Archive pour la catégorie ‘Environment’

The European Union is funding two new projects for the study of greenhouse gas emissions

Lundi 19 décembre 2011

Both projects AMITRAN and INGOS are designed to study concretely the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the projects, titled AMITRAN (’Assessment methodologies for ICT in multimodal transport from user behaviour to CO2 reduction’) aims to scientifically underpin carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions estimations by developing a methodology to assess the impact of ICT (information and communication technologies) and ITS (intelligent transport systems) on transport sector CO2 emissions.

Bringing together partners from Belgium, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Romania, AMITRAN received EUR 1 900 000 of funding as part of the ‘ICT’ Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

ICT measures can help transport become less carbon intensive and more efficient as well as increase safety, manage transport demand, ensure transit reliability and improve traffic flow. ICT use in the transport sector includes its application in navigation and travel information systems, route advice to supporting drivers in adopting eco-driving behaviour, logistics and fleet management systems and optimised traffic light phasing at junctions, reserving parking spaces and paying road tolls.

The final result of the project will be a publicly available checklist and handbook that can be used for future projects. They will serve as a reference in assessing the ITS benefits in terms of CO2 emission reductions for passenger transport and road, rail, and ship freight transport.

But while CO2 attracts the most media attention, the harmful effects of other greenhouse gases must also be dealt with as a matter of urgency. That is why another new EU-funded initiative is working towards finding accurate measurements of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

INGOS (’Integrated non-CO2 greenhouse gas observation system’) is funded in part by almost EUR 8 million under FP7’s ‘Infrastructures’ Theme and brings together partner institutions from 14 participating countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

So far, the figures for these greenhouse gases have to a large extent been calculated based on estimations. INGOS aims to provide actual measurements of emissions in the participating countries.

Measurements from towers, peaks, masts and other relevant points around Europe are going to be carried out, and the network will also work with computer models to provide an accurate picture of where and how much is being emitted.

The launch of these two new projects shows that whether on or off Europe’s transport thoroughfares, accurate measurements of all greenhouse gases are essential for meeting the EU’s climate action targets. Both AMITRAN and INGOS aim to move forward research into one of the most important and pressing challenges the EU faces today.

The European Commission has proposed the ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by 60% for the period from 1990 to 2050. But with present transport emissions levels currently 27% above 1990 levels, there remains a lot of work to be done.

Parliament proposes a single European transport space for 2020

Vendredi 16 décembre 2011

Parliament is proposing a single legislation for safety and environment for road transport.

The “roadmap to a single European transport area” with figures, as approved by Parliament, supplements the long-run view of a Commission white paper on the future of EU transport policy.

Reducing road deaths and the carbon footprint

The resolution invites the Commission to propose an action plan to halve road deaths and serious injuries (2010-2020) and calls for measures to cut CO2 emissions from road transport by 20%, maritime transport by 30% and aviation by 30% from 1990 levels. The noise and energy consumption of trains should also be reduced by 20% from 1990 levels. Overall, transport emissions should drop by 20 % over the period 2009-2020.

Polluter pays principle to apply to all modes of transport

Faced with a proliferation of national approaches, MEPs ask the Commission to draw up a “standardised EU methodology to calculate the carbon footprint of transport and logistics operations”.

MEPs also ask the Commission to table a proposal by 2014 for the “internalisation of external costs” for all modes of transport, with a view to including pollution, noise and congestion costs in the price paid by the user. Member States should use the revenue that this generates to fund sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure costs, says the resolution.

Targeted investments to link road, rail and navigation

Parliament asks the Commission to table, by 2013, a quantitative analysis of transport infrastructure, the density of the transport network and the quality of transport services in all EU Member States, with a view to determining future priorities. Meanwhile, it asks that the EU concentrate more resources on modernising the networks of new Member States, so that by 2025, their transport infrastructure reaches the level of the rest of the EU.

To increase the number of multimodal connecting platforms along navigable waterways and railways by 20% between 2010 and 2020 they should be allocated at least 15% of funding devoted to trans-European (TEN-T) networks, says the resolution.

