On 3 April 2019, a conference under this title took place at the Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar in Zagreb. It was organised by Pilar Institute in partnership with the Croatia Office of Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO). In IRMO this conference is the first in a series of six, organized within the framework of EUlead, a Jean Monnet project.
The conference started with the presentation of the EU Coalition Explorer, https://www.ecfr.eu/eucoalitionexplorer, a project of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). It set the tone for ensuing debate on current challenges and future perspectives of the European Union for the upcoming European parliament elections and Croatia’s EU Council Presidency.
The panel moderator was Senada Šelo Šabić from IRMO and the speakers included Miro Kovač who is the President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Croatian Parliament, Antun Buklijaš from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Mirjana Hrga the Advisor of the President of the Republic of Croatia for Strategic Policy, and Almut Möller the Head of Berlin Office and Senior Policy Fellow.
Almut Möller presented the EU Coalition Explorer including the results of the EU28 survey, which was conducted in all member states of the European Union. It illustrated the expert opinions of 877 respondents who work on European policy issues in governments, think-tanks and other relevant institutions. The Explorer is rich with data and can be used in different ways – to generate information on a particular country, a group of countries, a specific policy, and so on.
Miro Kovač stated Croatia’s success in realizing foreign policy goals so far, but also agreed that there is much that lies ahead and that Croatia has not engaged all its capacities. There is room for improvement in building coalitions and advocating for Croatia’s interests. As the youngest EU member state, it still has a lot to learn. He also stressed that the main problem in Croatia is not corruption, but the inefficiency of its institutions.
Antun Buklijaš, among other issues, underlined that Croatia plays an active role in an informal group of EU member states, the so-called friends of cohesion. The idea is that cohesion policy should promote more balanced and more sustainable territorial development– a broader concept than regional policy, which is linked to the ERDF and operates specifically at a regional level. He also added that countries in eastern Europe should work together more to achieve better social standards. The Three Seas Initiative was mentioned as an example, an initiative that aims to create regional dialogue on a variety of questions affecting the member states.
Mirjana Hrga identified the Croatian Presidency of the European Union as an opportunity for rapprochement with other members. Hrga stated that Croatia’s problem is its perception of being small and that fair self-assessment, but also larger ambition, could contribute to more active foreign policy making and a change of the country’s image.