CROATIA looks set to join the Schengen Area soon, following the European Commission getting set to announce that the nation has met all the technical criteria for accession to the Schengen Area.

A country with a population less than that of Scotland, in 2013 Croatia committed to join the Euro and the Schengen area, the latter being the 26 European countries from the EU and Efta who have agreed to set aside border controls.

According to the Croatian online newspaper, diplomatic sources have confirmed that the Commission will issue an official statement in the second half of September permitting the Croatian Government – currently very pro-EU – to join Schengen next year.

The Schengen Visa website reported that in a recent meeting with the outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that his country has done a lot to join Schengen.

Plenkovic said: “Croatia expects to get a positive evaluation of its progress in fulfilling the criteria to access the Schengen Area before the end of this Commission’s term.”

Juncker has shown his support for Croatia’s accession to Schengen before the end of his mandate, which expires on November 1.

Juncker said at the time: “I would like us [the EU Commission] to propose Croatia’s accession to the Schengen Area under our mandate. We have lost too much time, we will have to do it. And I would like the Council of Ministers to react to it properly.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany fully supports Croatia joining Schengen.

She said: “I regard Croatia’s two goals, namely joining the euro in the next period as well as joining Schengen, as very realistic.”

Croatia was the last member country to join the EU in 2013. It is one of the four EU countries that still haven’t joined the Schengen territory, alongside Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, aside from the UK and Ireland that have their opt outs.

Brexit forces Ireland to help beef farmers

PROOF that Brexit is already having an impact on the Republic of Ireland’s economy came with the announcement early this week that the Irish Government will set up a new 100 million Euro fund to assist beef farmers.

The National:

Following protests by farmers across Ireland, Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, announced details of the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM).

The aid package will come from the European Union and the Irish Government, and Creed was in no doubt as to what caused the problems which the country’s farmers have been facing for many months.

The minister said: “I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers.

“There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

“The availability of this EU and Exchequer support, together with the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot introduced earlier this year, provides an injection of up to €120m in aid for the beef sector in 2019.”

BEAM will be targeted aid, with farmers having to meet strict quality criteria. Dairy herds of less than 40 dairy cows will be the only dairy herds to qualify.

Saying BEAM payments could be made within weeks, Creed added: “This scheme has been designed to make the application process as user-friendly and accessible as possible for farmers.”

Finland sees rise of populist Finns Party

TRADITIONALLY a country with social democratic values, Finland has become the latest European Union country to chart the rise and rise of a populist right-wing party.

A poll published yesterday in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper showed that the Finns Party now had the support of 20.7 % of the voting population, almost three times the number that supported them in a similar poll last year.

The Finns Party won 17.5 % of the vote in the parliamentary elections held in Finland in April, falling only 0.2 % points short of beating the favourites, the Social Democrats. In terms of the popular vote, the Finns are now in second place and the new poll confirms their increasing support.

The National:

The Party won 39 seats in the election, up from 38 in 2015, to finish just one short of the largest party, the Social Democrats who went on to form the government.

The complicated political system in Finland – it has a similar population to Scotland – which is invariably governed by a coalition means that the Finns Party are unlikely ever to form a Government, and certainly not by themselves.But the new poll has confirmed the meteoric rise of the party, which is nationalist and populist, but also on the left in economic terms.

Jussi Halla-aho, 48, the chairperson of the Finns Party, campaigned on a strong anti-immigration ticket and also questioned climate change.

Sakari Nurmela, a research director at polling firm TNS Kantar told Helsingin Sanomat: “We haven’t seen anything of the like in recent times. It’s a majestic rise. The Finns Party has managed to gain support twice before ahead of the parliamentary elections. But on the other hand, the rapid rise has been followed by a decline in support.

“It’ll be interesting to see which direction their support moves this time around.”