Croatia on Wednesday made the first major step towards its return to the Iranian market after UN sanctions against that country were lifted.

Seventy Croatian business people, who arrived in Iran as part of a delegation accompanying President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, established numerous contacts with their Iranian colleagues during a three-day visit, and concrete deals were cautiously announced.

The two countries signed an agreement on economic cooperation and a Croatian-Iranian business forum was held.

Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic, a member of the delegation, said that the Croatian delegation was one of the first to visit Iran after the lifting of UN sanctions. 

"This is a challenge for companies that have already done business here as well as for those that see Iran as a new market," said Panenic.

The Iranian-Croatian business forum brought together more than 200 Iranian and Croatian business people, offering a new level of optimism for the two countries' future economic relations.

"This is a sign of the readiness of both the Croatian and the Iranian leadership to do their best to activate economic relations, which we have said do not reflect their real potential," Grabar-Kitarovic said, adding that she was confident the forum would facilitate the two countries' cooperation.

You have opened the door to Croatian companies and I am pleased to say that Croatian companies are ready and willing to use that opportunity, she told Iranian officials and business people attending the forum.

Minister Panenic told Croatian reporters that "Iranians expect the Croatian government to give significant support" to companies wishing to do business in Iran.

"They want the transfer of technology, joint investments... we have asked for removing administrative barriers that exist in Iran as well, for facilitating the cooperation that would be conducted by the chamber of commerce and our diplomatic office in Tehran... so that very soon we could have as many companies as possible negotiating projects," said Panenic, adding that he and the Iranian minister of industries had agreed to organise as soon as possible a meeting of the joint commission for economic cooperation.

The visit of the Croatian president and the Croatian business delegation was meant to help establish a framework for cooperation that should yield results in the medium and long term, but some Croatian companies, specifically TZV Gredelj and AD Plastik, are already about to sign first contracts in Iran.

"I am glad that TZV Gredelj is about to sign a major business contract and that is only the beginning," Croatian Chamber of Commerce head Luka Burilovic said at the forum, adding that it was particularly important that the Iranian market was offering cooperation also to small companies.

Panenic said that he and a part of the Croatian delegation visited the two biggest Iranian car manufacturers - Iran Khodro and Saipa.

"AD Plastik has already launched talks and they will continue them after the forum," the minister said.

Iran has a good regional position and can be a good strategic partner in the sale of Croatian products both in Iran and countries in its neighbourhood, said the head of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Mohsen Jalalpour.

He announced that he would soon visit Croatia and expressed hope concrete cooperation would be agreed then.

"We want to have relations with Croatia not only in the economic sector but also in education, tourism and culture," he said.

Croatia-Iran trade in 2015 was a mere USD 4.4 million.

Iran is one of the few countries with which Croatia has a trade surplus and Croatia's exports to Iran are seven times higher than imports from that country, but trade is still very modest and the potential for cooperation with that market of 80 million people is not being used sufficiently, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce has said.

Related stories

HGK: Iranian market an opportunity for Croatian exports

Croatian president to visit Iran next week

Croatian president to visit Turkmenistan

Gredelj closes $100 mln deal in Iran

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.