ZAGREB, November 9, 2018 – Croatia and the United States have excellent relations and are continuing to strengthen cooperation in areas of common interest, from security and economy to regional cooperation, US Ambassador Robert Kohorst said on Thursday. Croatia’s interests and our priorities are very tightly aligned and we have a lot in common when it comes to security, economic growth and regional cooperation, he said in a talk on Croatia-USA relations as partners for the future which he gave at the invitation of the Croatian Diplomatic Club.
Kohorst said that after Croatia joined NATO and the European Union, its role in Europe and the world had grown and changed, and that Croatia-US relations developed and grew stronger. Now we are real partners, our relations are strong and we are continuing to develop them, and we must not take the friendship between our two countries for granted, he added.
My duty therefore is to show respect for Croatia as a US partner. Too often we forget who our partners are. We share common obligations in NATO, both countries agree that a threat to one member represents a threat to us all. Croatia is in a region which suffered a lot because of wars and political turbulence. Therefore Croatia understands better than most the importance of strong partnership, said Kohorst.
Speaking of Croatia’s important role in the stabilisation of the region, he recalled that Southeast Europe had experienced plenty of conflict. We know that ethnic tensions and regional disputes can cause new conflicts with big consequences, not just for Europe. We look on Croatia as an important player in resolving the main disputes in the region, Kohorst said, underlining the importance of developing Croatia-Serbia relations. He said the US and Croatia shared the same goal of promoting peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the framework of the Dayton peace agreement.
Speaking of defence matters, the US ambassador said Croatia was a committed and active partner in security. For more than 15 years, US and Croatian troops have been deployed side by side in NATO missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As a member of the coalition against Islamic State, Croatia plays an important role in the fight against global terrorism, said Kohorst. He commended Croatia’s decision to increase defence funds which should eventually reach 2% of GDP.
We wish to support our partners and goals around the world but our partners should invest more in defence and be financially more responsible. Croatia is doing that, having recognised its obligations, he said. Another important chapter in bilateral relations is the upgrade of military equipment so that Croatia can replace old Soviet weapons and come even closer to NATO standards, Kohorst said.
Speaking of the economy, he said it was especially important to him to help Croatia become a regional leader in energy, improve its business climate and adopt the necessary economic reforms, as well as to help in the signing of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.
I want to help Croatia utilise its potential to become an energy hub for Europe, this is a big priority for the US. Croatia’s geographical position and its connections with the neighbours make it an entry point for the import of natural gas, said the ambassador. He said the Croatian government was making progress in realising an LNG terminal on Krk island which would give Croatia and the region an additional option for gas imports.
President Donald Trump fully supports the construction of the terminal on Krk. You have a central location in Europe and incredibly big potential. EU membership gives you greater access to European markets than before, he said.
Kohorst, who comes from very successful business circles, warned that the business climate in Croatia remained difficult, underlining legal uncertainty. Business people have plenty of risks anyway and don’t need additional risks related to the system, he said, adding that one of his missions was to help Croatia become an attractive business location.
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