Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Plenković: Focus of Croatian EU Presidency to Be on SE Europe

ZAGREB, January 21, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday it was good that the focus of the Croatian EU presidency was on the countries of South-eastern Europe because the process of integration of these countries into the European Union was not a priority for the Union.

Plenković was speaking to Croatian reporters covering his attendance at the annual summit of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Together with leaders from Central and Eastern Europe, he participated in panels on diplomatic dialogue on the Western Balkans and on generating growth in Central and Eastern Europe, and held a number of bilateral meetings.

"I'm trying to calibrate the expectations of all our neighbours from the Croatian presidency of the EU this year because, realistically speaking, it is good that Croatia is putting the focus on the countries of South-eastern Europe given so many other important topics," Plenković said.

"If someone else was the president now, I doubt that this would be a topic, given Brexit and a new contractual relationship with the United Kingdom, a seven-year budget that is yet to be adopted, a conference on the future of Europe and the Green Deal package," he added.

Plenković said that the World Economic Forum was an excellent opportunity to talk to heads of state and government and leaders of international organisations, financial institutions and large companies that are interested in cooperation.

He said that during the EU presidency it was important to "dynamise relations between our neighbours and the European Union," expressing hope that the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb in May would be a success.

"There are quite great expectations from the Zagreb summit in May. It will be an opportunity, I hope, to unblock this situation with North Macedonia and Albania, take a step further and define the future relationship with all the countries in our neighbourhood in the next decade," the Croatian PM said.

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

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Croatia's EU Presidency New Chance for SE Europe

ZAGREB, January 12, 2020 - Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Ivan Sabolić has said BiH will have Croatia's full support on its European integration path during Croatia's presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of this year.

EU membership is BiH's strategic goal and the desire of a significant part of its population, he said on Saturday at an event which the Croatian Embassy in Sarajevo organised on the occasion of Croatia's EU presidency.

"Croatia is willing to help BiH on that path with its fresh negotiating process experience as well as its status as a European Union member state. We will push for Bosnia and Herzegovina's possible progress towards candidate status," Sabolić said.

Croatia now has the chance, in partnership with the member states and all institutions, to make its special contribution to Europe and one of the priorities is strengthening the European prospects of Southeast Europe, he added.

"We will push for the continuation of a consistent, effective and credible enlargement policy based on the confirmed European perspective of the candidates and the potential candidates, with the full meeting of the defined criteria. As the youngest member state, we are aware of the transforming power of the accession process. The European idea of unity encourages change, suppresses the syndromes and myths of the past, introduces new rules and new values."

Sabolić said it was clear that European unification could not end before all the Southeast European countries gradually became EU members. Therefore, he said, enlargement should be confirmed as a component of the idea of a united Europe.

"We can talk about the pace but we must not bring the goal into question. It's a process in which no one must give up. It's necessary to encourage constant and persevering dialogue. It's a door we want to keep open," he said.

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

Friday, 6 December 2019

Croatia Attaches Importance to EU Membership Prospects of Its Neighbours

ZAGREB, December 6, 2019 - The Croatian Parliament will emphasise through its activities the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the European Union and special emphasis will be placed on the membership prospects of Western Balkan countries that wish to join the EU, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Thursday.

Jandroković was attending a conference of European Parliament presidents in Zagreb, which also involved European Parliament President David Sassoli and the chairs of political groups in the European Parliament.

"What is important to us is to emphasise through the parliamentary dimension the priorities of the Croatian presidency - a Europe that develops and connects, that cares about security and that is influential in the world. But of particular importance to us are the membership prospects of our neighbours that aspire to become EU members," Jandroković told the press ahead of a meeting with Sassoli and representatives of the political groups in the European Parliament.

He expressed hope that the Western Balkans summit, which will be held in Zagreb in May, would send positive messages to all the countries aspiring to join the EU. "We on our part as Parliament will try to give an added value to it," he said.

