ZAGREB, January 18, 2018 – US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Wess Mitchell said at talks with Croatian Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović in Washington on Wednesday that Croatia was crucial for the stability of Southeast Europe and set an example in terms of the rule of law and successful Euro-Atlantic integration.
In that sense, it has an important role in completing the Euro-Atlantic integration of other Southeast European countries, Mitchell said at the meeting, adding that one of the priorities of the current US administration was to have strong strategic relations with Croatia.
Božinović is the first Croatian minister of the interior to visit the State Department during the term of the current administration.
Also discussed at the talks was the Croatia-US strategic partnership in the context of bilateral relations and the two countries’ joint role in Southeast Europe.
Special emphasis was placed on the continuation of cooperation in a project to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the island of Krk, which is important both in terms of energy security and in terms of diversification, and which the US considers a strategic project.
Božinović informed the US official about a special law to be adopted to facilitate the implementation of the project, while Mitchel confirmed that it was one of the strategic projects also for President Donald Trump’s administration and enjoyed full US support.
Mitchell was particularly interested in Croatia’s position on the dynamic of relations with Slovenia in light of an international arbitration ruling on the two countries’ border dispute.
Božinović informed him in detail of the chronology of the case, as well as of Croatia’s position on the matter, stressing that Slovenia’s attempt to unilaterally implement the arbitration ruling was not possible and that Croatia was in favour of dealing with the matter bilaterally.
In line with that, Croatia has given Slovenia a concrete proposal in the form of a protocol which specifies steps to be taken and confirms Croatia’s constructive approach to the issue, said Božinović.
Mitchell said his country expected the two EU and NATO allies to deal with the matter constructively and conveyed his country’s readiness to possibly join in efforts to reach an agreement, if the two countries so decide. He said that he would visit the region in the spring this year.
After visiting the State Department, Božinović also visited the Senate and met there with Senator Ron Johnson whom he informed of the current situation in Croatia and Southeast Europe. They also discussed the LNG terminal on Krk, stressing in that context Croatia’s strategic position which, they said, both the US and Croatia were interested in utilising.
Božinović said the talks also focused on the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Commenting on a reporter’s remark that despite the slogan of the new US administration “America first”, the interest of the US administration in this part of the world was not waning, Božinović said: “America first, but an America which is aware that Croatia is its most stable partner in Southeast Europe.”