Plenkovic, Varadkar talk Brexit, Croatia's role as EU chair

Photo /Vijesti/2019/11 studeni/21 studenoga/Varadkar/VRH_8690.JPG

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar met in Zagreb on Thursday and talked about Brexit, which could happen during Croatia's EU presidency in the first half of 2020, and preparations for negotiations on future UK-EU relations.

We are confident that Croatia will do an excellent job as EU chair, Varadkar said.

Croatia is taking over the presidency at the beginning of 2020, in the year when Brexit could really happen, he added. Britons are going to the polls on December 12 and if incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins, Varadkar expects the deal to be ratified soon.

Whoever becomes prime minister and forms the government, we will gladly sit down, listen and work with them, he said, adding that regardless of the election result, he could tell the Irish that there would be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Brexit doesn't end with the United Kingdom's exit from the EU but enters the next stage, negotiations on trade, security and political partnership with the UK, Varadkar said.

We expect the withdrawal agreement to be ratified soon and to launch negotiations on future relations, said Plenkovic. He recalled that if Brexit happened, the EU's Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier would become negotiator for future EU-UK relations.

The UK has been given another Brexit delay until January 31.

Plenkovic said that reaching an agreement on future relations by the end of 2020 was very ambitious but not impossible because "where there is a will, there is a way."

The two prime ministers also talked about the EU's 2021-27 budget, enlargement and EU membership prospects for Southeast European countries, which will also be the focus of Croatia's presidency.

The European budget should be appropriate and support long term successful policies, such as the cohesion policy as well as the common agricultural policy, which is very important for our rural communities, said Varadkar.

PM says school strike has election connotations

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday the strike of education employees, which is in its 29th day, "has some election connotations."

"We appeal to professors, teachers, to parents and students, to the union leaders too, to embrace dialogue and reason so that a solution is found because this situation, frankly speaking, certainly has some election connotations too. There's no dispute about that at all. We saw that last year but the topic was different," Plenkovic told reporters.

He said it was not good to claim that the government did not want dialogue. "That's why I want us to resume dialogue and find a solution. This is a reasonable and rational government which is working for teachers and professors, and for workers and pensioners."

Plenkovic said the ongoing strike "perhaps has an emotional dimension." "We are putting ourselves in a situation in which it will be hard for children to make up for the days of school they have missed, perhaps part of the holidays will be brought into question, graduation will be delayed, perhaps even university entrance exams."

That is not good, especially when the government is raising salaries, and a strike in such a situation is "excessive," he said.

He had already appealed to the education unions to resume dialogue and stop striking, claiming that during his government's term employees in primary and secondary schools would definitely have 20% higher salaries.

Text: Hina

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