Croatian PM briefs parliament on European Council conslusions

Zagreb - It is critical to have a comprehensive approach towards the migrations policy, starting with true migration causes to dialogue with countries of their origin and transit about the management of migration routes, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in parliament on Wednesday while presenting a report on the European Council meeting held in Brussels on October 20 and 21 which focused on migrations, the trade policy, the relationship with Russia and Brexit.

"In order to deepen dialogue between the government and parliament, notably on topics in the focus of the EU's attention, today I would like to start a practice of regularly briefing the public, including parliamentary deputies, about discussions and conclusions at European Council meetings," Plenković said at the start of his talk.

Plenković told the MPs that the Prime Minister of Slovakia, the current EU chair, underscored priorities in the coming period -- a return to Schengen, operationalisation of the European border and coast guard and the implementation of systematic checks on external borders. Plenković also underlined the successful ratification of the Paris Agreement and called for additional efforts regarding the signing of the CETA agreement and the modernisation of protective trade mechanisms.

According to Plenković, in his introductory address European Parliament President Martin Schultz called for cancelling the visa regime for Ukrainian citizens as soon as possible and for continuing the policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea to Russia. Russia was one of the topics discussed at a more informal meeting, Plenković said, adding that the meeting discussed Russia's role in Syria and Ukraine. Schultz called on the member states to show solidarity regarding migration issues in an effort to successfully manage the migration crisis.

Croatia welcomed stronger control of the EU's external borders and the enforcement of a regulation on the European border and coast guard which treats Schengen and non-Schengen members equally. Plenković announced that Croatian police would also take part in the activities of the European border and coast guard.

Croatia advocates finding a solution to preventing the root causes of migration and believes that Turkey is the key country on the so-called eastern Mediterranean route, Plenković said, adding that Croatia also underscored the importance of the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. Croatia supports the liberalisation of the visa regime for Turkish citizens, following the meeting of benchmarks, he said.
All European Council leaders agreed that the prevention of illegal migrations and sending home illegal migrants was critical for security within the EU and that a common policy on sending back illegal migrants was necessary, said Plenković.

The meeting in Brussels also focused on the EU trade policy. EP President Schultz said that globalisation was not perceived as a world of possibilities, but rather as a threat to fundamental values, employment, public services and social systems. Schultz said such fears created a negative public attitude towards trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA.

Croatia supported the implementation of those agreements and underscored the need for better communication with the public about the essence of those agreements, notably in light of a growing populism.

Plenković said that the meeting in Brussels was for the first time attended by Britain's new Prime Minister Theresa May, which was why Brexit was also on the agenda. Negotiations on Britain's leaving the EU will start most probably after March, Plenković said, adding that this was an exceptionally complex issue that was not only institutional but also carried significant financial consequences.

Croatian MPs welcomed Plenković's decision to brief the Sabor about the conclusions of the European Council meeting but the Opposition also noted that his report was reduced to mere reporting on other countries' positions, while the positions of the Croatian government on key EU topics remained unclear. (Hina)

Author: Hina