A majority of MEPs believe that Member States wishing to authorise the use of longer, heavier lorries on certain predetermined routes should be able to do so, provided that this does not compromise safety or damage road infrastructure.

Environment-friendly mobility and combined transport in towns

The EU should create incentives to develop safe transport infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in towns, so as to double the number of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers and promote the introduction of integrated electronic ticket systems for multimodal journeys, says the resolution. MEPs also ask that EuroVelo, the European long-distance cycle route network, be included in the TEN-T network.

Ensuring high-quality jobs and services

To ensure that opening up transport markets does not result in social dumping, MEPs stress the need to harmonise transport sector training and working conditions. In particular, they call for haulage drivers’ working hours and rest periods to be better enforced throughout the EU.

The resolution was passed with 523 votes in favour, 64 against and 37 abstentions.

Background

Transport services employ about 10 million people in the EU and generate about 5% of GDP. On average, transport accounts for 13.2% of household expenditure.

Freight will grow by 40%, and passenger numbers by 34%, between 2005 and 2030, say Commission forecasts.

The European Commission promotes public lighting with LED

Jeudi 15 décembre 2011

The European Commission adopted a Green Paper on the subject and opens a public consultation.

LED lighting is one of the most energy-efficient and versatile forms of lighting - saving up to 70% energy and money compared to other lighting technologies. Faster LED deployment will ensure the success of Europe’s lighting industry and help reduce energy use from lighting by 20% by 2020. But Europe also faces a number of challenges and more input is needed from citizens and businesses to refine the policy. To this end a consultation will run until 29 February 2012 to collect feedback on the Commission’s ideas.

LED lighting faces a number of challenges in the market: high purchase prices because it is a more sophisticated technology compared to the alternatives, lack of familiarity among potential users and a lack of common standards.

Key questions for the public consultation include:

Which actions would help to overcome existing barriers and accelerate LED deployment in Europe?
How to ensure good quality and safe LED products on the European market that meet consumer expectations
How to reinforce cooperation of the lighting sector with architects, lighting designers, electrical installers and the construction and buildings sectors
How can the EU best support entrepreneurship and competitiveness in the lighting sector?
Boosting energy saving LED-based lighting is a key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

Background

With the phasing out of the sale of traditional light bulbs in the EU by September 2012, in the next few years about 8 billion incandescent lamps in European homes, offices and streets will need to be replaced by more energy efficient lighting solutions. These include LED and organic LED (or OLED) lighting technologies also known as Solid State Lighting (SSL).

SSL offers both high quality light and visual performance and increasingly good design options.

SSL can drive innovation in the lighting and construction sectors and offers tremendous opportunities for our businesses – many of them SMEs – leading to jobs and growth in Europe.

The European Commission promotes eco innovation business

Jeudi 15 décembre 2011

Eco innovation is a priority of the Europe 2020 strategy.

The new Eco-Innovation Action Plan (EcoAP) will boost innovation that reduces pressure on the environment, and bridge the gap between innovation and the market. Eco-friendly technologies are good for business and help create new jobs, so eco-innovation is crucial to the economic competitiveness of Europe.

The EcoAP is one of the commitments of the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative, building on the 2004 Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP). It expands the focus from green technologies to the broader concept of eco-innovation, targeting specific bottlenecks, challenges and opportunities for achieving environmental objectives through innovation. The EcoAP includes actions both on the demand and supply side, on research and industry and on policy and financial instruments. The Plan recognizes the key role of environmental regulation as a driver of eco-innovation and foresees a review of environmental legislation. It also stresses the importance of research and innovation to produce more innovative technologies and bring them to the market. The Plan also puts emphasis on the international aspect of eco-innovation, and on better coordination of policies with international partners.

The Action Plan will accelerate eco-innovation across all sectors of the economy with well targeted actions. To help create stronger and more stable market demand for eco-innovation, it will take measures in the areas of regulatory incentives, private and public procurement and standards and it will mobilise support for Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve investment readiness and networking opportunities.

