Prime Minister Kosor: EC has granted Croatia's request for aid for natural disasters

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ZAGREB, Dec 23 (Hina) - Croatia has received a favourable response from the European Commission to its request for aid in removing the consequences of natural disasters and stands to receive 3.8 million euros for that purpose, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

"The position of the European Commission is that we may receive over 3.8 million euros, but we're also awaiting the position of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU," Kosor said.

Kosor said this was a good sign that Croatia was indeed perceived as a partner and the future 28th member of the EU.

The Prime Minister expressed her satisfaction with Wednesday's closure of three more policy areas in EU accession negotiations, stressing that she expected the negotiations to be wrapped up by mid-2011.

"Now we have 28 closed chapters in our negotiations, which are long, difficult and demanding, but through which we are showing our strength and knowledge and are successfully surmounting the obstacles," Kosor said, adding that seven more chapters remained to be closed next year, including "particularly sensitive" Chapter 8 (Competition Policy) and Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights).

"I think the benchmarks we need to meet in these chapters are not insurmountable, just the contrary, and we are on the right track to completing the entire work on these two chapters by spring," she said.

Kosor said that at the beginning of 2011 the government would start "a major job of preparing the public for the referendum" on EU membership.

"The plan is to complete the negotiations by the middle of next year, sign the accession treaty and then go to the referendum, so next year we will step up our efforts to explain to the public the benefits (of EU membership) and what it will bring," the PM said.

She added that President Ivo Josipovic would certainly join the government in those efforts and expressed hope that the opposition parties would do the same.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to wish a merry Christmas to the members of her Cabinet and to all citizens of Croatia.