kolinda grabar kitarović.jpg
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Photograph: HINA / Denis CERIĆ / POOL / mm

The real problems and causes of the refugee crisis were finally discussed at the Munich Security Conference, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Sunday, adding that she advocated cooperation with neighbouring countries and the removal of wire fences from borders in efforts to deal with the crisis.

"I am glad that we have finally started talking about the real problems rather than only about refugee quotas. That we have started to focus on what I have been warning about the whole time... the root causes of the crises that result in migrant tides," Grabar-Kitarovic said in a comment on the three-day conference in Munich in which she took part.

"It is finally evident that a lot more effort is needed in terms of policy, defence, stopping people smuggling, and, of course, in terms of reconstruction and investment in education, health care and economic development," because Syrians will be the ones to rebuild their country once the war is over, the Croatian president told Croatian reporters after a meeting with US Senators led by John McCain.

Underlining that she was advocating cooperation and dialogue with neighbouring countries on ways of dealing with the refugee crisis, Grabar-Kitarovic said that she believed "the wire fence on the border with Hungary and Slovenia must be removed, the precondition for that being dialogue" and that "the EU must find common solutions not only in defining criteria on who can stay in the EU but should also make effort so that they (refugees) do not need to come to the EU."

The refugee crisis was one of the topics of the talks with US Senators, and McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Forces Committee and is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that the Croatian president was doing a good job in difficult times regarding the refugee situation.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that she also discussed with the US delegation bilateral issues, with Croatia being the most interested in the cancellation of visa requirements.

"I especially warned them about the issue of visa waiver for Croatians visiting the USA as tourists. Regardless of the criteria the USA has set, I believe that including Croatian nationals (in the visa waiver programme) would be proof of true partnership and friendship between the two countries," she said.

Earlier today, Grabar-Kitarovic also met with the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, who told reporters after the talks that he thanked the Croatian president for her country's assistance, while she said that Croatia was ready to provide additional assistance in the form of defence and security cooperation, psychological assistance to the Yazidis, notably woman and children, and in de-mining activities.

The Munich conference ends on Sunday and along with Grabar-Kitarovic, also participating in it was Foreign Minister Miro Kovac.

They both held a number of bilateral meetings and attended several forums and panel discussions.

The 52nd Munich Security Conference brought together some 30 heads of state and about 70 ministers, focusing on the refugee crisis and the war in Syria.

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