Key aspects of the new Action Plan include:

- Using environmental policy and legislation to promote eco-innovation;
- Supporting demonstration projects and partnering to bring promising, smart and ambitious operational technologies to market;
- Developing new standards to boost eco-innovation;
- Mobilising financial instruments and support services for SMEs;
- Promoting international co-operation;
- Supporting the development of emerging skills and jobs and related training programmes to match labour market needs; and
- Promoting eco-innovation through European Innovation Partnerships

Next Steps
Implementation of the plan will be via partnership between stakeholders, private and public sector, and the Commission. The upcoming mid-term financial review will provide a good opportunity to assess the achievement of the goals set in this Action Plan. New efforts will focus on product development and demonstration activities to fill the gap between technology and market uptake.

Background
Eco-Innovation is any form of innovation resulting in or aiming at significant and demonstrable progress towards the goal of sustainable development, through reducing impacts on the environment, enhancing resilience to environmental pressures, or achieving a more efficient and responsible use of natural resources.

European eco-industries are a significant economic sector with an annual turnover estimated at EUR 319 billion, or about 2.5 % of EU GDP.

The European Commission proposes a roadmap for energy by 2050

Jeudi 15 décembre 2011

The objective of the EU is to reduce 80% CO2 emissions by 2050.

How to achieve this without disrupting energy supplies and competitiveness is the question answered by the Energy Roadmap 2050 the Commission is presenting today. Based on the analysis of a set of scenarios, the document describes the consequences of a carbon free energy system and the policy framework needed. This should allow member states to make the required energy choices and create a stable business climate for private investment, especially until 2030.

The analysis is based on illustrative scenarios, created by combining in different ways the four main decarbonisation routes (energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear and CCS). None is likely to materialise but all scenarios clearly show a set of “no regrets” options for the coming years.

The Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies a number of elements which have positive impacts in all circumstances, and thus define some key outcomes such as:

- Decarbonisation of the energy system is technically and economically feasible. All decarbonisation scenarios allow achieving the emission reduction target and can be less costly than current policies in the long-run.

- Energy Efficiency and renewable energy are critical. Irrespective of the particular energy mix chosen, higher energy efficiency and important rising shares of renewables are necessary to meet the CO2 targets in 2050. The scenarios also show that electricity will play a greater role than now. Gas, oil, coal and nuclear also figure in all scenarios in different proportions, allowing Member States to keep flexible options in their energy mix provided a well connected internal market is achieved quickly.

- Early Investments cost less. Investment decisions for the necessary infrastructure up to 2030 must be taken now, as infrastructure built 30-40 years ago needs to be replaced. Acting immediately can avoid more costly changes in twenty years. The EU’s energy evolution requires anyway modernisation and much more flexible infrastructure such as cross border interconnections, “intelligent” electricity grids and modern low-carbon technologies to produce, transmit and store energy.

- Contain the increase of prices. The investments made now will pave the way for the best prices in the future. Electricity prices are bound to raise until 2030, but can fall thereafter thanks to lower cost of supply, saving policies and improved technologies. The costs will be outweighed by the high level of sustainable investment brought into the European economy, the related local jobs, and the decreased import dependency. All scenarios get to decarbonisation with no major differences in terms of overall costs or security of supply implications.

- Economies of scale are needed. A European approach will result in lower costs and secure supply compared to national parallel schemes. This includes a common energy market which should be completed by 2014.

Background

The aim of the roadmap is to achieve the low-carbon 2050 objectives while improving Europe’s competitiveness and security of supply. Member States are already planning national energy policies for the future, but it is necessary to join forces in coordinating their efforts within a broader framework. The Roadmap will be followed by further policy initiatives on specific energy policy areas in the coming years, starting with proposals on the internal market, renewable energy and nuclear safety next year.

The EC published in March 2011 the overall decarbonisation roadmap covering the whole economy. All sectors – power generation, transport, residential, industry and agriculture –were analysed. The Commission has also been preparing sectoral roadmaps, among which the Energy Roadmap 2050 is the last one, focusing on the whole energy sector.

The European Commission extended the challenge of wastewater treatment.

Mardi 13 décembre 2011

To comply with European regulations, water treatment generates large expenditures in infrastructure.

