ZAGREB, July 25, 2018 – Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday held talks with visiting Austrian Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl whose country took over the European Union Presidency on 1 July. They underscored traditionally close and friendly relations between Austria and Croatia and their strong partnership within the European Union.
Plenković pointed to the strong economic cooperation between the two countries, adding that Austria was Croatia’s second biggest economic partner when it comes to investments in Croatia, according to a press release issued by the Croatian government’s public relations office.
Kneissl said that the two countries had excellent cooperation in culture, adding that Croatia was a favourite tourist destinations to many Austrians.
The two officials expressed their strong support to Southeast European countries on their journey to the EU. Plenković added Croatia was prepared to share the knowledge and experience it gained in the process of drawing closer to the bloc.
Plenković and Kneissl also talked about Brexit negotiations and the migration issue, which Austria set as a priority of its EU presidency.
They also discussed preparations for Croatia’s presidency of the bloc in 2020, the statement said.
Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinovic Burić on Tuesday also received her Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl and they talked European and bilateral issues in the context of Austria’s chairmanship of the Council of the European Union, particularly the issue of migration which Austria has highlighted as its priority.
Austria’s minister for Europe, integration and foreign affairs underscored that the topic of migration is exceptionally important for Austria and that geographic location determines the foreign policy. Not all countries are equally affected by immigration, she said and added that it’s clear that, for example, political priorities are seen differently from Dublin and Tallin.
It is necessary to implement certain changes in policy and legislation, Kneissl said and noted that it is important to differentiate when accepting asylum seekers with regard to a country’s possibilities and legislation. The state is one thing and society is another and that is where we should adapt, she claimed.
Kneissl underscored that it was necessary to differentiate between those who have the right to asylum and illegal migrants.
Austria took over chairing the European Union on July 1 and during its chairmanship it has set its priorities to be the issue of security, that is, illegal migration, digitising the European economy, and stability in and neighbouring countries’ coming closer to the EU, particularly the Western Balkans.
The motto for Austria’s chairmanship is “A Europe that protects.” The Austrian chairmanship’s focus will be shifted from redistributing refugees within the EU to protecting the Union’s external borders.
Pejčinovic Burić said that part of the talks focused on the issue of migration and the need to find a comprehensive response “which includes the protection of the European Union’s external borders, cooperation in responding to illegal immigration and strengthening cooperation with third countries in various parts of the world, including Africa.” Croatia shares Austria’s concern “with the situation and considers that it is of essential importance to retain a strategic and integrated European approach,” Pejčinovic Burić said.
With regard to the EU perspective of neighbouring Western Balkan countries, Kneissl said that Austria’s chairmanship will follow some initiatives that started during Bulgaria’s chairmanship and added that she can perhaps better understand her Croatian counterpart when it comes to the EU journey of those countries.
Austria views its role during its EU presidency as that of a “neutral broker,” given its “geographic location in the heart of Europe and in line with its traditional role as a bridge builder.”
Pejčinovic Burić said that during its chairmanship in 2020, Croatia intends to retain focus on bringing Southeast Europe closer to the European Union and that it expects the Southeast European Summit to be held that year to discuss enlargement.
The two ministers assessed relations between the two countries to be excellent and underscored the deep ties between them, both historical and economic. After the talks, the two ministers signed an agreement between the two governments on the exchange and mutual protection of classified data.
Addressing a joint press conference, Kneissl and Pejčinovic Burić expressed solidarity with Greece which has been affected by disastrous wildfires and expressed their regret over the lives lost. Pejčinovic Burić said that Croatia has offered to assist Athens with human resources and fire-fighting planes.