Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.

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screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full.
Index.hr columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.

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Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

For more about education in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović: Clear Link Between Croatia's Schengen Membership And EU Security

ZAGREB, 8 June, 2021 - The Strategy for the Schengen Area for the first time clearly articulates the link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and the EU's security, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

“The debate today on the Strategy for the Schengen Area is especially significant for us because for the first time it has identified a clear link between Croatia's membership of the Schengen Area and security for the EU as a whole," Božinović said ahead of a meeting of the EU's Home Affairs Council.

The interior ministers of EU member states met in Luxembourg on Tuesday for an initial discussion on the Schengen strategy that was presented by the European Commission last week. The agenda also includes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fight against organised crime, the internal security outlook in terms of artificial intelligence, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and exchanging opinions on the current status in the discussion on the new migration and asylum pact.

Last week the Commission presented the strategy towards a "stronger and more resilient" Schengen Area, which includes enlargement to EU member states that are still not part of the area, and called for Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to be admitted into the Schengen Area as they had met the technical criteria for the application of the Schengen acquis. 

Božinović said that it was becoming more and more clear that Europe's security was not the sum of security capacities of member states but that it was cooperation, interoperability and solidarity.

"These are the principles that Croatia has insisted upon in European forums for years," said Božinović.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović : Croatia's Schengen membership in interest of EU

ZAGREB, 2 June, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that Croatia's entry to the passport-free Schengen Area was in the national interest as well as in the interest of the European Union.

Earlier on Wednesday the European Commission called for the enlargement of the Schengen area to include Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, which have met all technical criteria for membership.

"Schengen's future must be marked by the expansion to those EU Member States that are not yet part of the Schengen area," the EC said while presenting the strategy for making the Schengen area stronger and more resilient.

Božinović recalled that Croatia had met 281 requirements in eight different segments concerning the membership criteria.

The minister is confident that Croatia will be admitted to the Schengen area in the next 12 months.

He said that he was glad to see that in Europe awareness was being raised about the importance of accession of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

40,000 EU Digital COVID certificates issued in Croatia since first day of issuance

Since yesterday, when the issuance of EU Digital COVID certificates started in Croatia, as many as 40,000 such travel passes have been issued.

Božinović said that Croatia was among the first EU countries to make this system operational.

The minister, who visited the Bregana border crossing to get acquainted with the functioning of the system of checking those certificates, said that it took only 10 seconds to check those certificates.

One million kuna has been invested in this project, which included IT solutions, the necessary equipment of border crossings to be able to read the codes from the certificates, and other equipment for the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO), he said.

Croatia tapped EU funds for this purpose, Božinović said at Bregana.

ENTER Croatia application available to people travelling to Croatia

The minister said that people traveling to Croatia can fill in the ENTER Croatia application which will also facilitate passage across the border.

New, relaxed rules for arrivals in Croatia

As of today, some relaxed rules go into force for arrivals in Croatia, including a negative PCR test for coronavirus not older than 72 hours, while travellers who have received at least one vaccine dose at least 22 days before their arrival do not need to self-isolate.

For more about diplomacy in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Remaining Mine-Infested Areas to be Cleared of Mines By Mid-2026

ZAGREB, 25 May, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday that until the spring of 2026 the remaining 250 square kilometres of land believed to be infested with landmines left over from the 1991-1995 Homeland War would be cleared of those explosive devices.

Božinović commented on the plan for a mine-free Croatia at a ceremony in the town of Josipdol, where he presented a HRK 241 million project, Karlovac KARST, for the removal of mines from forests in the areas of Karlovac and Josipdol.

The implementation of the project will create prospects for job creation in the region, he added.

Karlovac County Prefect Martina Furdek Hajdin said that HRK 188 million had been absorbed from the European Union for the Karlovac KARST project.

In the next few years, 17.1 square metres of forest land in Tounj, Josipdol, Plaški, Saborsko and Rakovica will be cleared of landmines, she added.

The county prefect added that Karlovac County had already tapped HRK 29 million from the EU funds to remove landmines from 3.8 square-metre-large farmland.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Health Minister Vili Beroš Says 230,000 Vaccine Doses to Arrive Weekly As of May

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš said at a government session on Thursday that as of 1 May, 230,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines would be arriving in Croatia on a weekly basis, calling on citizens to register for vaccination.

"The pressure on hospitals has been growing, notably by younger patients. The number of hospitalisations and patients on ventilators continues to grow. The average age of hospitalised patients is 66.7, 15% are people under the age of 50, 15% are people aged 50-59 while the rest are people above 60," said Beroš.

Third vaccination phase to start soon

The minister noted that the arrival of a larger quantity of vaccines during May and June would facilitate the process of vaccination.

