The EU Commission will give the green light on June 10 for Croatia to join the union, with membership likely to start by 2013, the European Union justice chief said.
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the Commission would recommend that EU nations wrap up talks and prepare to welcome Croatia as the 28th member state.
Reding said the negotiations with the Balkan nation could be wrapped because talks on reforming the Croatian judiciary have been successful. The EU leaders now have to officially approve Croatia's membership.
Croatia started membership talks around six years ago, and would become the second former Yugoslav nation to join following Slovenia.
Several member nations and EU President Herman Van Rompuy had already expressed confidence that Croatia's path to the EU could be approved on Friday but the EU had insisted on a thorough reform of the legal system. The EU kept Croatia's membership application on ice for years until it improved its cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal. In 2005, the government helped track fugitive Gen. Ante Gotovina and extradite him to the court in The Hague, Netherlands. But legal and human rights issues remained among the most thorny to solve.
Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said the country's goal is to complete its EU accession talks this year when it marks the 20th anniversary of independence from the former Yugoslavia.