In 2020, Croatia will hold the EU Council Presidency for the first half of the year, and Germany for the second half. To move closer to their common goals, Foreign Minister Maas and his Croatian counterpart discussed issues including Brexit, the multiannual financial framework and EU enlargement at their meeting in Berlin today. With regard to the baton handover in July 2020, Heiko Maas said:
We are coordinating very closely. Croatia’s Presidency falls during a particularly important phase, since the new Commission will commence its work on 1 November. There is a lot to do.
Setting the agenda for Europe: EU enlargement, the multiannual financial framework and Brexit
There are many indications that Brexit will continue to be a significant topic during the Croatian Presidency. Heiko Maas emphasised their fundamental willingness to negotiate in order to make an orderly departure possible. But he stressed that this required clear decisions and proposals from London. One thing is certain: the United Kingdom will remain a close partner after its withdrawal.
Heiko Maas cited the multiannual financial framework and EU enlargement as other important EU issues for 2020. Nowhere is the role of the EU as a peace project and economic powerhouse more crucial and relevant than in the Western Balkans. Croatia serves as a bridge within the region. Maas said that North Macedonia and Albania had made real progress towards the EU. During their meeting, both ministers clearly stated that these two countries needed a viable prospect of EU membership and that accession negotiations should be commenced.
Exchange diplomat and bilateral action plan
As a concrete practical contribution to Croatia’s EU Council Presidency, Germany will second an exchange diplomat from the Federal Government to the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs in Zagreb, a small but effective step to help the two countries better learn from one another and dovetail the two Council Presidencies even more closely.
With regard to the bilateral agenda, too, Maas and Gordan Grlić Radman agreed on concrete steps forward: Implementation of the bilateral action plan signed six months ago is now to begin. With this plan, Germany and Croatia have adopted an ambitious programme in order to coordinate their policies more closely in areas such as digital transformation, dual vocational training, research and language promotion, and climate and security issues.