The clouds hovering over the Brandenburg Gate underscored that for both Croatia and Germany there is no sign of a fair-weather Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Today, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman of Croatia passed on the baton to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in person. The COVID-19 pandemic posed major challenges to Croatia in the middle of its Presidency. Heiko Maas paid tribute to his counterpart for Croatia’s huge achievements in keeping the Council functioning and thus ensuring Europe was able to act even at the height of the pandemic during what was the country’s first Presidency since joining the EU. In a structure taking in 27 countries and 24 official languages, many meetings had to be held as video conferences. Organising these was anything but easy. Yet at this time of crisis, the EU foreign ministers managed to convene not just once a month but every two weeks with Josep Borrell chairing the meetings.
Western Balkans summit an important success
Hosting the Western Balkans summit was another success of Croatia’s Council Presidency as it enabled the EU to send an important signal to its partners in the region: Also in the midst of crisis, the EU stands firmly at the side of these states, the clear EU perspective remains. The launching of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia is a clear achievement and a political legacy of Croatia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. Germany wants to build on this and move forward in this process in the second half of the year with the first accession conference.
Germany’s priorities solidarity and sovereignty
The COVID-19 pandemic is the hinge joining the German and Croatian Council Presidencies. The main task for the Federal Government is to work together for Europe’s recovery. For Foreign Minister Maas, this means: “We want to lead Europe out of the economic and social crisis and we want to do so based on the principle of solidarity. Our Council Presidency builds on that of Croatia. We hope to bring a solution to many dossiers some of which the EU has been discussing for years.”