Watch: A strong Europe in a world of challenges

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Croatia takes over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the six month period between January and June 2020, under the motto ‘A Strong Europe in a World of Challenges’.

The four main priorities of Croatia’s Presidency, in Prime Minister Plenkovic’s words are: a Europe that is developing, that connects, that protects and that is influential. They plan to focus on the EU budget, which will need to gain some momentum after the confirmation of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, along with organising the EU-Western Balkans Summit in May and preparing for the Conference on the Future of Europe.

To mark the beginning of the Croatian Presidency, the European Commission Representation in Malta, together with the Croatian Embassy in Rome, held an event at Europe House, Valletta, on the 16th January 2020. On this occasion, the Head of the European Commission Representation, Dr Elena Grech, the Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi and the Croatia’s Ambassador, H.E. Jasen Mesić, reaffirmed the European values and committed to a strong partnership to meet the EU’s objectives. The event was a good opportunity for participants to get a unique insight into the Croatian culture, enjoying ‘klapa’ music, performed by a traditional ensemble. ‘Klapa’ is a form of traditional a cappella singing in Dalmatia, Croatia, inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The celebrations of Croatia’s Presidency of the EU continued with the placing of a necktie on the statue of Giovanni di Nicolo Pappaffy in Floriana. The necktie was born in Croatia in the 17th century and by placing them on different monuments in the European capitals, the Croatian Presidency would like to raise the awareness on the common destiny of the member states.

The presidency of the Council rotates among EU Member States every six months. During that period, the country’s top representatives chair meetings held at every level in the Council, helping to ensure the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council. Member states holding three successive presidencies of the Council of the European Union form a trio Presidency and work together over an 18-month period, on the basis of a common programme. The Presidency provides the Member States with the opportunity to set long-term goals and to prepare a common agenda. This agenda then determines the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council for 18 months. 

The Croatian presidency comes at a time of great change, following a new composition of EU institutions and challenges arising from the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.  Croatia said it focused its priorities on building a strong Europe in light of these challenges. Here is a look at Croatia’s main priorities for 2019/2020:

A Europe that develops

Croatia said new challenges for the economy and labour market came through following a digital revolution. It said it would prioritise investment in research and innovation, greater accessibility to high-quality lifelong learning and a greater commitment to the single market. 

Improving the quality of life of the Union’s citizens requires the further development of policies that will create better working and living conditions. The presidency will also prioritise economic growth while giving importance to the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change. 

A Europe that connects

In a world that is becoming increasingly connected through new digital innovations, the progress of the EU depends on it having a networked economy and making full use of both is human and infrastructural resources. The Croatian presidency acknowledged “existing differences within the EU’ on how infrastructure, transport, energy, telecommunication and digital networks should be best utilised. These differences hamper its development and global competitiveness. 

Therefore, the presidency wants to push for greater funding for the construction of infrastructural networks. It also wanted to push for improving trans-European transport networks, encouraging further extension to neighbouring regions. 

A Europe that protects

The Croatian presidency said it would prioritise the security of its citizens by strengthening internal security and its external borders. It also said it would focus on ensuring the full operability of IT systems and strengthening resilience to external threats, including hybrid and malicious cyber activities. 

“Our common goal remains to find a comprehensive solution for a sustainable and effective migration and asylum policy,” it said. The Croatian Presidency will focus on improving the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice, founded on common values such as democracy and rule of law.

An influential Europe

Croatia said it believes that member states can best overcome the challenges of the 21st Century by facing them through the framework of the EU. Therefore, further developing the capacities and instruments for common action is the only way to strengthen the Union’s leading role on a global scale. 

It therefore encouraged strengthening multilateralism, implementing the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and promoting European values and interests. 

The EU’s credibility in international relations is “reflected in its responsible approach towards its own neighbourhood, from East to South, including South East Europe (Western Balkans) in its immediate surroundings,” it said. The Croatian presidency therefore said it would push for credible and effective enlargement.