Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Border Controls on Land and Sea to be Revoked on 1 January, at Airports on 26 March

ZAGREB, 29 June 2022 - The Council of the EU on Wednesday proposed that controls at Croatia's land and sea borders with Schengen countries be revoked as of 1 January 2023 and at airports as of 26 March.

The reasons for the different date for air traffic controls are of a technical nature.

At airports in Schengen countries, it is necessary to change the gates for aircraft arriving and departing from Croatia in order to separate passengers and direct them to exits without border controls. The same needs to be done at Croatian airports.

"The date for the lifting of controls at the air borders has to coincide in practice with the dates of IATA summer/winter time schedule, i.e. either the last Sunday of March or the last Sunday of October," the EU said in its Draft Council Decision on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Croatia, published on its website.

The Council of the EU sent the draft decision to the European Parliament with a letter to Parliament President Roberta Metsola asking for the Parliament's opinion as soon as possible.

The draft decision also suggests that all restrictions on the use of the Schengen Information System by Croatia shall be lifted from 1 January 2023.

The opinion of the European Parliament is not binding on the Council but constitutes a procedural step that cannot be avoided.

The decision to launch the procedure was adopted today at a meeting of the Committee of Representatives (Coreper), which consists of the ambassadors of the EU member states.

If no unforeseen obstacles emerge, Croatia would thus become a member of the Schengen Area and the euro area, the two closest organisations that form the core of the entire Union, in the tenth year of its membership in the EU.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Metsola: Croatia Should Join Schengen Swiftly, All Else Would be Shameful

ZAGREB, 10 May 2022 - Croatia should be admitted to the Schengen Area swiftly, during the French EU presidency, and any blockade would be shameful, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has told Hina.

Not one member state should block Croatia, she added.

I will answer as a politician, I'm tired of talks with countries which have spent years trying to meet the criteria and when they do, there is no political decision. I think it would be shameful if that next step is not taken, she said about Croatia's Schengen entry.

Metsola thinks it would be important if that took place during the French EU presidency, which ends on 30 June.

Member states should not hide behind technical reasons when the motives are political, she said, adding that the decision on admitting Croatia to Schengen should be full and swift.

There is speculation that Slovenia, which has an unsolved territorial dispute with Croatia, might block Croatia's entry.

Its future prime minister Robert Golob has said that he will insist on honouring the border arbitration from which Croatia withdrew due to Slovenia's covert influence on the judges. The likely foreign minister Tanja Fajon said as an MEP last year that Croatia was not ready for Schengen.

Reviewing EU Treaties

Thirteen member states, including Croatia, do not support a proposal to change the EU treaties, which is one of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe supported by French President Emmanuel Macron and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden feel that the EU can successfully manage crises as part of the current treaties, as proven by the fight against COVID-19 and the response to the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

In a non-paper, they criticise the European Parliament, without mentioning it explicitly, for instrumentalising the Conference on the Future of Europe for its institutional interests.

Metsola said the EU treaties should be changed only in some areas while in others, such as migration, tools were available which the EU was not using.

We should change where it is necessary and we should not be afraid of that, she added.

Negotiations on issues such as veto rights will be difficult but the Parliament will be very open to all options on the table, she said.

Supporting European political community

French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday pushed for creating a European political community to increase the EU's cooperation with other European countries whose accession is not realistic in the near future.

He feels that cooperation with them only through European integration blocks energy, cultural and other forms of cooperation to a certain extent.

If it's possible to go step by step towards integration before full membership, Parliament will support that, said Metsola. European integration is more a question of how we do something than  of a date, she added.

Metsola also said that the sanctions against Russia should be fully complied with not only by all member states but also those wishing to join the EU.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

ETIAS and Schengen: What Croatia Bound Travelers Can Expect in the Coming Months

9 March 2022 – As the Croatian tourism sector begins to recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, prospective travellers should be aware of the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which is supposed to come into force by the end of this year.

March is upon us, and as the mercury rises, COVID cases are falling, both trends that many hope will be sustained as Croatia prepares for a supposed record-breaking summer tourist season. While some reports suggest low vaccine rates may impact turnouts this summer, the Croatian Tourism Association is expecting continued recovery as countries worldwide begin to loosen COVID restrictions for citizens and foreigners alike.