Sassoli and the leaders of all political groups in the European Parliament were on an official visit to Zagreb on Thursday to discuss with the Croatian leadership the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the EU in the first half of next year.

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

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Plenković: EU Enlargement Important for Peace and Stability in Region

ZAGREB, November 28, 2019 - During its chairmanship of the European Union in the first half of 2020, Croatia will advocate for the continuation of southeast European aspirants' journey to the European Union, as Zagreb finds this important for the transformation, peace and stability in the region, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in parliament on Wednesday.

Plenković presented to Croatian lawmakers a report on the 17-18 October European Council meeting during which European leaders in Brussels discussed a new institutional framework of the European Union, enlargement process, Brexit, a new seven-year budget of the European Union, climate change and the developments in Turkey.

The European Council failed to reach an unanimous decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, as France, the Netherlands and Denmark were opposed to the opening despite the fact that the European Commission gave a green-light for the start of their membership talks.

The European Council is expected to put this topic again on its agenda before a summit meeting of the EU and southeastern European countries, set for May in Zagreb, Plenković said.

Plenković explained reasons why Croatia found it important for the enlargement process to continue.

Enlargement is important for transformation of the countries that are still outside the bloc, he said adding that Croatia is aware of its importance for peace and stability particularly in the southeast of Europe.

The process of accession is good lever to undertake reform processes concerning democratic values, strengthening of the legal system and reforms aimed at making those aspirants functional market economies, he added.

This is also important for the sake of good neighbourly relations, resolution of outstanding issues, respect of human and minority rights, he added.

We also conduct consultations with key partners in the Union, new leaders of EU institutions as well as with neighbouring countries so as to really calibrate the expectations of those who would like to go forward, in parallel to being acquainted with details, moods and real possibilities of EU members, he said.

In cooperation with the new European Council President, Charles Michel, we must find a balance and send political messages that will pave the way for a road-map for the decade ahead of us, he said.

Plenković reiterated four umbrella areas for Croatia's presidency: a Europe that develops, connects and protects and is influential on the global scene.

Croatia will continue to work on its two strategic priorities. its Schengen membership bid and its preparations for the euro adoption.

More news about Croatia and the Western Balkans region can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

MEP Picula Appointed as EP Rapporteur for Western Balkans

ZAGREB, November 27, 2019 - Croatian MEP Tonino Picula has been appointed EP rapporteur for Western Balkans ahead of a summit in Zagreb in May 2020.

His role will be to prepare recommendations to the Parliament, Council and Commission regarding the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as well as providing new impetus to the enlargement process, Picula's office reported on Wednesday.

One of the main topics and challenges that Picula will be involved with in the report is reaching a consensus in the Council regarding the enlargement process to countries in the Western Balkans, his office said in a press release, adding that the report is also aimed at analysing and responding to new proposed reforms for the enlargement reform process.

"Reform debates must not stop the process. Countries need to be assessed individually based on individual merits and achievements. Montenegro is the forerunner in that process and I expect that the achieved results and invested efforts to be recognised and that pre-accession negotiations be closed during this term," Picula concluded.

"I am exceptionally honoured with this new role as rapporteur for recommendations on the Western Balkans ahead of the coming summit in Zagreb...I will offer concrete recommendations that will enable blockades to be removed and to finally open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in Zagreb already," Picula said.

"By making a mistake, French President Emmanuel Macron, who blocked the process of opening negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, in fact succeeded in something he did not plan - he returned the issue of enlargement into the focus of being debated at the European level," added Picula.

More news about the European Parliament can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Western Balkan Countries Put Hopes in Croatia's EU Presidency

ZAGREB, November 8, 2019 - Western Balkan countries, aspiring for European Union membership, are putting their hopes in Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020, and are hoping that North Macedonia and Albania will be given a greenlight for opening accession talks before the Zagreb summit in May.

