Budapest (MTI) – The central European “wing” of the European Union and NATO should be strengthened as should cooperation among the region’s countries, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in Budapest on Wednesday.
Croatia and Hungary, two countries with shared history and traditions, should set an example for good-neighbourly relations, Grabar-Kitarovic said in a lecture given in Budapest’s Corvinus University.
The president expressed discontent with her country’s recent foreign policy and said the Croatian government had failed to notice not just the challenges it faces but also the opportunities that lie in the EU and European cooperation.
Grabar-Kitarovic noted that the average per capita GDP of central European countries lying between the Baltic and the Adriatic Sea amounts to 45 percent of the EU average, which she said was a sign that these countries have to work together as they “have a long way to go” in terms of economic development. She stressed the importance of energy security, developing north-south energy infrastructure projects facilitating reverse flows in the region, connecting the LNG gas terminal in Croatia to the one in Poland and enabling reverse gas flows between Croatia and Hungary.
The president stressed that she is not pushing for the establishment of a new institution or the expansion of the Visegrad Group, but rather an informal “platform” connecting countries between Baltic and Adriatic waters.Grabar-Kitarovic in a lecture given in Budapest’s Corvinus University
Grabar-Kitarovic said the EU lacked a strategy for managing Europe’s migrant crisis. She said the EU needed to find long-term solutions to the crisis and also address its causes, such as wars, terrorism and poverty in the Middle East. The president said the EU should invest in, and provide aid to, the migrants’ countries of origin. She said the EU must protect its external borders, particularly the Greek-Turkish maritime border.
Grabar-Kitarovic touched on Hungary’s fence on its border with Croatia and said Hungary has a right to decide how it wants to protect its borders and security.
She said genuine refugees fleeing war must be given help, adding that the migrant crisis is not just a humanitarian crisis but a “more complex problem” with economic and security aspects. She said migrants crossing borders illegally, without being registered and giving fingerprints as European rules stipulate, posed a security risk.
Grabar-Kitarovic stressed that Zagreb is not against migration itself but rather the illegal crossing of borders, adding that a clear distinction should be made between economic migrants and refugees.
The president said she does not want to seal off her country’s official border crossing points, but merely wants to ensure that Croatian authorities have knowledge of everyone who enters the country.