On the occasion of the German-Croatian Forum, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Croatian counterpart Vesna Pusić met in Berlin. Alongside bilateral relations, the focus lay above all on Europe’s future. A further topic was the situation in the Western Balkans.
It was the first discussion between the German Foreign Minister and his Croatian counterpart Pusić since Steinmeier returned to office. They chiefly dealt with the topic of regional development in the Western Balkans, alongside the enhancement of bilateral relations. They also focused on the process of enlargement and the future development of the European Union.
After the talks, Foreign Minister Steinmeier commented: “We have agreed that we want to continue working for Europe’s future.” Both expressed their appreciation for the German-Croatian Forum, taking place concurrently; it served to highlight opportunities to further develop bilateral relations on a regular basis. Foreign Minister Pusić stated that she hoped that the event would be the first of many.
In addition to this, Steinmeier and Pusić discussed international issues such as the conflict in Syria and the situation in North Africa, as well as the significance of 2014 as a year of commemoration.
At the same time, the first German-Croatian Forum took place in the Federal Foreign Office. A few months after Croatia joined the EU, the Forum aims to address how to contribute to intensifying cooperation within Europe. Civil society representatives and politicians from both countries held discussions with Minister of State Michael Roth and his Croatian counterpart Hrvoje Marušić, among others. The German MP, Josip Juratović, and Member of the Croatian Parliament, Jozo Radoš were also on the panel.
The discussion focused on the contribution of both countries to the further development of Europe. Members of the panel took the view that a particularly important task of political leaders was fighting unemployment, especially among young people in southern Europe. Minister of State Roth underscored that Germany could help other countries to modernise their education systems and to increase their competitiveness by contributing the positive experience it had with its system of dual training. Roth advocated tackling social problems in Europe in order to counter populist trends.
Croatia – at the heart of Europe
The discussion participants also looked at how to help project a positive image of Europe, both internally and externally. The Croatian Deputy Minister Marušić expressed his desire for a more honest treatment of Europe; that the EU benefits everyone had to be conveyed more strongly. Croatia was proof of the fact that opting for the path of Europe was worth it.
Minister of State Roth also emphasised the important role that Croatia played with regard to the European prospects of the Western Balkans. The example it set showed that Croatia “lies not in the middle, but at the heart of Europe”.