Plenkovic, Pejcinovic Buric announce stronger cooperation between EU, Council of Europe

Photo /Vijesti/2020/01 siječanj/13 siječnja/52187_023.JPEG

Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Monday announced that they would work on strengthening cooperation between the two organisations during Croatia's EU presidency, while Pejcinovic Buric called on Croatia to adopt the CoE's recommendations on migrants.

Plenkovic met with Pejcinovic Buric, a former Croatian foreign and European affairs minister, in Strasbourg while on Tuesday he will present Croatia's priorities during its presidency of the European Union to the European Parliament.

The two officials assessed that Croatia had proved to be successful when a year and a half ago it chaired the CoE and that its chairmanship of the Council of the European Union will be just as successful.

The prime minister congratulated Pejcinovic Buric, who took the helm of the CoE, which has 47 member states, in September last year, on the initiatives that she has managed to implement in such a "short period," such as the financial aspects that "related to normal budget functioning of the organisation."

Pejcinovic Buric said that relations between the CoE and the EU are strategic relations.

"In that regard, in the context of relations with the EU, we are working together on implementing European standards or establishing European standards in a series of countries."

"Primarily they are countries in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, and in the context of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU, the European prospects of Western Balkan countries are exceptionally important," Pejcinovic Buric underlined and said that with its expertise in meeting human rights standards, the rule of law and democracy, the CoE is prepared to assist with the preparations of the EU-Western Balkans summit to be held in Zagreb in May.

Plenkovic said that Croatia would enhance the EU's international activities during its presidency of the Council of the EU, which is one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency, and that "in that regard close dialogue and cooperation with the Council of Europe is one of the EU's natural reflexes." "That is why my coming here is a message and political signal of respect toward the Council of Europe," said Plenkovic.

Addressing a joint press conference, Pejcinovic Buric pointed out some of the topics the two officials discussed such as migration, recalling that in a report in May 2019 by the CoE's Special Representative on Migration and Refugees, Tomas Bocek, issued some recommendations for member states regarding migrants.

Bocek underlined that operations on the borders should "respect human rights and not prevent identifying those people who require international protection," the CoE' website says.

Croatia needs to establish "credible complaint mechanisms and investigations to address the allegations of ill-treatment at the border," Bocek said in his report for 2018.

"I called on the prime minister to work on the recommendations in that report and that they be implemented," Pejcinovic Buric underlined.

"For the Council of Europe, it is exceptionally important that all standards of international law and human rights are respected with regard to the issue of migrants. This institution considers that children migrants are a particularly sensitive issue, particularly unaccompanied migrant minors," Pejcinovic Buric added.

CoE Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic in December critcised the way Croatia's police was treating illegal migrants arriving from Bosnia and Herzegovina, claiming that security forces were violent towards migrants and that evidence of that existed. She underscored that pushbacks that Croatia's police were allegedly applying was a violation of the Convention on Human Rights.

Pejcinovic Buric called on Croatia to ratify an additional protocol regarding the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and to quickly ratify a revised version of the European Social Charter. Plenkovic said "that should not be a problem."

Pejcinovic Buric said that the EU had announced relaunching negotiations on the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is an obligation that stems from the Lisbon Treaty.

"That is exceptionally important for us, the Council of Europe, because we would not like court practice, as well as other different instruments for the implementation of human rights, develop on two tracks. Hence, we believe that apart from being an obligation from the Lisbon Treaty, that is exceptionally important for European citizens and citizens of the Union and citizens of the CoE member states," said Pejcinovic Buric. 

Plenkovic announced that together "with the Commission and other members, Croatia will see how to improve or accelerate the process of the Union's accession to the system of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights which, we can freely say, is the backbone of the entire organisation, the alpha and omega of the entire system of conventions."

Text: Hina

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