Currently, fully vaccinated travellers can enter Croatia with little hassle, only requiring proof of vaccination in the form of a nationally recognized vaccine pass, such as the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Additional testing options remain for those who are not yet vaccinated.

However, while Croatia’s facilitated entry scheme is likely contributing to the awakening of dormant holidaymakers, the withdrawal of pandemic era testing requirements by source countries is more probably the reason why reservation books are filling in towns from Pula to Makarska. Many countries where Croatia sources its highest numbers of tourists have reduced or removed reentry restrictions for vaccinated citizens who are eager to start enjoying their vacation days as they did before March 2020. Besides the European Union, Canada, the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom have removed either all testing requirements or now accept the cheaper and faster rapid antigen test for vaccinated homeward bound passengers. Testing requirements may be further reduced according to the local epidemiological situation, but prospective visitors will have to wait and see.

So, it appears that this year, the springtime sun is symbolic of more than just the return of migratory birds and dusty sweaters. As passport booklets bloom in unison with May flowers, we can all heave a sigh of relief and look forward to returning the status quo we enjoyed before the pandemic, right? Well, in the short term, yes. But looking further into the future, not exactly. But don’t panic, let me explain.

The nationals of many countries have enjoyed visa-free access to member states of the European Union and the European Economic Area. These are citizens from countries that are not EU members but through treaties and visa waiver agreements are permitted to visit for 90 days or less without visiting an embassy and applying for a visitor visa. Many travellers probably are unaware of their privileged status, never paying mind to the bureaucratic hurdles that many face when planning a European getaway. Nonetheless, Croatian vacation planning will soon require an additional step.

Although no official date has been announced, starting from the end of 2022, non-EU nationals will be required to apply for an electronic travel authorization called ETIAS when visiting the Schengen area. While the idea of using to virtual waiver may seem daunting, the process is quite simple, in most cases taking a maximum of 10 minutes to complete the form and receive approval. At a cost of €7, authorization will be required for travellers aged 18-70 with a validity of three years. Applicants must provide passport information and answer a series of security questions. The system then checks your information against Interpol and EU databases.

The decision to implement ETIAS was made by the European Commission as a strategy to improve security across European borders. In fact, similar electronic travel authorizations are already in use in Canada, Australia, and the United States and have been integrated well into each nation’s respective immigration scheme. It is important to note that those who possess multiple citizenships, including at least one EU/Schengen passport, will not be required to apply for ETIAS so long as they cross the Schengen border using their local travel document. It is also important to note that those who hold permanent residence in Croatia will also be exempt from this requirement. Fortunately for those who still have reservations, officials will provide a 6-month grace period that will allow passengers to adapt to the new system, streamlining the introduction of a process that many will still view as tedious and unfamiliar.

Some may have noticed that ETIAS applies only to Schengen members, a status that Croatia has yet to obtain. This observation is correct, but Croatia may still implement ETIAS upon its initial trial at the end of this year. After undergoing the most comprehensive evaluation for Schengen membership of any state so far, in December 2021, government officials from the 27 EU members agreed that Croatia meets all the conditions for implementing the Schengen acquis.

It remains somewhat unclear when Croatia will remove its border checks, becoming a functioning member of the Schengen area. But, if government predictions are accurate, we can expect a decision from the EU as early as June, with Croatian accession before New Year’s Eve.

Whatever the pace, the implementation of ETIAS in Croatia is inevitable and a factor that future travellers should be aware of far in advance of departure dates.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 22 October 2021

PM: Decision Making on Croatia's Schengen Bid Going According to Plan

ZAGREB, 22 Oct (Hina) - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Friday he expected the decision making process on Croatia's accession to the Schengen area to proceed according to plan.

"I have discussed this matter at all levels, with all governments. I think the momentum is slowly gathering for a decision at the level of the Council of the EU," Plenković told reporters on arrival for the continuation of the two-day EU summit.

Plenković said that ongoing talks during the Slovenian EU presidency and the next French presidency would be "crucial for achieving Croatia's strategic goal - to become a member of the Schengen area."

Among the topics to be discussed at the summit will be protection of the EU's external borders against illegal migration.

Plenković said that also discussed would be several action plans with non-EU countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to help them improve migration management.

