Croatia also wants the euro and visa-free Schengen zone as soon as possible

David SASSOLI, EP President meets with Andrej PLENKOVIC, Croatian Prime Minister

The Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković made it clear that Croatia, the newest EU newcomer, wants to join the inner circles of the Union as quickly as possible and to join the Schengen visa-free zone. Croatia also wants to introduce the euro as a means of payment as quickly as possible.

Plenković spoke in Zagreb on Wednesday with a group of 60 journalists based in Brussels on the occasion of the inauguration of the Croatian Presidency of the EU Council. Croatia takes over the rotating presidency from Finland.

In addition to the priorities of the Croatian Presidency that have been underlined in recent days, Plenković emphasized that there were two important national goals for his country: accession to Schengen and the euro area.

There is a lot to do on the European front in the next six months. Of course there is the brexit. The United Kingdom would step out of the EU from 1 February, but there must still be a trade agreement between London and Brussels at the end of this year. In addition, a Balkan summit is organized in the Croatian capital Zagreb. He will consider the enlargement of the European Union. In 2013, Croatia was the last 28th country to join the EU. Expansion with Montenegro and Albania is currently being blocked by France and the Netherlands.

Other topics of interest are the adoption of a multi-year budget until 2027, the settlement of the migration issue and the re-establishment of a climate agreement that should lead to emission neutrality in 2050. Croatia itself wants to join the Schengen zone and say goodbye to the national currency kuna; the euro must be embraced by 2024 at the latest.

Croatia now has a center-left president. But right-wing nationalism is still strongly present in the country that presides over the first half of 2020 of the European Union. Last Sunday there were presidential elections in Croatia. In the second round, social-democratic candidate Zoran Milanovic (53) defeated conservative sitting head of state Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic with 52.7 against 47.3 percent. His five-year term starts in February.

The new Croatian president tried to find the right words after his election victory. He wants to be a head of state above the parties, of all 4.5 million Croats, of a liberal, democratic and European-minded country. He does not want to pursue politics in the back room. He no longer wants to talk about the past and act strictly within the constitution, Milanovic said.

All this should of course have happened in Croatia for a long time. This list shows how much things are still lacking in Croatia, with terms such as corruption, nepotism, unpunished war crimes and poor relationships with neighboring countries. A trade war is raging with Serbia and a bitter debate about the extradition of each other's war criminals. Slovenia for a long time stopped Croatian EU membership due to fishing and territorial disputes.

One of the largest Croatian corruption cases recently had a provisional end. Former Prime Minister Sanader was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting ten million euros in bribes.