President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has said that more could have been done for Croatia in the first year of her term in office and that she is sorry the outgoing government did not want to cooperate, as well as that she expects partner-like relations in the new political situation and sees the fact that Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic is not from the political milieu as an advantage rather than a shortcoming.
"I disgree with those who criticise the fact that Mr Oreskovic lacks sufficient political experience because Croatia now does not need more politicians, it needs more statespeople," the Croatian president said in an interview with Vecernji List daily of Saturday.
"The whole country, including me, have great expectations of Mr Oreskovic. I am very pleased to see optimism awaken among our citizens, but that is an additional obligation for all of us," said Grabar-Kitarovic.
She recalled her meeting with Oreskovic earlier this week, their discussion about the economic situation in the country and the fact that she gave him a document with recommendations from her Economic Council.
"I see in Mr Oreskovic clear focus and motivation to solve burning economic and social problems," she said.
She said one of the problems in Croatia was the lack of vision, let alone of a development strategy. "I believe that Oreskovic understands all the woes of the Croatian society and his advantage is his ability to analyse that society to a certain extent 'from outside'," said Grabar-Kitarovic.
Commenting on the process of post-election consultations in her office, she said that she had conducted the consultations "exclusively and solely in line with the Constitution."
She stressed that she had done her best as President to be an integrating factor in "a politically very sensitive moment." Croatia's democracy has been reinforced by that consultation process, Grabar-Kitarovic said, adding that her claim was supported by the fact that there had been no serious objections to the entire process.
Grabar-Kitarovic said she was sorry that outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic had not accepted her "hand, extended in an offer of cooperation" at the start of her term.
"Because of that Croatia lost the opportunity of our cooperation to the benefit of the state," she said.
She said that she would continue working with the new government and Oreskovic and believed that a lot could be done in the areas of diplomacy, economic diplomacy and investment.
"I don't believe that we will overcome the crisis with the help of foreign investors or foreign countries, that will be done by our small, medium and big enterprises. It is always the domestic business sector that generates new jobs," she said, calling for reducing the tax burden on enterprises and restoring investors' trust.
A more efficient use of EU funds will also be important for growth, and the tourism sector, even though it is performing excellently, cannot replace re-industrialisation and agriculture, which requires land consolidation and the establishment of clusters and an agri-bank, she said.
Speaking of her initiative Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea, Grabar-Kitarovic said that it was not about erecting a "new Iron Curtain", but about completing cooperation within Europe with a new element.
She said she had launched the initiative "so that we can share with countries along that vertical the same economic and transport interests". "That initiative has been recognised because everyone in it wins," she said.
Grabar-Kitarovic believes that Croatia's position among European countries must become stronger because that is the only way for it to help its neighbours in the southeast of Europe move on on the path to the EU.
Commenting on media reports about "an armament race between Serbia and Croatia", Grabar-Kitarovic said: "Croatia never waged nor will it wage expansionist wars, nor does it want to attack anyone."
Croatia's neighbours can be peaceful, but we will always protect our territory, citizens and resources, she said, adding that decisions made as part of the development of the country's armed forces were related to defence activities and national security and were harmonised with activities of Croatia's NATO allies.
Commenting on the migrant crisis, Grabar-Kitarovic recalled that she had been insisting since the start of the crisis that Croatia should control its border and that there were ways to do it, including deployment of the armed forces.
She noted that the possibility of deploying the army along the Croatian border had been misinterpreted in an ill-intentioned way and that it was a fact that the situation on the border needed to be put in order.
She described as a mistake the closing of official border crossings and as an even bigger mistake the lack of discussion with the EU and neighbouring countries on a joint transit strategy for migrants.
Grabar-Kitarovic said the outgoing government had only shifted the problem to other countries, expressing hope that Croatia eventually would not have to do what Hungary and Slovenia did to protect their borders.