As part of the two day program marking the official beginning of Croatia's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, a meeting of the entire Croatian Government and the European Commission was held in Zagreb on Friday.
Co-chairing the meeting were Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen. In her opening statement Von der Leyen said that the priorities of Croatia's EU presidency are also the commission's priorities, adding that the success of the Croatian Presidency, given that it comes at the beginning of the work of her newly appointed commission, will also define her commission's success."
Commission Vice-president Frans Timmermans, who has been tasked to lead Von der Leyen's Green Deal program, had this to say about the Croatian presidency: “We need to prepare the presidency, and we see the Croatian Government all fired up to make a success of this presidency, and we, the commission, are there to help them, and also to explain what the commission's plans are on the Green Deal, on digitalization, on what we need to do in this complicated international context we're working in, so we're very much looking forward to it.”
Prime Minister Plenković restated Croatia's four priorities during its presidency, development, inter-connectivity, security and global influence. He also emphasized the importance of reaching a deal on the Multiannual Financial Framework.
“For our part, we will do everything in our power, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, to achieve a compromise that will, to the highest possible degree be in line with the expectations of the member states, and find a true balance between what we call traditional policies, meaning agriculture, rural development and cohesion on the one hand, and modernization and new challenges on the other, which obviously isn't an easy task,” Plenković said.
Plenković also said that during its presidency Croatia will advocate for continued EU enlargement with regard to the countries of southeast Europe: “Twenty years after the summit in Zagreb, we want to introduce a new energy into this process, and if possible unblock the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.”
A smaller number of member states, led by France, have blocked the opening of accession negotiations with both countries, with Paris arguing that Albania and North Macedonia need to implement more reforms before talks can begin. France is also calling for changes to the EU accession process, specifically, that it be made more demanding and reversible.