Croatia intends to apply for EU membership after signature and hopes to conclude accession negotiations by 2006. Croatia must also respect the fundamental criteria set out in all the Association Agreements for the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe, in particular respect for democracy, the rule of law and human and minority rights. At the same time, the EU suspended its PHARE aid to Croatia and replaced it with the new CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Democratisation and Stabilisation) aid following a commitment by a new government in 2000 to implement democratic and market-state reforms. In 2005, the EU`s relations with the Western Balkans were transferred from the `External Relations` policy area to the `Enlargement` policy area. Since 2015, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have been officially recognised as candidates for accession. . . .