Report from the Third Meeting of the EU-Croatia Joint Consultative Committee

The third meeting of the EU-Croatia Joint Consultative Committee was held in Vienna on 16 April 2008. The main topic of the meeting was the Chapter 19 of pre-accession negotiations with the European Union, entitled Social Policy and Employment.
The EU-Croatia Joint Consultative Committee was founded in February 2007. It consists of 6 representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee and 6 representatives from Croatia (employers’ associations, trade unions and other civil society organizations). The third group from Croatia is represented by Lidija Pavić Rogošić from the association ODRAZ and Tomislav Goll from the Union of Associations of People with Dystrophy Croatia. The Committee aims to establish supplementary forms of dialogue between the EU and Croatia, foster public discussions on implications of Croatian membership in the EU as well as contribute to strengthening civil society by promoting dialogue between economic and social interest groups. The Committee’s fields of activity include all economic and social questions related to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
 
At the beginning of the meeting, Committee’s co-chairmen, Ms. Lidija Horvatić and Ms. Anne-Marie Sigmund, and Mr. Wolfgang Tritremmel from the Association of Industrials Austria welcomed the participants. Mr. Tritremmel supported Croatian accession to the EU. After that, the participants were addressed by Marina Gašpar Lukič on behalf of the Croatian Ministry of Economy, Labor and Entrepreneurship and Tatjana Kovačič from the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in the Republic of Austria who spoke on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the EU. Ms. Gašpar Lukić reported that Croatian negotiating positions for the Chapter 19 were adopted in accordance with the National Action Plan, whereas Ms. Kovačič stressed the Slovenian desire that Croatia will meet all the accession criteria and thus become the 28th EU member state.
Katja de Sadeller from DG Enlargement of the European Commission and Jasna Ognajnovac, the Deputy Head of the Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the EU presented the current state of affairs of pre-accession negotiations between the EU and Croatia. During the discussion, the participants praised the progress that Croatia achieved in the recent period. So far, 16 negotiating Chapters were opened, two of which are being contemporary closed (Chapter 25: Science and Research and Chapter 26: Education and Culture). Moreover, Croatia has adopted the negotiating positions for another five chapters which are expected to be opened prior to the end of the Slovenian Presidency. The Committee also called for efficient continuation of work within other chapters.
After that, the Chapter 19: Social Policy and Employment was discussed. At the beginning of the discussion, Mr. Luce Jahier and Ms. Lidija Horvatić, members of the Committee, presented their reports. Lidija Pavić-Rogošić pointed out that development of social economy and non-for-profit entrepreneurship are given a special attention within the National Strategy for the Creation of an Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development from 2006-2011 and Operational Implementation Plan. She also stressed that an insufficient focus is given to civil sector in terms of both opportunities of employment and partnership in implementation of policies and documents such as Joint Inclusion Memorandum. Tomislav Goll spoke about The National Strategy for Equalization of Possibilities for Persons with Disabilities from 2007 to 2015, which aims at the progress and further strengthening of protection of rights of people with disabilities and children with developmental difficulties. He also accentuated the problem of discrimination of people with disabilities in regard to the cause of the disability and differences in terms of accession to medical services. As for the employment of people with disabilities a problem of inconsistency of regulations occurs, which refers in particular to the inconsistency between the Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of People with Disabilities Act on the one hand, and the Labor Act and Employment Act on the other. Mr. Tomislav Goll’s presentation was followed by the conclusions as follows:
  • Croatian authorities should intensify their efforts in all areas of negotiations and, in so doing, call upon the EU institutions to provide them a greater support with a view to accelerate negotiations within the Chapter 19 and successfully concluding them by the end of this year.
  • Croatian authorities should intensify their efforts in strengthening administrative capacities and implementation of laws in co-operation with social partners in the area of social policy and employment.
  • Croatian authorities should finish national anti-discrimination plan and carry on with the indispensable reform of the Ombudsman’ Office in the shortest time possible.
  • All Croatian stakeholders should make an agreement in regard to the protection of women during the time of pregnancy and motherhood.
  • All Croatian stakeholders should resolve all open questions in regard to the improvement of the quality of social dialogue and its efficiency.
  • All Croatian stakeholders should use every opportunity to participate in a wider civil dialogue.
 
After that, a member of the Inclusion Europe Committee, Zdenka Petrović, presented the state-of-affairs of inclusion of people with intellectual difficulties in Croatia as well as the implementation of the Convention of People with Intellectual Difficulties. During the discussion, the participants underscored a need for provision of support with respect to the individual needs of people with disabilities as well as their relatives.
Krešimir Čosić, a member of Croatian Parliament, presented activities of the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee. Participants expressed their desire for the future co-operation between the two committees including a regular exchange of information on current activities. It was suggested that the co-chairmen of the Joint Consultative Committee would regularly present their work to the members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
In the future process of monitoring of pre-accession negotiations, the Joint Consultative Committee will pay attention to the question of consumer protection and health (Chpater 28), the concept of the civil and social dialogue as well as the question of gender equality. It was concluded that these issues will be dealt with during the next meeting which will be held in October 2008 in Croatia.