Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier continued his trip to the Balkans on Thursday and Friday (30 April and 1 May), holding political talks in Croatia and Slovenia. First of all, he met Prime Minister Zoran Milanović for consultations in the Croatian capital Zagreb on Thursday.
After his discussions with the Croatian Prime Minister, he met Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić. On Friday (1 May), Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled on to Slovenia. The main focus of the visit to Ljubljana was the further deepening of the very good relations between the two countries and the situation in the region.
Reliable partners within the EU
Before flying to Zagreb, Steinmeier pointed out in an interview with the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji List that Croatia had very quickly become “a valuable and reliable partner within the EU”. He also said that Germany and Croatia shared similar viewpoints on a wide range of issues.
One important topic of the visit will be the forging of closer ties between the Western Balkan states and the European Union. The German Foreign Minister visited two of these states, Serbia and Kosovo, at the beginning of the week. In his interview with the newspaper, Steinmeier emphasised that the countries of the Western Balkans were “partners in the heart of Europe” and stated that “we want them to become members of the European Union”, even if they still had “a long way ahead of them”.
An EU perspective for the Western Balkans
Croatia and Slovenia are both very dedicated to the development of the Western Balkans region and support an EU perspective for their south-east European neighbours. In Steinmeier’s view, both countries are able to make an important contribution towards drawing their south-east European neighbours closer to the EU given their own experience of the EU accession process.
With regard to the situation in the region, the German Foreign Minister stressed in the interview that he believed it was important for Croatia and Serbia to resolutely continue along the path of reconciliation and intensified cooperation. Furthermore, he welcomed the fact that Croatia had been a driving force behind the new EU policy concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Further topics on the agenda for the meetings in Zagreb and Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana will be the situation in Ukraine and the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. As states bordering the Mediterranean, Slovenia and Croatia are particularly affected by the impact of the crisis.