Croatia is ready for the Schengen area, visiting French President Emmanuel Macron said at a joint press conference with his host, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, in Zagreb on Thursday.
Croatia is ready for Schengen. It has met the accession criteria, confirming that it is firmly organized and capable of protecting its own borders, which are also the external borders of the European Union, against smuggling, Macron said.
He warned that the Schengen regime needed reforming and that France would be working on it in the first half of next year during its presidency of the EU.
Plenković said that Croatia, as a future member of the Schengen area, would contribute to the reform process. He stressed the importance of France’s strong and explicit support for Croatia’s bid to join the Schengen area and the eurozone.
Macron expressed France’s support in that regard also at a meeting with President Zoran Milanović.
Our two countries will continue to cooperate in the areas of security, immigration, economy and research, Macron said in the President’s Office, stressing that France supports Croatia’s most important projects – to join the Schengen area and the eurozone.
In October 2019, the European Commission assessed that Croatia met the criteria for accession to the Schengen area, and in June this year it called on the EU member states to admit Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania to the area. Bulgaria and Romania received the positive opinion of the Commission years ago, but there has been no political consensus for their admission.
Plenković and Macron signed a strategic partnership agreement under which France pledged support to Croatia in several areas, political, economic and cultural, including support for Croatia’s strategic goals – to join the Schengen area, the eurozone, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
French-Croatian trade reached €1 billion last year, and so far this year it has amounted to €700 million. Plenković said this was “an initial step” and that Croatia wanted to increase its trade with France.
Plenković noted that 400,000 French tourists had visited Croatia this year and that he was confident that their number would increase after the coronavirus pandemic.
RAFALE JETS SOON TO REPLACE MIGS
Earlier today, Croatia and France signed an agreement on the purchase of French-made Rafale fighter jets for the Croatian Air Force, and shortly after the signing ceremony two such aircraft flew over Zagreb.
“This is a game-changer. We will have the type of aircraft no country between Germany and Greece has,” Plenković said, adding that these state-of-the-art aircraft would certainly have an impact on Croatia’s foreign policy, security and defense position. He stressed he expected this agreement to boost cooperation between the two countries’ defense industries.
Macron, an advocate of stronger European defense capabilities, said this was the first important step towards European defense, a guarantor of common security as well as proof of friendship.