A Europe that develops, connects and protects and is influential on the global scene are the four pivotal areas of Croatia's presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a news conference in Zagreb on Wednesday, outlining elements of those priorities.
In the first six months of 2020 Croatia will be "at the helm of the joint project of further building a strong Europe in the world full of challenges."
A growing and developing Europe, a Europe that connects economically, energy-wise and infrastructure-wise, a Europe that protects and is influential on the global scene, are the four pivotal areas of our presidency, the Croatian premier told the conference.
The European Union is the second biggest economy and makes up a fifth of the global GDP, he recalled.
However, in the current time of great technological, geopolitical and demographic changes, the EU economy and labour market are faced with ever-growing competition, primarily from the USA and China, he said.
The response to that is a stronger Europe that grows and develops in a balanced and integrative way, he said.
"Achieving that requires making our single market deeper, encouraging business digitisation and making investments in innovations and research so as to boost our competitiveness."
It is also necessary to reduce development gaps among EU member states so that all of them can become economically stronger, Plenković said.
He said that it was also necessary to work on economic development which is ecologically more viable so as to ensure successful transition to a low-carbon and circular economy.
Connectivity and protection
Making use of the full potential of infrastructure and human resources depends on the connectivity and networking of the economies.
Therefore we need a Europe that connects, Plenković said, adding that differences inside the EU in transport infrastructure, energy networks, telecommunications and digital networks affect the EU's competitiveness.
"Therefore it is necessary to develop transport, energy and digital infrastructure and connectivity."
Citizens' security top priority
We are for a Europe that protects its citizens while respecting and protecting the rule of law, Plenković said.
During its chairmanship, Croatia will pay special attention to the internal security and promote closer cooperation of member-states in the fight against organised crime, money laundering and financing of terrorism, the PM said.
He called for the implementation of a viable migration policy that includes the protection of the EU's external border.
Responding to challenges through unity
Speaking of the EU and its global impact, Plenković said that Croatia and other EU members could best deal with the challenges of the 21st century through European unity.
"The EU can strengthen its role as a global stakeholder only by further developing capabilities and instruments for joint action in dealing with challenges such as terrorism, trade wars or migrations," said Plenković.
Europe must have a leader role in its neighbourhood and the rest of the world, he stressed.
"We want the Union to keep its position of a leading international factor, notably as regards leadership in the fight against climate change, promotion of efficient global governance, human rights protection and the strengthening of the multilateral trade framework," said the PM.
He also underlined the EU's responsibility towards Southeast European countries, saying that during its presidency Croatia would advocate the EU membership prospects of countries in the region and an efficient enlargement policy, recalling that next May Zagreb would host a summit of the EU and Western Balkan countries.