Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic (R) shakes hands with European Council President Charles Michel during their meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 9, 2020. The European Union (EU) needs to send a clear message to the Western Balkan countries and remain close to EU-aspiring countries, European Council President Charles Michel said here on Thursday. (Patrik Macek/Pixsell via Xinhua)
ZAGREB, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) needs to send a clear message to the Western Balkan countries and remain close to EU-aspiring countries, European Council President Charles Michel said here on Thursday.
Michel is in Croatia to mark the official beginning of the country's six-month rotating EU presidency. During a joint press conference with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Michel said that Western Balkan countries should have a European perspective, as this will also demonstrate the EU's external influence.
Members of the European Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, also came to Zagreb where they attended the gala concert at the Croatian National Theater and a dinner hosted by outgoing Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Thursday night.
Michel and Plenkovic stressed that by May, when a summit dedicated to the perspectives of the Western Balkan countries for EU membership is held in Zagreb, they will work to create a positive climate in all EU member states to take up further enlargement.
They also discussed a new European budget, and Prime Minister Plenkovic stressed that Croatia will strive to reach an agreement acceptable to all EU member states in the next six months.
Croatia is also ready to complete legal procedures related to Brexit, and the negotiation on the framework of future relations with the UK will start as early as next week, Plenkovic said.