The last year of the second decade of the XXI Century will be of utmost interest for the European countries and for the Union. It will be burdened by many major challenges such as Brexit, economic consolidation, and major global issues like “uneven economic development, climate change, increased migration, dissemination of disinformation and growing populism”. These are some of the challenges of today’s world to which citizens are expecting answers and which were recognized by the Croatian platform for the six-month term presidency, for the first time ever since it became the EU Member State. As the document for presiding claims “all of those answers can be given only by a strong Europe, in which our unity is our greatest strength”. What are the major economic prospects for the presidency of the youngest EU Member State? Will it be able to cope with all the challenging issues?
What role for the Croatian presidency
Republic of Croatia became the 29th full-fledged EU Member State in July 2013. This was the EU’s last enlargement to date. The ambitious priorities of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union (“A strong Europe in a world of challenges”) are divided into several key paths: a Europe that develops; a Europe that connects; a Europe that protects; and an influential Europe. Even though the last thematic path over which the Croatian presidency will be devoted, could potentially compound economic and financial issues and aspects, it relates to political integrity and increased influence across the globe. The first thematic issue is dedicated to economic priorities over which Croatia will insist during the next six months. An ambitious, balanced and sustainable EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021–2027 is a prerequisite for achieving the EU goals. In accordance with the document which sets priorities for the presidency, the Croatian Presidency will “work towards achieving a comprehensive agreement as swiftly as possible, in order to enable the timely implementation of all the Union’s policies and programmes, in the service of further building a Europe that is as strong as possible in an ever-changing and challenging world”.
Balanced regional development is going to be among the top economic priorities. Croatia intends to promote awareness on reducing differences between Member States and fostering economic and social cohesion and convergence. Besides, it wants to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union and the international role of the euro, as well as to further develop the Capital Markets Union with macro-regional approach. Croatia will insist to foster and ensure the equal quality of products on the markets of all the EU Member States.
Under thematic area strengthening competitiveness and skills, Croatia will be committed to further deepen the single market and promote the digitalisation agenda. While the competitiveness of European industry and small and medium enterprises will be on the agenda, modernisation of agriculture and rural areas and balanced mobility of scientists and researchers, along with promoting high-quality and lifelong learning and developing skills for jobs of the future will remain high on the European agenda. This was enacted under the 2021-2027 framework.
Furthermore, the document underlines that strengthening multilateralism, implementation of the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promoting European values and interests remain the main points of reference for the Union’s external action. Its credibility in international relations is also reflected in its responsible approach towards its own neighbourhood, from East to South, including South East Europe (Western Balkans) in its immediate surroundings.
To ensure strategic continuation of the presiding over the EU, the so-called “trio-programme” was established by the Decision 2009/908/EU of the Council. The decision stipulated the order in which the office of President of the Council is to be held for the Member States of the European Union as from 1 January 2007 until 30 June 2020, and it set out there in the division of that order of Presidencies into groups of three Member States. The current “trio” is composed of Romania, Finland and Croatia, while the following trio cycle will begin as of July 1 this year, with German presidency term, followed by Portugal and Slovenia (both in 2021).
As Mr. Plenkovic said when presenting the priority of the Croatian presidency, what Croatian Government wants to achieve is that the citizens enjoy the benefits and good membership, to improve the quality of life, to build the confidence of being Europeans”. Nowadays, the concept of the presidency over the EU is being denoted and serves mostly as ceremonial. What will be the key effects of the Croatian presidency remains to be seen in the second half of this year, but one could not count on high achievements due to the devolved function of the presiding state in decision making process, as well as due to the short term of having the role of the presiding state.