He said that during discussion on foreign policy matters on Thursday evening he had drawn attention to the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, notably to the existing tension and statements by the Serb member of the state presidency, Milorad Dodik, which destabilise the country.

"Croatia supports a single Bosnia and Herzegovina, its independence, sovereignty and good functioning. I also made it clear that the EU should help, together with our partners, first of all the United States, to achieve a timely agreement on electoral legislation so that at next year's elections the Croats, as one of the three constituent peoples, can be legitimately and equally represented in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Plenković said.

He said he was pleased with the quality of the discussion on this matter, adding that several leaders had taken part in it.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

European Parliament Confirms that Croatia Meets All Conditions for Schengen

ZAGREB, 8 July 2021 - Croatia has met all the conditions to Schengen, it is said in a resolution of the European Parliament adopted on Thursday in which Croatia is also urged to address shortcomings in terms of providing border staff with training and to persist in a thorough assessment of respect for fundamental rights.

During a visit to Croatia in November 2020, the Commission reaffirmed that the necessary conditions for the application of the Schengen acquis had been met, it is said in the resolution of the European Parliament, adopted with 505 votes in favor, 134 against, and 54 abstentions.

All but two Croatian MEPs voted in favor of the resolution. Those two who voted against were an MEP of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Ladislav Ilčić, and independent MEP Mislav Kolakušić.

The Parliament also called on Croatia to address the identified shortcomings, especially in terms of staff training, the number of staff, and the capacity to protect the land border and to persist in a thorough assessment of respect for fundamental rights following repeated reports by NGOs and the media on abuse, violence, and pushbacks by border police officers.

In that context, the document welcomes the establishment of independent mechanisms to monitor the actions of police officers towards illegal migrants and applicants for international protection.

Croatia expects that its membership in the Schengen area could be on the agenda during Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in late May.

In October 2019, the Commission said that Croatia had met the criteria for joining the Schengen area while in early June it invited EU countries to admit Croatia to the Schengen area.

All EU countries except Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania are members of Schengen, as are four non-EU countries -- Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Violence against migrants

The resolution also says that there are still allegations of violence against migrants, including those seeking international protection, and of illegal pushbacks at the EU's external borders, but no member states are explicitly mentioned.

In that context, it is stressed that the EU does not have a developed mechanism for monitoring fundamental rights at its external borders, which should change.

The Parliament is deeply concerned due to constant and serious reports on violence and pushbacks at the external border, including from one member state to another and then to a third country.

For more about politics 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.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Portugal Supports Croatia's Schengen Membership Bid, Says Grlić Radman

ZAGREB, 27 May 2021 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, who held talks with his Portuguese counterpart in Lisbon on Wednesday, said that Portugal supported Croatia's efforts to join the passport-free Schengen Area, as well as to enter the OECD and the MED7, an alliance of Mediterranean EU member states.

Portugal has expressed unreserved support for Croatia in that regard, Minister Grlić Radman told Hina after he held the hour-long talks with Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva in Lisbon.

Grlić Radman recalled that during his recent visit to Madrid, Spain's officials also expressed support for Croatia's Schengen membership bid and plans to join MED7.

MED 7 or EuroMed 7 is a group consisting of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta, and their ministers meet once a year to discuss topics of common interest and harmonize their positions. The group was established in 2013 at the proposal of Spain and Cyprus.

The next meeting of MED 7 is likely to be organized in Greece this autumn, and Grlić Radman said in Lisbon that he hoped that Croatia and Slovenia, which also aspire for MED7 membership, could attend that ministerial gathering.

The admission of Croatia and Slovenia to that association will bolster the Mediterranean cooperation, the Croatian minister said.

Portugal is the chair of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2021, and on Thursday, a Gymnich meeting, an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU member states, will take place in Lisbon. EU-Africa relations, the unresolved conflicts in the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood and the Indo-Pacific region will be on the agenda. There will also be an exchange of views with the Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ayman Al Safadi, who has been invited to take part in the working lunch.

Grlić Radman, who will attend that meeting, said that he had congratulated Minister Santos Silva on the successful Portuguese EU presidency.

Croatian-Portuguese relations excellent, TAP introduces direct Lisbon-Zagreb flight service

Considering the Croatian-Portuguese relations, Grlić Radman described them as excellent without any outstanding issues.

