Relations between Croatia and Turkey are friendly and there are possibilities to further strengthen economic cooperation, in particular in tourism, energy, agriculture, banking and modern technologies, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and her Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the Croatian-Turkish Economic Forum in Zagreb on Wednesday.
The event attracted 600 participants.
"Such a large number of companies attending the forum confirms that the interest in cooperation is huge," Grabar-Kitarovic said, adding that this was evidence of good relations between the two countries.
"The level of development of the Turkish economy, its size and structure, almost oblige us to strengthen our economic ties. On the other hand, the Croatian economy and its quality in terms of the labour force, stable development and security, the excellent infrastructure that connects Europe's west and east, north and south, offer excellent opportunities for business development and growth," the Croatian president said.
She said that a lot could still be done to boost economic cooperation, calling on Turkish companies to invest in Croatia. As possible areas of cooperation, she cited tourism, agriculture, energy, banking and modern technologies.
"It is up to politicians to encourage cooperation and open the door to entrepreneurs, and it is up to you, entrepreneurs, to walk through that door," Grabar-Kitarovic said, stressing that she was confident that the economic cooperation between the two countries had a bright future.
President Erdogan said the economic cooperation between Croatia and Turkey was lagging behind their political relations and that the two countries were set to enhance trade to a billion dollars annually.
Erdogan sees tourism, energy, and the financial and agricultural sectors as areas where economic cooperation could be stepped up, and he called on politicians to work on removing bureaucratic barriers so as to make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business.
"Let us work on removing bureaucratic barriers. Politicians are successful when they distance themselves from the bureaucratic oligarchy," Erdogan said at the economic forum.
The Turkish president does not think that the investment potential has been used sufficiently. "I think that we will soon triple our investments in the Croatian tourism sector; privatisation projects worth 500 million dollars are under way in Croatia and those projects are of interest to us. Of particular importance are ecological agriculture, irrigation projects, and Croatia's great advantages are fertile land, good infrastructure, a well educated labour force and the country's proximity to Europe," the Turkish head of state underscored.
Turkey invested 16 billion dollars abroad in 2015, according to Erdogan.
Erdogan called on Turkish companies to continue investing in Croatia and promised that Turkey would facilitate efforts of Croatian companies to do business in Turkey.
The forum, which was held as part of Erdogan's two-day visit to Zagreb, brought together around 150 entrepreneurs from Turkey and 450 from Croatia.
Addressing the event, Croatia's Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic described the bilateral relations as good and friendly, adding that there was much room for improvement of economic cooperation.
Panenic told Turkish investors that Croatia was a good destination for doing business.
The head of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Luka Burilovic, joined in calls for increasing trade between the two countries, and in that context mentioned car parts production, textile manufacturing, food production, tourism and energy sectors as areas where cooperation might be enhanced.
According to Croatian National Bank (HNB) statistics, from 1993 to Q3 2015 Turkish investments in Croatia totalled 212 million euros. Most of those investments were made in the construction and wholesale trade sectors as well as in the hotel and restaurant industry and the financial sector.
In 2015, the Croatia-Turkey trade came to USD 348.8 million, with Turkey's exports to Croatia totalling USD 244.4 million and Croatia's exports to that country amounting to 104.4 million dollars.
Croatia mostly exported to Turkey petroleum products and artificial fertilisers, while it imported from Turkey monitors, TV sets and other home appliances as well as cables and textile.