January 1, 2020 signaled the official start of Croatia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. At the very end of 2019, the Croatian Government presented the Presidency program, which outlines the priorities and activities for the following six months. It is expected that the European Commission will present its legislative activity plan by the end of January, with Croatia then following the priorities of that plan.
Croatia joined the EU in 2013 and is its youngest member, which makes the Presidency a challenging task but also an important platform for the Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, which he will attempt to use to help manage upcoming turbulence domestically. Plenković’s HDZ party (Croatian Democratic Union, centre right) suffered two recent defeats in the European Parliamentary and presidential elections, which are significant given the fact that there are parliamentary elections in Croatia in just nine months’ time. It is going to be an interesting battle between HDZ and the SDP (Social Democratic Party, left oriented), the party which won the recent elections, but also within HDZ, where the far-right of the party is making a strong charge. In a sense, the EU Presidency may be a blessing in disguise for Plenković, as he can weather the storm at home by shifting the focus on to EU matters.
Some ministers, for example the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, has already chaired the Foreign Affairs Council in talks with Kyrgyzstan after the Finnish government collapsed. Plenković himself has an impressive Brussels resume and is well known in EU circles. Since 1997, he has been immersed in European affairs and was in key roles when Croatia began its application to join the EU. For quite some time, there have been whispers about his aspirations for a senior EU level role.
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