- Published: 07.06.2019.
Outgoing EC president wants Croatia in Schengen, euro areas
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday supported Croatia's accession to the Schengen and euro areas, saying in Zagreb he hoped a positive recommendation for entering Schengen would be made to the European Council during the term of his Commission, which ends on October 31.
Juncker was visiting Croatia for the first and probably last time in his capacity as EC president.
I want us to give a recommendation to the Council during the term of this EC that Croatia should become part of the Schengen Area, he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.
Plenkovic said a lot had been done on that front. Croatia expects to get a positive evaluation of its progress in fulfilling the criteria to access the Schengen Area before the end of this Commission's term, he added.
Immediately after joining the EU, we used the first EUR 120 million, after that an additional EUR 120 million. Croatia is reinforcing its external border, improving police cooperation with neighbouring countries and we are confident that we will meet the final elements on the table so that the EC can make a positive assessment and make a proposal, Plenkovic said.
Juncker arrived in Croatia on Thursday for a two-day visit which started in Dubrovnik, where Plenkovic informed him of the course of the reconstruction of Dubrovnik Airport and the construction of Peljesac Bridge, both co-financed with European funds.
We have shown how European funds are changing Croatia for the better, said Plenkovic.
As for the euro area, another very important issue for Croatia, Juncker said Croatia was completely ready to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II soon.
He said he was impressed by Croatia's progress on the economic and financial fronts, commending Finance Minister Zdravko Maric's efforts. The decision on Croatia's joining ERM II will be made by the European Central Bank and the EC will support it, he added.
Plenkovic said it was important for Croatia to continue the dialogue with the EC on the introduction of the euro. This is a process that will last several years and Zagreb already meets most of the criteria, he said, adding that the government would work on achieving that goal together with the Croatian National Bank.
Juncker said he was sorry to be leaving the office of EC president before Croatia took over the European Union presidency early next year.
Plenkovic said Croatia wanted to organise a summit with the Southeast European countries aspiring to join the EU. Juncker said it was important the Western Balkan countries kept the European perspective as the opposite could destabilise the region.
He said he was aware of the serious demography problem in Croatia, recalling that European funds could be one of the population renewal measures. He said Croatia could absorb almost HRK 11.5 billion from structural funds by next year to improve the lives of all Croats.
Asked about the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute, Juncker said two friendly neighbours should not have such problems and that the EC had nothing to say on the matter.
Later today Plenkovic is going to Brussels where he and the prime ministers of Latvia, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium will discuss the candidates for the heads of European institutions, including the EC president.
Asked what he expected of the meeting and if it could result in a consensus on the new EC president, Plenkovic said he expected an open discussion and a good dinner.