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Croatia urged to push EU enlargement during presidential term | #TheCube

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Handing of EU Council presidency from Finnish minister Krista Mikkonen to Croatian minister Tomislav Ćorić.
Handing of EU Council presidency from Finnish minister Krista Mikkonen to Croatian minister Tomislav Ćorić.   -   Copyright  Twitter / @EU2020HR Dec. 19th, 2019   -   Davis, Seana
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Leaders in the Western Balkans have called on Croatia to push EU enlargement to the top of the agenda in the coming months.

It comes as Zagreb took the baton from Finland on 1 January for the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The role will see Croatia set the agenda and chair meetings of the council, which is made up of heads of government of EU countries.

During Finland's tenure, EU enlargement hit the headlines as moves to open membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia were blocked.

France, Denmark, and the Netherlands were all against negotiations starting, a stance the EU Parliament called a "strategic mistake".

Now countries in the Western Balkans have pitched to put EU enlargement to the top of the agenda as Croatia — the EU's newest member — takes on the presidency.

North Macedonia's foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, took to Twitter as Zagreb took up the presidential reins and called for a "European year for the Western Balkans.

Dimitrov has previously been critical of his country having EU membership talks blocked, saying the union should be "straightforward" with North Macedonia.

Meanwhile, the former Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati said on Twitter: "Let’s hope that after the historic mistake of the last year, in #2020 the stars will align in order to start #EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia."

Although further behind in the process, other Western Balkan states also called for progress on their EU membership bids during Croatia's presidency.

The Chairman of the House in Bosnia and Herzegovina hailed the presidency not only as an opportunity for Croatia but also an opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina to progress toward membership.

The Prime Minister of Montenegro was also quick to take to Twitter, pointing to Croatia's successful accession into the EU.

Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003, with talks and negotiations launching in 2005. They last until 2011.

Croatia officially joined the bloc in 2013, the latest country to do so.

Albania, along with other countries within the Western Balkans, were identified as potential candidates for accession during the Thessaloniki European Council summit in 2003. At the Council, the EU called for the Western Balkans to build "fully functioning states capable of providing for the needs of their citizens".

"The fight against organised crime and corruption is essential for ensuring the rule of law," the communique said in 2003. In order to move onto the next stage of relations, the Western Balkans states would have to "pursue these objectives at an accelerated pace".

As it stands, Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey remain as candidate countries for EU membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, meanwhile, are prospective candidates.

Watch more on this in the video player above with Seana Davis from The Cube, Euronews' social media newsdesk.