These hopes were expressed at a meeting on the European prospects of southeastern European countries in Geneva on Friday. The meeting, organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF), brought together heads of state or government and ministers from Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Turkey.

During the event, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that "Croatia intends to help its neighbours" and that it would be ideal to reach a consensus on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania by May.

"We are neither excessively optimistic nor enthusiastic. Nevertheless, this process needs to move forward. Without membership prospects we cannot count on accelerated economic development, true democratic values, cooperation, and accordingly, further strengthening of stability and security of our immediate neighbourhood," said Plenković.

Last month, the European Council failed to agree on opening accession negotiations with Tirana and Skopje, despite the fact that the European Commission gave its greenlight and the fact that a majority of EU member states were in favour of starting the talks. A unanimous decision is required in such cases.

France, as the most vocal opponent to further EU enlargement in the near future, as well as the Netherlands and Denmark withheld their support for the two Balkan aspirants.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in Geneva that a lot of changes had been made in a bid to make progress on the journey towards the European Union.

Zaev put his hopes in Croatia's EU presidency because it would enable "more focus to be placed on the whole region," adding that North Macedonia would continue implementing reforms.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that they felt as if "they are left without a compass", underscoring that Albania and its citizens nevertheless wanted EU membership.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said his country was not so optimistic as North Macedonia and Albania, but it would like to be given a clear answer.

Since early 2014, when Belgrade opened accession negotiations, 17 policy chapters have been opened in that process.

One of the conditions for Serbia's admission to the EU is the normalisation of its relations with Kosovo.

Montenegro's Vice Premier Zoran Pazin said that his country did not expect the EU to make concessions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić said that the EU membership had no alternative.

Zvizdić also commented on French President Emmanuel Macron's description of Bosnia as a "ticking time-bomb" and the greatest concern for Europe in the Balkans due to the country's "problem of returning jihadists".

Zvizdić responded that his country had made great progress in the fight against terrorism and added that in the last three years no Bosnian citizens had gone to wars in foreign countries or participated in terrorist actions.

More news about Croatia and the Western Balkan countries can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Support to Neighbouring Countries' European Future Guarantee of Croatia's Security

ZAGREB, November 4, 2019 - Southeast Europe is one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020 because Southeast European countries deserve a European future and Croatia must lend a hand, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Monday, noting that support to Southeast Europe also guaranteed Croatia's security.

"As of January 1, Croatia is neutral in terms of the presidency itself, meaning that it is responsible for all member countries and must listen to what they say and pursue a policy of consensus. And Southeast Europe indeed is one of the priorities," said Grlić Radman.

Grlić Radman and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday held a working meeting in Zagreb with ambassadors and permanent representatives of Croatia as part of activities in EU member countries during Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU.

"That is our immediate neighbourhood. All those countries deserve a European future and we must help our neighbours. Support to that part of Europe also guarantees our own security," the minister said in a comment on presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro's statement that it was not good to put emphasis on the Western Balkans during Croatia's EU presidency.

Škoro said that the EU presidency should be used to derive benefit for Croatia rather than to focus on the Western Balkans.

PM Plenković recalled that the coming Zagreb summit meeting of EU member states and Southeast European countries, or technically speaking Western Balkan countries, had been planned carefully and for a long time but that that could not be easily recognised by someone who had served as a diplomat only in Pecs (a reference to Škoro's serving as Croatia's consul-general in Pecs in the 1990s).

"We also view the summit in the context of what Croatia can do for Croats as an equal and constituent ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for Croats in Serbia. One should first expand one's horizons and then make statements, but there will be time for that," Plenković said.

Among Croatia's priorities is a Europe that connects - in terms of transport, infrastructure and digitally, keeping pace with the fourth industrial revolution, said the PM.

Grlić Radman explained that those dealing with the EU and processes in it should know that when a member country was taking over EU presidency, it could not focus on its own interests but was responsible for all member-countries.

