In dealing with the refugee and migrant crisis, Europe must act with joint forces and not at the national level, German and Croatian Foreign Ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Miro Kovac said in Berlin on Monday.
This is not a situation in which everyone can work on their own, only for national interests, instead we are all called upon to work together on Europe's future, Steinmeier said. He mentioned an article which Kovac wrote for today's issue of the Berlin daily Tagesspiel, in which he talked about the refugee and migrant crisis and pushed for joint action and a joint European strategy.
Steinmeier underscored that he realised that the European Union was still far from a common position on this matter, but that the atmosphere notably changed at a foreign ministers' meeting in Amsterdam over the weekend. The tone in Amsterdam was totally different. There is still disagreement on some contentious issues, such as the distribution of refugees in the member states, but a more European and national tone prevailed in many other issues, he said.
Europe's disintegration cannot be an option for two Europe-oriented countries such as Croatia and Germany, Steinmeier said, stressing again that the number of refugees arriving in Europe this year must be notably reduced.
To that end, a series of many measures is being launched, with emphasis on Turkey's stronger involvement and further intensive efforts to achieve peace in Syria. At the same time, we must intensively work on the protection of the EU's external borders and we will assist the hardest-hit countries financially and logistically, he said.
At the beginning of the news conference, Steinmeier said he was greeting an old friend, referring to Kovac's time as Croatia's ambassador in Berlin, where he said Kovac excellently represented his country.
Steinmeier announced a Croatian-German economic forum to take place in Zagreb in the second half of the year.
Kovac said Croatian-German relations were good and that Germany was a very important strategic partner with which Croatia wished to cooperate at all levels. Like Steinmeier, he said that over 200,000 Croatian citizens live in Germany and represent an important element in bilateral relations.
"We agreed that bilateral cooperation is good as well as that it could be better and that we can cooperate much more on the economic front, which is why I invited Mr. Steinmeier to come to Croatia in the second half of the year so that we can activate a Croatian-Germany economic forum."
Kovac also pointed to talks held concerning Croatia's neighbours, notably regarding the European integration of western Balkan countries. "We want good relations with all neighbours and wish those countries that are not EU members yet, good prospects for entering the European family," he said, reiterating that Croatia would "actively support" Bosnia and Herzegovina's EU membership application. He concluded that this was "a process that will long continue" but that prospects were important.
"We will support enlargement but will demand compliance with the criteria. We will be strong but fair and this isn't only in the interest of Croatia but Germany and the entire European Union."
Kovac said Croatia is cooperating excellently with Austria, Slovenia, Serbia and Macedonia in the migrant crisis. He praised Germany for how it was dealing with the crisis but concluded that "the day will come when the number of refugees will have to be reduced."
"Croatia will make its contribution to a joint European solution and we will do everything in our power so that the common European home can continue to offer comfort and safety to us all. In doing so, everyone in the EU is entitled to their individuality, but we must also be aware that together we can be stronger," Kovac said.