- Published: 16.01.2019.
Plenkovic: True patriots want stronger Croatia in stronger Europe
At last year's meetings of the European Council and the Council of Europe, the Croatian government continued to advocate and defend Croatian positions and priorities in all key aspects of European policies, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told the Croatian parliament on Wednesday, rejecting criticisms from "quasi-sovereignists" that the government was sacrificing Croatian interests for the European Union.
The priorities which Croatian representatives particularly focused on were the rights of Croatian citizens in the United Kingdom after its departure from the EU and the status and rights of Croats in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, the prime minister said while presenting to MPs a written report on European Council meetings in 2018.
The focus was also on migration and security challenges, the new multiannual EU budget for 2021-2027, preparations for the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020, EU enlargement, preparations for campaigning for the European Parliament election in May, consultations with citizens, and the situation in neighbouring countries.
In addition to four regular meetings in Brussels, held in March, June, October and December, three informal meetings also took place, in Brussels, Sofia and Salzburg, as well as an extraordinary meeting on Brexit, held in Brussels on 25 November.
Plenkovic dismissed accusations by "various pamphleteers and quasi-sovereignists" that the government was sacrificing national interests for the European Union.
"That simply isn't true," the prime minister said, stressing that Croatia's sovereignty was strengthened and reinforced by its membership of NATO and the EU. "On the contrary, if it weren't for these two key and important frameworks which have built the European continent and international order, our international position would be considerably weaker than it is today."
"That's why every true patriot can only be in favour of a stronger Croatia in a stronger Europe, because this better protects national interests," Plenkovic said.
On the subject of migration, the European Union's approach includes three pillars: strengthening cooperation with third countries, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, in the Middle East and Asia as well as in Southeast Europe; more efficient curbing of irregular migration and networks of human traffickers alongside the improvement of surveillance of the EU external borders; and reaching agreement to overhaul the European common asylum policy.
Croatia advocates providing assistance to the countries of Southeast Europe to make them more efficient in coping with migration challenges, Plenkovic said.
Croatia has EUR 35 million at its disposal from the Internal Security Fund for reinforcing border surveillance. More funds were made available to Croatia for that purpose last year, he noted, adding that a Frontex airplane was put at Croatia's disposal last July.
Schengen passport-free area
Last year, Croatia made significant progress in meeting the criteria for admission to the Schengen area, Plenkovic said in his speech.
Croatia now expects relevant European Commission services to evaluate the action plans it submitted in late 2018, and Zagreb also expects the EU Council to prepare a report on Croatia's technical preparedness before a relevant political decision is made on Croatia's Schengen bid.
Commenting on the situation surrounding the planned departure of the UK from the EU, Plenkovic recalled that the proposed Brexit agreement had been rejected by an overwhelming majority in the British parliament on Tuesday evening.
However, the Croatian PM believes that the Brexit deal, hammered out by British Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU, is "a very good framework", adding that its rejection was "a great defeat for Prime Minister May."
Now it is possible that the UK will leave the EU without a deal, which in Plenkovic's opinion is the worst-case scenario.
During the Brexit negotiations, Croatia protected the interests of Croatian citizens resident in Britain, he said.
Considering the adoption of the euro, Plenkovic said that the introduction of the common currency in Croatia could be expected in three to five years.
He recalled that a strategy for that purpose was adopted last May.