Croatia has used 97 percent of EU funds allocated for entry into Schengen Area.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and ministers held a press conference on Thursday at which they presented results of the utilization of EU funds from the so-called Schengen Facility, reports tportal.hr on February 9, 2017.
The press conference was also attended by Interior Minister Vlaho Orepić, Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier and Assistant Interior Minister Joško Dorić. Croatia has so far received 120 million euros to adapt to the Schengen criteria, and it has used 116 million euros or 97 percent of the funds. By utilization of funds, Croatia is in the fifth position in Europe.
Prime Minister Plenković took the opportunity to say that it was a step towards full accession of Croatia to the Schengen Area, which is a major political goal of the current government. However, Interior Minister Orepić, whose ministry is doing the bulk of the work on Croatian accession to the Schengen Area, declined to speculate when Croatia could join Schengen. “It is difficult to give a specific answer. There are two criteria: technical and political. We will be technically ready by the middle of next year”, said Orepić.
However, Dorić admitted that Croatia still has a lot of work to complete, because it has received as many as 98 recommendations for improvements. The main problem in the Interior Ministry in the chain of command, while problems which are under the jurisdiction of other ministries are related to transport issues: some airports are inadequately prepared for Schengen, while train stations are far from being ready.
Croatia has used the funds from the Schengen Facility to purchase vehicles, vessels and other technical equipment that allow for better control of the border. Some of the money went to equipping diplomatic and consular missions abroad.
Former Interior Minister and Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Interior Affairs and National Security Ranko Ostojić (SDP) said that the entry into the Schengen Area should be the interest of all parties and political structures. “We have behaved in such a way since we submitted our declaration on readiness to join the Schengen Area in March 2015. When I left the ministry, we had contracted about 90 percent of funds from the Schengen Facility”, said Ostojić. “I think it is very important to note that the efforts of people working in the Interior Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry should be commended.”
“Listening to the press conference today, we can say the following – Croatia did not pass the evaluation, and this is the most important thing. Airport are not ready, seaports are not ready. Let us not praise something that has not been done as it should have been”, said Ostojić. He added that Croatia should first fulfil technical conditions, and then wait for a political decision to be admitted to Schengen Area.