Brussels deemed Croatia ready to become the 28th European Union member in July in a final report issued Tuesday stating that it complied with EU rules, though more work was needed to fight crime and corruption.
The report from the EU executive said Croatia had successfully completed a string of EU-requested reforms in 10 areas ranging from restructuring its shipbuilding industry to recruiting more border police.
"The (European) Commission concludes that Croatia will be ready to join the European Union on July 1, 2013," the report said. It "has shown the will and ability to fullfil all outstanding commitments in good time before accession".
Aspiring EU entrants are required to upgrade legislation in line with the 27-nation bloc's values, rules and regulations during the accession process.
Brussels' 15-page final report gave Croatia good marks for privatising and restructuring its shipyards as well as for meeting EU targets in the field of anti-trust and merger measures and judicial reforms.
But it noted that more progress was needed in fighting corruption and organised crime.
"The level of sentences in organised crime cases remains low. Also in the area of corruption court sentences are low; very often suspended sentences are pronounced," it said, noting too that the amounts of assets that were seized and confiscated in such cases "remains limited".
Croatia is to elect its first European Parliament deputies on April 14 ahead of the July entry, choosing 12 deputies to serve just 12 months of a five-year mandate, with a new vote expected in 2014.
Croatia will be the second of six former Yugoslav republics to join the 27-nation bloc, nine years after Slovenia.