Croatia has a leader role in Southeast Europe and wants to help the countries in the region in speeding up the process of their integration into the European Union, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said in an interview with the German broadcasting service Deutsche Welle.

When asked about Croatia as a bridge between the EU and Southeast Europe, Oreskovic said that he saw the role of Croatia as a leader in the region. "We will support Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I also stressed this during my meeting with Chancellor Merkel," he said, adding that these countries should do all that was necessary on their part to meet the required criteria, just as Croatia had done.

"EU membership is good not just for us as neighbours but also for the EU as a whole. It opens up the way to various infrastructure projects and better connections," Oreskovic said. He noted that British Prime Minister David Cameron had also recently stressed the need to support Croatia's eastern neighbours on their EU path, saying that it was good for strengthening stability in the region and economic relations.

Croatia supports Germany in its vision of how to address the refugee crisis while at the same time it needs to coordinate the refugee flow along the so-called Balkan route, Oreskovic said.

When asked about possible differences, he said that the situation was complicated and that everyone was looking for some sort of solution. "Croatia is coordinating its activities with its neighbours and we are working together to prevent tensions from escalating. That's the only way. But we agree with Germany that efforts should be made in that regard to intensify cooperation with Turkey and focus on finding a solution in Greece because if the system of hotspots starts functioning there will be no need for the Balkan route any more," the Croatian prime minister said, adding that Greece should be provided with assistance and not just financially.

"We agree with Berlin that the EU's external borders must be better protected , that the Schengen system must be reinstated and that the causes of the migration should be addressed in the long term," he said.

Speaking of relations with Germany and the new Croatian government's foreign policy and its focus on the neighbourhood and Visegrad Group countries, Oreskovic emphasised the importance of ensuring the best possible relations with Germany and the neighbours. "As for relations with Germany, my message is clear. We have been partners but we must intensify our cooperation. But that's up to Croatia. We must find a way to improve the investment climate and we can best do that through permanent contacts. Unfortunately, we haven't had contacts lately, not just with Germany, but with other countries as well, such as Hungary and other neighbours. We must now start working on strengthening these relations."

Oreskovic announced more intense contacts with investors as well as efforts to increase investment security. He said that a Croatian-German investment forum was planned for mid-2016 to bring together companies from the two countries to explore investment possibilities, particularly in energy, infrastructure and the IT sector.

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