On the sidelines of the 72nd UN General Assembly, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister, Marija Pejčinović Burić, spoke exclusively to IBNA after the fourfold meeting of the EU member states, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria.
Pejčinović Burić stressed among other things that “dialogue is the best avenue to foster cooperation, enhance mutual understanding and build trust and respect for each other’s views. Only dialogue and cooperation can bring about solutions that will not divide us but will better connect us”.
With regard to the Western Balkans, which will be the priorities of the Croatian presidency, Pejčinović Burić noted that “Croatia is particularly interested in the Western Balkans/Southeast Europe and advancing the enlargement process in the immediate neighborhood of the EU and our four countries. Here, we always stress the importance of the transformative power of enlargement and our investment in the reform agenda of those countries through the continuation of a strict and fair enlargement policy, where moving forward on the EU path is (directly) linked to delivery in terms of reforms, fulfillment of the criteria and conditions that we have set out and respecting the European values of democracy, fundamental rights and rule of law”.
How important is the initiative for cooperation of the four European countries in the Balkans for the future of Europe and the region of southeast Europe?
Current challenges, not only facing the EU but also globally, require Member States to cooperate in various formats. We believe that dialogue is the best avenue to foster cooperation, enhance mutual understanding and build trust and respect for each other’s views. Only dialogue and cooperation can bring about solutions that will not divide us but will better connect us. Four of our Member States – Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Croatia – bring important experience and lessons learned of the EU membership to our discussions (be it related to Eurozone, Schengen, enlargement or other policy areas). We see the cooperation among four EU Member States as contribution to and an investment into more coherence and cohesion in the European policy making and finding common and European solutions to various internal and external challenges.
When it comes to the Southeast Europe, all four EU Member States are naturally the ones that are most interested in the region that we are all bordering with and in its stability, security and prosperity. We are also the ones that are most knowledgeable about the challenges the region is facing and the ones that are providing concrete assistance to the countries in the region on their reform agenda and Euro-Atlantic paths. In addition, three (Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia) of four of us will be holding EU Presidencies in the forthcoming period, in which regard we shall be jointly working in the group of four to further promote enlargement and give more visibility to the region and its integration processes.
Which are the priorities of this cooperation from your perspective?
In our group of four EU Member States we discuss current and topical challenges and issues of concern in the EU, primarily within the remit of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). We find it important to be able to exchange notes with our partners from Greece, Bulgaria and Romania also on other EU policies and to coordinate our views and positions and thus build better understanding among ourselves and among other partners in the EU.
In this regard, Croatia lays particular emphasis on the Western Balkans/Southeast Europe and promoting advancement of the enlargement process in the immediate neighbourhood of the EU and of our four countries. Here we always stress the importance of the transformative power of enlargement and our investment in the reform agenda of those countries through continuation of the strict and fair enlargement policy, where moving forward on the EU path is (directly) linked to delivery in terms of reforms, fulfilment of criteria and conditions that we have set out and respecting European values of democracy, fundamental rights and rule of law.
How important is the common foreign affairs policy and policy for security in EU?
In my opinion a lot has been done in the CFSP/CSDP area over the last more than a year, i.e. following the launch of the EU Global Strategy in June 2016. In the process we have raised our awareness about our external action as an important element in ensuring our protection and security but also in projecting stability to the outside world. I believe that the CFSP is crucial for underpinning our unity of vision and action, which is the underlying principle of our credibility. I also believe that it has helped enhance Member States’ ownership of the policies and decisions we jointly take.
The Global Strategy is an important tool to help us build the EU that is strong and relevant global actor and security provider with clear foreign and security goals. Most of the progress in its implementation has been achieved in the security and defence area, where extensive and important steps have been taken to enhance EU cooperation and coordination in security and defence. There have been important steps taken in other areas that we have prioritised, especially with regard to resilience building, strengthening internal/external nexus of our policies, updating existing and preparing new strategies and public diplomacy. For Croatia it remains important that enhancing security and defence cooperation contributes to strengthening our cohesion and does not open up the space for fragmentation within the EU./IBNA