Miro Kovač, Sebastian Kurz.jpg
Photograph: HINA / MVEP / mm

Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac and his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz said on Friday that stopping the migrant wave on the Macedonian border had been a good way to manage the migrant crisis and that joint efforts had shown that small and medium-sized countries could change the reality if they joined forces.

"We can be proud of our cooperation in the management of the migrant crisis, we have shown that we, medium-sized countries, can change the reality if we join our forces in a smart and efficient way," Kovac told a news conference after talks with Kurz in Vienna.

"By doing so, we have helped ourselves, the EU and those countries that have taken in the most refugees."

He underlined Macedonia's role in the management of the migrant crisis, noting that it had contributed much to curbing the migrant tide.

"We have to help Macedonia launch talks on its accession to the EU and I would like it to join NATO," said Kovac.

Kurz said that he was pleased with the closing of the Western Balkan refugee route, noting that the opening of that corridor had been a wrong move.

He said that Croatia and Austria had proven during the migrant crisis that small countries "can together do a lot and help find a solution."

Speaking of Croatia's neighbourhood, Kovac said that he and his Austrian counterpart were agreed that Croatia and Austria wanted to "act in such a way to stabilise and politically Europeanise Southeast Europe."

In that context, he expressed full support to Bosnia and Herzegovina's bid to join to the EU.

"We want Southeast European countries to have a chance to join the European family. Together we have supported Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU membership application, we will help other countries on that road as well. Of course, the membership criteria have to be met," said Kovac.

Commenting on his meeting with Austrian Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Kovac said that they had confirmed "the excellent cooperation of the two police forces."

Kovac and Kurz also discussed the Croatian-Austrian economic relations, calling for closer cooperation in tourism and other sectors.

Earlier in the day, the Croatian minister delivered a talk on Croatia, as a country at the intersection of central and southeastern Europe, at the Diplomatic Academy.

"We must be active on the foreign and European political fronts," he said.

As for the challenges Croatia was faced with in relations with neighbouring countries, he once again commented on the acquittal of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, saying that the Hague tribunal's ruling "is an insult to the victims of the Greater Serbian aggression and their descendants" and that it would not contribute to promoting understanding between the neighbouring countries.

He said that Croatia would do its best to make it clear who was responsible for the 1990s wars so as to enable, "once we leave that behind and find a common definition", development of friendly and neighbourly relations.

Kovac also said that Croatia would insist on resolving the issue of universal jurisdiction in a Serbian law from 2003 under which that country can prosecute war crimes and their perpetrators even if the crimes were not committed on its territory and their perpetrators are not Serbian citizens.

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