Sunday, 10 May 2020

Serbia and Bosnia Protest to Macedonia over Postage Stamp with WWII Croatia Map

ZAGREB, May 10, 2020 - Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have protested to North Macedonia following the publication of a commemorative postage stamp showing a map of WWII Croatia which included parts of present-day Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

North Macedonia has issued commemorative postage stamps as part of the "North Macedonia in the EU" series ahead of Europe Day, including one dedicated to Croatia as the current president of the Council of the European Union. The stamp shows a map of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), the Nazi puppet state that existed during the Second World War.

Serbia on Saturday presented a protest note with North Macedonia's charge d'affairs, saying that the stamp is "an attempt at historical revisionism" that undermines bilateral relations between Serbia and North Macedonia and cooperation and stability in the entire region.

The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that the stamp be immediately withdrawn from circulation and that the government of North Macedonia condemn the move.

North Macedonia's postal service later expressed regret for displaying "a wrong map of Croatia and other countries in the region," adding that the entire circulation of 6,000 stamps was being withdrawn. The state-owned company said it was an unintentional mistake and that the stamp was meant to be a mark of gratitude to Croatia for supporting North Macedonia's EU integration bid.

Serbia said that it took the issue of such a stamp on Victory Day as an act of hostile provocation aimed against its territorial integrity and sovereignty and as an affront to the Serbian people who had been killed in their hundreds of thousands in NDH-run concentration camps.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern about the promotion of such a stamp, as well as hope that it was an unintentional omission and that it would be strongly condemned by the government of North Macedonia.

It acknowledged the apology offered by North Macedonia's postal service and expressed hope that this incident, which was seen as an attempt to rewrite historical facts, would not affect the otherwise good relations between the two countries.

More news about relations between Croatia and Macedonia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

“Positive Decision for Macedonia, Albania is a Croatian Success”

ZAGREB, March 26, 2020 - EU member states have formally given their consent in writing for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Goran Grlić Radman said on Wednesday, who considers that this is Croatia's success amid coronavirus and earthquakes.

"Croatia managed to do this in very difficult conditions, fighting with coronavirus and earthquakes in Zagreb," said Grlić Radman.

The European Commission is starting to work on the negotiation framework, which is expected by June, he said.

This morning, EU member states adopted the decision to open negotiations with Skopje and Tirana.

Blocking the two countries in October last year was "an unexpected decision", Grlić Radman said, pointing out the fact that Croatia had started working on the issue during preparations for its first presidency of the Council of the EU.

"Croatia has made all foreign-policy efforts to convince all member states that it was necessary to open negotiations with these two countries, because the European prospects of West Balkan countries, stability, and security, were in the interest of the EU. This is a great political success for Croatia," Grlić Radman stated.

The exact date when the negotiations would start is not known as yet, however, the minister thinks that the date is not important now, but that the important thing is to send a message to other West Balkan countries that it was worthwhile to work on their European prospects, meeting criteria, and accepting European values.

The EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb, the central event of the Croatian Presidency of the EU, will take place in May, and for now it will not be postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus.

"The date still stands. We hope that we will have overcome this crisis by then. We are ready for May, and we are not thinking about cancelling it," stated the minister.

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

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Croatia Welcomes Green-Light for Launch of EU Entry Talks with Macedonia, Albania

ZAGREB, March 25, 2020 - Croatia has welcomed the agreement on the launch of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, underscoring that one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU has thus been fulfilled.

EU ministers of European affairs, who make up the General Affairs Council, on Tuesday reached a political agreement on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, and the formal decision is to be made in writing after the political consensus was reached at a video-conference.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković wrote on Twitter that Croatia fully supported the two aspirants at the start of a new stage of their journey towards EU membership.

The decision reached by the member-states' ministers to give a political green-light for the launch of accession negotiations was described by Plenković as the fulfilment of one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The European Council is expected to support the conclusions on the start of the membership talks with Skopje and Tirana at a video-conference scheduled for Thursday.

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

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Decision on Accession Talks with Macedonia, Albania to Be Made Next Week?

ZAGREB, March 18, 2020 - Croatia's EU presidency has proposed that a decision be made next week to launch accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, and that the first intergovernmental accession conference be called immediately after a negotiating framework is adopted.

