Leaders of 44 European countries attend 1st summit of European Political Community

Photo /Vijesti/2022/10 listopad/6 listopada/ed80c8fe-b122-4118-8407-f2995a2b6b61 (1).jpg

The heads of 44 European states gathered in Prague on Thursday for the first summit of the European Political Community, a new forum for dialogue and cooperation in dealing with issues of common interest.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković held a series of bilateral meetings as part of the summit and participated in a round table on peace and security in Europe.

After the short plenary, there were two round tables, one on peace and security, and the other on climate, energy and the economy.

Plenković took part in the former with French President Emmanuel Macron and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

He also held talks with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, Ukrainian PM Denys Shmyhal, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, and North Macedonian PM Dimitar Kovačevski.

Serbia can import all but Russian oil via Croatia

"I have already said several times that under the present circumstances Serbia cannot sit in two chairs. It cannot come here to discuss its EU membership prospects and expect major steps forward while refusing to comply with any of the sanctions against Russia," Plenković said on arrival in Prague for the first meeting of the European Political Community and an informal EU summit.

"Secondly, Serbia can import all the oil it needs through JANAF (Croatian oil pipeline operator), but not Russian oil," he added.

Serbian media and politicians are accusing Croatia of making sure that Serbia was not granted an exemption for further imports of Russian oil via JANAF.

EU member states have unanimously agreed the eighth package of sanctions against Russia, including a cap on the prices of Russian oil for third countries. The European Commission proposed an exemption for the Western Balkan countries, but it was decided that there was no need for that because they could meet their needs by purchasing oil from other sources.

"To approve a derogation for Serbia because of its deal with Putin so that it continues to get cheap Russian oil, which would arrive in a Croatian port and be transported by JANAF to Serbia, when Russia is conducting an aggression against Ukraine? What would that make us, some useful idiots?" the Croatian PM said.

Plenković said that the rhetoric coming from Serbia, from Vučić, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and their tabloid mouthpieces, was insane, noting that he and his government were portrayed as Ustashas in Serbia.

"That is insane. Serbia should comply with the EU sanctions regime. It will not be in any danger. It can buy oil from anyone else and transport it via Croatia," the Croatian PM said. "Besides, there were a lot of countries that did not support an exemption, and they should ask the Commission why it did not support them," he added.

Asked if the prices of natural gas would be capped at this summit, Plenković said that such a decision would not be made because it was an informal meeting, but added that the matter would be discussed.

Plenković says didn't order signing of oil export memorandum

"Everything is clear here. Neither did I order that a memorandum be signed nor did I order, and we saw this nonsense in the media the other day, that the Sisak refinery be closed," Plenković told Croatian press in Brussels.

At the meeting in question, he said, the then economy minister Tomislav Ćorić and Kovačević informed him about an oil export memorandum and Kovačević, then head of the JANAF oil pipeline operator, "praised the memorandum."

"They came to present the matter to us, and later on JANAF and INA agreed on the memorandum," Plenković added.

The memorandum was a commercial agreement between JANAF and the INA energy company and that "one company made money, while the other reduced losses."

"Business decisions on whether the Sisak refinery will operate or not, or be transformed, are INA's company decisions," he added.

He said "the enormous investment cycle in the Rijeka refinery will raise the oil refining capacity in Rijeka, so that this oil will be enough not just for Croatia but surrounding countries, too."

Plenković said Kovačević's hearing at the Anti-corruption Council in parliament revealed the opposition's "despair" and "clutching at some straw."

He noted that Kovačević was indicted by USKOK and said he came to the hearing "with a carefully prepared political agenda to save himself from the theft in JANAF and the money siphoning," and to try and raise the issue of "some meeting, some instructions, some policy that should be contrary to strategic national interests. Frankly, it's all ridiculous."

Plenković said Kovačević was not acting alone. "The opposition is assisting him in that and will try anything."

That team has been trying to destroy us for years and failing because, he said, citizens "understand who is ensuring economic growth, the euro, Schengen, a successful tourist season, capping electricity and gas prices, capping food prices, aiding pensioners, fishermen, the employed, the unemployed, all social transfers."

"You have us who are taking account of the proper, genuine, real interests of Croatian citizens and the economy and the country's course, and a destructive, disruptive team which will do anything to come to power, even call to parliament before the Anti-corruption Council a man indicted by USKOK," Plenković said.

"It's frightening what the Croatian political scene has come to," he added.