The European Parliament's Rapporteur on Croatia, Hannes Swoboda, said in Brussels on Wednesday that Croatia's EU entry on January 1, 2012 was only theoretically possible, adding that one year was a very short time for the ratification of the accession treaty and that therefore Croatia was more likely to join the bloc in mid-2012 or early 2013.
If the goal of completing the negotiations in 2010 is achieved, it would be theoretically possible for Croatia to join at the start of 2012, but that will be hard to achieve because ratification of the accession treaty within a year would be a huge task, so its accession could be moved to mid-2012 or the beginning of 2013, Swoboda told a press conference after the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee adopted his draft resolution on Croatia's progress.
Swoboda considers realistic the possibility of Croatia wrapping up accession negotiations this year and believes that the accession treaty could be signed by the end of this year or at the start of the next.
In preparing a financial package for the first two years of Croatia's membership, the European Commission started from the working assumption that Croatia would join the EU in January 2012.
Negotiations with Croatia can be completed in 2010 if the country continues more resolutely reforms on strengthening its public administration and judiciary. We encourage Croatia to combat corruption vigorously and to fully cooperate with the Hague war crimes tribunal, allowing it access to all requested documents for use in war crimes trials.
Swoboda emphasised that Croatia's success was extremely important for the integration of other Western Balkan countries into the European Union.
Bernd Posselt, a German Christian Democrat member of the European Parliament, has a similar opinion.
"Croatia's accession, for which it is high time to reach conclusion, will send a positive signal to the countries in its neighbourhood", Posselt said in a written statement, released after the adoption of the draft resolution.
"If things proceed at the current pace, as we all expect them to, this will be the last Progress Report that we will have on our table," he added.
Posselt was satisfied that the Committee rejected a Green initiative which spoke about a "Serbo-Croatian" language.
Posselt, who represents the Bavarian CSU in the European Parliament, also commented on Tuesday's address to the Foreign Affairs Committee by the Hague war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz.
"I am convinced that Croatia is well on its way to dispelling any remaining hesitations that Mr Brammertz might have with regard to the country's efforts to deliver on requests from the Prosecutor's Office," Posselt said, warning Brammertz "not to misuse his role in a political way, as his predecessor Carla del Ponte did."