Plenković: EU recovery plan strikes right balance, EU recovery plan funds for Croatia not in question

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The European Commission's recovery plan to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic strikes the right balance between grants and loans, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said after a virtual summit of the European Council on Friday.

The recovery plan is worth €750 billion, and Croatia is due to receive €10 billion in aid over the next four years. Three quarters of the amount intended for Croatia are grants, while a quarter of the sum would be made available through favourable loans.

The European Commission's proposal "strikes the right balance between grants and loans, and with the seven-year budget, which will be larger than the one proposed in February, it will enable the member states to ensure as speedy an economic recovery as possible," Plenković told a press conference.

"The 10 billion euro from the economic recovery plan, plus an estimated 11.5 billion euro from the Multiannual Financial Framework, means a safety net for Croatia so that we can quickly return to the healthy economic growth that we had before the COVID-19 outbreak," he added.

The prime minister is confident that "such ample funds", which reach the amount of Croatia's annual budget, will be sufficient to ensure "speedy economic growth for Croatia and a return to the time of approximately three and a half months ago."

"In that regard, I am pleased with today's discussion," Plenković said, adding that the reservations about the Commission's plan voiced by some member states were not insurmountable.

He pointed out that the amount of €10 billion intended for Croatia was not questioned by anyone and added that during the autumn the member states would prepare national plans for the use of EU funding as of 2021.

The plan put forward by the European Commission is opposed by the so-called Frugal Four, namely Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. They demand that debts should not be repaid by the EU as a whole but by member states that would receive favourable loans.

Croatian presidency

Plenković noted that the motto of the Croatian presidency of the Council of Europe, "A strong Europe in a world of challenges", could not have been better considering the current situation faced by the European Union and the world.

He recalled that in addition to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Croatian capital had been struck by a strong earthquake in late March and that he had raised the issue of reconstruction aid for Zagreb at today's discussion in the Council. He stressed that he expected assistance from the EU in that regard.   

As the president of the EU, Croatia quickly responded to the outbreak of COVID-19 and did what was necessary to ensure the functioning of the EU in such circumstances, the PM said.

Speaking of the goals of the presidency that had been achieved, he cited the return of enlargement to Western Balkan countries to the Union's agenda.

The Croatian presidency has completely changed the context of the EU's enlargement policy in relation to the Western Balkans, Plenković said, citing the green light to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and the May summit in Zagreb which adopted a declaration confirming the membership prospects for the six southeast European countries.