The positioning of Croatia as an active EU member and cooperation with countries in Central and Southeast Europe, the Mediterranean and the Baltic are among the main priorities of the country’s foreign policy, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Miro Kovac said at a reception in Zagreb on Monday, held for foreign diplomats and the press to mark his entry into office.
“The priorities of our foreign policy are to position Croatia as an active and self-confident member of the European Union and to be a constructive partner to all our neighbours, which includes vertical cooperation with our friends in Central and Mediterranean Europe and further to the Baltic and horizontal cooperation with our friends in Southeast Europe and beyond,” Kovac said, noting that Croatia “is a modern and stable democracy firmly anchored in its European home and the Atlantic community.”
Speaking of Croatia’s immediate neighbourhood, Kovac said that Croatia wanted to deal with outstanding issues with its neighbours through dialogue, expressing support to its neighbours on their path to European Union membership. In this context, he particularly cited Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had formally applied for EU membership on February 15.
“There are always open issues between neighbours and there will always be, but our aim is to overcome the misunderstandings and foster dialogue. I am glad that with a series of bilateral visits over a very short period of time we have managed to change the atmosphere in our relations with the neighbours and close European partners,” the minister said. “We are changing the atmosphere. Our neighbours and a friendly, solid and democratic environment are very important to us.”
“Our southeastern neighbours can expect our support on their European path and in the process of alignment with European standards,” he said, expressing great satisfaction that Bosnia and Herzegovina had submitted its application for EU membership. “We as the Croatian state will wholeheartedly support Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European path.”
Speaking of NATO’s recent invitation to Montenegro to join the alliance, Kovac said that Croatia wanted to be among the first countries to ratify Montenegro’s NATO accession treaty. He had visited Podgorica on February 19, less than a month after stepping into office.
On the subject of the current refugee crisis in Europe, Kovac said that he would work on strengthening cooperation with countries that, just like Croatia, were hit by the influx of refugees, fleeing war and hardship in the Middle East and elsewhere and in the hope of reaching wealthy western European countries. He stressed the importance of a common European response to the crisis and of refraining from unilateral moves.
“A common European solution consists in reaching peace in Syria, providing humanitarian and development aid on site and in neighbouring countries, and ensuring the effective protection of Europe’s external borders,” Kovac said.
“The war in Syria cannot be resolved without us, the EU, the USA, Russia, Turkey and all the countries in its neighbourhood. Any failure may shake the very foundations of the EU,” he said, adding that Croatia would continue contributing to efforts to end the crisis.
Kovac went on to say that it was time for a new momentum in transatlantic relations and for further cooperation with China and African countries on the economic front.
Croatia advocates dialogue with Moscow regarding its role in the Ukraine crisis, Kovac said.
Stressing that the new government would work on improving Croatia’s visibility in the world, Kovac said that he wanted to see Croatia as an open country, a country of economic growth, sustainable public finance, investment and closer economic ties with other countries.
On behalf of the foreign diplomatic corps, Kovac was greeted by Apostolic Nuncio Alessandro d’Errico ,who said that he appreciated the minister’s openness to the international community, desire to maintain and develop good relations with the neighbours, support for the EU integration of the Southeast European countries, and his call for a constructive approach to dealing with the migrant crisis.