Plenković: Main Task of European Leaders Is to Restore Confidence in European Project

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Croatian Prime Minister discusses the future of the European Union.

The most important task of European leaders is to restore confidence in the European project and to fight against populism, said on Saturday Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković during his speech at the international conference of the Pan-European Union, reports on October 22, 2016.

“You saw the recent statement by President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz that we must be very careful so that the foundations of the European project would not suddenly become fragile”, warned Plenković at the conference “Integration or Disintegration of the European Union”, which was held in Zagreb.

One way to combat this is to strengthen the political mainstream and the trust in key ruling parties across the EU member states. “It will be difficult to resist the strong populist attack on the European project, which comes from the right and the left”, warned Plenković, adding that the culture of discontent has spread to all member states, and can now be seen every day in Croatian Parliament as well. “Such an approach, thanks to technology and the internet, can influence and has access to a wider range of voters, much faster than several decades ago, and the phenomenon of giving support to politicians who are a priori against everything, who believe that all those who built the European project are members of some privileged groups, is something which is gaining momentum in the current economic, financial and social crisis”, said Plenković.

In order to restore confidence and defend from such populist attacks, mainstream politicians are moving towards renationalization of politics, which includes weakening of European currents and moving closer to efforts to find solutions which are only seemingly strong, but are actually contrary to what Europe is saying, said the Croatian Prime Minister. “I think that it is the task for all the leaders, and it was apparent yesterday when we tried to find a common position on Syria, Russia, migration issues and international trade policy, to maintain unity”, said Plenković, referring to a meeting of the European Council which was held on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

He pointed to the three political problems at the EU level which indicate the current fragility of the unity of European policy. “Due to the negative referendum in the Netherlands on the treaty with Ukraine, which was caused by the populists, there is a possibility that the agreement will never enter into force”, said Plenković, alluding to the referendum in April when the Dutch opposed the rapprochement of Ukraine with the EU. “After Maidan and Yanukovich’s decision not to sign the treaty, about 10,000 people died, and now a small group of Dutch protesters say they do not agree with Ukraine, and we are bound by their decision”, said Plenković.

The second problem are negotiations on the international free trade policies, referring to the decision by the Walloon Parliament to block the signing of the CETA, a trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. “We have an agreement that is before us, which was agreed, and now it is in question as well”, said Plenković. “What message do we send as the EU? Are we an organization which one can count on in the negotiations”, he asked.

The third issue on which there is no consensus in the EU is the relationship with Russia, where the main and often unspoken element is that Russia itself has chosen to be a strategic rival, rather than a strategic partner of the EU, concluded the Prime Minister.


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