open access

Abstract

In 1992 Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary signed the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). In time, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, while Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia joined CEFTA. However, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia left CEFTA on entering the European Union, which Bulgaria and Romania also joined later. The latter two, however, signed, along with 8 other parties (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and UNMIK Kosovo), the Agreement on Amendment of and Accession to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA 2006) on 19 December 2006. This new CEFTA will replace over thirty bilateral free trade agreements concluded among them.  
After a short introduction, this paper argues that the purpose of CEFTA is to enable its members to enter the EU more easily, and thus serves as an instrument of EU accession.  Reference is made to the most important benefit of the old CEFTA, which was the common preparation for integration to the EU’s market. By analysing the impact of the old CEFTA as a pre-accession instrument, an analogy is made with the new CEFTA, where emphasis is placed on its role as a regional cooperation instrument.
The paper aims to compare the provisions of CEFTA 2006, the Treaty establishing the European Community, and the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, mainly from the perspective of Croatia. Particular provisions of the Consolidated Version of CEFTA 2006 are discussed separately in the fourth part of this paper.