Juncker Says Croatia Should Become Full Schengen Member

By 27 September 2019

ZAGREB, September 27, 2019 - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Croatia should become a full Schengen member and that the Commission was finalising its assessment.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met Juncker in Brussels and they talked about Croatia's Schengen entry, a law on the development of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar, Croatia's preparations for chairing the Council of the EU next year, and the EU budget for the next seven years.

The Commission said after the meeting that Juncker reiterated the Commission's position that Croatia should become a full Schengen member and that the Commission was finalising its assessment.

In mid-October, the Commission should adopt a report on Croatia's compliance with the Schengen entry criteria. A positive assessment from the Commission is not enough for joining as the assessment is only about technical readiness. The final decision is made by all member states.

The Commission also said that Juncker and Plenković also talked about possible support measures for Vukovar. Both officials expressed the wish that negotiations on the next EU budget be concluded swiftly, and Juncker thanked Croatia for its constructive role in the negotiations, the press release said.

If the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework are not concluded by the end of this year, Croatia will have to work on this issue as it chairs the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020.

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Thursday he was unhappy with the outgoing European Commission's decision to put on the agenda the question of whether Croatia met the technical requirements for joining the Schengen Area, to which Slovenia has reservations.

"Slovenia knows how challenging it is to have the external Schengen border, and I'm worried because Croatia hasn't resolved its border issue with practically any state. How can we then bypass these questions and automatically determine that someone is adequate to join Schengen?" he told Slovenian reporters covering his visit to New York.

Šarec said he feared the Commission might adopt a "political decision" to the effect that Croatia met the Schengen requirements although, he added, they were very strict and demanding and Croatia still had not met them.

"We are primarily concerned about security and it seems flippant to me to put this issue on the agenda just before the end of the Commission's term."

Croatian PM Andrej Plenković said earlier today he expected the Commission, whose term ends on November 1, to recommend that Croatia met the requirements for joining the Schengen Area.

The Commission should have the item on its agenda in mid-October. Its president Jean-Claude Juncker said in Zagreb in June the Commission would give a positive recommendation by the end of its term.

Šarec said that if the Commission made a "political" decision and gave Croatia the green light to enter Schengen, Slovenia too would act "politically."

Asked if Slovenia would veto Croatia's Schengen membership because of their border arbitration dispute, he would not give a direct answer. "We will act in the proper way and in Slovenia's interest, not just Slovenia's but also in the interest of the rule of law."

He reiterated that Slovenia's stance on the border arbitration ruling was clear and familiar. "The court delivered the ruling and we are willing to keep waiting. The law is on our side and it's time European institutions understood this too."

Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar recently said Slovenia could not let Croatia join Schengen before it implemented the border arbitration ruling.

More news about Croatia and the Schengen area can be found in the Politics section.