Croatia is ready for the Schengen area, visiting French President Emmanuel Macron said at a joint press conference with his host, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, in Zagreb on Thursday.
“Croatia is ready for Schengen. It has met the accession criteria, confirming that it is firmly organised 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.
Plenkovic said that Croatia, as a future member of the Schengen area, would also contribute to the reform process. He stressed the importance of France’s strong and explicit support for Croatia’s bid to join both the Schengen area and eurozone.
Macron expressed France’s support in that regard also at a meeting with President Zoran Milanovic.
“Our two countries will continue to cooperate in the areas of security, immigration, economy and research,” Macron said in the President’s Office.
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.
Plenkovic 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, eurozone, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
French-Croatian trade reached €1 billion last year, and so far this year it amounts to €700 million. Plenkovic said this was “an initial step” and that Croatia wanted to increase its trade with France.
Plenkovic 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 that no country between Germany and Greece has,” Plenkovic said, adding that these state-of-the-art aircraft would certainly have an impact on Croatia’s foreign policy, security and defence position. He stressed he expected this agreement to boost cooperation between the two countries’ defence industries.
Macron, an advocate of stronger European defence capabilities, said that this was the first important step towards European defence, a guarantor of common security as well as proof of friendship.