Croatia is set to take another step towards the European Union this week, opening three more chapters in its membership negotiations and closing another couple, diplomats said Monday, dpa reported.
Croatia started talks in late 2005 and is aiming to conclude them before the end of the year. That could pave the way for EU membership around 2012 or 2013, considering the time necessary for ratification of its Treaty of Accession by the bloc's existing states.
Sources from the Spanish presidency of the EU told the German Press Agency dpa that the Balkan country is expected to start talks on Wednesday on Competition, Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and Foreign, Security and Defence policy.
"They are the last three chapters to be opened," a diplomat stressed.
At the same time, closure of a couple of chapters would leave Croatia to complete work on only 13 of the 33 technical dossiers in which EU entry talks are subdivided. Another two more general chapters would be worked through in the final stages of negotiations.
Diplomats were also discussing the possibility of opening one chapter with Turkey, another EU hopeful that started talks at the same time as Croatia but is facing far bigger political and technical hurdles to its membership bid.
Negotiations are complicated by a long-standing row over Cyprus, as well as by France and Germany's insistence that Turkey should be offered a less ambitious "privileged partnership" rather than full EU membership, due to the difficulty of integrating such a large country.