Saturday, 19 October 2019

Slovenian MEPs against Croatia's Accession to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, October 19, 2019 - Slovenian members of the European Parliament have sent an open letter to current and new EU leaders opposing Croatia's accession to the Schengen area of passport-free travel, the Večernji List daily reported on Saturday.

The daily says the letter is the newest means of pressure ahead of the European Commission's decision on Croatia's compliance with all technical conditions for accession to the Schengen Area, which is expected on October 22.

Slovenian MEPs express reservations about Croatia's technical and legal capacity to protect the Schengen Area which is why they seek a delay of the decision and ask that the issue be dealt with by the new European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen.

The letter was signed by six Slovenian MEPs, two each from the European People's Party (EPP), the Socialists and Democrats and the Renew Europe group. Two representatives of Janez Janša's SDS party, also a member of the EPP, refused to sign the letter.

Croatia's accession to the Schengen area is a common interest because we are aware of all its benefits, both for Slovenia and the EU, and at the same time its accession should not be a security threat to the EU, the Slovenian MEPs say in their letter but then describe what they consider problematic about it.

"In our opinion, there are very serious reservations regarding Croatia's technical and legal capacity to protect the Schengen Area as well as its compliance with EU legal standards, notably regarding respect for and implementation of international agreements and judgements," the Slovenian MEPs say in an indirect reference to the two countries' border dispute and failed international arbitration on it which Croatia refuses to comply with, says Večernji List.

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

Saturday, 12 October 2019

President Not Worried by Delay on Decision on Croatia’s Schengen Accession

ZAGREB, October 12, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday she did not consider the second postponement of a decision by the European Commission (EC) on Croatia's technical preparedness to join the Schengen Area to be a "big delay" and recalled that the Union was now burdened with Brexit.

The EC's decision on Croatia's technical preparedness to join the Schengen Area is no longer on the agenda of a meeting of the College of Commissioners scheduled for October 16 and has been moved to the meeting on October 22.

"This isn't a big delay," Grabar-Kitarović told reporters in Athens, adding that perhaps this was due to technical reasons.

In a statement to the press after attending a meeting of the Arraiolos Group focusing on migration and the economic crisis, she expressed hope that "there won't be any political obstruction," and reiterated that she had told her European counterparts that their territory too was being protected on the Croatian border.

The president did not say who she was referring to when she mentioned "obstruction," however neighbouring Slovenia has said on several occasions that Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area might be conditional on it accepting the arbitration ruling on the border dispute with Slovenia.

The president stated that Croatia was concerned about the increasing number of migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina and refugee camps being set up along the EU border and the poor conditions in them despite the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina has received financial donations from some EU member states to accommodate the migrants.

EU enlargement to Southeast Europe "is the only guarantee of lasting stability and security," she said.

The "slow" focusing of Brussels on the countries in Southeast Europe aspiring for EU accession - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia is creating a vacuum which then is being "filled by some third parties that are not necessarily well-meaning, and that poses a "security threat on the very borders of the EU," she said.

Messages from Brussels "have to be a lot clearer" and followed up with "concrete acts," Grabar-Kitarović told reporters. Otherwise people in those countries will turn to other options, she said without elaborating.

During his recent visit to Montenegro and North Macedonia, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of growing Russian and Chinese influence.

With reference to Turkey, Grabar-Kitarović recalled that in January she had told her Turkish counterpart that Croatia supported Turkey's pathway to the EU and that it was "exceptionally important to keep Turkey on the European pathway."

She believes that neither side should be blackmailing the other and that Brussels had to meet its financial obligations toward Turkey, which has accommodated almost three million refugees from Syria.

"If you let the migrants through, the first victims will be your neighbours in the Balkans," countries in southeast Europe, she said.

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

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Avramopoulos Says Croatia Deserves Assessment It's Ready for Schengen

ZAGREB, October 9, 2019 - EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Tuesday he would do his utmost so that by the end of this month Croatia was given the assessment that it was ready to join the Schengen Area because it deserved it.

Asked by reporters in Luxembourg if the Commission would confirm at its meeting next week that Croatia was ready for Schengen, he said he was doing his best to have that assessment by the end of this Commission's term because Croatia deserved it and because he had vowed it at his hearing five years ago.

On one condition, naturally, that Croatia meets the benchmarks, Avramopoulos said. Asked if Croatia met all the criteria, he added that they were in the final stretch.

On September 26, after meeting Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Croatia should become a full Schengen member and that the Commission was finalising its assessment.

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.