The aim is to ensure that human and industrial waste doesn’t adversely affect human health and the environment. The latest report on implementation of the Directive, for the period 2007/2008, shows that work is progressing well but that collection and treatment compliance rates could still improve. It reveals that most longstanding EU Member States (EU-15)1 maintained good standards of waste water treatment and improved on treatment of sensitive waters, while newer Members States (EU-12) improved on overall collection and treatment.

The main findings of the report are:

Most EU-15 urban waste water collection systems are very effective and capture 99% of their target waters
The total area designated as sensitive (eutrophic or at risk of becoming eutrophic), and requiring more stringent treatment, has increased from 68% to 73% since the last report. This could partially indicate an increase of eutrophic waters, but also that Member States better recognise and protect their sensitive waters.
There are still large variations regarding implementation of more stringent water treatment, but very high compliance rates have been reached in Austria, Netherlands and Germany; improvements were made in Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg and Sweden, and in the EU-12, especially in Lithuania.
Waste water treatment is well advanced in big cities, with more stringent treatment installations in place for 77% of such waste water. Some cities however still do not have adequate treatment, including four in the EU-15: Barreiro/Moita and Matosinhos in Portugal, Frejus in France, and Trieste in Italy

Next Steps
The Commission will assist Member States with financing projects using Cohesion Funds; also other EU institutions play an important role on financing, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB). Regarding enforcement, the Commission will take proactive steps to work with Member States when possible, but will also continue to take legal action against countries where implementation falls behind, especially in cases of serious implementation gaps and delays.

Background

The Urban Waste Water Directive requires waste water to be collected and treated in any area that generates the water pollution equivalent of a settlement of above 2000 people. There are almost 23,000 such areas in the EU 27, producing a total waste water pollution load of about 550 million population equivalents. Biological waste water treatment (‘secondary treatment’) is provided for in the Directive, and more stringent treatment is required for especially sensitive water areas that demand a higher level of protection.

For EU-15 Member States the Directive should have been be fully implemented at the time of the report, but EU-12 countries were granted extensions in their Accession Treaties. In 2007/08 Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia still had deadlines pending.

A Commission study in 2000 estimated that about €152 billion would be invested in waste water infrastructure over the period 1990-2010. EU funds have a key role in financing treatment and collection infrastructure, especially in the EU-12. The funds have previously helped countries such as Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece achieve impressive improvements since the 1990s, in some cases quadrupling figures for secondary treatment.

The EU improves compliance levels via strict enforcement actions: in 2007 for instance, the Commission followed up on UWWT court rulings against Belgium, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Spain.

This is the sixth UWWT Directive implementation reports. After 20 years, wastewater treatment situation in Europe has improved significantly.

The European Commission presents the new LIFE programme

Lundi 12 décembre 2011

The new program for 2014 will be more flexible and will have a larger budget.

New aspects of the future LIFE Programme include:

- Creation of a new sub-programme for Climate Action;
- Clearer definition of priorities with multi-annual work programmes adopted in consultation with the Member States;
- New possibilities to implement programmes on a larger scale through “Integrated projects” which can help mobilise other EU, national and private funds for environmental or climate objectives.

The sub-programme for Environment will support efforts in the following areas:

- “Environment and Resource Efficiency” will focus on more innovative solutions for better implementation of environment policy and integrating environmental objectives in other sectors;
- “Biodiversity” will develop best practices to halt biodiversity loss and restore ecosystem services, while keeping its primary focus on supporting Natura 2000 sites, especially via integrated projects consistent with Member States Prioritised Action Frameworks (as described in the Commission’s new paper on Financing Natura 2000);
- “Environmental Governance and Information” will promote knowledge sharing, dissemination of best practices, and better compliance, in addition to awareness raising campaigns.

The sub-programme for Climate Action covers the following areas:

- “Climate Change Mitigation” will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
- “Climate Change Adaptation” will focus on increasing resilience to climate change;
- “Climate Governance and Information” will focus on increasing awareness, communication, cooperation and dissemination on climate mitigation and adaptation actions.
Grants to finance projects will remain the Programme’s main type of intervention. Operating grants for NGOs and other bodies will still be possible, and there will also be scope for contributions to innovative financial instruments.