Public health institutes have been instructed to include in the vaccination process all health institutions and private medical workers in the public health service network, and to organise, along with vaccination in family medicine offices, mobile vaccination teams and a sufficient number of vaccination points as well as to use civil protection, army and other resources in the process.

The vaccination plan for priority groups will be finished next week and the third phase of vaccination will begin, Beroš said.

So far, 902,670 vaccine doses have arrived in Croatia and 80% of them have been administered. A vaccination rate of above the average 14.2% has been achieved in age groups above 60, he said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković called on elderly people to register for vaccination, saying that a half of the country's adult population should be vaccinated by June 30.

"There will be enough vaccines, I call on all citizens to call their family doctors, register on the vaccination platform so that we can contribute together to health security," Plenković said.

"As many as 77% of people who have died of COVID-19 in Croatia since the start of the pandemic were aged above 70 and 93% were people older than 60. We call on all citizens who are above the age of 60, 70 to register for vaccination," the PM said.

The head of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, said that there had been no changes to epidemiological restrictions at the national level, that existing restrictions had been extended, as had been most of those introduced by local crisis management teams.

For more about vaccines in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Croatia to Extend Current Epidemiological Restrictions

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - The head of the national COVID response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said on Thursday that the epidemiological measures in force until midnight tonight would be extended, underscoring that the restrictions would not be tightened at the national level, but as necessary from county to county.

Speaking to the press after a meeting of the government's Scientific Advisory Council, Božinović said that meeting mostly focused on the current situation with the spread of coronavirus.

County response teams, he added, will adopt stricter measures depending on the epidemiological situation which at the moment will not be ramped up at the national level.

He said that the situation varies from county to county, adding that currently Primorje-Gorski Kotar has the strictest measures.

Vaccines no longer doubtful in Croatia 

Božinović announced that an additional 50 million doses of vaccines were arriving in the EU in the second quarter and he expressed hope that the number of doses for Croatia would not be brought into question.

He added that the experts had different opinions regarding school lessons but there is no reason now to change the decision for schools to go online as the number of those infected is not falling but actually increasing.

Asked what number would be required to ramp up restrictions according to the experts, Božinović said that some countries that introduced so-called traffic lights had tied their own hands in some situations.

"We are referring to trends here. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and applying measures on a county to county basis. I think that we won't refrain from that approach as it has shown to be correct so far," he underscored.

Croatia has not registered the experiences with AstraZeneca's vaccination like in other countries

As far as mistrust towards the AstraZeneca vaccine is concerned, Božinović said that reports by the HALMED medical agency and the Croatian Institute for Public Health "have not had any experiences that are being referred to in other countries."

However, it will be necessary to improve the trust in that vaccine through communication with the public, recalling that government members, including the Prime Minister, were inoculated with that vaccine.

"It is important for the overall public to realise that the pandemic has affected all four corners of the earth and that we will come out of this situation when an adequate solution is applied in all the countries affected by COVID," Božinović underlined, adding that it was important for the vaccine to be available everywhere.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

New Coronavirus Restrictions to be in Force Until 15 April

ZAGREB, 31 March, 2021 - The national coronavirus crisis management team on Wednesday announced new epidemiological restrictions to be in force until 15 April, including a ban on indoor training, restrictions on the work of children playrooms and a temporary ban and restriction of cross-border travel.

The ban on indoor training does not apply to top competitions and athletes.

Certificates of vaccination with Russian, Chinese vaccines valid

Croatian border authorities will accept fast antigen tests as well as certificates about vaccination with the Russian and Chinese vaccines, and certificates proving their holders' recovery from COVID-19 and those certificates will be considered valid for 180 days, the team's head, Davor Božinović, said.

Border crossing has been regulated due to tourist visits, the exception being digital nomads and children.

"Considering restrictions in neighbouring countries, we do not expect a large number of arrivals," said Božinović.

He noted that the tighter restrictions were being introduced following a proposal to that effect by county COVID-19 response teams.

Apart from nationwide restrictions, the national team also made decisions on restrictions for Šibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia counties.

In Split-Dalmatia County, which has seen a big increase in new infections, the mandatory wearing of face masks at outdoor venues with an increased flow of people will be introduced, as will a ban on the sale of alcohol from 8pm to 6am. The work of cafes will be restricted until 8pm, and it will be possible to serve food and drinks only in the open. Foreign language schools will switch to online classes again.

Božinović said that restrictions could be additionally tightened since the epidemiological situation was not good.

Restrictions to be tightened if number of infections continues to grow

"We have a significant increase today and we cannot ignore the possibility of the scenario in neighbouring countries happening here as well. These restrictions will be in force for a few days but should statistics be worrying, we will introduce new measures," said Božinović.

The latest restrictions go into force on Thursday and will be in force until 15 April.