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

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Croatia and Slovenia Advocate Further EU Enlargement

ZAGREB, September 3, 2019 - Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman on Tuesday said in Bled, Slovenia that Croatia and Slovenia advocate the EU's further enlargement to the Western Balkans and underscored that he hopes for a positive response from the European Commission on Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area.

Grlić Radman was attending the Beld Strategic Forum and said that Croatia and Slovenia support EU enlargement to countries in the Western Balkans.

"We want peace and stability in that part of Europe and those countries have the right to a European future," Grlić Radman said.

Answering a question about the possibility of Slovenia blocking Croatia from joining the Schengen Area, Grlić Radman said that he hoped for a positive response from the European Commission and that he would work so that Ljubljana does not block Zagreb.

"We are in the European family and we will certainly all show solidarity," Grlić Radman said and added that he would endeavour to obtain the "green light from Slovenia."

He commented on a recent informal meeting with his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar after which he told the N1 television station that in 2017 Cerar "almost accepted" an initiative proposed by Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on a protocol which would lead to a bilateral agreement on the border dispute, which Cerar later denied.

"We met on Krk island but we did not talk about anything else except about future cooperation," Grlić Radman said briefly.

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

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Croatia Ranks 3rd in Region in Politeness and Quality of Service

ZAGREB, August 29, 2019 - Based on criteria of quality of service, politeness and knowledge of what is being offered to shoppers and guests, Croatia ranked third among six countries in the region, while Slovenia ranked first, indicates a survey conducted by the Heraklea agency in cooperation with agencies in the region.

This was the 11th survey of quality of services in the region conducted via mystery shoppers. The survey was conducted in June in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

The agency's mystery shoppers visited 800 retail outlets - car dealerships, banks, petrol stations, supermarkets, telecommunication companies, hotels and restaurants - to discover where the best services can be found.

The benchmarks include basic quality of service like greeting shoppers, identifying their needs/wishes, recognising products, offering additional products, and thanking shoppers, all under standards from the word GUEST (Greet, Understand, Explain, Suggest, Thank).

Croatia scored 75.1% and was ranked third, an increase of almost 2 percentage points compared to last year.

The best service can be found in Slovenia, which scored 83.4% or 8 percentage points better than last year, while Montenegro had a score of 55.1%, 15.4 percentage points worse off than last year, and had the most room for improvement, ranking 6th.

Serbia too dropped, by 4.2 percentage points this year, scoring a result of 70.5%, while North Macedonia scored 83.1% for politeness, faring 4.1 percentage points better than last year.

More lifestyle news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Almost 250,000 Nationals of Western Balkan Countries Emigrated to EU in 2018

ZAGREB, August 15, 2019 - A total of 228,000 nationals of the Western Balkan countries Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo, emigrated legally to the European Union in 2018, according to Eurostat figures, carried by the Montenegrin daily "Vijesti" on Thursday.

Last year, 62,000 Albanians moved to the EU, which is 2.2% of the country's overall population, followed by 2.1% of North Macedonians (24,300), and 2% of Kosovars (34,500 Kosovars; 53,500 nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina left their country for the EU, a share of 1.5%, while Serbia lost 51,000 citizens to emigration (1.3%) and Montenegro 3,000 (0.5%).

Nationals of Western Balkan countries emigrate the most to Germany. In 2018 as many as 19,000 Kosovars, 16,000 citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia each, 11,500 North Macedonians and 1,500 Montenegrins emigrated to Germany.

Albanian citizens prefer Italy and in 2018, 23,000 emigrated to that country.

Last year, a total of 2.67 million residence permits were issued in the EU for the first arrival from almost every country in the world.

The number of new immigrants is the highest in Germany - 543,000, followed by the UK, with 450,000 immigrants, France, with 264,000 immigrants, Spain, with 259,000, Italy, 238,000 and Sweden, with 124,000 immigrants.

More emigration news can be found in the Politics section.

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