Draft conclusions that were made available to Hina and that the General Affairs Council is expected to adopt at its next meeting on March 24 propose that a decision be made to launch membership talks with both countries.

Talks on the draft conclusions will first be held at the level of member-countries' ambassadors before the document is discussed by European affairs ministers.

The text of the conclusions must be unanimously supported by all member-countries, which is why changes to the proposed draft are possible before its adoption.

This decision, if adopted by the Council of Ministers, should also be supported by the European Council, that is, heads of state or government, at a summit meeting on March 26-27.

Under the draft conclusions, the Council is to invite the European Commission to present a draft negotiating framework for both countries as soon as possible and by June at the latest.

The negotiating framework is a key document that defines how and based on which principles accession talks will be conducted.

The negotiating framework needs to be adopted unanimously by all member-countries and it is a precondition for calling the first intergovernmental accession conference, at which talks are formally launched.

Work on harmonising the text of the negotiating framework can take time.

According to the draft conclusions, the first intergovernmental conference should be called as soon as possible after the negotiating framework is adopted.

Officials at Croatia's Permanent Representation to the EU would not comment on the draft document, saying only that despite the current crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, they work intensively on other portfolios as well, such as enlargement, which is one of the priorities of Croatia's EU presidency.

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

Monday, 20 January 2020

Plenković: Not Fair That North Macedonia Is Left in EU "Waiting Room"

ZAGREB, January 20, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that Croatia would pay special attention at the Zagreb summit scheduled for early May, to unblocking the start of accession negotiations for North Macedonia and Albania.

The Croatian prime minister attended a meeting of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC) in Zagreb.

Plenković presented the priorities of Croatia's presidency of the EU and reiterated that the most important tasks facing the Union in the coming months include the next seven-year MFF budget, enlargement, the Conference on the Future of Europe, and an agreement on future relations with Great Britain.

He announced that the Zagreb summit in May that will be dedicated to enlargement, will focus especially on deblocking the situation that North Macedonia and Albania found themselves in at the European Council in October.

Europe's openness as it was in the 1990s will never recur, now we have a carefully elaborated process of enlargement, Plenković said.

He underscores that it isn't fair, that North Macedonia has been put on hold for the beginning of accession negotiations after it changed its name and constitution.

Plenković says that for now it does not seem that Great Britain will request an extension of the transition period which expires at the end of the year when an agreement on future relations with the EU should be concluded.

After Great Britain exits the EU on January 31, as part of its presidency, Croatia needs to present a motion by the end of February for the adoption of a formal negotiation framework of future relations with London.

Plenković underscored that Croatia's presidency of the EU is a historic moment and an opportunity to make a contribution and add impetus at the start of a new institutional and legislative cycle in the Union.

Croatia's presidency is a historic moment for us which comes 28 years after Croatia's international recognition, 25 years after it liberated its occupied territory and 22 years after the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region, said Plenković.

He recalled that after the 1991-1995 war, Croatia undertook thorough reforms, conducted economic recovery and finally, joined the EU in 2013. Now seven years later, it has taken over the presidency of the Council of the EU.

For Croatia, the EU is an unprecedented peace project and a community that gains its strength from common values and solidarity. It is a pleasure to be at the helm of the Council of the EU and to make a contribution and add impetus at the start of a new institutional and legislative cycle in the Union.

The meeting of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC) was convened in Zagreb in preparation for a plenary session of COSAC that will be held in Zagreb on May 24-26.

The Conference of Committees on Union Affairs of the Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC - the abbreviation of its French name, Conference des organes specialises en affaires communautaires) facilitates regular exchanges of views between the committees on Union affairs of the parliaments of the Member States. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the conference is empowered to inform the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of any contribution that it deems appropriate. This conference also promotes the exchange of information and best practices between national parliaments and the European Parliament.

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Tusk and Plenković Want to Restore EU's Unity Regarding Macedonia and Albania

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - The European Union needs to once again restore unity regarding the topic of enlargement after the disappointing decision not to okay the start of accession negotiations for North Macedonia and Albania, the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk and Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Failing to decide about North Macedonia and Albania is a great disappointment, however, I remain an optimist, Tusk told reporters.

It is necessary to restore EU unity on enlargement, he added.

