[JURIST] The Croatian government signed a treaty [press release, PDF] Friday to finalize its accession into the European Union [official website]. Croatia will now officially become the twenty-eighth member of the EU in 2013. The signing ceremony consisted of speeches by leaders of the EU and Croatia, as well as signing of the treaty by the 27 other member countries. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a speech [text] delivered at the ceremony:
Croatia today is very different to the country that applied for accession a decade ago.It is ready to shoulder the substantial responsibilities of EU membership. It meets the Copenhagen political criteria, which were always a particular focus of the Commission's work. Ensuring that democratic principles, fundamental rights and the rule of law are respected and further strengthened was and is vitalfor us but even more so for Croatia's own development and prosperity. This reform momentum now needs to be maintained.Croatia will now serve as an active observer of the EU until its membership begins in 2013.
The EU gave final approval [JURIST report] to Croatian membership in June after six years of negotiations. The EU suspended accession talks [JURIST report] in 2005 when it felt Croatia was not cooperating fully with International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [JURIST report] investigations into war crimes against its former military officers. Talks of accession were resumed later that year, when the ICTY determined Croatia was cooperating [JURIST report] with investigations.