Croatia took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 January 2020 from Finland, six and a half years after entering the European bloc.
The beginning of the Croatian presidency will be formally marked on 9 January when members of the European Commission are due to come to Zagreb and when a concert on that occasion is going to be held in the Croatian National Theatre. A concert will also be held in Brussels on 15 January to mark the start of the Croatian presidency, and this will coincide with the anniversaries of Croatia's international recognition on 15 January 1992 and the completion of the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region on 15 January 1998.
On 9 January, Zagreb will host a meeting of the European Commission under the helm of President Ursula von der Leyen and the event, which will take place in the Croatian National and University Library (NSK) complex, will be co-chaired by the Croatian government.
The presidency over the EU is seen as an opportunity to promote the country-in-chair and making the local society more sensitive to EU-related topics.
On 8 January, the day before the EC meeting, about 60 prominent correspondents of EU member-states from Brussels will arrive in Zagreb. It is a regular practice for the country presiding over the EU to invite groups of correspondents from Brussels city at the start of the six-month-long EU presidency. On that occasion, journalists are briefed about the priorities of the presidency of the country concerned and they can also see cultural and natural landmarks of the presiding country.
During their stay in Croatia, the foreign correspondents will be received by Prime Minister AndrejPlenkovic and will also visit Plitvice Lakes and the northern Adriatic cities of Rijeka and Opatija.
"A strong Europe in a world of challenges" is the slogan Croatia has chosen for its presidency. The programme of its EU presidency is based on four themes or pillars - A Europe that develops; A Europe that connects; A Europe that protects; and An influential Europe.
In the next six months, about 1,400 meetings will be held at various levels, and most of them will take place in Brussels. Ministerial meetings in April and June will be organised in Luxembourg, according to standard practice.
In Croatia, a total of 161 events in relation to the presidency will be held. One of the major events will be a summit meeting between the EU and the Western Balkans, set for 7 May in Zagreb.
Apart from that, eight informal gatherings will take place in Zagreb, three in the biggest Adriatic city of Split and one in the coastal resort of Opatija.
Nine ministerial conferences will be organised in Croatia: five in Zagreb and four outside the capital city. A few expert-level meetings will be held in the eastern city of Osijek.
Some of the events which will take place in Croatia will focus on consumer protection, defence, organ transplantation, cohesion, migrations, demographic challenges, tourism, the European Social Fund and transport infrastructure.
Extensive programme for Croatia's EU presidency prepared
On 27 December, the Croatian government prepared a very detailed and extensive programme of its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020. The 50-odd-page document sets out Croatia's national priorities and has been aligned with the EU's new strategic programme for the period 2019-2024 and the guidelines of the new European Commission.
A strong Europe in a world of challenges
In the next six months Croatia will be chairing the Council of the EU, formerly called the Council of Ministers, which is one of the EU's two legislative bodies, made up of ministers from member-countries' governments.
The Council meets in different configurations, depending on which topic is discussed, such as the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Justice and Home Affairs Council, etc.
Apart from the above-mentioned four main priorities, the programme of Croatia's presidency also contains priorities for all ten configurations of the Council of the EU.
A Europe that develops
With regard to the priority "A Europe that develops", Croatia's presidency will advocate a balanced, sustainable and inclusive growth of the EU that takes account of the specificities and needs of all member-countries, their regions and citizens, reads the programme.
A Europe that connects
As for the second priority, "A Europe that connects", Croatia will encourage policies directed at promoting the EU's infrastructure connectivity and at bringing its citizens closer, primarily through education, culture and sports.
A Europe that protects
With regard to the third priority, Croatia's presidency will work to further build the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice based on shared values, democracy and the rule of law, including internal security, better protection of the external borders, achieving the full operability of information systems, strengthening resilience to external threats as well as to hybrid and cyber threats.
An influential Europe
Croatia's presidency will advocate the continuation of a consistent, effective and credible enlargement policy, as an investment in the stability, security and further economic development and connectivity of the European continent, reads the part entitled "An influential Europe."