I am very happy to be in Zagreb today, together with Interior Minister Davor Božinović, and earlier this morning also Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as well as Minister of Justice Dražen Bošnjaković.
This is a great moment for Croatia, after I confirmed yesterday that Croatia has taken the measures needed to meet the conditions necessary to apply the Schengen rules in full.
Croatia is now on the way to joining the Schengen area of free movement.
This is a positive result, and I commend Croatia for its efforts and perseverance over the past 4 years.
As I stressed yesterday in Strasbourg, Croatia will need to continue working consistently on all ongoing actions in the field of external border management to ensure that these conditions continue to be met.
Croatia should notably maintain a high level of border surveillance at its external borders, in particular the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This is an important point, and I have assured Prime Minister Plenković and Minister Božinović that we will continue to work closely with Croatia to make sure this ongoing work continues to deliver results.
Yesterday, I also confirmed that Croatia continues to fulfil the commitments it took when joining the EU, which were relevant to the Schengen rules.
It is now for the Council to decide on Croatia’s entry into the Schengen area of free movement.
I hope that Member States will take the right steps for Croatia to become a full Schengen member soon, as I hope the same for Bulgaria and Romania.
The Schengen area is the largest free travel area in the world and it is one of the greatest and most tangible achievements of European integration.
Thanks to Schengen, today, more than 400 million EU citizens can move freely between countries, without having to go through controls at the borders.
I hope that Croatian citizens will soon be able to enjoy these benefits in full. But this is not just about freedoms and privileges.
This is equally about responsibilities, and about increasing our collective security.
The accession of Croatia - but also of Bulgaria and Romania – is all the more relevant and needed today, given the migratory and security challenges that we all face.
The strength of Schengen very much depends on its inclusiveness.
With Croatia joining Schengen, we would be even better equipped to face these challenges, and Croatia would contribute to further strengthening the Schengen area and ensure that the EU’s external borders are better protected.
It is only by being united and standing together that we can ensure a stronger Schengen area and a safer Europe for our citizens.
It was very important for me to be in Croatia today and I wish to thank Minister Božinović, as well as of course Andrej Plenković and Minister Dražen Bošnjakovićagain for their hospitality.
Thank you for your attention.