More news about Croatia and its attempts to enter Schengen can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Slovenia Can't Block Croatia's Schengen Entry Indefinitely, Says Plenković

ZAGREB, September 27, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that if Slovenia decided to block Croatia's Schengen entry, it would not be able to do so indefinitely.

"They can't block indefinitely. We are a member state, we have enough mechanisms. That's all I'll say," he told Croatian reporters in Brussels who asked him if Slovenia could stop Croatia's Schengen Area accession for a long time.

Plenković is on a three-day visit to Brussels. Today he met European Commission Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis and Finnish PM Annti Rinne, whose country is the current Council of the EU chair.

Plenković said he was pleased with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's guarantee that next month Croatia would receive a positive assessment on the meeting of the Schengen entry criteria, to be followed by a political debate at the Council of the EU. All member states must approve the accession.

Plenković said it was not realistic to expect a decision to that effect during Croatia's EU presidency in the first half of 2020.

"We believe we have met the criteria. Now there will be a political debate, but not during our presidency. The Schengen entry criteria are objective, we have met them, and if there are some political issues, we will deal with them at the Council."

Plenković said he did not expect problems from the member states which now were against Bulgaria and Romania entering Schengen. Both have had a positive assessment of their compliance with the criteria since 2011.

Plenković said that he and Dombrovskis talked about the implementation of Croatia's euro action plan and preparations for joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.

"The Commission is following in detail what we are doing, and we are doing it within the deadlines we have set, therefore the process if going well," he said, adding that a Commission delegation collecting data as part of the European Semester would visit Zagreb in October.

"I talked about those topics with Vice-President Dombrovskis and the Commission has a positive view of our reform efforts," Plenković said.

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

Friday, 27 September 2019

Juncker Says Croatia Should Become Full Schengen Member

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.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Slovenia: Croatia's Accession to Schengen Area Conditional on Rule of Law

ZAGREB, September 26, 2019 - Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said during the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday that Slovenia was in favour of expansion of the Schengen area of passport-free travel but only if Croatia respected the rule of law, Slovenian media reported.

In a comment on Croatian media reports that the European Commission would next month confirm that Croatia had met technical conditions for accession to the Schengen area, which outgoing EC President Jean-Claude Juncker had allegedly promised Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Cerar told reporters in New York that Slovenia supported the expansion of the Schengen area in principle but that the rule of law "is one of the key standards that must be respected by countries that are about to join the Schengen area", Slovenian Television said.

Alluding to an arbitration ruling on the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute, which Croatia does not recognise because of Slovenia's having compromised the arbitration proceedings, Cerar said that respect for the rule of law also means "respect for and implementation of international agreements and decisions of international courts," the Slovenian media quoted sources at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry as saying.

The Slovenian commercial POP TV station claimed that the Croatian government had expected the outgoing European Commission, led by Juncker, to have the issue of compliance with technical conditions for accession to the Schengen area on its agenda already on October 2, but that this was opposed by the Slovenian member of the outgoing Commission, Violeta Bulc, and reportedly also by EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

More news about the Croatia-Slovenia border issue can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Work on Assessing Croatia's Readiness for Schengen Area Progressing Well

ZAGREB, September 24, 2019 - The European Commission indirectly confirmed on Tuesday that a report on Croatia's meeting criteria for accession to the Schengen area of passport-free travel had not been completed yet but noted that work on the report was progressing well.

The Commission's joint work on successfully completing, as soon as possible, the evaluation for Schengen Area membership, is progressing well. It is the EC's position that Croatia should join the Schengen Area as a full member as soon as it meets the necessary criteria and as soon as possible, the EC said.

EC officials would not say when European commissioners could have the report on whether Croatia meets the Schengen Area membership standards on their agenda.

For a country to join the area of border control-free movement it is not enough to have a positive evaluation from the EC, which testifies only to the country's technical readiness. The final decision is made by member-countries.

Bulgaria and Romania have had the EC's positive opinion for years but are still not in the area because several member-countries oppose it.

More news about the passport-free area can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Slovenia Says Accepting Border Arbitration Would Facilitate Croatia's Schengen Entry

ZAGREB, September 4, 2019 - The Slovenian government would find it "much easier" to support Croatia's Schengen Area entry if Zagreb accepted the border arbitration ruling, President Borut Pahor said in Šibenik on Wednesday.

Speaking after meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Pahor said he did not wish to prejudge the Slovenian government's decision on Croatia's Schengen entry, "but I think it would probably be easier if Croatia met its obligation from the arbitration ruling."

Once the European Commission finds that Croatia meets all the Schengen criteria, its entry to the area must be supported by all member states.

