ZAGREB, November 19, 2018 – The friendly and positive relations between Croatia and Qatar are accompanied by a rise in bilateral trade and it can be further enhanced, a process in which a prominent role can be played by the Croatian community in that Arab country, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said after their meeting in Zagreb on Monday.
Sheikh Al Thani arrived in the Croatian capital for a two-day return visit after Croatia’s head of state visited that Persian Gulf country in April 2017.
During their meeting in Zagreb, the two state officials also discussed regional policies and issues that make the present-day world unstable. “Our bilateral political relations are friendly and positive, but for them to be enhanced and strengthened, it is necessary to intensify the contacts in all fields of cooperation,” the Croatian president said. “I firmly believe that the development of bilateral relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf will be of great importance for Croatia,” she added.
Qatari Emir Al Thani agreed with her and commended the presence of Croatian businesses in Qatar. I would like to point out that Croatian companies doing business in Qatar give a great contribution, he said.
The 500-strong Croatian community in Qatar can serve as a link between the two nations and a bridge between our two countries, Grabar-Kitarović said.
The two officials cited energy, food production, construction industry, health industry, tourism and high technology as sectors where bilateral cooperation could be boosted. Croatia is set to attract Qatari investments in tourism, notably medical tourism, and in food production as well as in the defence industry, urban development, infrastructure and the petrochemical industry.
Croatia-Qatar trade increasing
In 2017, the Croatia-Qatar trade totalled 63.9 million dollars, up 3.4% from 2016. Croatia’s exports increased by 16.39% to 62.9 million dollars, and imports from that Gulf country to Croatia soared by 80.87% to a million dollars. When it comes to tourist trade, in 2017 a total of 4,957 Qataris visited Croatia, a rise of 365% year on year.
Grabar-Kitarović expressed hope that Qatari citizens would perceive Croatia as an increasingly desirable tourist destination. In this context, she underscored that a great number of Croatian hotels, restaurants and food companies had halal certificates.
Emir Al Thani agreed with the president, expressing hope that the number of Qataris visiting Croatia would increase. In the first ten months of 2018, the number of Qatari guests rose by 49.4% to 5,963.
The emir congratulated Croatia on having won the silver medal at the Football World Cup in Russia this summer, and expressed hope that he would welcome Croatia’s president in Qatar in 2022 when his country hosts that tournament.
Qatar is in principle interested in investments and cooperation regarding the future LNG terminal off the Croatian island of Krk, but the two officials did not elaborate on this topic after today’s talks.
The wealthy Persian Gulf emirate has the world’s third biggest gas reserves.
Agreements and memorandums
After the talks between the two leaders and the two countries’ official delegations, eight agreements and memorandums were signed – an agreement on cultural cooperation, an agreement on the cancellation of visa requirements for bearers of diplomatic and special passports, and memorandums of understanding between the Universities of Zagreb and Qatar, the two countries’ defence ministries, on cooperation in education and scientific research, and on cooperation in sports and agriculture.
An agreement on cooperation and mutual exchange of news reports between the Croatian and Qatari news agencies was signed by Hina director Branka Gabrijela Vojvodić and Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
President Grabar-Kitarovic said that she was very pleased that her office had donated a collection of books to the National Library of Qatar, officially opened on 16 April 2018. It is one of the biggest libraries in the Arab world, with more than a million books, rare manuscripts, and written cultural and historical heritage.
She wished Qatar success in organising the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
During his reciprocal visit to Croatia, Al Thani is also expected to meet with Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.
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