"During last night's discussion, EU leaders again focused on the issue of Southeast Europe, the European prospects of our neighbourhood. A message of encouragement was evidently sent both for European prospects and reforms directed at drawing closer to the EU. I think we raised the awareness of many leaders who perhaps don't deal with this topic that regularly," Plenkovic said ahead of a EU27 meeting on the EU's future.
On Thursday, the European Council discussed the situation in the Western Balkans for the first time since 2008, underlining the need for reforms, good neighbourly relations and inclusive regional cooperation initiatives, and confirming the EU's support for the European prospects of the region. It welcomed the progress of the countries, underlining that the EU remains committed to helping them implement reforms and EU-oriented projects.
Plenkovic said only a few leaders of the member states were closely familiar with the situation in Southeast Europe. "We used the opportunity to point out to other leaders the need for a strong presence, an articulated policy and clear engagement by the EU because if we as the Union are slow, then some others are entering this area."
Speaking of the discussion on Europe's future, Plenkovic said a multi-speed Europe, which is one the scenarios put forward by the European Commission, already existed and that it was important that it did not become a narrow group of countries which excluded others.
He said something should be taken from each of the five scenarios recently presented by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
"Three topics are key to me. A greater democratic legitimacy of institutions to prevent the growing populism; second, a much bigger benefit for citizens from both the European budget and common European policies; and third, a stronger global role by the EU. A quality future of the European project rests on those three pillars."