Croatian Presidency Preview
We spoke to Croatian MEPs from across Parliament about what to expect from the upcoming Croatian Presidency of the European Council.
Western Balkans Integration
Valter Flego (RE) is a Vice-chair of the Delegation to Montenegro
The Western Balkans geographically, historically and politically belongs in the EU, but the whole region still faces serious issues over the rule of law, media freedom, corruption, organised crime, disempowered civil society, protection and respect of minorities as well as its transition to fully-functional market economies.
Genuine regional stability can only be reached by looking at the region holistically. That said, in the case of some candidate countries, such as Montenegro, that have moved further in the accession process, their efforts that must be reflected in negotiation talks.
I expect Montenegro to get the green light to open its final negotiating chapter in the coming months and be ready to join the EU by the end of this mandate. A stable and economically vibrant Western Balkans within a stronger Europe is needed more than ever.
Single Market Protection
Biljana Borzan (S&D) is a member of the IMCO committee
Protection of workers and consumers in the Single Market and digital transformation should be priorities for the Croatian Presidency. We expect a commitment to product safety regulation, as well as progress in regulating the Digital Single Market.
I hope that the Croatian Presidency, as announced, will make great strides in improving transport, energy and digital infrastructure, while continuing to bear in mind the protection and wellbeing of end-users.
Ruža Tomašić (ECR) is a member of the PECH committee
I believe that key priorities of the Croatian Presidency should be battling illegal migration, dealing with demographic issues in Europe and working on new cohesion instruments for underdeveloped Member States.
Croatia will join the Schengen Area in the near future, but that in itself will not solve migration issues. There is an expectation that Cohesion Policy will take a certain financial hit in the new Multiannual Financial Framework.
We should start working on new cohesion instruments to ensure that underdeveloped Member States don’t lose their faith in Europe.
Effective cohesion policy
Tomislav Sokol (EPP) is a member of the IMCO committee
Croatia takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU in January 2020, a year when there will be many turning points for both the EU and its Member States.
I believe that Croatia should insist and focus on effective enlargement policy, particularly as we have a special responsibility to our closest neighbours. Croatia needs to be the welfare and stability guarantor in our part of Europe.
It is also setting the matter of health high on its priority list, particularly issues such as organ donation and transplantation practices, lifelong health care with the emphasis on population ageing and oncology, as well as eHealth. I would like to see Croatia be the force that makes significant health progress.
As part of the “Friends of Cohesion” group, gaining valuable financial support and benefits from the European funds, I would like to see the Croatian Presidency conclude the MFF with a budget that keeps increasing the territorial competitiveness of EU members, as there is a division between EU Member States concerning cohesion policy.
Tonino Picula (S&D) is a member of the AFET committee
As the newest EU member, Croatia will play a major role in helping the EU resolve key issues in the upcoming six months, namely Brexit and the MMF. It will also be the first EU Presidency of the new European Commission.
The President and High Representative say that the new Commission aims to be geopolitical, but it needs to show that in practice. What better way than in acting in our immediate neighbourhood?
The unexpected and misguided decision not to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania had one unplanned consequence - enlargement is again a topic for EU institutions and capitals.
This will inevitably be one of the main topics for the upcoming Presidency, highlighted as one of Croatia’s priorities, with the Zagreb summit on the Western Balkans in May as its focus.
I am honoured to be appointed by the European Parliament as the Rapporteur on the Recommendations for the Western Balkans. By preparing a set of recommendations to the Council and the Commission, we aim to give new impetus to the process.
The EU’s history is one of enlargement; EU reform should therefore run in parallel with the enlargement process. It is the best way to strengthen our credibility and to remain a global player.
Karlo Ressler (EPP) is a member of the BUDG committee
Thirty years after independence, Croatia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in January 2020. During these six months, one of the most momentous issues will be the negotiations on the upcoming 2021-2027 budget.
The main aim should be to finalise the negotiations in a timely manner to enable adequate implementation of all the EU’s programmes and policies. Here, the Croatian Presidency will face a challenge to find a balanced consensus among all Member States for all EU citizens.
We need a budget that reflects new challenges and priorities, such as digitalisation, innovation and research, climate and migration. The view of the Parliament is clear: the budget should meet citizens’ expectations and match the political commitments.
This means that we should not ignore the successful Treaty-based policies that are still of vital importance for our citizens. Cohesion policy has to be adequately represented in the new budget.
With these objectives in mind, all institutions will have to find a balance that will consider the needs and diversity of all European regions and citizens.
Improving peace and stability
Željana Zovko (EPP) is a member of the AFET committee
With Croatia, the youngest Member State of the EU, presiding in the Council, it should use this momentum to make sincere progress in the enlargement debate. The recent non-decision of the Council was a huge disappointment for the Western Balkans.
North Macedonia and Albania had worked rigorously and reached historic compromises. The cessation of enlargement opens a space for other actors and is a seed for instability within the region.
As EPP vice-coordinator for the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, I drafted and delivered a resolution to emphasise our common regret and to highlight this missed opportunity to improve peace and stability.
Together with EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber, I travelled to North Macedonia to show that the EPP continues to support European aspirations for the Western Balkans.
With this in mind, the Croatian Presidency will organise a Summit in Zagreb to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the 2000 Zagreb Summit, where the EU promised a European perspective for the region.
It would be of great symbolic value if the Council could make progress in the enlargement file before this celebration.