– verbatim report of proceedings –
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues,
A mere decade and a half after war, grave human rights violations and displacement, we’re integrating Croatia into the great European peace project. Croatia is historically and also culturally a deeply European country. Now it will become part of our political family. I think all parties will agree that although this debate may be unspectacular and low-key, the outcome is historic. We congratulate you, Ambassador, as well as the Croatian people.
Croatia has undertaken great efforts to build up its state institutions, and since its accession application in 2005 it has geared its development in the political, economic and legal fields towards European Union standards. When it came to fulfilling the criteria and conditions for membership, there were – indeed are – no concessions. As a full member of the European Union, Croatia will be subject to the general monitoring mechanisms. I welcome the assurances given by the Croatian Government that it won’t let up in its reform efforts after accession. This is not the end point in a development. The development will continue.
Croatia’s accession shows that the European Union’s appeal is undiminished. For Europe isn’t just about crisis. The prospect of joining Europe drives the motor of reform in our neighbourhood. Those of you who have been a member of this House for some time will remember some of the debates we’ve had on the Balkans. We’ve certainly had cause for commiseration on occasions. We’ve often spoken of the wars, of the thousands of fatalities. We’ve spoken of the many displaced and of the refugees, some of whom came to our country. Just think of the debates in the 1990s, for example those debates we had in the old Bundestag in Bonn. That we’ve come so far is a source of great joy for me and, I believe, for all members of this House.
The message which goes out to all of Europe’s citizens today is that Europe is attractive.