Ursula von der Leyen announces her arrival in Croatia on the 1st of January, 2023
An incredible day for Croatian politics is set to occur as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December, 2022 – Eurozone and Schengen accession on the very same day. An impressive feat for any country indeed. European Commission (EU) President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that she intends to be present in Croatia on the maiden day of 2023 as Croatia scraps both the kuna and land border crossings.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has referred to Ursula von der Leyen’s arrival on that particular day as a special marker of Croatia’s much deeper integration into the European Union (EU), of which it has been a member state since July 2013.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has finally been given European Union (EU) candidate status, and Croatia will support it every step of the way forward
Significant disparities between the Republic of Croatia and neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina appeared when Croatia became the newest EU member state back in the summer of 2013. These two countries which share a complex history suddenly ended up on very different political playing fields after enjoying an extremely ”free” relationship, especially in terms of soft border crossings and freedom of movement. Bosnia and Herzegovina now finally has EU candidate status after many years grappling with its deeply complicated internal political situation.
The heads of state or government of the current EU member states confirmed the recommendation agreed upon several days previously by the EU’s ministers for European affairs that Bosnia and Herzegovina be granted the official status of a candidate country for membership of the European Union.
Ahead of the meeting of ministers for European affairs which took place on Tuesday in Brussels, Croatian and Greek Prime Ministers Andrej Plenkovic and Kirijakos Mitotakis sent a letter to European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in which they emphasised their unwavering and strong support for the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the bloc.
The EU flag was placed in the very heart of Sarajevo, a city with an extremely traumatic and tumultuous past, and among the first to react to the decision of the European Council was the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt. Schmidt pointed out that EU candidate status offers a unique opportunity that should be taken advantage of.
He described this status as a key step in the further harmonisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with EU standards and regulations and another confirmation of the commitment of both parties to the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was somewhat left behind following Croatia’s accession, as a member of the European Union.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina must become a safe and prosperous multi-ethnic nation and prove that it is able to overcome its political and economic dysfunctionality and implement a reform agenda. This requires determined politicians and functional institutions, ready to work in the interest of the country,” said Schmidt, announcing that everyone will continue to work to ensure the full implementation of the Dayton Agreement, which has been of vital importance to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s post-war stability.
Plenkovic reacted on Twitter shortly after the decision. “We’re proud and happy, the European Council has confirmed the candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for which it strongly advocated! Our neighbour and friend deserves our support, which is also an incentive for further reforms and an agreement on changes to the electoral legislation. Congratulations from the bottom of my heart!” Plenkovic wrote on the social media platform. The tweet is a reminder of the enmeshment of Croatian politics and that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the two nations with (on many levels) a shared past have remained close.
Plenkovic subsequently made a statement to the media after the meeting of the leaders of the member states in Brussels, in which he said that “Croatia, as a friendly country, will help Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European Union path.”
Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava says his party will vote against training Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, citing the Homeland War
Homeland Movement (Domovinski pokret) president and Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava has openly said that he isn’t a fan of the idea of training Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia and will vote against such a move. The topic has been a burning one of late, with Plenkovic being absolutely for it, claiming those who are against it will have to carry that on their consciences for a long time to come, and President Zoran Milanovic initially being against it, once stating that Croatia doesn’t need to taunt Russia or have another war dragged to its doorstep.
Tensions surrounding the idea have been high in the world of Croatian politics for several weeks now, and Penava is yet another politician to come out of the woodwork against the idea. Penava has openly stated that ”Croatia has been through a war” and that his party is ”going to be voting against it.”
“Our parliamentarians came to this decision respecting their consciences, our electorate, our patriotic spirit and the programme declaration that we just adopted at the Homeland Movement’s closing ceremony, and respecting above all the interests of the Croatian people, which have been neglected due to unreasonable moves, primarily made by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who sought to privatise this topic.
There’s also the President of the State, Zoran Milanovic, because of whom this topic was inflated and brought into frameworks that far exceed the importance for our people, especially in the context of people in Banovina still living and freezing in containers, in the context of the demographic devastation across the country, in the context of a huge increase in prices and a drop in the social standard and people’s personal standards,” said Penava.
Penava also said that “with a view to the Croatian people and the well-being of the Croatian state”, the unanimous opinion of all the representatives of the Homeland Movement is that they will vote against the training of Ukrainian soldiers in this country, for the reason that “we have been through the war and know perhaps better than anyone what it means have a war” and “we don’t want to bring any more war to our people and our country”.
“And for us, there’s a point and a limit below which we refuse to go. I’d like to thank all our parliamentarians for their quality critical reflection on this situation, for the maturity, experience and love they demonstrated, for not putting their ego in the foreground, but for voting in the interest of this country,” Penava added.
PM Plenkovic gives a thumbs up to Kosovo seeking EU candidate status
Bosnia and Herzegovina now has EU candidate status, and it seems that Plenkovic’s support far from stops there, with other countries in the wider region also lodging their own requests. Kosovo, which has also suffered a horrific time thanks to Serbian aggression, much like Croatia, has applied for candidate status.
