Negotiations on the next European Union budget will most likely be shifted to the Croatian EU presidency in the first half of 2020 because of Brexit, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday after a working meeting with EU ambassadors in Zagreb.
"It is very likely that the European Council meeting in October, which was to be dedicated to the multiannual financial framework, will after all be dominated by Brexit. That's why these negotiations will likely be carried over to our presidency, and we will do our best to ensure that they are completed during the Croatian presidency," Plenkovic told the press after the meeting at the Hotel Esplanade.
He added that the current EU president Finland would try to wrap up talks on the multiannual financial framework in December, but that Helsinki considered it unlikely that an agreement would be reached then.
Plenkovic said it was important that this political agreement was not reached too late, because programmes and payments would be late then and countries would have difficulties implementing their programmes.
Plenkovic did not rule out a possibility that Brexit would be a cause of problems during the Croatian presidency as well. He said that the situation was "almost grotesque", reiterating that Britain's departure from the EU was the consequence of "a huge mistake by the then Prime Minister David Cameron" who called "a completely unnecessary referendum" and that politicians like Nigel Farage had misled millions of Britons.
The meeting with EU ambassadors also focused on the organisation of an EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb next May. "Our ambition is for this summit to be a point of reference. We want to draw up a sort of work plan for the next few years," the PM said.
"The countries in the southeast have great expectations, while the old EU member states have a lot of reservations, so we need to find a balance that will be realistic rather than allow slowness to cause frustration among our neighbours and speed to cause fear in the West," Plenkovic concluded.
Croatia takes over the EU presidency from Finland on 1 January 2020 and is succeeded by Germany. The three countries constitute a so-called trio, closely cooperating in harmonising the Union's priorities.