Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Croatia Nato-entry

Valentina Pop,

EU Observer, March 4, 2009

Slovenia's potential referendum on Croatian Nato accession is also likely to come up at the ministerial meeting on Thursday at the Nato headquarters, meant to set out the main issues for the upcoming anniversary summit of the alliance from 2-4 April in Strasbourg and Kehl.

The US ambassador to the alliance still hoped "all our Nato allies" would ratify the accession of both Albania and Croatia in time for the summit.

However, the Dutch ambassador to Nato, Herman Schaper, maintained a more reserved line.

"What can we do about it? A referendum in Slovenia is not something we can oppose. We had hoped to be able to welcome both Croatia and Albania at the summit, but we're not sure anymore that that's possible," Mr Schaper told this website.

Considered a mere formality after the heads of state gave their green light at a Nato summit in Bucharest last year, the ratification of Croatia's accession protocol has now been delayed in Slovenia after two nationalist groups blocked the procedure by filing an application for a referendum on the issue.

The two parties now have at least five weeks to collect signatures from Slovenian citizens, while the Nato summit is only six weeks away. The groups said they might withdraw their initiative if Slovenian lawmakers pass a law on the country's sea border dispute with Croatia, an issue which also affects Zagreb's EU accession track.

"One of the conditions that were set out in the 90s for the countries who wanted to join Nato was not to bring unsolved bilateral issues and then to use your position in the allience to shut out others. Unfortunately, we have seen some of that", Dan Hamilton, director of the Washington-based Center for Transatlantic Relations and a former official in President Bill Clinton's administration told EUobserver.

Macedonia's Nato bid was also blocked by a bilateral dispute with Greece, while Nato-EU cooperation was hindered by the Turkish-Cypriot issue, Mr Hamilton added.

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