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Brexit could slow EU enlargement, Croatia warns

London - The Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which went though war and economic turmoil in the 1990s, are all at different stages of joining the EU.

London - Britain’s vote to leave the European Union could slow down the bloc’s enlargement process that Balkan states see as their route to prosperity, the foreign minister of Croatia, the EU’s newest member, said on Friday. The Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which went though war and economic turmoil in the 1990s, are all at different stages of joining the EU. But Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac said the Brexit vote could slow the pace at which candidate nations join the EU. “We also want stability in southeastern Europe and we will work so that Brexit does not have too much effect on the enlargement process,” Kovac told regional broadcaster N1 TV. “However, we must be realistic. I’m afraid that there will be an effect on that process and that it may slow down a bit.” Croatia was the second former Yugoslav republic to join the bloc, in 2013, after Slovenia in 2004. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said his government aimed to complete EU accession talks by 2019, despite Britain’s decision to leave. “Serbia will continue its European path and take special care to maintain its economic and financial stability,” Vucic told reporters after cabinet meeting to discuss the implications of Britain’s referendum. Britain’s EU referendum on Thursday, won by the “Out” campaign by a 52 to 48 percent margin, forced the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealt the biggest blow to the European project of greater unity since World War Two.

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The leader of Britain’s trade union movement called on the government to draw up a national action plan to stabilise the economy after currency and stock markets fell sharply in the wake of Thursday’s vote to leave the European Union. Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and a prominent ‘In’ campaigner, said the decision to leave the 28-country bloc would hit workers hardest and warned against making swingeing cuts to public spending. Global financial markets plunged on Friday as results from the referendum showed a near 52-48 percent split for leaving a group that Britain joined more than 40 years ago.
“Our top priority now is making sure that we build confidence, that the pound doesn’t hit the floor and we don’t end up with the economy going belly-up,” she told Reuters. “We’re calling for government to come up with a national action plan to bring in businesses, bring in unions and frankly, I think it would be great if they brought in politicians of all stripes to inject some confidence.” O’Grady said that any decision to pass an emergency budget - as proposed by finance minister George Osborne in the days running up to the referendum - would be a mistake, and could harm working-class voters. “I want to give a warning that this would not be the time to introduce another savage cuts budget,” she said. “On the contrary, we need for people to have jobs, to have money in their pockets, to keep demand and confidence going during this very uncertain time.” She also warned that cutting public spending would further alienate the vast numbers of voters from industrial towns in northern England who voted for Britain to leave the bloc. “There’s a lot of people who feel hurt and humiliated, who felt they ended up paying the price for the 2008 financial crash and that the guys who caused it got off scot-free,” she said. “There’s a lot of anger and disaffection and people feel there’s nobody there really standing up for them.”

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