LIFE will adopt lighter and more flexible procedures.

Next Steps
The Commission hopes that the proposals will complete their passage through the European Parliament and the Council in time for the next programming period (2014-2020).

Background
The LIFE Programme is part of the Commission proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020, which sets out the budgetary framework and main orientations for the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Commission decided to address environment and climate action as an integral part of all the main instruments and interventions and in addition to the “mainstreaming” approach, it proposes to continue the LIFE Programme currently regulated by the LIFE+ Regulation. Combining mainstreaming with a specific instrument is designed to increase the coherence and added-value of the EU intervention.

Launched in 1992, the LIFE Programme is one of the spearheads of EU environmental funding. It has financed over 3,500 projects, contributing EUR 2.5 billion to environment protection. LIFE+, which started in 2007 and runs until 2013 with a budget of just above EUR 2.1 billion, mostly finances grants (these cover 78 % of the LIFE+ budget).

LIFE has played a significant role in the implementation of major EU environmental legislation such as the Habitats and Birds Directives, and the Water Framework Directive. The proposals for the new programme build upon evaluations of previous experience, and the results of recent public consultations. These show that eco-innovation projects in the area of climate change, water and waste have been most successful in achieving direct environmental benefits.

FP7 supports a marine renewable energy

Vendredi 9 décembre 2011

The MARINET initiative (”Marine renewables infrastructure network”) has a budget of 9 million euro.

Led by researchers at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) at University College Cork in Ireland, the project, funded as part of the ‘Infrastructures’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), will allow companies to carry out renewable energy testing at these centres at no extra cost.

The MARINET project, which launches its call for proposals this month and will run until 2015, will help remove some of the financial barriers that sometimes stand in the way of access to world-class European testing facilities. Under MARINET, companies and research groups will have access to facilities outside their own country. Testing will focus on checking concepts and devices in areas such as wave energy, tidal energy, offshore-wind energy and the environment. It is hoped that this project will play a part in accelerating widespread development of marine renewable energy.

Offshore renewable conversion systems are mostly at the pre-commercial stage of development. They comprise wave energy and tidal stream converters as well as offshore wind turbines for electrical generation. These devices require research to be undertaken at a series of scales along the path to commercialisation.

Each technology type is currently at a different stage of development, but each one also needs specific research infrastructures to facilitate and catalyse commercialisation. The aim of this project is to coordinate research and development at all scales (from small models through to prototype scales, from laboratory through to open sea tests), and to allow access for researchers and developers to facilities that are not universally available in Europe.

The MARINET network is made up of 42 testing facilities at 28 research centres in 11 European countries as well as in Brazil. By linking these marine renewable-energy testing facilities and using an agreed testing framework, this initiative now provides a clear path to commercialisation: it allows allowing users to seamlessly progress their device through each phase of testing. All participating centres will use common standards, conduct research to improve their own testing capability and provide training to enhance expertise in the field.

This focus on commercialisation is in line with the Commission’s objective to speed up the rate of research outcomes reaching the marketplace.

Over the course of the project, at least four calls for applications will be made. Potential users, who must work in an EU Member State or an associated Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) country, can now apply to access the facilities as part of this first call.

The Irish facilities, for example, will be based at HMRC, part of the new Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) which was launched recently by the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. There will be wave tank and electrical testing facilities located in Cork, and through the Galway Bay and Belmullet energy test sites of the Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), County Mayo will form part of the facilities on offer too.

Professor Tony Lewis from the HMRC warns companies not to miss out on this opportunity, and urges them to apply for the funding to access these facilities.
‘MARINET offers a unique opportunity to access these world-class European test facilities in order to validate and progress concepts at any stage of development, and to ultimately harness the untapped renewable energy resources that are abundant around the European coastline. This is a great opportunity to advance marine renewable research testing and commercial development.’

