Despite earlier rumours, it is highly unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will meet in Croatia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will come to Croatia only if he has a good reason to do so, primarily economic reasons, which includes the substantial strengthening of business relations with Croatia and serious investments. Without concrete results, the Russian president will not come.
According to unofficial information, at a meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović last year, it was suggested that the project of Russian financing some of the gasification plans in Croatia, which Russia strongly advocates, would be enough for Putin to come to Croatia. But, at least for now, the prospects for Russian president’s visit remain quite remote and undefined, reports Večernji List on April 13, 2018.
The assessment made by Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov that Putin could come to Croatia before the end of the current Grabar-Kitarović’s term (which ends in early 2020), which prompted speculation about when the visit might occur although the Russian president has not yet even accepted the invitation issued by the Croatian president, can be seen as a sign of goodwill in the current situation, when relations between the two countries are strained, after the decisions to expel each other’s diplomats. Azimov himself added that he was a “fireman” and “wanted to minimise the negative effects.”
We still have to wait and see whether the reconciliatory statements from Moscow will be interpreted by the Croatian authorities as an attempt to improve relations or, highly unlikely, a weakness.
The processes that began before the diplomatic expulsion episode, such as addressing the long-standing issue of the Russian Embassy building in Zagreb, are reportedly continuing. On the other hand, economic relations could be better, because the 30 percent growth of trade in 2017 compared to the year before was mostly just a consequence of rising energy prices.
And then, there is still an issue of a mysterious letter sent by the Russian Ministry of Energy. In the message, which the Russian side claims was sent to Environmental Protection Minister Tomislav Ćorić in the second half of last year, Russia has reportedly offered aid to finance gasification projects. In the months since they have not received a response to their offer. Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić disputed the Russians’ claims and said that Croatia had not received any specific proposal.
Although it was speculated that Croatia could be the location for a summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, that is now considered to be highly unlikely. Their bilateral meeting could happen on the margins of the G20 summit later this year.
Translated from Večernji List (reported by Sandra Veljković).