In the last 24 hours, 2,623 new coronavirus cases and 19 COVID-related deaths have been registered in Croatia, the national coronavirus response team said earlier in the day.

The number of active cases now stands at 11,306. Among them are 1,337 people receiving hospital treatment, of whom 144 are placed on ventilators.

Croatian Public Health Institute head Krunoslav Capak warned that today the number of new infections was 47% higher than last week.

Istria County has the lowest incidence, while Primorje-Gorski Kotar County has the highest. Croatia is currently 18th in the EU in terms of the number of deaths per one million inhabitants, while in terms of the 14-day incidence it is 12th.

Speaking about the start of the third phase of vaccination, Capak said that care would be taken of the order in which people had registered for vaccination at the cijepi.se online platform.

"All people older than 16 can be inoculated in the third phase, but a certain priority will be given to people in services in which they come into contact with a large number of people," he said, adding that the third phase could start in May.

He noted that cases of infection with coronavirus after vaccination had been reported. "We have about 20 such cases. Forty-four people in aged care homes got infected after receiving the first dose and 22 got infected after the second dose, but the symptoms were mild."

Commenting on an announcement by the Zagreb COVID-19 response team about the wearing of face masks outdoors, Capak said: "If you are outdoors and alone, there is no need to wear a mask."

"Outdoor mask wearing refers to places where there are a lot of people, in the farmers' market, on the waterfront," he said, noting that the recommendation to wear a mask outdoors had been in force so far for places where physical distancing was not possible.

For more about Covid-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Interior Minister Davor Božinović Says Zoran Mamić Being Able to Cross Border Not Logical

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Wednesday that he did not consider it logical for former Dinamo football club coach Zoran Mamić, who was given a final verdict for corruption, to be able to cross the state border, adding that police acted in line with rules regulating the work of border police.

"The police acted the only way they could, and as to whether the court could and should have issued some order regarding Mamić, courts are the third branch of government. Personally I don't consider it logical, but that's not up to police because in this case police had no reason to act differently than they did, complying with rules that regulate the work of border police," Božinović said at a session of the national COVID-19 response team, which he heads.

Zoran Mamić on Tuesday left the country for Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where he returned to Croatia on Wednesday morning, after, as he said, he visited his brother Zdravko whom he had not seen for seven months.

"I travelled there while I still had the opportunity, until the procedure is finished," he said, adding that it was difficult for him to say if he would again travel to BiH.

In an interview with N1 Zoran Mamić noted that he had to take care of his family before starting to serve his sentence.

Even though together with his brother Zdravko he was given a final verdict for siphoning money from Dinamo, Zoran Mamić travelled to the neighbouring country without any problems because he still has not received a call from the Zagreb County Court judge in charge of the execution of prison sentences.

The Supreme Court last week upheld a ruling by the Osijek County Court sentencing Zdravko Mamić to six and a half years in prison for siphoning HRK 116 million from Dinamo. 

It reduced the prison sentence for his brother Zoran from four years and 11 months to four years and eight months, while former tax official Milan Pernar's sentence was reduced from four years and two months to three years and two months.

The Supreme Court upheld the first-instance judgement for former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović sentencing him to three years in prison.

Zdravko Mamić, who holds dual Croatian and Bosnian citizenship, fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2018, the day before the Osijek County Court announced the verdict sentencing him to six and a half years in prison.

He has said that he is willing to serve his sentence only in Bosnia and Herzegovina while Zoran Mamić has said that he is ready to start serving his sentence as soon as possible.

The State Secretary at the Croatian Justice Ministry, Juro Martinović, said earlier that if Zdravko Mamić did not return to Croatia after his sentence became final and Bosnia and Herzegovina did not extradite him, the Justice Ministry could launch a procedure to have him serve his sentence in the neighbouring country.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

New Coronavirus Infections Up 46% Week on Week

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - The number of new coronavirus infections in Croatia is up by 46% from last week and among the 12 COVID fatalities in the past 24 hours is a 12-year-old girl who had multiple comorbidities, the national COVID-19 response team said on Wednesday.

"In the three days of this week, we had 2,265 new cases, while in the first three days of last week, we had 1,547. The incidence is 222.7, the lowest  being in Istria County and highest in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County," said Krunoslav Capak, head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

In EU rankings, Croatia is seventh with the lowest incidence. Today 16.7% of the test results were positive (1,445 cases).

British variant detected in 50% of samples

Speaking of new variants, Capak said the British one was present in more than 50% of the sequenced samples.

"These new variants spread somewhat faster, and due to vaccination, nicer weather and the favourable situation we have had, people have relaxed. There is more and more socialising, gatherings, which is the biggest risk for the spread of coronavirus infection," he said, adding that the classic epidemiological measures were also effective against the new variants.

