Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Milanović Discusses Euro Area, Schengen and BiH with Slovenian Foreign Minister

ZAGREB, 6 July 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Wednesday received Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister Tanja Fajon, with whom he talked about Ljubljana's support on Croatia's path towards membership of the Schengen Area and the euro area, as well as the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Milanović and Fajon talked about the possibilities of further improvement of cooperation between the two countries, as well as about Croatia's entry into the euro area and the Schengen Area, for which President Milanović expects Slovenia's support, his office said in a press release.

A topic of the meeting was also the situation in Southeast Europe, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With regard to the upcoming elections in that country, President Milanović reiterated his position that it was important and necessary to ensure the legitimate representation of all three constituent peoples in that country.

Milanović expressed satisfaction with Slovenia's support in the effort to secure Bosnia and Herzegovina the status of a European Union candidate, which he himself advocates, and the two politicians also discussed the security crisis caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

For more, check out our politics section.

  

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

EU Formally Begins Process of Croatia's Admission to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 29 June 2022 - The Council of the European Union has initiated the procedure for decision making on the admission of Croatia to the Schengen passport-free travel area, requesting an opinion from the European Parliament which is required for a final decision, Hina learned from diplomatic sources on Wednesday.

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

The decision to initiate the procedure was made on Wednesday at a meeting of the Committee of Representatives, which consists of the ambassadors of the EU member states.

The draft Council Decision "on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in the Republic of Croatia" was sent to the European Parliament together with a letter to Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

"It is my pleasure to inform you that the Council has decided on 29 June 2022 to consult the European Parliament on a draft Council Decision on the full application of the Schengen acquis in the Republic of Croatia. The Council would be grateful if the European Parliament could kindly submit its opinion as soon as possible," says the letter, seen by Hina.

After the European Parliament receives the letter, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will appoint a rapporteur to prepare a draft opinion, which will first be discussed by the Committee. After it is adopted by the Committee, it will be sent for further adoption at a plenary session of Parliament.

It is expected that the European Parliament will vote on a final opinion at one of the two plenary sessions scheduled for October. That will pave the way for a final decision that requires the consensus of 22 EU members of the Schengen area.

The Schengen area currently consists of 26 European countries, four of which are not EU members and have no voting rights - Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The Council decision might also be adopted in October.

Should there be no unforeseen obstacles, in the tenth year of its EU membership Croatia would simultaneously join the Schengen area and the euro area, the two closest integration associations at the core of the European Union.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 30 May 2022

Fajon: Slovenia Supports Croatia's Entry to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 30 May 2022 - Slovenia supports Croatia's entry to the Schengen Area, Slovenia's future foreign minister Tanja Fajon said on Monday but warned that a consensus o the matter would be hard to achieve in the European Union before the Schengen policy was reformed.

Slovenia supports the expansion of the Schengen Area to Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria but it will be difficult to achieve political agreement on that, Fajon said answering questions from the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

She added that the reason for this was "mistrust" between members of the Schengen Area that emerged after the migration crisis of 2015 and 2016, which was why five Schengen Area member states, including Austria, were still conducting tighter controls on the border with neighboring countries that were not in the Schengen Area.

"Until such time that we reform the Schengen treaty, I think enlargement to the three new countries is jeopardized. I think that we first need to create powerful trust between the member states," Fajon said.

In her introductory address, in which she presented the principles based on which she will conduct Slovenia's foreign policy, Fajon said that she will advocate consistent respect for the border arbitration agreement with Croatia, as stated in the coalition agreement between the three parties that will form the new Slovenian government, headed by Robert Golob.

However, she added that she sincerely advocates the strategy of the best possible relations with Croatia, noting that Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area and the OECD is in the mutual interest of Slovenia and Croatia.

"We have a lot more common interests than differences with Croatia, and all issues can be resolved if there is political will," said Fajon.

Fajon said that Slovenia will advocate for EU enlargement to Western Balkan countries and for dialogue between Belgrade and Priština and that it will participate more actively in that process both at the European level and at the forums of regional initiatives.

