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At the close of the EU-Croatia Stabilisation and Association Council, held in Luxembourg on 26 April 2005, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and current President of the Council of the European Union, Jean Asselborn, issued the following statement:
"This was the first EU-Croatia Stabilisation and Association Council, following the entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 1 February 2005. We restated the Council decision of June 2004, accepting Croatia as a candidate for membership of the European Union, and the Council’s conclusions of March 2005. The European Union is ready to open accession negotiations as soon as the Council observes full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Cooperation with the ICTY is a clear and unavoidable precondition. Such cooperation goes through The Hague, not Luxembourg or Brussels. The keys for opening accession negotiations are in the hands of the Croatian authorities.
The Council reviewed the progress made by Croatia in the framework of the stabilisation and association procedure and welcomed the adoption by Croatia of a plan of action for European integration (in response to European partnership).
Progress has been made in particular in the very important area of the return of refugees; it will be necessary to continue along this path so that every pertaining questions may be resolved before the end of next year. The same is true of the judiciary, the reform of which represents a sizeable task.
As for the economy, successes should be mentioned in terms of macroeconomic stability, but fiscal consolidation needs to be pursued with determination."
In conclusion, Minister Asselborn emphasised that "Croatia is on the right path - notable progress can be recorded in several areas. However this is only the beginning of a process. I am convinced of the determination of the Croatian government to continue on this path and implement a programme of ambitious reforms in order to qualify to join the EU as soon as possible."
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