Asked if Croatia was in a third wave of the epidemic, Capak said it was difficult to say but that the important thing was to continue to fight to cut down the numbers of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Speaking of the 12-year-old girl who died of COVID in the past 24 hours, Capak said she had a serious cardiovascular comorbidity.

He went on to say that less than 30% of people had refused the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Asked if the ministers who had recovered from COVID would be given that vaccine to promote it and if the vaccination of people over 65 with AstraZeneca would be suspended for fear of side effects, Capak said the response team was not considering either.

He said "we believe we have no reason" to suspend the administration of AstraZeneca to those over 65, adding that the European Medicines Agency's "commission on side effects is intensively investigating all side effects."

He said there was no difference in the occurrence of side effects with either Pfizer or AstraZeneca and that it was 0.5% in each.

Božinović: Existing regime should stay

The head of the national response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said the existing regime of restrictions should stay and that possible changes should be made at county level.

Asked if restrictions would be tightened ahead of Easter, he said this regime could be kept up only if everyone was responsible and disciplined.

"In recent days the virus has been rapidly spreading in some parts of Croatia, so the measures should be considered at county level. Serious measures are in force, although they are the least restrictive in the European Union, and we will keep this regime only if everyone assumes responsibility."

Božinović said some counties were already tightening restrictions based on their epidemiological situation.

He would not comment on the suspension of vaccination with AstraZeneca in some countries despite there being no proof that some deaths were related to the vaccine. "We always explain the background of our decisions transparently and publicly, including this one to continue to administer AstraZeneca."

The head of Zagreb's Infections Diseases Hospital, Alemka Markotić, said she could not say how big the increase was in the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, adding that the outcomes of the children treated in her hospital were continually good and that the percentage was not high.

"The important thing is that the syndrome has been recognised. Our doctors manage to deal with it well and there are no major problems for now."

 For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Croatia Successfully Completes Schengen Evaluation Procedure

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - In four years Croatia met 281 recommendations in eight acquis areas, successfully completing the Schengen evaluation procedure, the Interior Ministry said on Friday after a meeting of EU interior ministers who discussed security and migrations.

The Portuguese presidency and Commissioner Ylva Johansson informed the Council that Croatia had successfully completed the Schengen evaluation procedure which began in June 2015 and ended in May 2019, the ministry said in a press release.

In the most comprehensive evaluation of preparedness for membership of the Schengen area, Croatia met 281 recommendations in eight Schengen acquis areas, including 145 pertaining to external border control.

Early in February, the Council confirmed that Croatia had met all the recommendations in that, the most demanding evaluation area, the ministry said, adding that in the past two weeks bilateral meetings were held with four member states which were unsure if Croatia had indeed met all the membership requirements.

On 2 March, Interior Minister Davor Božinović met with all the EU ambassadors accredited in Croatia at which he informed them in detail of everything Croatia had done in the past three and a half years to ensure full application of all Schengen standards.

"The ministers endorsed the report by the Portuguese presidency and Commissioner Johansson, without debate thereby confirming the completion of the Schengen evaluation procedure for Croatia," the ministry said.

Croatia's job and goal now is to prepare everything that is necessary for the Council of the EU to adopt a political decision on the Schengen membership, the ministry added.

Croatia evaluated as no other EU member state

"Croatia successfully passed the most comprehensive and the most detailed evaluation, like no other EU member state," said Božinović, who attended a video conference of the Home Affairs Council.

He added that Johansson said that this was the final confirmation of Croatia's preparedness to join the Schengen Area, while the chairman of the Council of the EU, Portuguese Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita, supported Schengen enlargement to Croatia.

The ministry said the Council held the first debate on a draft directive on the resilience of critical subjects, which is aimed at further contributing to the implementation of EU Security Union Strategy targets.

The Portuguese presidency reported on the external dimension, border protection and solidarity. Another priority is working on the establishment of legal migration routes to more effectively curb illegal ones.

Stronger cooperation with third countries

The European Commission presented a report on strengthening cooperation with third countries in returns and readmissions as well as a 2019 report on the evaluation of cooperation in readmission.

Božinović said Croatia saw the former report as an important step forward in dealing with the return of migrants illegally staying in the EU.

"All Commission activities to use the potential of the EU visa policy are welcome, in an effort to encourage third countries to cooperate more constructively in the readmission of their citizens, as well as the possibilities available to us in other areas, development and trade arrangements for example," he said.

It would be useful to supplement initiatives with lists of safe third countries and safe countries of origin which would make it easier for the relevant services to swiftly make decisions on asylum or returns, Božinović added.

In concluding readmission agreements, priority should be given to countries of origin, the ministry said, adding that Božinović also pointed to the problem of transit countries.

Croatia supported strengthening cooperation with North African states in all areas that can contribute to strengthening stability in Africa, which would then facilitate dealing with the root causes of migrations towards the EU, the ministry said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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