Croatia regrets that EU leaders failed to agree on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, which deserve it, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Friday.
"Croatia regrets that because we believed that this was the right time to open negotiations, given that both countries, in the European Commission's estimate, have achieved a sufficient degree of progress. Several countries didn't share that position. One should continue to insist on those two dossiers and we must send a message to our friends in North Macedonia and Albania that they should continue with reforms and that a huge majority of us will continue to support them on the European path," Plenkovic told Croatian reporters in Brussels ahead of the second day of an EU summit.
The heads of the member states did not agree on a proposal to launch entry talks with the two countries nor adopted any conclusions on enlargement.
Plenkovic said the arguments of those against launching the negotiations were "thin... The majority of us made convincing arguments in favour of a positive decision but, unfortunately, several member states last night couldn't accept that decision. We are sorry about that and believe that not adopting the decision is not in line with the EU's historic responsibility."
Given the situation, the enlargement summit Croatia plans to organise in Zagreb next May, during its Council of the EU presidency, "becomes even more important because it's the moment when we have to define what we want in the next decade, the method, the pace, the political and security messages we wish to send Southeast Europe," Plenkovic said.
"We should reach a consensus and it seems to me that some countries think too much about how a positive decision on enlargement would reflect on their internal circumstances. That's not good because one should be broader-minded, bolder and take into account that other global stakeholders have an influence in this region and that this region between member states has no future but as part of the EU. We will prepare in line with that, holding consultations, conducting talks, and I hope that in Zagreb we will come up with a good text on enlargement."
Plenkovic called "naive and unrealistic" the idea during last night's debate to task the Commission with proposing an enlargement reform in January. He said this was unrealistic because of the short time, given that the new Commission would take office later than it should have and the ensuing Christmas and New Year's holidays.
He reiterated how important it was that Croatia had wrapped up its EU entry talks in June 2011 given how much circumstances had changed in the meantime.
"That was a historic achievement and only a very small circle of people perceive and are aware of that fact. After that, some stakeholders came on the scene that haven't contributed to that one iota. They don't identify with the process, they don't understand what that means to us, they don't see the economic, political and security effects, and it would be good if we talked about that a bit more," Plenkovic said.
"Even then there were attempts at destabilisation... initiatives to topple the government, even from the then (Croatian) president. We endured all that and that's why the message to endure is more important than the message to topple something," he added.