and the inability of the Croatian authorities to protect the participants”.
Additionally, the Parliament “urges the Croatian authorities fully to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed and to develop strategies for preventing similar incidents in the future”, and “calls on the Croatian authorities quickly to adopt and implement an action plan against homophobia”.
Commenting after the vote was Marije Cornelissen, a Dutch MEP and a member of the Intergroup. She was the author of the paragraph on LGBT rights and witnessed in person the problems at Split Pride last summer.
“Croatia will be welcome in the European Union in 2013, but until then – and once it has become a Member State – it will need to pay close attention to the rights of minorities,” she said.
Ms Cornelissen added: “During Split Pride earlier this year, local authorities were unable to protect me and other participants from violent demonstrators. I look forward to the day when Croatia, with the help of other European countries including the Netherlands, will adopt an action plan against homophobia and transphobia.”
Ulrike Lunacek MEP (Austria), co president of the European Parliament’s all-party ‘Intergroup’ on LGBT Rights said: “The European Parliament has consistently called for the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Europe, including in the Western Balkans.
“The work of some local and national authorities in Croatia is slowly leading to a better situation for everyone, but more is needed to ensure LGBT people can live free from fear and discrimination in South-Eastern Europe.”
MEPs greeted the accession decision with a standing ovation in the plenary chamber.
“Today is a good day for Croatia and the EU”, Parliament President Jerzy Buzek (Poland) Said after the vote. “The European Parliament had thrown its full weight behind Croatia’s EU accession. We have given a clear sign of the extent to which the EU wants Croatia.
“Croatians will soon be able to show their support for the EU through a referendum,” he emphasised.
The next step will be for Croatia and the EU Member States to sign the accession treaty at the 8-9 December European Council meeting, after which it can be ratified by all 27 Member States. Croatia is expected to join the EU on 1 July 2013.
MEPs emphasised that they will follow the pre-accession monitoring process and ask the Commission to keep Parliament abreast of the extent to which the Croatian authorities honour the commitments made in the negotiations.
While acknowledging Croatia’s preparedness for accession, MEPs invited Zagreb to tackle remaining challenges, especially concerning judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime.
They urge Croatia to step up its efforts to prosecute war crimes, comply with all International Criminal Tribunal recommendations for the former Yugoslavia and encourage the return of war refugees, especially Serbs.