"Dialogues such as these can contribute to resolving this issue...I'm not only very much in favour of this dialogue, it existed also ten years ago," Pahor said, speaking of his past cooperation, as Slovenia's prime minister, with Croatia's then PM Jadranka Kosor.

"The circumstances were demanding then, even people on both sides of the border were quarrelling. Today it's much easier and we can indeed find a solution," he said, adding that he saw no alternative to dialogue.

Grabar-Kitarović said Croatia met all the technical requirements for joining Schengen and that all inspections so far showed that this was being done in time, in line with all regulations.

"I believe in the support of all member states when a decision will be made on joining the Schengen Area as that's in everyone's interest. That would strengthen Croatia's guarding of the external border," she said.

"I'm always repeating that Croatia and Slovenia are friendly countries, that we can rise above these outstanding issues," she added.

The three presidents met in Šibenik which was the venue of the 6th annual meeting of the three countries' heads of state.

Grabar-Kitarović, Pahor and Van der Bellen also talked about the EU's future, Croatia's EU presidency in the first half of next year, the future of Southeast Europe, the Three Seas Initiative and climate change.

They supported the opening Albania's and North Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration negotiations as soon as possible, as well as granting Bosnia and Herzegovina EU candidate status.

Grabar-Kitarović said they believed it was "absolutely necessary" to open negotiations with Skopje and Tirana by October.

The first meeting between the three countries' heads of state was held in March 2014 in Vienna when the then presidents Borut Pahor (Slovenia), Heinz Fischer (Austria) and Ivo Josipović (Croatia) met.

That meeting was followed up later in Logarska Dolina, Slovenia, Varaždin, Croatia, Salzburg, Austria and once again in Slovenia in Goriška Brda.

The three presidents were to have met in May. However, the meeting was deferred after the Austrian coalition government fell following a corruption scandal involving far-right Freedom party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

More news about the border issues between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Croatia Given Initial Green Light for Schengen Membership – Newspaper

ZAGREB, July 27, 2019 - Croatia has received as yet unofficial information from the European Commission that it has met all technical requirements for accession to the Schengen area, Večernji List newspaper said on Saturday, citing diplomatic sources.

Zagreb has received signals from the European Commission that the evaluation of the last of the eight chapters of the Schengen acquis will pass well, the newspaper said.

An official confirmation of Croatia's readiness is expected most likely in the second half of September, after the Commission's summer recess. In order for Croatia to actually join the passport-free travel area, the decision needs to be approved by the Council of the EU, that is all the member states.

Membership of the Schengen area is one of Croatia's foreign policy priorities. Prime Minister Plenković has set his government a target for Croatia to join the area by 2020, when the country assumes the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.

Večernji List noted that the path to Schengen membership may not be easy despite the green light from the Commission, as shown by the cases of Romania and Bulgaria which have met the criteria but are still kept out for political reasons. Croatia could face obstacles from Slovenia, which has hinted on several occasions that it may make its consent conditional on Croatia's acceptance and implementation of the border arbitration ruling.

The newspaper said that Schengen would also be one of the topics discussed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her visit to Zagreb on Tuesday.

More Schengen news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Juncker Supports Croatia's Aspirations to Join Schengen, Euro

ZAGREB, June 7, 2019 - Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday expressed support for Croatia's aspirations to enter the Schengen Area and the eurozone, saying that he hoped a positive recommendation for Croatia to join the area of passport-free travel would be sent to the European Council before his term in office ends on October 31.

I want us to make a recommendation to the Council for Croatia to join the Schengen Area during the term of this European Commission, Juncker told a press conference in Zagreb which he addressed with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. Juncker arrived in Croatia on Thursday for a two-day visit which started in Dubrovnik and ends in Zagreb.

Plenković, too, said that he expected Croatia to receive a positive recommendation to access the Schengen Area before the end of the current EC, underscoring that a big job had been done in that regard.

"Croatia expects to get a positive evaluation of its progress in fulfilling the criteria to access the Schengen Area before the end of this European Commission's term. In that regard, Croatia has done a lot," Plenković said.

"Immediately after joining the EU we used the first 120 million euro, and after that an additional 120 million euro. Croatia is strengthening its external border and improving police cooperation with neighbouring countries and we are confident that we will meet the final requirement so that the EC can make a positive assessment and forward a motion to the Council," he said.

As far as the eurozone is concerned, the EC president believes that Croatia is completely prepared to join the ERM II mechanism soon.

The European Central Bank will decide on the matter and the EC will support its position, Juncker underscored.

More Schengen Area news can be found in the Politics section.

Page 3 of 6

Search