ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 – The perspective of a country safeguarding the European Union’s external borders differs from the perspective of member-states in the heart of the Schengen Area, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday in Zagreb, where she arrived for a European People’s Party (EPP) congress.
During a news conference, Merkel defended Croatia against accusations that it was violating the rights of migrants.
Asked if Croatia should take over the presidency of the EU now that it was being accused of disrespect for the human rights of migrants at its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the German chancellor said that “the European Union lives off having different perspectives”.
Things appear differently from the perspective of a country that is supposed to protect the external borders and from the perspective of a country in the centre of the European region, Merkel said after her bilateral meeting with Croatian Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković on the margins of the EPP congress in Zagreb’s Arena sports hall.
Croatia, as a young country, can bring its experiences because its memory of the accession negotiations is still fresh, unlike Germany’s memory, since its accession to the EU happened long ago, Merkel explained.
Croatia has done a lot to create the preconditions for its accession to the Schengen area and the European Commission has positively assessed those efforts, she recalled.
Germany has not yet discussed Croatia’s Schengen membership bid. However, Merkel said that she would draw attention to all that has been done.
During Germany’s chairmanship (in the second half of 2020), this will be on the agenda, said Merkel.
In the first half of 2020 Croatia will chair the EU and after that Germany will assume the rotating presidency.
In October, the European Commission confirmed that Croatia met the technical conditions to join Schengen and it is now on the European Council to make the final decision on Croatia’s admission to this passport-free area.
Plenković told the news conference that it was not realistic to expect Croatia’s admission to Schengen during Zagreb’s presidency over the EU.
This, however, does not mean that at the operational level of working groups the Commission’s report will not be discussed, Plenković explained. He also recalled that Bulgaria and Romania have been waiting for the green light for years.
Upon its presidency, Croatia will do its best to assure its European partners that it deserves to be part of the Schengen area, he added.
During its presidency over the EU, Croatia will also address the Union’s enlargement to southeast Europe.
Plenković reiterated that the negotiating framework for the accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro includes mechanisms for a suspension of the negotiations.
Merkel said that it was regrettable that Albania and North Macedonia had not opened accession negotiations recently.
In this context, she supported the Croatian government’s plans.
Plenković said Germany has always been a friend of Croatia which supported Zagreb in its efforts to accomplish strategic international goals.
Germany is Croatia’s main trading partner and one of the biggest investors.
Also, some 395,000 Croat expatriates live in Germany. Merkel praised them for a good coexistence with local Germans, and recalled that a rising number of German tourists visit Croatia.
She believes that bilateral economic cooperation could be boosted.
Both Merkel and Plenković agreed that topics high on the agenda of the Croatian presidency would be the next stage of negotiations on Brexit, the EU’s multi-annual budget for the 2021-2027 period, including the cohesion policy, the common agricultural policy and allocations for security, climate change, investment, education and development policies.
More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.