Croatia and Austria are Bound by Close Friendship

02. March 2020.

At the invitation of the Federal President of the Republic of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen, the President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović paid a day-long official visit to the Republic of Austria.

The meeting of the President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović and the Federal President of the Republic of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen commenced with an official welcoming ceremony, which was followed by a tête-á-tête between the two Presidents and a bilateral meeting of delegations of the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Austria.

At a press conference after the meeting, President Van der Bellen said that Austria respected President Milanović’s gesture of choosing Austria for his first official visit abroad after assuming his post. “Croatia and Austria are good neighbours bound by close friendship, almost family ties, not just because of our Croats of Burgenland,” the Austrian President said.

“It isn’t all the same to me where I will go on my first official visit. I was in Slovenia a few days ago; both Slovenia and Austria are our neighbours, Slovenia literally, and Austria in the historical and socio-economic sense. I am glad to be here for the first time as President of the Republic of Croatia and I believe we will cooperate during our terms in office. We have similar views on issues. Our scope is not the same – Austria is a somewhat larger country, one of the wealthiest countries, and Croatia is growing and fighting for its place in the sun,” President Milanović said.

“There are no differences and disputes. There are always some open issues, but this shows that countries have relations, because where there are no relations there is nothing. Austria is the largest investor in the Croatian economy and this will more or less stay the same in the years ahead,” President Milanović concluded.

The two Presidents commented on the situation at the Turkish-Greek border. President Milanović said that a very small number of migrants will manage to reach Europe, and tensions caused by this matter will decrease in the coming days. “It is precisely because of what we as Europe went through nearly five years ago and what has been done in the meantime that it is impossible for a refugee wave of that scope to occur again, it is simply physically impossible,” President Milanović said, referring to 2015 when over a million refugees had arrived in Europe from the Middle East. 

“What we are seeing is a political struggle and manipulating with people,” he emphasized. “Every time I speak, I will make sure that these people, even when manipulated, are referred to above all as human beings – these are human destinies,” the Croatian President added, who was Prime Minister in 2015 at the time of the migrant crisis. President Milanović pointed out that “certain lessons had to be learned” from that period and that today it is simply not true that the lives of migrants who are currently in Turkey are endangered. He also reminded that international humanitarian law is rule-based.

Austrian President Van der Bellen said that the border countries such as Greece and Bulgaria should not be left in the lurch in that regard, adding that he did not know what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan actually wanted to achieve by opening the border to Europe for migrants. “There will be talks with Turkey to see what they actually want,” the Austrian President said, adding that Europe would continue to face the problem of illegal migration as long as the situation in Syria does not change.

During his official stay in the Republic of Austria, President Milanović paid a visit to the Croatian Centre in Vienna, where he also visited a preschool, a library and met with the Croats of Burgenland. In the remainder of the day, the President will meet with the Croats of Burgenland in Eisenstadt, a city in the Federal State of Burgenland.