Croatia will work to restart European Union membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia while the country holds the EU presidency for the next six months.
"We will do our best to overcome problems and unblock the process that was held back at the summit in October 2019,'' Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on January 2, a day after Croatia took up its first term in the rotating presidency.
France and the Netherlands halted the opening of membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania last year, sparking disappointment and concern in the Western Balkans as Russia and China vie for influence in the volatile region.
Croatia, which became an EU member in 2013, was the last country to join the bloc. It borders three other Western Balkan nations that have applied for membership -- Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia.
The Croatian government has listed EU enlargement as one of the priorities for its EU presidency, which will also include presiding over Brexit at the end of the month and the launch of post-Brexit talks.
"The context of our presidency is very specific and demanding,'' Plenkovic said.
If all goes as planned and Britain leaves the EU on January 31, Croatia's task will be to coordinate EU efforts to outline a framework proposal for future agreements with Britain, Plenkovic explained.
"That is our job,'' he said. ‘’And we have already started working on it. Together with [chief EU Brexit negotiator] Michel Barnier.”