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Slovenia wants Croatia Schengen decision taken by new Commission

Ljubljana, 21 October - Slovenia believes that a decision on whether Croatia is meeting the requirements to join the Schengen zone should be taken by the new rather than the outgoing European Commission. The country's position was made clear by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec after the EU summit in Brussels on Friday after an appeal to hat effect was made by six of Slovenia's eight MEPs.

Bregana, Croatia
The Bregana border crossing with Slovenia.
Photo: Hina/STA
File photo

The MEPs urged leaving the decision on Croatia's readiness to join the Schengen zone to Ursula von der Leyen's European Commission, arguing that such a strategic decision should not be taken by an outgoing Commission.

Ljudmila Novak (EPP), Franc Bogovič (EPP), Irena Joveva (RE), Klemen Grošelj (RE), Tanja Fajon (S&D) and Milan Brglez (S&D) say it would be completely incomprehensible and hard to accept if a decision with long-term and strategic consequences for the EU was to be made by Jean-Claude Juncker's Commission, whose term runs out soon.

The Slovenian MEPs also believe the decision should be taken based on an objective expert assessment of whether Croatia meets all the technical and security conditions.

The Commission must also make sure there is absolutely no doubt the assessment of Croatia's ability to protect the Schengen border is not based on political reasons.

Aware of the advantages of Croatia's joining the passport-free zone for Slovenia and the EU, the six out of Slovenia's eight MEPs say its entry is "in our common interest", but must not pose a security threat to the EU.

The MEPs say there are very serious doubts about Croatia being technically and legally fit to protect the EU's external border.

What is more, there are very serious doubts about its compliance with EU standards, foremost in respecting and implementing treaties and court decisions.

The MEPs are also "deeply worried about statements coming from some media outlets and Croatian government officials which bring up serious questions about their privileged access to information and a serious doubt about relevant procedures being transparent, independent and based on expertise".

The appeal was addressed to Juncker and von der Leyen, to European Council President Donald Tusk and his successor Charles Michel as well as to Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

Commenting on this on the sidelines of the EU summit, Šarec said this was also Slovenia's position.

"It is the new Commission that should be dealing with this," Šarec told the press, adding this had also been discussed on the sidelines of the summit.

He did not wish to say with whom he discussed the subject, while he repeated that the decision should not be taken politically but in a manner that considered what was good for security, the defence of Europe's borders and in keeping with the rule of law.

The appeal to the top EU officials was not signed by the two European People's Party (EPP) MEPs from the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS).

Novak said that Romana Tomc and Milan Zver had not explained why they would not join the appeal. "We were only told they had decided not so sign it."

However, Tomc later took to Twitter, saying she agreed that Croatia's Schengen entry was in Slovenia's interest and that Croatia must meet all the conditions before joining the zone.

But she also believes that the answer to this very sensitive political question should be sought at the highest diplomatic level.

Tomc noted that "harmful consequences of squaring accounts in public and of reckless threats" could already be seen in dealing with the border arbitration dispute with Croatia. She is also not familiar with the Slovenian government's official stance on the issue, which in her view calls for even more prudence.

Meanwhile, after the Commission's decision on the matter was first postponed from 2 to 16 October and then to 22 October, unofficial information suggests Juncker's team will publish its assessment on Croatia next Tuesday in Strasbourg, meaning just before the end of its term.

A positive assessment is expected and it will allegedly also state clearly that the matter is done as far as the Commission is concerned.

The final green light to Croatia however needs to come from EU members and unofficial reports suggest this will not happen in the near future. Several member states are said to have reservations, including the Netherlands, Germany and France.

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© STA, 2019