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Press statements following Russian-Croatian talks

October 18, 2017

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Madame President, ladies and gentlemen,

My talks with the Croatian President have just concluded. I would like to say that they took place in a constructive spirit and reaffirmed the intention of both countries to develop cooperation in all areas.

Croatia is an important partner for Russia in Europe and the Balkans. Last May we marked the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Over this period they became truly diverse and mutually beneficial.

Today the Croatian President and I, together with the heads of ministries and departments, discussed specific measures for further upgrading bilateral cooperation, paying special attention to economic ties.

Let me recall that last year bilateral trade amounted to $808 million and increased by 64 percent in the first half of 2017.

We believe this year there is a good opportunity to return trade to the pre-crisis level of over one billion dollars.

Participants in the regular meeting of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation held in Moscow on October 3 discussed new initiatives aimed at encouraging our trade and investment ties.

In particular, they discussed stepping up cooperation between Russian and Croatian companies to carry out joint projects in third countries. Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development and the Croatian Foreign Ministry signed a memorandum aimed at helping businesses make progress on foreign markets.

We have big hopes for expanding Russian-Croatian business contacts through the business forum that will be held in Moscow tomorrow with the President of Croatia in attendance.

At the talks, particular attention was paid to the energy industry, a traditional area of bilateral cooperation. Croatia is a major importer of Russian oil products. It bought 350,000 tonnes of oil from us last year.

In addition, 2.3 million tonnes of Russia oil were delivered through Croatia’s ports and pipes for customers in southeast Europe.

LUKOIL has a ramified network of filling stations in Croatia and supplies eight percent of the fuel consumed in the country.

Russia’s Gazprom, for its part, supplies Croatia with almost half of the natural gas it consumes. It signed a long-term contract for gas supplies to 2027 with its Croatian partners in September.

The Russian corporations Silovye Mashiny [Power Machines] and Technopromexport are helping their partners develop Croatia’s power industry. The third energy unit of the Sisak Thermal Power Plant was put into service with their participation. They plan to build and upgrade other energy facilities.

The two countries' companies are boosting industrial cooperation, including in shipbuilding. Croatia's Brodotrogir shipyard has joined the work to build an Arctic tanker for the Yamal LNG project; the possibility of supplying Russian hydrofoils to Croatia is being considered.

Russian banks successfully operate on the Croatian market. There is an extensive network of Sberbank branches, which together with VTB is taking part in the financial recovery of Croatia's largest agricultural holding Agrokor.

The talks also addressed humanitarian cooperation. An intergovernmental cultural programme for 2017–19, adopted today, is aimed at putting this cooperation on a systematic footing.

We appreciate the Croatian authorities’ support for unveiling monuments to Alexander Pushkin, Yury Gagarin and Sergei Yesenin in Zagreb in 2016–17.

Russia, in turn, is considering installing a monument to Croatian philosopher and theologian Juraj Krizanic, whose life was closely tied to Russia.

Contacts are developing between twin cities. Next year, large-scale events are planned to mark the 50th anniversary of direct ties between St Petersburg and Zagreb.

Croatia is a popular travel destination among Russian tourists. Last year it was visited by 56,000 Russians. The prospects for further developing mutual tourist flows will be discussed at the Russian-Croatian business forum tomorrow.

There was also an in-depth discussion of various international issues.

To conclude, I would like to express gratitude to the Croatian authorities and to you personally, Madame President, for the comprehensive and substantive talks.

We hope that the results achieved will facilitate further Russian-Croatian cooperation in all areas.

Thank you for your attention.

President of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (retranslated): Ladies and gentlemen, welcome everyone.

I would like to thank President Vladimir Putin for the hospitality extended to my delegation and me here in Sochi, Russia. Many compare this place with the cradle of Croatian tourism, the town of Opatija, which is one of the spots on the Croatian coast most favoured by Russian tourists.

As President Putin already mentioned, we covered a number of topics that are critical for further developing our bilateral relations, from political and economic cooperation to cultural cooperation.

Much of what we have discussed made it into a whole range of new acts on our cooperation which we signed today. In this year that we celebrate the 25th anniversary of recognising Croatia and establishing diplomatic relations, I want to emphasise that Croatia, a member of the European Union and NATO, is also a country that respects the international importance of Russia and therefore seeks to give a new impetus to our bilateral relations.

