President Milanović: Croatia opposes proposal to shift decision-making in the EU from consensus to qualified majority

22. April 2024.

“It gives me great pleasure to be in the company of people whose countries, Croatia included, have exemplary and excellent relations, which is to a great extent thanks to their membership in the European Union,” remarked the President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, following his participation in today’s gathering of Heads of State from Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, and Italy. The meeting, convened by Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Slovenia’s EU accession.

President Milanović said that 20 years ago he was very pleased to see Slovenia enter the European Union, which he experienced “without any envy, expecting and hoping that my country, my Croatia, would follow that path much sooner, but we had to wait another nine years.” It turned out, the President added, that fulfilling the EU’s criteria was not the only thing that mattered, but that politics played a major role as well, which is still evident today since there is no expansion of the EU to Europe’s southeast.

Furthermore, President Milanović said that the Croatian people’s attitude towards the European Union indicates that they are satisfied with it and that Croatia has certainly benefited from EU membership. “However, Croatia did not take advantage of EU membership anywhere near as much as it could have, and we must take advantage of it because soon we will find ourselves in the company of those countries that no longer receive but give. I don’t see Croatia as a country that stands still, but as a country that is constantly progressing,” added President Milanović.

In his comments about the European Union, the Croatian President said that the EU is a unique area of values that largely consists of nation states, old identities, peoples and nations that have existed for a very long time. “No one can erase that. And that’s why when we say that the European Union should speak with one voice we need to define whose voice it is, whose head it is, because I don’t think it’s realistic. We should find some kind of a reasonable middle way between, on the one hand, dogma and blind faith in something, and extreme scepticism on the other. Some kind of path of reason, to settle for something that benefits all of us, to try to bring into our society those who are close to us, namely the countries of the Western Balkans. Our future depends on how we will comprehend this reality and how well we will comprehend and accept the middle way of development,” said President Milanović.

When asked if there is political will in the executive branches of power in these five countries to not extend border controls any longer and if another solution has been found to maintain and ensure security, without Schengen being suspended, President Milanović said that he is “certainly for open borders between Croatia and Slovenia and all other Schengen members.” “However, Schengen is a very delicate structure and it is necessary for the wind to blow just a little so that everyone catches a cold. And that’s what just happened. Slovenia reacted by slightly closing the borders. Honestly, I understand and don’t judge, but we have to return to the default settings and travel freely,” said the President, adding that there are absolutely no open issues between Croatia and Slovenia because “too many good things bind us.”

He also commented on the announced changes in the way the EU makes security and foreign policy decisions, especially in the area of defense. “These are some of the foundations of the system, and nobody in Croatia supports changing this and for the decisions to be made by any qualified majority; they should be made by consensus. Many in Central and Eastern Europe think so. These are the criteria by which we entered the European Union and they were important,” said President Milanović.

Asked by reporters what principles he would be guided by in calling the inaugural session of the Croatian Parliament, President Milanović said that the Constitution is very clear. “The deadline is 20 days and I won’t be pushing anyone. But when the deadline draws near, I will have to call the first meeting of the Croatian Parliament regardless of the atmosphere. If there are indications that this is possible earlier, the meeting will be called earlier. But in any case, there are time frames that I have to strictly adhere to. That’s how I see the Constitution and that’s how the Constitution is interpreted. The Constitution cannot be invented,” President Milanović underscored.

PHOTO: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia / Filip Glas