ZAGREB, January 18, 2018 – Italy supports Croatia in its efforts to join the Schengen Area and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in Rome on Thursday, adding that Croatia and Slovenia should resolve their border dispute through cooperation to their mutual satisfaction.
Croatia’s bids to join the two organisations are being blocked by EU members Slovenia and Hungary. As a condition, Slovenia wants Croatia to implement the arbitration ruling on their border dispute, while Hungary wants to resolve the INA-MOL dispute.
Schengen is part of a mutual support strategy. We support one another and I think we should continue to do so. As for Schengen, you can continue counting on us because that is our clear position, Alfano told a joint press conference with Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić.
Pejčinović Burić thanked Italy for the political support for its Schengen bid, reiterating that Croatia wanted to be completely ready by the end of this year to join this area of passport-free travel.
Croatia has two important topics left, two important European policies which it could not implement immediately upon joining the EU, but first has to meet the specific conditions, and those are Schengen and adoption of the euro currency, she said.
As for Croatia’s efforts to join the OECD, Alfano positively assessed the idea that this organisation, which currently consists of the world’s 35 most developed nations, should expand. We have always supported Croatia’s aspirations to become a member of this organisation and are aware of the steps and progress it has made in different areas in order to meet the required standards. In the spirit of true friendship, we will continue to support Croatia’s ambition to join the OECD, the Italian foreign minister said.
Alfano again expressed hope that the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute could be resolved through cooperation and the two countries could find a solution to their mutual satisfaction without acting unilaterally.
Alfano and Pejčinović Burić chaired the third meeting of the intergovernmental coordinating committee, which also involved Croatia’s Environmental Protection and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić and Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli, as well as state secretaries from several ministries who held bilateral meetings with their Italian colleagues.
After the bilateral meetings and a plenary session, Ministers Alfano and Pejčinović Burić signed a joint declaration.
This was the first committee meeting for over seven years, and Alfano said it was very important for the two countries and one of the important channels for strengthening their bilateral relations.
The meeting focused on the ethnic minorities, economic cooperation and migration, the environment, transport connections, connections between seaports and security at sea, the topics that were also included in the joint declaration.
Pejcinović Burić thanked Italy for making extra effort regarding the ethnic minorities after late last year Rome recognised the historical, linguistic and cultural presence of the Croatian minority in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
There is a Croatian linguistic minority in the Molise region, to which the Italian government has offered ample assistance in terms of infrastructure development in 2017-2019, Pejčinović Burić said, adding that she believed the good position of the Croatian minority in Italy and the Italian minority in Croatia would continue in the future.
She said that the fact that Italian community leader Furio Radin was Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament indicated the status enjoyed by the Italian minority in Croatia.
Alfano and Pejčinović Burić said that economic relations between the two countries were very good. Pejčinović Burić said that Italy was Croatia’s no. 1 export market, no 2 import market and the third largest investor in Croatia, while Italians were the fourth most numerous tourists visiting Croatia.
The Croatian minister said that both Zagreb and Rome were advocating further EU enlargement, and since this year Italy holds the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), she said she believed Rome could take a further step forward and added that Croatia would support all positive activities that Italy might launch within the OSCE in that regard.
The coordinating committee of ministers in charge of foreign affairs, economic and industrial cooperation, energy, environment, infrastructure, transport, agriculture, universities and research was established in line with a memorandum of understanding signed in 2009. At Croatia’s proposal, also included were home affairs, tourism and the Central Government Office for Croats Abroad.
Pejčinović Burić expressed hope that the next meeting would be held in Zagreb in 2019.