“We welcome Kosovo’s request for membership in the European Union and wish them much success on their EU journey. We’re going to continue to provide support and share Croatian experiences,” Plenkovic said on Twitter.
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti submitted an application for Kosovo’s membership in the European Union in the Czech capital city of Prague on Thursday this past week, setting in motion a process that could take many years, if not entire decades, and which depends on the normalisation of relations with Serbia. Kurti submitted that request to the Czech Republic for a reason, as it is holding the presidency of the EU this semester.
“Any European country that respects the values referred to in Article 2 and undertakes to promote them may apply for membership of the European Union,” says Article 49 of the Treaty of Lisbon.
In all previous cases, when deciding on the candidate status of a country, the discussion surrounded whether the applicant country fulfills the conditions for membership, that is, the candidate status for membership. Here, however, another matter must be resolved first – whether Kosovo is even a country in its own right. For the 22 EU members, the answer is unquestionable, they have long since recognised Kosovo and established diplomatic relations with it. But the decision requires the consensus of all 27 member states, and Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain do not recognise Kosovo’s independence for their own internal reasons. Therefore, we should not expect a clear answer from the EU until the situation regarding the status of Kosovo becomes clearer.
Zoran Milanovic and Andrej Plenkovic send a message of support and pride to the Croatian national team in Qatar following Argentina’s 3-0 victory
The President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, and the Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, both stopped butting heads for thirty seconds and sent their support to the Croatian football team on social media after the crushing semi-final defeat by Argentina (0-3) this week.
“Keep your heads up, Vatreni! Getting into the semi-finals of the World Cup is a magnificent success. We’re with you in the fight for third place!” Plenkovic wrote on Twitter.
“Congratulations to the Croatian national football team! The Vatreni have entered the semi-finals and will play for third place – that’s a big deal,” Milanovic wrote on his Facebook. Milanovic is otherwise on an official trip to Chile and watched the match with the Croatian community in Punta Arenas, and he was in Qatar for the match between Croatia and Belgium.
Croatia’s hopes were crushed following defeat in the semi-finals against Argentina, where we were beaten 3-0, and on Saturday the team will play for bronze against France or Morocco. Minister of Foreign Affairs Goran Grlic-Radman, who came at the invitation of the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic were also in Qatar this past week.
Plenkovic claims that the government has reacted so well to ongoing inflationary pressures that “people don’t even know what kind of crisis they’re living in”
I think quite a few people may just beg to differ to that statement, but once again Plenkovic has showcased his enormous confidence in both himself and the capabilities of his HDZ government with this rather bold claim.
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP/NPOO) offers “unbelievable investment opportunities”, Plenkovic pointed out at a conference dedicated to the plan, where it was also said that Croatia was set to receive a second tranche of 700 million euros today (that is, the 16th of December, 2023).
The first annual conference on the Croatian Plan for Recovery and Resilience – Ready for Tomorrow was organised by the European Commission’s representative office in Croatia in cooperation with the government.
The Vice-President of the European Commission for Demography and Democracy, Dubravka Suica, announced on that occasion that on December the 16th, the second tranche of 700 million euros will be paid out to Croatia under the NPOO, and assessed that the implementation of the plan in Croatia is going well so far. With the payment of the second tranche, Croatia will have received a total of more than 2.2 billion euros, i.e. 40 percent of the allocated grant funds, by the end of this year within the framework of the NPOO.
The government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021-2026 was adopted back at the end of April last year, the European Commission approved it in July, and through it Croatia received an advance payment of 818 euros million last September, while the first installment in the amount of 700 million euros was paid out in June this year.
At the same time, through the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, a key component of the European Commission’s “Next Generation EU” instrument, and based on the accepted NPOO, Croatia has at its disposal 5.51 billion euros in non-refundable loans, as well as 3.6 billion euros in soft loans. Suica reported that the implementation of that mechanism is progressing according to the initial plan at the EU level as well, with a total of 136 billion euros having been paid out so far.
The “Next Generation EU” instrument is a reaction to the “unprecedented crisis”, Plenkovic stated, noting that this is the European Union’s reaction to the “unprecedented crisis” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, there was an “extremely strong” political will among EU leaders to provide a proper answer to a real problem together.
In less than 20 days, Croatia will enter the Eurozone and the Schengen area, which is one of the “most tangible transformative moments” in the context of the tenth anniversary of Croatian membership of the European Union. “Nobody has yet managed to enter both the Eurozone and Schengen on the same day,” said Plenkovic. It is indeed an enormous move for Croatian politics and in this country’s turbulent history.
He also recalled the government’s “appropriate, comprehensive and generous interventions in crises”. “I think we even reacted so well that most people aren’t even aware of the extent of the crisis they’re living in,” said Plenkovic, adding that people can rest assured of a peaceful autumn and winter, with electricity and gas prices being stable.
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