The Republic of Croatia participates in the Stabilization and Association Process for Southeast Europe (SAP), which was launched in 1999 as a negotiation framework between the European Union and the so-called Western Balkan countries. The SAP has three aims:
- stabilizing the countries
- improving regional cooperation
- membership of the EU
On 29 October 2001, Croatia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement and gained the status of a candidate country on 18 June 2005. Since an EU candidate country has to carry out the necessary reforms to fulfill the accession criteria (the so-called Copenhagen criteria) and to be ready to use EU funds, the Union provides technical and financial assistance as a part of its pre-accession strategy through specific programs and instruments such as CARDS, PHARE, SAPARD, ISPA, IPA. EropeAid, the Directorate-General of the European Commission responsible for implementing external aid programs, is one of those instruments. The main PHARE 2006 project “Restructuring and Development of Croatian Railway System Within the Framework of EU legislation – Technical Assistance, Republic of Croatia EuropeAid/126842/D/SER/HR” was launched in 2008, together with the related framework projects. One of those is the Agency related Staff Training Regulatory Body project. The total value of the projects is EUR 2.2 billion, out of which EUR 199,865.00 was allocated to the Agency, and their implementation should follow railway sector development in the next 2 years. The contract was signed on 17 December 2008, while the project started on 26 January 2009.
However, the Agency was not active at the time, although it was formed in 2007. Therefore, the project was suspended on 1 April. It was recovered on 1 October 2009 after the Agency Administrative Board had been elected and the first employees hired. The project's purpose is to fulfill the obligation arising from Article 30 of the Directive 2001/14/EC. That obligation has been partly fulfilled with the Act on Rail Market Regulatory Agency (Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia, No. 79/07 and 75/09), election of the Administrative Board and the employment of professional staff. Now it is necessary to build the Agency's administrative capacities, ensure high transparency of its work, inform all market operators and provide the relevant pre-conditions for the effective management and non-discriminatory use of infrastructure as well as for the opening of the market in order to adopt acquis communautaire, i.e. to be able to fully assume the obligations of EU membership. The Agency has organized three workshops within the project. Also, the Agency plans to organize study visits to similar regulatory bodies in Austria and Germany, to print leaflets, develop the website, etc. The project is expected to end on 25 March 2010.