The US IT giant IBM will open a centre in Zagreb from which it will provide technical support to its users worldwide, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

Oreskovic said that this investment showed that Croatia was an open country that could be competitive not just in Europe but globally as well. "We have resolute people, knowledge and possibilities," he said.

Oreskovic said that the investment was very important for Croatia and its economy, adding that the IBM centre would provide new employment opportunities and would collaborate with Croatian universities in mentoring programmes to prepare young people for work at the centre.

"Everybody knows that IT is the future. Europe is looking for 900,000 new IT professionals and we must be ready to strengthen this sector," the prime minister said, adding that he hoped that this would help attract young people who have sought work in the IT sector abroad to come back home.

That IBM was looking into the possibility of setting up its technical support centre in Croatia was first reported in May by Slovenian media, which said that Slovenia and Slovakia were also potential locations, but that Croatia was selected because the Croatian government had offered the best investment terms.

Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic said at the time that the government was informed of IBM's plans. He noted that no special terms had been offered to the US company, but that Croatia had the best "investment package" of all the countries in the neighbourhood.

IBM is one of the largest US companies with more than 400,000 employees around the world. Last year it generated USD 82 billion in revenues and 18 billion in pre-tax profit.

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