merkel, orešković.jpg
Photograph: EPA/BERND VON JUTRCZENKA

Croatia and Germany want to intensify their relations, notably on the economic front, and they want to align positions regarding the response to the migrant crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said after their talks in Berlin on Tuesday.

It was with great interest that I discussed with the Croatian prime minister the plans of the new Croatian government and I am confident that there are possibilities for stepping up cooperation, notably on the economic front, Merkel told a joint press conference after a working lunch with Croatian PM Oreskovic, who is on his first visit to Germany.

Merkel announced the forming of a new German-Croatian task force which is expected to convene on 15 March and discuss possibilities of investing in Croatia's economy. She also recalled that several weeks ago, the two countries' foreign ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Miro Kovac, agreed the revival of the German-Croatian forum which is also expected to deepen the economic ties.

I entirely support reform moves of the new Croatian government which are expected to strengthen Croatia's economy. The more transparent political and economic conditions, the better the chances for investments, and that was one of the most important moments of our talks today, Merkel told the press.

We also talked about our joint European agenda regarding the response to the migrant crisis. We once again concluded that it is necessary to re-establish the Schengen regime and end the policy of letting through, Merkel said, adding that refugees do not have the right to choose in which country they would seek political asylum.

The situation in Greece is not satisfactory but this is why we convened the next EU summit, together with Turkey, for next month and this is where we need to find a way to protect the external borders, Merkel said, adding that it was also important that hotspots in Greece start operating and that refugees are shared out among the EU member states, Merkel said.

At the end of her address, Merkel said that German-Croatian relations were traditionally good and that two million Germans vacationed in Croatia each year. She also recalled that 218,000 Croats live in Germany.

We supported Croatia's independence from the very start, we supported its EU and NATO accession and we want to deepen the partner and friendly relations, Merkel said after the talks with the Croatian prime minister.

Oreskovic thanked the German chancellor for the hospitality and the support Germany was showing Croatia.

Croatia and Germany are partners both in the European Union and NATO. As partners, we have common interests as well as common challenges which require a European response, Oreskovic said after the talks.

He underscored that Germany had shown a human face in the migrant crisis, but that Croatia too, as a transit country, had recognised the suffering of people and offered assistance to refugees.

As the youngest member of the bloc, Croatia believes in a joint future and prosperity in the EU, Oreskovic said, underlining that Croatia, just like Germany, was aspiring towards a joint response to the refugee crisis. He also said that cooperation with neighbours along the Balkan route was good and that Greece too was included in talks on the solution to the migrant crisis.

However, at the moment we are looking into ways to protect the Croatian border and, should it be necessary, to send the army to help police manage the refugee flow more humanely, Oreskovic said, adding that the problem needed to be resolved at its root, namely at the Turkish-Greek border.

Oreskovic also told reporters that economic ties were in the focus of today's talks.

The main objective of this government is to strengthen the economy, create a favourable investment climate and improve living standards for all Croatian citizens, Oreskovic said, announcing that Croatia's debt would be reduced and the deficit limit of 3%, as stipulated by the Maastricht criteria, would be complied with.

We particularly want to raise investments in infrastructure, energy, tourism, production and other segments which will be good not only for Croatia but for all of Europe, Oreskovic said, adding that he hoped he and Merkel would soon meet in Zagreb.

Later today, Oreskovic, who is accompanied by Foreign Minister and former Croatian Ambassador to Germany Miro Kovac, is expected to visit the German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum) to see the "Art from the Holocaust" exhibition.

He is also scheduled to meet representatives of the Croat community in Germany.

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