She criticized the outgoing government led by Janez Janša in reference to foreign policy over the past two years, notably its "deficient" respect for independent institutions and the media, as well as its closeness to "the authoritarian regimes" in Hungary and Poland.

Fajon added that Slovenia would once again turn to the "core" EU countries with strong institutions and respect for the rule of law. In that context, she singled out Germany, but she also mentioned France and Italy.

 For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

EC Again Calls for Admitting Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen

ZAGREB, 24 May 2022 - The European Commission on Tuesday reiterated its recommendation that three EU member states -- Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania -- should be admitted to the Schengen Area after they met the membership criteria.

Today the EC presented its State of Schengen Report 2022. This is the first time the Commission is presenting such a report, following last year's Schengen Strategy.

The report also "reminds of the importance of completing the Schengen area and calls upon the Council to adopt the decisions to allow Croatia, as well as Romania and Bulgaria, to formally become a part of it, in view of the fact that all criteria have been fulfilled. The same will apply to Cyprus once it has successfully completed the Schengen evaluation process."

The State of Schengen report will serve as the basis for discussions of Members of the European Parliament and Home Affairs Ministers in the Schengen Forum on 2 June, and in the upcoming Schengen Council on 10 June.

The report sets a list of priority actions for 2022-2023 that are to be addressed at both national and European levels such as implementing the new IT architecture and interoperability for border management, making full use of cross-border cooperation tools, ensuring systematic checks at the external borders of all travelers, ensuring that Frontex reaches the full potential of its mandate, lifting all long-lasting internal border controls, and adopting the revised Schengen Borders Code.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Slovenia Will Block Croatia's Schengen Entry, Daily Says

ZAGREB, 13 May 2022 - Slovenia's new Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon is advocating that Croatia enters the Schengen Area as soon as possible, but on the condition that the border arbitration award is implemented, Večernji List daily said on Friday.

The paper quotes Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman as saying that Croatia's Schengen entry has nothing to do with the border arbitration.

According to the Slovenian STA news agency, Fajon said Schengen should be renewed as soon as possible by setting clear and transparent rules for accession.

Fajon said she was advocating that Croatia join as soon as possible and that those rules included implementation of the arbitration award which defines the Croatian-Slovenian border.

The Croatian parliament adopted a decision to irrevocably walk out of the arbitration process because it was compromised and contaminated by Slovenia's arbitrator and agent, who used illegal means to influence the process.

Slovenia, however, insisted on the arbitration, which continued and an award was delivered which Croatia does not recognise. This was why all Slovenian governments before the last one led by Janez Janša made normalisation of relations between the two countries conditional on Croatia's recognition and application of the arbitration award, which has been unacceptable to all Croatian governments.

After a two-year arbitration break during the Janša cabinet, the problem has now returned with the new government led by Robert Golob, as indicated by Fajon's statement as well as Golob, who said recently that the award remains "an anchor in Slovenia's policy on Croatia," Večernji List said, adding that this could lead to new tensions between the two countries.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

EP For More Frequent Unannounced Visits Within Schengen Evaluation Mechanism

ZAGREB, 7 April 2022- The European Parliament on Wednesday discussed a report on the Schengen evaluation mechanism and MEPs called for more frequent unannounced inspections and intensified monitoring of whether human rights are respected at the EU's borders.

Migrant crises and a series of terror attacks on EU soil have resulted in differences in the application of the Schengen acquis by the member states, and the Schengen has come across a crisis.

During the debate, it was also said that the coronavirus pandemic had produced an additional burden on the Schengen area and that internal border controls were restored.

Swedish MEP Sara Skyttedal, who is a rapporteur for the Council regulation on the establishment and operation of an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis, called for more unannounced inspections to deal with suspected international security risks and violations of fundamental human rights.

"Unannounced visits, being one of the most effective tools to verify Member States practices, should take place without prior notification to the Member State concerned," reads the report on this topic.

"Unannounced visits should take place for ‘investigative’ purposes in order to verify compliance with obligations under the Schengen acquis, including, in response to indications as regards the emergence of systemic problems that could potentially negatively impact the functioning of the Schengen area or lead to fundamental rights violations, in particular allegations of serious violations of fundamental rights at the external borders," it is suggested.