He thanked Santos Silva for the prompt Portuguese assistance after the 29 December 6.2 strong quake hit central Croatia.

"We discussed economic cooperation. There is room for its advancement," Grlić Radman said.

TAP Air Portugal, the state-owned flag carrier airline of Portugal, will restore the direct flights between Lisbon and Zagreb on 2 June, after it had ceased operating that line more than five years ago.

We are looking forward to that service, the Croatian minister said.

In 2019, 65,570 Portuguese visitors traveled to Croatia, and in 2020, their number fell to 7,122  due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the data provided by the Croatian National Tourist Board.

Grlić Radman also welcomed the Portuguese authorities' decision to relax rules for the entry of Croatians into Portugal. Currently, travelers arriving from Croatia into Portugal are required to have a negative PCR test to coronavirus and need no quarantine.

The two ministers discussed the developments in the Western Balkans and the EU enlargement to that part of Europe.

The European security and stability depend on the admission of those countries in the European space, and this is also important in the light of reducing the influence of third countries on Western Balkan countries, the Croatian minister said. 

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

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Slovenian PM Supports Croatia's Schengen Entry

ZAGREB, 26 May, 2021 - Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša on Wednesday supported the Schengen entry of Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania as it would strengthen security in Europe.

We support Croatia's entry to the Schengen Area, as well as the entry of Bulgaria and Romania. We believe those are steps that strengthen security in Europe, he told a joint press conference with European Parliament President David Sassoli.

He spoke at the press conference via video link from Ljubljana after presenting to European Parliament leaders the priorities of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts on 1 July.

Croatian PM Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Tuesday he expected Croatia's Schengen membership could be on the agenda during the Slovenian presidency.

"Croatia is on the right track to become a member of the Schengen Area in 2022 and then to enter the eurozone. I think that's possible. When we look at the very good relations we now have with Slovenia, it would be a great scenario if something like that happened during Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU," he told the press.

Janša today also supported EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, saying many problems there, including the border issue, would be taken off the agenda with the accession of those countries.

EU enlargement is in our common interest. It should be our strategic response to numerous challenges, he added.

He said that when the EU was dealing with the financial and then the migrant crisis, neglecting enlargement, some other factors started expanding their influence in the Western Balkans.

Those foreign factors don't have the same values as we in the European Union, he added.

Janša said a European perspective was the answer.

We can solve problems by making borders less important. Slovenia is now part of the European Union and Schengen, where there are no physical borders, he added.

He announced an EU-Western Balkan summit for 6 October in Slovenia.

As for the priorities of Slovenia's EU presidency, Janša highlighted respect for the rule of law and EU resilience to crises. He also underlined the importance of the Conference on the Future of the EU, which will end next year during the French presidency.

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

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Decision on Croatia's Entry to Schengen Area Possibly in Second Half of Year

ZAGREB, 24 May, 2021 - Croatia hopes its entry to the Schengen area of passport-free travel could be put on the agenda during Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of this year, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday.

"I believe it is possible. We have excellent overall relations with Slovenia and it would be great if that happened during Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU," Plenković told reporters.

Plenković discussed Croatia's accession to the Schengen area and the euro area with European Council President Charles Michel and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Both the previous and current European Commission have confirmed that Croatia has met all technical criteria to enter the Schengen area and it is now up to the member-states, that is, the Council of the EU, to make a political decision on the matter.

Asked if he expected problems from some member-states, Plenković said that Croatia had succeeded in showing its partners through dialogue that it had met all criteria.

"I believe that we are heading towards a positive decision by the Council," he said.

The EC has said that on 2 June it will announce a new strategy for the Schengen area and two bills on changes to the Schengen evaluation mechanism and the Schengen Information System.

As for Croatia's other strategic goal, entry to the euro area, Plenković said that talks were underway with Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and that Croatia could soon achieve that goal as well.

"I believe that we will manage to join the euro area in the next two years," said Plenković.

The Croatian PM and European Council President Michel discussed also the situation in Southeast Europe, notably Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Plenković said that Croatia supported its neighbours' European ambitions, underlining the need to amend Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law so that it could enable parliamentary elections in 2022 and be fair for all constituent peoples and other citizens.

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

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