- Published: 14.01.2020.
PM presents priorities of Croatia's EU presidency to European Parliament
The EU is faced with numerous challenges and it must find a way to respond to its citizens' concerns, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic warned on Tuesday while presenting the priorities of Croatia's EU presidency in the European Parliament.
The world is growing more complex by the day, the number of our tasks is growing as is the number of those who offer simple answers and quick solutions, often unfounded and based on false information. Our citizens' expectations are growing. We must get close to them, listen to them and respond to their concerns, Plenkovic said at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The slogan of Croatia's EU presidency is "A strong Europe in a world of challenges."
PM Plenkovic said the first task of the Croatian presidency is an agreement on the EU's multiannual budget, which must satisfy all citizens and countries, which is why, he said, cohesion and agricultural policies need to be retained as well as new challenges addressed.
Plenkovic said that Europe had to act faster with regard to the budget because otherwise citizens would be disappointed, adding that Croatia wanted fast progress to be achieved during its presidency.
Speaking of Brexit, Plenkovic repeated that there was a wish to complete an orderly exit of Great Britain from the EU but that the period of 11 months for an agreement on future relations between the UK and the EU was extremely short.
The PM said that during Croatia's EU presidency, a conference on Europe's future would start, its purpose being to bring the EU closer to citizens and consolidate its democratic legitimacy.
Plenkovic said the conference provided an opportunity to understand what had led to Brexit and why there was Euroscepticism and why populism was on the rise in a number of EU countries.
The conference must guarantee the involvement of all member states, national parliaments and citizens. It must be inclusive and open, Plenkovic said about the initiative, which EU Commissioner for Demography and Democracy Dubravka Suica of Croatia will be in charge of.
Speaking of a coming summit meeting on EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, to be held in Zagreb, he said that the purpose of the meeting was to show aspirants that their European journey would not be questioned and that the EU would help them in the process.
Plenkovic stressed that Croatia wanted accession talks to be opened with North Macedonia and Albania before the Zagreb summit, after the European Council refused to do it last October.
Citing the four priorities of Croatia's presidency (A Europe that develops; A Europe that connects; A Europe that protects; and An influential Europe), Plenkovic said that special attention would be dedicated to the implementation of the European Green Deal, for which funding needed to be secured.
Describing EU presidency as a historic moment for Croatia, Plenkovic recalled that Croatia had only recently gained its sovereignty.
The first free elections in Croatia were held only 30 years ago. They marked the restoration of Croatia's sovereignty after nine centuries and put the country back on the political map of the world, Plenkovic said to a half-empty chamber, which is common when smaller member-countries present their presidency.
Croatia gained international recognition in the difficult circumstances of a war of aggression. Owing to its defenders, it defended and liberated itself 25 years ago, completed the process of reconstruction and embarked on the path of European integration, and it is now for the first time at the EU's helm, said Plenkovic.
Commenting on last week's visit of the European Commission to Zagreb, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament that the commissioners witnessed Croatians' very well known hospitality as well as the country's rich culture, traditional folklore and diversity.
Three decades after the horrible bloodshed, your country is running the European Union, she said.
Nobody could have imagined how fast and how strongly you will be developing since you gained independence, she stressed.
That happened because of the will of your people, its sacrifice and commitment to our values, as well as because of the commitment to joining our union of progress, peace and prosperity, she said, adding that the EU would need the resolve, unity and energy Croatians were well known for.