Bilateral cooperation and common interests in the territory between the Baltic and the Adriatic are very important to Croatia and Lithuania, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and her Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaite said in Vilnius on Thursday.
Grabar-Kitarovic on Thursday began a two-day official return visit to the Baltic nation at Grybauskaite's invitation.
A common energy policy and its coordination not just within the European Union but also in Central Europe is very important. It is important not just for the competitiveness of our economy, but it is also extremely important for the political independence and strengthening of our states, our international and geopolitical position, the Croatian president told the press after a meeting with the Lithuanian president in the Presidential Palace.
Grybauskaite said that in a record three and a half years her country had built a floating liquefied gas terminal, which has been anchored in the Baltic port of Klaipeda since October 2014, adding that it had secured this former Soviet republic nearly full independence from Russian gas. She advised Croatia not to wait and to begin its LNG terminal project on Krk island immediately.
That is a priority for your country and the responsibility of all politicians, Grybauskaite said, recalling that the Lithuanian LNG project had been launched by one government and finished by another.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that the Krk LNG terminal project should bring down energy prices in Croatia and help Croatia become a strong factor of stability by providing gas to the north, connecting with the terminals in Lithuania and Poland and building reversible gas flow connectors with Hungary and Ukraine, which would contribute to the stabilisation of energy supply to Central and Eastern Europe.
As far as the LNG terminal is concerned, we have no time to lose. We must not allow Croatia to become a dead-end in energy terms, the Croatian president said, expressing hope that the next government in Croatia would continue this project.
She recalled that Croatia was one of the signatories of the letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker about the North Stream 2 project concerning Russian gas supply to Western Europe.
In that situation, we the countries of Central Europe must see to it that a possible construction of that connection in no way adversely affects our gas markets and our energy security, independence and strategy to strengthen economic competitiveness, Grabar-Kitarovic said. That's why we need to cooperate, and joint advocacy of our views in Brussels is very important, she added.
Grabar-Kitarovic believes that the two countries will also be able to do a lot within the initiative to connect the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea and strengthen links between the north and the south, adding that these links were somewhat neglected during the European integration process when ties were built between Europe's east and west.
Asked by Lithuanian reporters about the planned participation of Croatian troops in NATO forces in the Baltic, Grabar-Kitarovic said that Croatia would send a company to Lithuania as part of German forces, as agreed at the recent NATO summit in Warsaw.
Croatia and Lithuania today signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in energy. The document was signed by Croatian Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic and Lithuanian Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis.
The Croatian government has decided on a floating LNG terminal and our plan is to have it built by 2018, Panenic said. He said that construction costs were estimated at 100 million euros and added that Lithuania's experience in this regard was invaluable.
Panenic said that the memorandum signed today would be a platform for concrete cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy.
Grabar-Kitarovic is scheduled to visit the port of Klaipeda and the LNG terminal, symbolically called Independence, on Friday. The terminal cost Lithuania USD 128 million.
Grabar-Kitarovic today attended the opening of a new Croatian Embassy and was later due to meet with Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius and Parliament Speaker Loreta Grauziniene.