Athens, 21 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Croatia today formally submitted its application to join the European Union. Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan submitted the application to the current EU president Greece. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Croatia has made progress but faces a "tough path" ahead.
Croatia aims to conclude membership negotiations by the end of 2006 and be ready to join in 2007, along with Bulgaria and Romania.
EU officials have said repeatedly that Croatia needs to take more concrete steps to meet political preconditions to join the EU, including cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and encouraging the return of ethnic Serbs, who fled the country after the 1991-95 war.
Croatia signed an association agreement with the EU in 2001.