The deadline for Croatia to use EU funds to prepare to enter the Schengen Area has been extended for a year.
The European Commission decided to extend the deadline for the use of money from the so-called Schengen Facility and thus saved Croatia tens of millions of kuna from being lost. The new deadline by which Croatia will have to use the money is 1 July 2017, reports Večernji List on July 29, 2016.
Croatia has received 120 million euros from the Schengen Facility to meet the standards for the supervision and control of external borders of the European Union. These funds should have been used by 23 July. All unused funds were supposed to be returned to the European Commission. Therefore, the Ministry of the Interior requested a six-month delay, and the European Commission granted a delay of twelve months.
If the Commission denied the request, Croatia would lose substantial funds. For example, just to equip border crossings at Slavonski Brod, Srb and Bajakovo it would lose about 50 million kuna. Many border crossings, especially railway crossings and those in ports and airports, are not yet technically ready to join the Schengen Area.
Several field evaluations of preparedness and readiness to join the Schengen Area have been conducted in Croatia this year. The evaluations serve as a basis for the European Commission to draft a decision on Croatia’s readiness and to send it to the EU Council. However, the decision on admission to the Schengen Area is purely political and will be made only when all member states agree with it. Originally, the decision was expected to be made next year.
However, according to unofficial sources, Croatia was late with the withdrawal of money from the EU fund due to elections and post-election negotiations last year, so projects related to the fulfilment of the Schengen criteria could not be continued. With new elections and negotiations coming in September, it is obvious that deadlines will probably again be missed.