President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Tuesday in Osijek that she would make a suggestion to Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic that an economic forum be organised in Osijek this autumn which would connect Croatian and Serbian entrepreneurs through cross-border cooperation and investments as well as joint absorption of European Union (EU) funds.
After meeting with Osijek Mayor Ivan Vrkic and Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Vladimir Sisljagic in Osijek on Tuesday, where she was informed of Osijek's economic potential and of the surrounding area, President Grabar-Kitarovic said that an initiative of that kind would be of benefit to the local communities on both sides of the border. It would strengthen inter-state cooperation and commodity exchange between the two countries as well as develop the economy of the entire southeast Europe.
The President underscored that energy, transport infrastructure, the airport, the position of the Drava River and its vicinity to the Danube and Sava rivers as well as the 5C corridor were all comparative advantages for Osijek and elements that could serve as the foundation to build future development in the area.
Grabar-Kitarovic announced that she would especially advocate that a review be made, after several years of absorbing EU funds, to question weaknesses and analyse why those funds are not being optimally absorbed and in that regard to review the current system of statistical regions which, she said, in no way benefits this section of Croatia.
She expressed concern over demographic trends in eastern Slavonia from where young people are emigrating every day, assessing that it is necessary to create conditions that will enable young people to remain here but also for them to return.
Mayor Vrkic informed the President of economic capacities and local authorities presented their capacities, particularly the Nemetin industrial zone. To date 30 million kuna has been invested in the zone. He asked the President to include this region in her diplomatic and economic activities because Slavonia has not yet reached the level of development seen in other parts of Croatia.
County Prefect Sisljagic invited the President to spend several days in the county to get better acquainted with the overall problems of this region. The President announced that she would relocate her office to the county for two or three days in the autumn.