Croatia made progress in its efforts to join the European Union on Monday, wrapping up talks with the bloc in one policy area, but doubts remained over its ability to finish the process this year.
The former Yugoslav republic hopes to end accession negotiations in 2010 and become a member of the 27-state bloc in 2012. On Monday, EU governments agreed to close talks related to the free movement of goods.
"At this stage, this chapter does not require further negotiations," EU governments said in a statement.
All candidates to join the EU have to prove to the bloc that their legislation and policies are in line with EU rules.
Zagreb has yet to start negotiations in three policy areas where talks are likely to be tough: foreign policy, judiciary and competition. The Balkan has so far closed 18 out of 33 negotiation chapters.
Underscoring concerns about delays, the EU's enlargement chief last week called Croat negotiation targets a "challenge".
Before joining the EU, Croatia has to cut subsidies to ailing industries, particularly its loss-making shipyards. It also has to show good efforts in fighting corruption and cooperate well with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Three Croat generals are on trial in the court.
ReutersLast Mod: 19 Nisan 2010, 22:45