ZAGREB, July 24, 2018 – Croatia supports Ireland in its efforts to stop the UK’s exit from the European Union from undermining the progress achieved in Ireland, first and foremost the soft border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Zagreb on Monday after meeting with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar.
Zagreb was the first stop on Varadkar’s tour of three European capitals during which, according to Irish media, he will discuss Brexit and the possibility of not reaching an agreement on it with London.
Speaking at a joint press conference, Plenković said “Croatia will support Ireland in its efforts for the future regime on the border between the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to keep the minimal aspects” of the current state of affairs. “It’s a gradual technical approach that will cause the least damage. Our goal is for the future regime not to cause any political instability in Ireland, in which we agreed with Varadkar.”
Dublin believes that existing solutions should be adhered to until future relations between the UK and the EU have been comprehensively determined, Varadkar said, adding that he had told Plenković how much Ireland appreciated Croatia’s solidarity and understanding.
Ireland is preoccupied with Brexit, notably regarding Northern Ireland, Varadkar said. It is necessary to guarantee that all signed protocols remain in force, notably regarding the relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland, he added.
It is important to understand all of Ireland’s concerns, given its particular position, notably the border with Northern Ireland, Plenković said. For Croatia, it is important that the Brexit negotiations end in such a way to “match the general positions taken by the European Council, while satisfying Ireland’s interests in the process,” he added. Plenković said he had warned before the Brexit referendum that it was a “risky undertaking” in which, he added, everyone had lost.
Former British PM David Cameron, who initiated the referendum, lost, as did the UK, which is increasingly seeing the manipulation by populists who “tried to interfere in our referendum too,” he said, recalling that he had clashed over these matters with Brexit advocate Nigel Farage.
The European project lost too “because for two years it dealt only with this issue, and Ireland is the most affected by this situation,” he said, adding that it was now necessary to agree “a deal on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and see clear outlines of the future contractual relationship.”
The two prime ministers said Croatia and Ireland have excellent and friendly relations, and that cooperation could be bigger and more substantial, notably in the economy, in which trade amounts to 100 million euro.
Varadkar also met with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, telling her he supported Croatia’s entry to the Schengen and euro areas. He offered Croatia assistance in the exchange of experience in chairing the Council of the EU, which Croatia will do in 2020.
The two officials said the fact that Rijeka and Galway were European capitals of culture in 2020 would be an excellent opportunity to intensify cooperation.
As for the emigration of Croatian citizens, the two prime ministers and the president said they were welcome in Ireland and good ambassadors. The Croat community is very well integrated in Irish society and contributes a lot, said Varadkar.
The leaders underlined the similarities and closeness of the two countries. Varadkar congratulated Croatia on the success of its football team at the recent World Cup in Russia, saying it was encouraging for Ireland as another small country.
After Zagreb, he is going to Bucharest and Rome.