The other countries participating in the project are Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

The Commission proposes a reduction of vehicle noise

Vendredi 9 décembre 2011

The Commission proposes to reduce these nuisances in two stages

Noise limit values would be lowered in two steps of each 2 dB(A) for passenger cars, vans, buses and coaches. For trucks the reduction would be 1 dB(A) in the first step and 2 dB(A) in the second step. The first step is to apply two years after the publication of the text once approved by the EP and Member States and the second step is foreseen three years thereafter. Altogether, these measures will reduce vehicle noise nuisance by some 25%. In addition, the Commission intends to introduce a new and more reliable test method to measure sound emissions. Moreover it is proposed that electric and hybrid electric vehicles can be fitted optionally with sound generating devices which would make these cars safer. Noise emissions limits have not changed since 1996 despite increasing traffic.

The World Health Organisation concluded that traffic related noise may account for 1 million healthy years of life lost per year in Western Europe. Hence, reduction of traffic noise is essential to improve the health and quality of life of Europe’s citizens.

Today’s proposal will significantly reduce the levels of environmental noise and consequently the number of people affected by it.

Background
New noise limits measured with a new test method
The proposal on reducing vehicle noise includes passenger cars, vans (light commercial vehicles), buses, light trucks, coaches and heavy trucks. It will ensure that the noise levels of new vehicles will be measured by a new and more reliable test method.

To this end, so-called additional sound emission provisions (ASEP) will be included. These are preventive requirements which will ensure that the sound emissions of a vehicle under street driving conditions will not differ significantly from what can be expected from the type-approval test result for this specific vehicle.

Electric and hybrid electric vehicles
So-called ‘Approaching Vehicle Audible Systems’ requirements shall ensure that only adequate sound generating devices are used which will also lead to a harmonisation of the applied technology. The fitting as such would remain an option for the vehicle manufacturer. This will increase road safety and undoubtedly help avoiding road-accident injuries.

A global benefit
Having the same basic rules throughout the EU makes it easier to buy, sell and use vehicles in any Member State – and ensures equal health, safety and environmental standards across the EU.

With this proposal the current EU rules applicable to noise emissions from vehicles will be updated and further aligned with internationally recognised UN standards. This should enable to improve market access for European car manufacturers in those third countries which are contracting parties to the UNECE Agreement of 1958 and thus boost the competitiveness of European industry.

The proposal of the European Commission is now to be submitted to the European co-legislators, the European Parliament and to the Council.

European Council and Signing of the Accession Treaty with Croatia

Jeudi 8 décembre 2011

The leaders will discuss the economic strengthening of the eurozone, energy and the enlargement of the European Union.

EU leaders will review the overall economic situation in Europe and measures to boost growth and jobs.
They will consider proposals to monitor draft budgets and cut deficits for all eurozone countries – with even tighter economic and budget surveillance for countries facing serious financial instability or needing bail-outs.

Treaty change

Leaders will also examine the potential benefits of joint eurozone bonds, for instance whether they would help reduce and stabilise the interest rates countries have to pay to borrow money.
The Commission has put forward 3 options for these so-called stability bonds , with an analysis of financial and legal implications. An amendment to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty – which governs how the Union functions – might be required.

Energy plan

Safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy is high on this European Council’s agenda.
Leaders will consider energy-saving and efficiency measures that would set legally binding requirements for EU countries to improve energy efficiency at all stages – production, distribution and final consumption.
This would provide significant financial, economic and employment benefits – and help consumers reduce their energy bills.
EU leaders have also called for a single energy market by 2014, enabling energy to be bought and sold more freely across national borders. An open market with smart, integrated infrastructure would be more competitive.

New EU members

Also on the table is the possibility of admitting new countries into the EU, a plus for the Union’s strategic interest, security and prosperity. The Commission has recommended that negotiations be opened with Montenegro. It has also proposed granting EU candidate status – the first step in the process – to Serbia.
Meanwhile, Croatia is in the final stages of becoming the EU’s 28th member. The EU concluded negotiations in June, paving the way for the signature of the accession treaty on 9 December.
Croatia will soon hold a referendum to decide if the country will join the EU on 1 July 2013.