The document was adopted on Thursday by 427 votes for, 102 votes against, while 24 MEPs abstained from the vote.

The Schengen area now has a population of 420 million in the 26 member-states.

Croatia has met all the technical requirements for its admission to the passport-free zone.

Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler told Hina that Croatia's joining the Schengen area was in the interest of all Schengen members and the EU.

Asked if there was opposition to plans to admit Croatia to the Schengen area, Ressler said that the visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Zagreb last year was a watershed moment.

Ressler underscored that the whole process is going as planned.

 

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Austrian Minister Says Croatia's Admission to Schengen Area Important for EU

ZAGREB, 26 Jan 2022 - Austrian Minister for the EU Karoline Edtstadler said in Vienna on Wednesday that Croatia's joining the Schengen Area was an important security issue for the EU which Vienna supported, the Croatian parliament stated in a press release.

Minister Edtstadler met with Parliament Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner, who is visiting Austria.

At the meeting, Reiner thanked Austria for its support in the aftermath of the earthquakes that struck Croatia in 2020.

He also thanked Austria for its continued support for Croatia's foreign policy priorities -- joining the Schengen Area, the euro area and the OECD.

The parliament's press release also said that Reiner explained to the Austrian minister the problem of the current election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the status of Croats in that country.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

PM Says Croatia Will Not Erect Fence on Border With BiH After Schengen Area Entry

ZAGREB, 18 Dec, 2021 - Once it enters the Schengen area of passport-free travel, Croatia will not erect a fence on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview with the Večernji List daily Saturday issue.

Commenting on his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier this week, Plenković said that Croatia supports BiH's sovereignty and integrity as well as its spirit as agreed in Dayton - one state, two entities and three equal constituent peoples, noting that Croatia will not allow the inequality of Croats in relation to the other two constituent peoples.

"My position is clear and I reiterated it once again in Sarajevo and Mostar - Croatia will not erect a fence or a wall on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. That border connects us and that will remain so after Croatia's accession to the Schengen area. But that makes cooperation between our police forces and other relevant services extremely important, so that we can prevent illegal migrations," he said.

Schengen entry is not only a major privilege, it is also a major obligation for Croatia. Our state border with BiH, Serbia and Montenegro will become the external Schengen border and that is why effective, responsible and thorough control of the border will be a permanent task of the Croatian border police, Plenković said.

He added that agreement was reached during his visit to Sarajevo on the continuation of talks on a possible change of the categories of individual border crossings and on facilitating the flow of people and goods in line with EU regulations.

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Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Plenković: 2022 Essential Because of Accession to Schengen and Euro Area

ZAGREB, 14 Dec 2021 - Next year is very important because we expect a final decision on Croatia's accession to the Schengen and euro areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday, recalling that Croatia has access to about €25 billion from European sources for this decade.

Addressing a launch conference for the Croatian-language special annual edition of the global magazine The Economist, Plenković said that Croatia has about €25 billion at its disposal for this decade, including regular funds from the seven-year European budget, funds from the NextGenerationEU, and about one billion euro for reconstruction following last year's devastating earthquakes.

"That is more than we have ever had....and these are mostly grants," he underscored.

This year's conference dealt with the transformation of the Croatian economy through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) 2021-2026 as the basis for the absorption of funds from the NextGenerationEU mechanism, under which Croatia has access to €6.3 billion in grants and another €3.6 billion in favorable loans.

The NPOO has been approved by the European Commission and Council, Croatia has already received an advance payment of HRK 6.14 billion, and in the first half of 2022 it will receive a new tranche, Plenković said, adding that there are some EU countries that have not yet even delivered their national plans.

The NPOO is the reform basis and financing basis for economic growth and is forecast to increase Croatia's GDP in 2022 and 2023 by 1.4 percentage points.

