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Abstract

This article gives an overview of the constitutional issues arising from Croatia’s EU accession negotiations. Corresponding to the current status of negotiations, a provisional overview is made, consisting of the constitutional issues that are either already on the negotiating agenda or anticipated on the basis of the existing, internal legal analyses and/or the experiences of candidate countries from previous enlargements. They are divided into three groups: 1) constitutional issues which have arisen during the screening process and in subsequent talks and negotiations with the EU on individual negotiating chapters; 2) constitutional issues which have not been directly raised in negotiations with the EU, but which Croatia needs to consider in the context of the overall preparations for EU accession; 3) the possible further constitutional implications of EU membership following the entry into force of the latest EU treaty reform. The article looks at how Croatia and the EU approach these constitutional issues in the context of accession negotiations, especially having in mind the new procedural mechanisms (ie benchmarks) introduced by the EU into the process of negotiations. Different approaches are also determined by the type of constitutional issues: the sector-specific issues related to legislative alignment in certain areas of the acquis, which will be addressed in the course of negotiations on individual chapters, are distinguished in principle from the general constitutional issues related to finding the ‘right’ constitutional legal basis and formula for Croatia’s accession to and effective functioning in the EU (where Croatia has to decide on its own on the need for constitutional adjustments and the manner of making them). In comparison with the previous EU enlargement round, the analysis shows that there are no significant differences in Croatia's accession negotiations with respect to the areas in which constitutional issues have been identified. Croatia will be able to use the experiences of the ‘new’ EU Member States, although there are no standard or best solutions for adjusting the constitutional legal framework for EU accession. The final list of all constitutional issues that Croatia will (have to) address before accession to the EU will directly depend on the results of negotiations as well as on wider legal and political deliberations that are expected to take place in Croatia in the coming period.