Plenković underscored that Croatia wanted the situation regarding North Macedonia and Albania to be unblocked.

"Those countries have Croatia's support and we will seek a solution over the next few months," said Plenković, the premier of Croatia that will preside over the EU in the first half of 2020.

Six European Union countries have addressed a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying they are ready to work on improving the enlargement process on the understanding that it will lead to consensus on opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia in March next year.

"We are therefore ready to engage constructively in an effort to improve this process. We will do so on the understanding that such an exercise be conducted in an effective and result-oriented fashion and that it enables the EU to reach consensus on opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in March 2020," says the letter, seen by Hina on Tuesday.

The letter was signed by the foreign ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Croatia, although not a signatory, shares these views, according to diplomatic sources.

The signatories called on the European Commission "to elaborate by January 2020 concrete proposals for ways to enhance the effectiveness of the accession process as an instrument to support reform and integration efforts in the region."

The letter also said that "there is no viable alternative to full-fledged membership of the Western Balkan countries in the EU if we want to safeguard our interests in the region effectively" and that the process "must continue without unnecessary delay."

The letter was made public ahead of Tuesday's meeting of the General Affairs Council which is due to discuss enlargement. It followed a document that France had addressed to the member states proposing reform of the present EU accession process. According to the French proposal, the process would be carried out gradually, in seven steps.

Speaking to a small group of correspondents from Brussels, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that the EU should not leave the entire Western Balkans region in the lurch and leave it to "other actors."

The Finnish presidency is of the view that if we lose the Western Balkans and do not take the integration of this region seriously, we may end up in new trouble, even in a new conflict, Haavisto said.

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

Friday, 18 October 2019

Croatia Regrets Lack of Consensus on North Macedonia, Albania

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - Croatia regrets that EU leaders failed to agree on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, which deserve it, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday.

"Croatia regrets that because we believed that this was the right time to open negotiations, given that both countries, in the European Commission's estimate, have achieved a sufficient degree of progress. Several countries didn't share that position. One should continue to insist on those two dossiers and we must send a message to our friends in North Macedonia and Albania that they should continue with reforms and that a huge majority of us will continue to support them on the European path," Plenković told Croatian reporters in Brussels ahead of the second day of an EU summit.

The heads of the member states did not agree on a proposal to launch entry talks with the two countries nor adopted any conclusions on enlargement.

Plenković said the arguments of those against launching the negotiations were "thin... The majority of us made convincing arguments in favour of a positive decision but, unfortunately, several member states last night couldn't accept that decision. We are sorry about that and believe that not adopting the decision is not in line with the EU's historic responsibility."

Given the situation, the enlargement summit Croatia plans to organise in Zagreb next May, during its Council of the EU presidency, "becomes even more important because it's the moment when we have to define what we want in the next decade, the method, the pace, the political and security messages we wish to send Southeast Europe," Plenković said.

"We should reach a consensus and it seems to me that some countries think too much about how a positive decision on enlargement would reflect on their internal circumstances. That's not good because one should be broader-minded, bolder and take into account that other global stakeholders have an influence in this region and that this region between member states has no future but as part of the EU. We will prepare in line with that, holding consultations, conducting talks, and I hope that in Zagreb we will come up with a good text on enlargement."

Plenković called "naive and unrealistic" the idea during last night's debate to task the Commission with proposing an enlargement reform in January. He said this was unrealistic because of the short time, given that the new Commission would take office later than it should have and the ensuing Christmas and New Year's holidays.

He reiterated how important it was that Croatia had wrapped up its EU entry talks in June 2011 given how much circumstances had changed in the meantime.

"That was a historic achievement and only a very small circle of people perceive and are aware of that fact. After that, some stakeholders came on the scene that haven't contributed to that one iota. They don't identify with the process, they don't understand what that means to us, they don't see the economic, political and security effects, and it would be good if we talked about that a bit more," Plenković said.

"Even then there were attempts at destabilisation... initiatives to topple the government, even from the then (Croatian) president. We endured all that and that's why the message to endure is more important than the message to topple something," he added.

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

Friday, 18 October 2019

Croatia Against New Rules for EU Accession Negotiations

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday "the rules can't be changed while the game is on," commenting on demands to change the methodology of EU accession negotiations before approving their start with North Macedonia and Albania.

