Croatia’s EU presidency achieves maximum despite COVID-19: PM

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said here on Monday that COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Croatia’s first EU presidency, but maximum has been achieved.

Under the motto “A strong Europe in a world of challenges,” Croatia, the latest EU member, took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union on Jan. 1. The presidency ends on June 30, so Plenkovic gathered on Monday the chiefs of foreign diplomatic offices to sum up the achievements before Germany takes over the presidency on July 1.

“When we started, we wanted to send a message about a strong Europe in a world full of challenges. Nobody knew that one of the challenges would be COVID-19, which didn’t change only the Croatian presidency but the world, Europe, Croatia, and many countries around the world,” Plenkovic said.

Although the pandemic has disrupted Croatia’s initial plans and program, Plenkovic believed that the maximum has been achieved in the last six months.

Croatian presidency put the focus on the European perspective of the Western Balkan states and during its presidency, the EU agreed to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. EU-Western Balkan summit, which was planned to be the highlight of the presidency, didn’t take place in Zagreb because of the pandemic, but instead, a video summit was held where member states adopted the Zagreb Declaration which reaffirmed the European perspective of the Balkans states.

During the Croatian presidency, for the first time ever a member state left the EU. Prime Minister noted on Monday that an orderly Brexit was ensured and the European Council reached a consensus on a mandate for future negotiation with the UK.

Referring to one of the achievements, Plenkovic stressed that member states reached an agreement on the Conference on the Future of Europe. The conference should be launched as soon as the epidemiological conditions are ensured and it should focus on how to develop EU policies over the medium and long term in order to tackle more effectively the challenges facing Europe, including the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the new round of negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework and a European recovery plan is approaching, the prime minister said that the EU must show that it stands by its member states and citizens and that it can act quickly and effectively.