Von der Leyen urges Croatian presidency to focus on four "key" areas

Written by Martin Banks on 20 January 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

Implementing the European Green Deal, Brexit negotiations, the MFF and enlargement talks are among the priorities singled out by the Commission president.

European Parliament President David Sassoli (Centre) welcomes Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (Left) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Right) at the Strasbourg plenary | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Ursula von der Leyen has urged the Croatian presidency to “move forward decisively” in four “key” areas in the coming six months.

Croatia took over the rotating presidency of the EU on 1 January at what many see as a particularly testing time for the EU, not least with the UK set to quit the bloc on 31 January and ongoing talks about the long-term budget.

Von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, has identified four areas that she hopes the presidency will address, including implementing the European Green Deal.


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She said that tackling climate change was “not just a question for the EU,” adding, “if we are to have any chance of leaving a planet which is worth living on to our children and grandchildren, we in the EU must set an exemplary course of action in the hope the rest of the world will follow suit.”

She added, “The cost of failure to act will be enormous and the consequences will be incomparable. That is why we must make this vital investment in our future now.”

Another priority for the Croatian presidency, she said, is the upcoming Brexit talks between the EU and UK. “We are looking to Croatia to show leadership in preserving EU unity during these negotiations.”

"Croatia is a success story and we feel we have a responsibility to bring added value and invigorate the enlargement process" Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković

“These talks will be complicated, but it is important that there will be transparency, communication and leadership during the discussions, and I have every confidence in the presidency to do this,” she added.

A third key area in the coming weeks, said von der Leyen, will be the EU budget – commonly called the MFF (multiannual financial framework). On this, she simply noted, “We expect progress in the budget negotiations.”

Starting accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania was, she said, a fourth priority, adding, “Croatia knows all too well how much time and how much change it takes before this process can be completed.”

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković points to the upcoming Western Balkans Summit on EU enlargement, which will be held in Zagreb in May 6 and 7.

He said, “Croatia has taken steps to hold this summit, 20 years after we held a similar summit when there were just 15 member states.”

"Over the next six months, Croatia must focus on giving Europe a strong voice in the world. The EU is facing difficult challenges in a changing world, and its leadership is needed now more than ever to defend multilateralism and preserve an international system that respects international law and human rights" S&D group leader Iratxe García Pérez

When it comes to EU enlargement, he said, “Croatia is a success story and we feel we have a responsibility to bring added value and invigorate the enlargement process.”

Plenković says the presidency will focus on “a Europe that is developing, a Europe that connects, a Europe that protects, and an influential Europe”, while parliament’s president David Sassoli said he expects Croatia “to make the summit a success.”

One issue, though, was to resolve the “reservations” some still have about opening talks with the two countries, he said.

Speaking last week during a plenary debate on the Croatian presidency, EPP leader Manfred Weber said, “We have a lot of expectations and I am sure they will deliver.”

Socialist group leader Iratxe García Pérez said, “I hope the presidency can make some headway but some areas of the presidency programme, for example, migration and fighting child poverty, are weak and we would have liked to see more ambition.”

The Spanish member added, “Over the next six months, Croatia must focus on giving Europe a strong voice in the world. The EU is facing difficult challenges in a changing world, and its leadership is needed now more than ever to defend multilateralism and preserve an international system that respects international law and human rights.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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