"The new, revised enlargement methodology suggested primarily by France will bring the negotiations being conducted by Serbia and Montenegro into a different position and also perhaps those conducted by North Macedonia and Albania, and we can only imagine what will happen with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. This should be discussed, but changing rules along the way isn't good," Plenković said ahead of an EU summit.

The meeting of heads of state or government will discuss a proposal to set a date for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. This is an unusual occurrence as enlargement is usually dealt with at lower levels, ambassadorial or possibly ministerial.

EU foreign ministers met on Tuesday but were unable to agree due to opposition from France, which is asking that the decision be postponed until a new accession methodology is agreed on.

Every member state but France supports opening entry talks with North Macedonia, while several have certain reservations concerning Albania. At Tuesday's meeting, a proposal to separate the two countries so that at least North Macedonia could get the green light was turned down. The consensus of all member states is required for every step in the enlargement process.

"The European Commission very clearly recommended opening the negotiations and that the time is right. We believe this is a question of the credibility of the whole process," Plenković said, reiterating that Croatia supports opening entry talks with both countries.

"Now one can see how good it is that Croatia joined the EU, given that everything is changing," he said, adding that "from what I know, I'm not too optimistic" that a positive decision would be made for the two countries.

More news about Croatia and the European Union can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Croatia's Civil Aviation Agency to Assist North Macedonia

ZAGREB, August 26, 2019 - The Croatian Civil Aviation Agency (HACZ) will be the project promoter of the "Support for participation in the ECAA - European Common Aviation Area" twinning project valued at 250,000 euro that will provide assistance and expertise to aviation authorities in North Macedonia, the HACZ reported on Monday.

The EU Delegation to North Macedonia last week announced that the HACZ would be the project promoter following the evaluation of bids submitted at an international tender, the HACZ noted.

The project is aimed at providing expertise and assistance to North Macedonia's civil aviation authorities in an effort to support the sustainable development of civil aviation in accordance with international standards and EU legal acquis in that field.

That will be achieved by aligning national legislation with European laws and increasing North Macedonia's aviation capacities and technical competence.

"The HACZ's international success as a partner to Macedonia's aviation authorities in this project is yet another recognition of its successful work so far and confirmation of the HACZ's institutional status within the framework of the relevant civil aviation authorities in the EU," the HACZ said.

The agency underlined that over the past ten years it has developed into a respectable and desired partner in the EU, primarily due to its human resources potential and value, and this has been confirmed with a successfully completed twinning project with Georgia in 2015-2017, when HACZ was a junior partner to the Austro Control GmbH in the implementation of that project.

More news about relations between Croatia and North Macedonia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Croatia Regrets Lack of Support for Opening EU Talks with North Macedonia, Albania

ZAGREB, June 19, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić regretted on Tuesday that there was no agreement among EU member states about recognising the progress of North Macedonia and Albania and opening accession negotiations, with a decision postponed for October.

Member states' foreign ministers made the postponement in Luxembourg without clearly indicating whether they will approve opening the negotiations in October.

"Croatia's position hasn't changed. We wanted it also a year ago at the General Affairs Council meeting, when the majority of the member states advocated giving a deadline of one year and beginning negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania this June, if they met the set demands," Pejčinović Burić said.

"However, for certain reasons, there were member states that could not agree to such a text so we agreed to consider it again at this General Affairs Council meeting. Unfortunately, we didn't get far. Now the number of states with certain reservations has even increased," she added.

"We advocated opening those negotiations both with Albania and with North Macedonia because we think each has made such progress that it should be recognised in the right way," the minister said.

Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Malta, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia have forwarded a joint request for opening accession negotiations with the two countries.

France and the Netherlands are particularly against opening the negotiations.

Pejčinović Burić said she was the only one at today's meeting to talk about the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"We believe it's very important to raise awareness in European institutions of BiH's European perspective because we think it's very important not to lose sight of that. There's a lot of work ahead for BiH, but it's important to repeat every time that it's a country with a European perspective and that the European journey is the best option for the stabilisation and prosperity of BiH as well as the entire region," she added.

More news about Croatia and the European Union can be found in the Politics section.

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