Among the numerous issues which have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic world wide was Croatia’s formidable agenda for its six-month time period on the helm of the European Union, which ended Tuesday.
“Despite all our best original plans, related to promoting a whole set of issues most important for Europe’s security and prosperity … our presidency has ended up being a genuine crisis-management presidency,” stated Pjer Simunovic, Croatia’s prime diplomat in Washington.
Simunovic stated his nation took its flip within the rotating workplace in January with plans to handle employment, expertise, competitiveness, setting, inexperienced vitality, EU enlargement, exterior partnerships, in addition to to work towards a clean and well-regulated Brexit and adoption of the EU’s funds.
Instead, he stated in an interview, Croatia’s presidency has been dominated by “virtual meetings replacing the in-person meetings at all levels, and almost everything getting focused on dealing with the immediacy of the multifaceted danger in front to us.”
“We all had to plan and execute on the fly,” he added.
The function of the EU presidency is to construct consensus and facilitate joint decision-making among the many bloc’s practically 30 members, Simunovic stated. Toward that finish, he credited the member states for working collectively to convey house greater than 500,000 EU residents who have been left stranded by the pandemic world wide.
Simunovic stated his nation – an EU member since 2013 – additionally advocated strongly for the union to open accession talks with two different nations in its southeastern Europe neighborhood – Albania and North Macedonia. An EU-Western Balkans summit in May confirmed the “EU’s commitment to the region,” he stated.
As one other instance of solidarity throughout the EU, the ambassador cited ongoing negotiations on monetary rescue packages for the member nations most severely harm by the pandemic.
“On top of the first EU relief package, adopted in April, of 500 billion euros, complemented by a banking package facilitating lending, the European Commission proposed, in late May, the second relief package, consisting of 750 billion euros, 500 billion in grants, 250 billions in favorable loans,” he stated.
Simunovic described that proposal as “fair, balanced and appropriate,” including that progress in the direction of an settlement was made on the remaining EU summit of Croatia’s presidency, together with a pledge to finalize an settlement at a summit in July.
Independent analysts are also pleasantly stunned by the EU’s success in responding to the pandemic.
“There is some pride along with a sense of shock that Europe has been pulling together,” stated Stephen Szabo, a senior fellow on the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. But he stated the success got here solely after “a disastrous beginning” wherein the member states failed to assist the hardest-hit nations, comparable to Italy.
“Still this is only the first stage of what promises to be a long-term crisis,” he stated, including that the financial results “will be felt for years and will pose a challenge for European solidarity.”
Simunovic mentioned the idea of “strategic autonomy” because the pandemic forces nations to judge the energy of their provide chains. The notion is completely comprehensible, he stated, however he believes collaboration among the many EU members shall be essential going ahead.
He predicted that ties shall be “established and reinforced along the lines of reliability” amongst what he described as “genuine allies.”
Simunovic stated Europe stands able to work alongside the United States to strengthen transatlantic ties and deal with world challenges, together with these posed by state actors enjoying with totally different guidelines – Russia and China most prominently amongst them.
“Globalization is not going to disappear, commerce and funding will proceed to circulation world wide, as it’s occurring, however there shall be extra warning, extra safeguards,” he stated.
The ambassador predicted Germany, which assumes the presidency for a six-month time period starting Wednesday, will discover itself like Croatia in a steady “crisis management” mode, with “hard issues remaining to be addressed and resolved.”
“We wish our German friends the best of luck, with our full support and great expectations,” he stated. “We are in the same boat amidst the rough seas.”