Economy proved to be exceptionally tough

Plenković said that the national economy showed exceptional strength, agility, and resilience, particularly since the tourism season was beyond all expectations. He also mentioned growth in personal consumption and economic growth which is expected to exceed nine percent, which is more than the eight percent drop in GDP last year.

The most important thing is that Croatia has maintained its image among international organizations, financial institutions, markets, and credit rating agencies, he noted.

"Anyone who is following us sees our credibility and the direction of our actions," said Plenković and highlighted that the direction is based on a speedy return on the path to decreasing public debt and a balanced budget, which cannot be expected this year or next.

He recalled that the Fitch agency has upgraded Croatia's credit rating to its highest level since rating agencies have appraised Croatia.

"This is the framework with which Croatia is entering 2022, which should be very significant institutionally because we expect a final decision on accession to the Schengen and euro areas," said Plenković.

He emphasized the importance of political stability, noting that the period from 2021 to 2028 will have just one intensive period of about 12 months of electioneering.

Government faced unbelievable challenges last year

Speaking of last year, Plenković said that all governments faced an unbelievable challenge as a consequence of coronavirus and had to find solutions to enable normal functioning and economic trends.

That led to a decline in all trends and weaker economic activities, but the government managed to overcome that and it does not regret the expenditure due to the coronavirus crisis which has exceeded HRK 40 billion.

"We have no regrets because we did not see any mass layoffs or bankruptcies," the PM underscored, recalling government support for wages in the private sector among other measures.

Challenges of climate change and demographic revitalization

Globally, the pandemic is still continuing and no one can know when it will end and what new variants we will meet, or what measures we will have to take. However, we will do everything we can to protect the health of citizens while ensuring economic, financial, and social flows, he said.

Everyone has had to learn how to balance - governments, companies, educational institutions, and international institutions, he said.

In the global context, Plenković reflected on relations between the USA and China, the need to strengthen the EU's strategic autonomy in all possible aspects, relations with Russia in the context of Europe's stability, and the issues of migration, climate change, and demographic revitalization.

Polarisation in society during the coronavirus crisis

Plenković said that the coronavirus crisis has led to an exceptional polarisation in the social and political environment, both in Croatia and in the world.

He highlighted the impact of the Internet, social networks, and false information that deceives people, which is why they do not trust institutions, public health, and science.

The latest edition of The Economist was presented by Ivan Vrdoljak from the Livit company. The edition is published in Croatian and provides analyses and forecasts for next year.

Vrdoljak said that The Economist was wrong in its projection of Croatian growth for this year due to unexpectedly fast recovery.

The Economist has forecast growth of 4.7% whereas the government expects growth of about 9%. The Economist projected next year's Croatian GDP growth at 4.1% and inflation at 1.7%, added  Vrdoljak.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Macron Hints at French Support for Croatia's Admission to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - President Emmanuel Macron said in Zagreb on Thursday that France and Croatia would continue cooperating in the sectors of security and migrations, and hinted at French support for Croatia's plan to join the Schengen Area.

Marcon was received by Croatian President Zoran Milanović in his office on Thursday morning with the highest state honors.

Addressing the press after their talks, Milanović said that it was a special honor for him to receive the French head of state.

Macron said that he was proud of being the first French president to visit Croatia since the country gained independence. He said that it was unfair that no French president had visited Croatia before.

Announcing the continuation of cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of security and migrations, Macron added, "Schengen is also here."

Croatia expects the legal procedure for a formal decision on its accession to the Schengen Area to be launched this December when Slovenia is still the chair of the Council of the European Union, and the final decision to be made in the first half of 2022 when France presides over the EU.

Milanović and Macron also discussed the procurement of 12 Rafale fighter jets from France for the Croatian Air Forces.

"This is a big deal in Croatia, both strategically and financially. I am happy about that," Milanović said, adding that the strengthening of Croatia's defence cooperation with France did not mean a halt in cooperation with the United States.

"We have cooperated and we will cooperate with the USA," he said.

During the reception at the Pantovčak presidential office, Macron also held a brief meeting with Croatian pilots who will be trained to fly 12 Dassault Rafale F3R used multipurpose fighter jets.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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