European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday while on a visit to Zagreb that he would like the European executive to make a proposal to member States before November for Croatia to become part of the Schengen zone.
“I would like the European Commission to give a recommendation before the end of our term in office for Croatia’s Schengen zone accession,” said Juncker, who was flanked by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. “We’ve lost too much time, it needs to be done, and I would like the Council of Ministers to react suitably to it.”
He stressed that since it joined the European Union six years ago, Croatia’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by 2 percentage points per year and its global GDP had gone up by 15%.
He said he felt the country was “well prepared” to join the European Exchange Mechanism (ERM-2), a waiting room for euro membership. All EU members with the exception of Denmark and the UK have to adopt the euro and join the eurozone as soon as they meet its convergence criteria.
Expressing support for Croatia’s adhesion to the Schengen zone, which guarantees visa-free movement between Member States, he said he hoped to make a proposition in this regard to member States before his term of office ends on 31 October next.
“I think we need to repeat, repeat and repeat that the (Western Balkans) countries must keep a European perspective,” he said. “If we deprive them of a European perspective, we risk a repeat of what we’ve already experienced in this region,” he added in a reference to the wars in the 1990s that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
Croatia and Slovenia are the only republics of the former Yugoslavia to have obtained EU membership so far.