Zagreb/Wien, 29. November 2012 Press release

Lopatka: "Croatia on the final stretch towards EU membership"

State Secretary encourages Zagreb to take final steps of reform

Zagreb/Vienna, 29 November 2012 – “Croatia has displayed great courage and endurance in tackling difficult reforms. Now it is important that the last open issues, for example in the fields of competition, judicial system and the interior, are swiftly settled and that reform efforts do not falter in the final stretch on the way toward EU membership”, State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said during his working visit to Zagreb. His meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister Klisović, Deputy Prime-Minister Mimica, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Obradović-Mazal and MoPs of the two largest parties (SDP and HDZ) revolved around Croatia's imminent accession to the EU, the improvement of investment conditions and options of intensifying bilateral cooperation.

Austria and Croatia are linked by a close partnership, Lopatka said, that is mainly based on intensive personal relations, reaching from governmental to parliamentary levels and including regional and local cooperation between individual provinces and cities. “I view Croatia's joining the EU as a step towards even closer relationships; a step that will provide us with the opportunity of close alignment on EU level in matters of joint interest. We are counting on Croatia's input concerning the next steps of expansion in the Western Balkans; with its expertise gained during the accession process and its historically established contacts to the region, Croatia's input is appreciated”, the State Secretary said. In his talks, Lopatka also referred to the importance Croatia's EU membership would have for the region and the EU as a whole: “When Croatia joins the EU on 1 July 2013, this will also be a clear sign for all countries of the Western Balkans showing that reforms will pay off in the end. Besides, Croatia's accession will also strengthen the Central European, Mediterranean and Danube dimension of the Union.” Being one of the 14 riparian states of the Danube, Croatia is already involved in the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube region.

“Economic cooperation and investment conditions are as important to us as Croatia's accession to the EU. Austria is the biggest foreign investor in the country, and with 700 Austrian companies being represented in Croatia, Austria is greatly interested in finding ways to improve legal certainty and to remove bueaurocratic obstacles. It is necessary to strengthen the confidence of investors, so that Croatia will join the EU not only as a stable democracy but also as the driver of growth for the entire region”, the State Secretary said who had been informed by Austrian business people located in Zagreb about the still existing weak points in the investment conditions.

State Secretary Lopatka announced that Austria would make an arts contribution to the celebrations of the EU accession on 1 July 2013 in Zagreb. An intensification of cooperation is imminent not only in human rights policy but also in security policy, as the Croatian Embassy in Vienna will assume the role of NATO contact embassy for Austria for the years 2013-2014. In addition, it is planned to step up development cooperation, for example in terms of capacity building of NGOs and on project level in priority countries.

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