Monday

19th Feb 2018

Juncker warns Croat PM he could wreck EU enlargement

  • Juncker said the 2025 date was meant to "stir things up" in the Western Balkans (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU has bluntly warned Croatia that its border row with Slovenia could wreck the European aspirations of its Balkan neighbours.

"This problem between Slovenia and Croatia must be brought to a solution," European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker told Croatian prime minister Andrei Plenkovic in Strasbourg on Tuesday (6 February).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Croatian leader (l) walked away from arbitration process in The Hague (Photo: Consilium)

"The commission will be helpful, but … there will be no further enlargement without border disputes being completely resolved," he added.

Juncker addressed Plenkovic face-to-face in a European Parliament debate on the future of Europe.

He issued his warning - the latest one in a series - the same day that the commission was due to adopt a new Western Balkans strategy which said Montenegro and Serbia ought to join by 2025.

Juncker said the date was meant to "stir things up" in the region, but also that it was merely "indicative" and no more than "an encouragement" for Balkan states to get their act together.

Slovenia and Croatia, the EU's most recent addition, had agreed to settle a maritime border dispute via an arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

But Plenkovic walked away from the process on technical grounds, leaving the deadline for the ruling to expire in December with no deal in place.

He told Juncker on Tuesday it was Slovenia's fault the arbitration failed because it had violated rules on privileged information.

He also told Juncker and MEPs that "this [border] issue is not as dramatic as it is sometimes presented".

Plenkovic portrayed Croatia as a model for former Yugoslav EU aspirants despite the border fiasco.

"Croatia is a testimony of the transformative power of the EU. We need to honour our promises to [other] candidates and potential candidates," he said.

"Croatia is an inspiration … a symbol of what can be achieved," he added.

He said Croatia wanted to join the euro and the passport-free Schengen travel area and that it backed EU plans for "solidarity" on asylum seekers and for defence integration.

"Further pooling of sovereignty makes us [EU member states] stronger," the prime minister said.

He blamed Brexit on lies by anti-EU campaigners. "The UK's exit is a result of populism and a campaign of disinformation", he said.

Populism

One of his own asides also risked stirring tension, however.

He said Bosnia ought to "have an equal electoral system that will give equal opportunity for everyone in the country".

His comment referred to a call by Bosnian Croats to be able to elect their own MPs in an upcoming vote in October, in a reform that could split the country into ethnically-divided electoral zones.

Plenkovic spoke in French, English, and German as well as Croatian in a show of his personal EU credentials.

But few MEPs turned up to hear what he and Juncker had to say, prompting an explanation by EU parliament president Antonio Tajani.

"It is impossible to stay here from 9 o'clock to midnight … the importance of the debate is not the same every day," Tajani said.

Weber's 'Christian heritage'

Manfred Weber, a German MEP who heads the centre-right EPP group, the largest in the EU assembly, also attacked nationalism and populism on Tuesday.

He said EU citizens should feel a "European pride" as well as a "national pride".

He risked alienating non-Christians by saying that Christianity should be central to EU identity, however.

It was "no accident" that there was "a Christian church at the heart of almost every town and village in Europe" despite its "diversity", Weber noted. "We have to stick to our Christian heritage," he said.

Croatia ignores ruling on Slovenia border dispute

A bitter dispute over land and sea borders between Croatia and Slovenia appears to remain unresolved following Zagreb's refusal to recognise a verdict by an international court in The Hague.

EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement

After the European Commission presented its Western Balkans strategy last week, with a view of possibly integrating the region by 2025, some EU ministers were less enthusiastic after their first discussion of the new policy.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses 'no danger'
  2. Spanish king in Barcelona next week
  3. Turkey jails journalists for life
  4. Make budget cuts in farm and regional funds, the Dutch say
  5. UN: Hungary's anti-migration bill is 'assault on human rights'
  6. Journalist Deniz Yucel freed in Turkey
  7. New organic farming bill not ready until late spring
  8. Commissioner: Western Balkans in EU is 'obvious'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAA year ago UNESDA members pledged to reduce added sugars in soft drinks by 10%
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  3. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  4. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  5. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  7. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  8. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  9. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  12. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health

Latest News

  1. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  2. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK
  3. EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill
  4. Baltic states demand bigger EU budget
  5. Germany raises concerns over Hungary's 'Stop Soros' bills
  6. EU ties Brexit transition talks to divorce agreement
  7. EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement
  8. Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  2. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  5. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  7. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  9. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  10. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  11. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects