During its European Union presidency in the first half of next year Croatia will need to reconcile different interests regarding the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), notably the differences in the views of the European Parliament and the countries that contribute the most to the EU budget, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said after meeting with European Parliament President David Sassoli in Zagreb on Thursday.
Plenkovic and Sassoli held a joint press conference after a meeting between the Croatian government and the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament.
"At this moment there is indeed a great difference between the goals set by the European Parliament and what is going on at the level of the Council or the member states. That's why the task of Croatia, along with the Council led by Charles Michel, will be to reconcile these interests so that that the next MFF could be smoothly implemented as of January 2021," Plenkovic said.
He said that the member states are divided into net contributors to the EU budget which are more conservative about the MFF and net beneficiaries and recipients of EU funding, including Croatia, which want considerable funds for traditional policies such as cohesion and agriculture.
"This is a key match between the conservative position of those that give the most, the middle position of member states that want considerable funds for cohesion policy and agriculture, and the ambition of the European Parliament, which says that if we are to confront the challenges facing Europe today, such as climate change or security, these funds must be higher," the Croatian PM said.
Sassoli said that the European Parliament wanted the next seven-year budget to support the programme of the European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen.
The European Parliament wants an ambitious budget, one that will make it possible for the Union to deliver on its priorities, he added.
He said he wanted a Europe that grows, a Europe that can create jobs, keep its industry and achieve a transition to a green economy.
Sassoli said that a balance needed to be established between different views, but also that the European Commission's initiatives needed to be financed. None of the European governments can allow the Commission to fail, he stressed.
Sassoli condemned the conservative views on the MFF, noting that the European Parliament was not satisfied with the views of current EU president Finland.
He said that the MFF is a political issue of "our vision of Europe" and that the budget talks should also include "a little bit of heart and not just mathematics."
Plenkovic added that Croatia's goal was to help reach an agreement and avoid this issue being passed on to the German presidency.
"The MFF must be sustainable, a compromise will be demanding and difficult," Plenkovic said, noting the fact that the United Kingdom, a large contributor to the EU budget, was leaving the Union.
Plenkovic and Sassoli are agreed that EU enlargement should continue. "We share the view that we should find a way to unblock negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia," the Croatian PM said.
Sassoli supported Croatia's ambition to join the Schengen area.