EU needs a fortright attitude towards accession of Western Balkans, says JunckerAdriatic Journal 12 September 2018
The European Union needs “a fortright attitude towards the accession of the Western Balkans. Otherwise, our immediate neighbourhood will be shaped by other actors”, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today. He warned that the region must not be neglected, otherwise others will increase their influence, said Juncker. He added the EU should not reduce efforts to build a unified Europe. In his speech, Juncker emphasized on several occasions the importance of a unified European Union that should act jointly. “The European Union is a guarantor of peace. Let’s be happy that we live on a continent of peace, on a continent that enjoys peace thanks to the European Union”, he said. “Let us show more respect to the European Union. Let us not sully its image. Let us defend our way of life, our way of being. Let’s embrace the kind of patriotism that is not directed against others, and let us decry kneejerk national which attacks others and seeks scape goats rather than looking for solutions that allow us to co-exist better.”
A big debate ensued in Croatia about the announced pension reform, which the government urgently needs in order to reduce the pension deficit, which now must be financed directly from the budget. The aim of the reform is to increase the number of contributors to the first pension pillar, which means providing more jobs, economist Damir Novotny commented for daily Slobodna Dalmacija. Professor Ljubo Jurčić from Faculty of Economics in Zagreb has a different opinion and sees the second pension pillar as a big mistake that should be changed into a voluntary pillar, while the full pension contribution should be returned to the first pillar. “Thus, HRK 6bn would remain in the budget, we would have a surplus, we could invest in development, raise pensions and salaries that are now being allocated to the second pillar while the state covers the deficit,” says Jurčić. “The second pillar is a pure investment fund and should be abolished, as it creates a loss not only in the first pillar, but also in the country,” Jurčić believes. The pensioners’ union is also not in favour of the compulsory second pillar which they say is an unknown model in other European countries and was practically abolished by most of the transition countries. When coordinating pensions, they suggest a departure from the so-called Swiss formula, which provides for a 70% to 30% ratio adjustment between the salary and consumer price growth. Instead, they suggest a 100% harmonisation between the two. In Croatia, 64% of the population aged over 65 receives a retirement pension, which is why the country needs a national pension. Nearly all EU countries and over 110 countries in the world have such pension. It is suggested this would be 30% of the gross minimum wage, which at this moment means HRK 1,032. Experts say the proposals are meaningful, but the question is how would these solutions, if adopted, be financed.