I must say that today, eight years after the last official visit at the presidential level, we again expressed the mutual desire to restore cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

It is in this spirit that I invited President Putin to visit the Republic of Croatia. I hope that we will make it happen next year. This would be the first state visit by the Russian President to Croatia.

Today, we reviewed a number of open questions in our relations. They are more technical than political, and we are trying to successfully address them. Today, we established and demonstrated examples of successful cooperation that managed to revitalise Russia-Croatia economic relations.

At this point I would like to say special thanks to President Putin and the Russian administration for their understanding and constructive contribution to the resolution of the air pollution problem in Slavonski Brod.

Such positive examples of cooperation confirm again and again that many challenges can be resolved through open dialogue. Russia is a major economic partner of Croatia and we are striving to expand bilateral economic cooperation.

This is affirmed also by the enthusiasm shown for tomorrow’s economic forum in Moscow. Several hundred Croatian and Russian companies will take part in it. They will discuss opportunities to cooperate and to sign new contracts.

We acknowledge that trade is growing despite the sanctions that primarily hit our citizens and companies. I welcomed Russian investment, primarily, in the tourist industry and am ready to promote all forms of mutually beneficial investment from the Russian Federation.

Russia is displaying considerable interest in investing in the power industry. I told Mr Putin about numerous amendments to Croatian legislation, which ensure reliable investment through the liberalisation of the electricity, oil and gas markets. Although Croatia is trying to diversify energy suppliers and transport routes, it continues cooperation with Russian companies.

The contract signed between the First Gas Society and Gazprom on long-term gas supplies to Croatia is a shining example of this. I presented the Three Seas Initiative to Mr Putin.

This initiative is an informal political platform for states in Eastern and Central Europe that want to promote European ties and economic cooperation by building transport and energy infrastructure and creating digital technology with a view to ensuring the competitiveness of EU countries.

I would also like to emphasise that this initiative is primarily “for” rather than “against.” It is designed to enhance ties in Eastern and Central Europe. This initiative is very often accused of being directed against Russia but it is not aimed either against Russia or German influence in the region.

This is not an American Trojan Horse. The initiative is open for cooperation with all states, and many third countries, for instance China and other EU states, have already expressed their desire and readiness to join this project. Why shouldn’t Russia be among them?

We discussed in detail urgent crises, for instance in Syria and Libya, and global challenges that the international community is facing. First of all, this concerns the joint struggle against terrorism, extremism and radicalism.

Russia is an indispensable partner for resolving such problems and discussing global security. As a member of the EU and NATO, Croatia is committed to open and meaningful dialogue with Russia on Ukraine.

I am sure that comprehensive implementation of the Minsk agreements in the Normandy format will free Europe of instability that is not in European, Russian or Ukrainian interests.

I believe we can speak about progress in our economic relations. I think regular cooperation with the Russian Federation will lead to a reconsideration of the sanctions that are hitting our citizens and companies.

We spoke about the situation in Southeast Europe and I believe that the European perspective will guarantee stability, security and prosperity for the region’s countries. We also discussed the consolidation of our cultural and scientific cooperation.

Let me mention one of our compatriots – Robert Bartini who was born in Rijeka. He was a truly brilliant aircraft designer but it is much less known that this outstanding scientist made a large contribution to the aviation and space industry.

He worked with the teams of Grigorovich, Tupolev, Tomashevich and Beriyev. The official founder of Russian cosmonautics Sergei Korolev called this genius his teacher. It was owing to Bartini’s help, knowledge and advice that Yury Gagarin became the first cosmonaut.

I am very glad to be visiting the Russian Federation and to continue my trip in Moscow and St Petersburg. I am particularly looking forward to meeting Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia because our primary mission is to defend the interests of Christians in the world. We consider his Holiness to be our partner in consolidating positive public values in religious communities.

There is a Russian Orthodox church of St Nicholas in the Croatian city of Crikvenica, which was built in 1924. The Croatian state supports its reconstruction and I believe that once it is renovated, the church could start hosting the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

We are starting our visit on the Black Sea coast and ending it on the Baltic Sea. On that note, I have to mention yet another famous Croat who was an admiral of the Baltic Fleet during the time of Peter the Great and led numerous battles. He is buried in the Church of St Louis in Moscow.

He advocated the establishment of the Black Sea Fleet and is believed to have drafted the code of the Russian naval and merchant fleet. There are many materials about this in Russian archives.

Such people truly united our two nations throughout history. They deserve our respect and may serve as an example for us.

Mr President, thank you very much once again for your cooperation and hospitality.

October 18, 2017