On 1 January 2023, Croatia adopted the euro and became the 20th member of the Eurozone and the 27th member of Europe’s Schengen area, an area with no internal border controls.
A few weeks after the transition, Euronews asked Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic for his thoughts on this milestone in the country’s history.
“Actually, [it] It was a historic moment for Croatia. We are the only country so far to have joined both the Eurozone and the Schengen area on the same day,” said Andrzej Plenković.
“And, of course, the transition … went very well. There were no problems. The cash machines were working. There were enough euro coins and euro banknotes. The whole system of payment transfers was working perfectly. We had the first. Croatian Kunas And two weeks of dual use of the euro without any difficulty.”
“As of Sunday, we are only using Euros so we can say that it was very good. The only incident we had is that some economic operators actually raised their prices in terms of rounding prices from Kunas to Euros, which was not fair. And we have now There are various inspections related to these issues and as a government, we are trying to convince them to withdraw the prices by the end of December 2022,” Plenkovic said.
One of the biggest concerns for citizens, when they enter the euro area is whether prices will rise. As Europe faces the cost of living crisis, Euronews asked the Croatian prime minister what specific measures his country is taking to tackle it.
“Undoubtedly, we, like everyone else worldwide on the European continent, have experienced the impact of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in Croatia, the energy crisis, the food crisis, [inflationary] Pressure,” Plenkovic admitted.
“The fact that Croatia’s six-year path to joining the Eurozone coincided with a changed global perspective, which also had an impact on price growth and inflation in Croatia. I would like to say that in 2022, in our statistical office, inflation in Croatia is 10.8[%]That is only 1% above the eurozone average, but it is lower than all EU countries in Central and Eastern Europe and does not have the euro.”
“So, we believe that this small situation will calm down, that things will return to normal. We have measures and of course, we intervened a lot as a government. I had a package of €3.6 billion for our citizens and our economy. Operators in the course of 2022 [to] To preserve social harmony and avoid social disintegration. So, I say when the state has done all we can, it is fair that all the actors in our system, including some economic operators – I am emphasizing all – should behave adequately,” he added.
EU sanctions against Russia
The so-called international community, including Europe and America, has done it Sanctions against Russia To limit the ability to finance this war. However, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said that this is not enough.
Asked whether Europe is doing enough to confront Russia, Andrzej Plenkovic told Euronews: “Russia’s aggressive position against Ukraine, which has been going on for almost 11 months now, is unprecedented on the European continent. Despite the aggression in the early nineties, this military campaign against Ukraine The magnitude is huge and the people killed, those who have to seek refuge, the huge physical damage and of course the consequences. For the whole of Europe.”
“My feeling as a leader of the European Council is that we have never seen such unity of the European Union, such determination, such clear and unequivocal condemnation of Russia and such a large scale of unity. Ukraine, not only politically, not diplomatically, economically, Economically, humanitarianly, but also militarily.”
Asked how he saw the war in Ukraine ending, the Croatian prime minister said, “Like every conflict, it will end at the diplomatic table. But the main thing is that we support Ukraine to return its territory, defend its sovereignty, preserve it.” Constitutional arrangement. And it is the entire heroic fight of the Ukrainian people and their army and their leaders who have decided to stay and stay with their people, that is going to be the victorious element in the end.”
Three decades after the war in the former Yugoslavia, Euronews asked Andrzej Plenkovic if there are any lessons that can be applied and useful for the situation in Ukraine now.
“I have been advocating for the past eight years, since the 2014 crisis, since the annexation of Crimea, the illegal referendum, the annexation and everything that happened in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.[s]. At that time I was a member of the European Parliament and head of the Ukrainian delegation. And the experience of Croatia, which we have had, and we just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the peaceful – I emphasize, I cannot emphasize more, especially for the Russian media – the peaceful reunification of the formerly occupied territories of Eastern Slavonia. Through diplomatic mediation, through the involvement of the United Nations, through special mechanisms to ensure the stay of all who live there, and all those who wanted Croatia to embrace its territorial integrity and constitutional order succeeded. That was a brilliant operation 25 years ago, and I think that model can be and should be applied for Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well.[s].”
Recent tensions in the Balkans
Recently, concerns have been raised about stability in the Balkan region, particularly in Bosnia, where there is a large Croatian community, and between Serbia and Kosovo. But Croatia’s prime minister is confident these tensions will not spill over into wider instability.
“There has never been more engagement at the highest level of the European Union with the region of the Western Balkans than in the course of 2022,” said Andrzej Plenkovic.
“I think all my colleagues understand that we need to be more involved, to communicate with the leaders and influence the process. This is happening. Second, Serbia and Montenegro are negotiating. Finally, North Macedonia and Albania started accession negotiations. Bosnia and Herzegovina was granted candidate status and Kosovo has applied for membership.
“What countries in the region need to do now is to reduce tensions between them, to address issues of the functioning of the state and democracy in many of them, and also to reduce the tensions that were the causes of conflict in the past. [a] military status.”
“I think that with such high engagement and involvement of European partners in the EU institutions, we will not go through any kind of event that could lead to instability. But we need to be careful, stay engaged, and all leaders take their own responsibility. Because the more countries are stable and functional , the faster their path to the European Union will be.”