President Milanović after Meeting with President of Malta: Entry into Schengen Area is good for Croatia, but also for EU

27. October 2021.

The President of the Republic of Malta George Vella and his wife are on a State visit to the Republic of Croatia at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović. The State visit began with an official welcoming ceremony at the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia. After a tête-à-tête between the two presidents and bilateral talks between the official delegations of the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Malta, the two presidents held a press conference.

Underlining that the meeting was held “in a spirit of pleasant and good relations between Croatia and Malta”, President Milanović highlighted tourism, the migration problem and Malta’s experience in the eurozone as some of the important topics they discussed. “Malta relies on tourism. Croatia’s share in tourism is too large, and although Malta’s share is double, it doesn’t prevent Malta from being a very orderly and very successful state. We can learn a lot from Malta, see how they do it”, President Milanović noted.

Speaking about the migration wave to which Malta, as an open state, is exposed, President Milanović said: “A small nation such as Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean – with a special culture, language and identity, is different from others yet open in every aspect the whole time – it is able to deliberate the difficult topic of migration maturely, soberly and humanely, while some Central European states are just about to arm their population. Incredible difference! This just says how openness, especially for small economies, is important. Well done, Malta!

Referring to the migrations to which Croatia is confronted, President Milanović reminded that Croatia’s problem is due to the fact that it is located on the external border of the Schengen Area, yet isn’t in Schengen. “This puts us and our reputation in a bad situation because if the Croatian police don’t control the border then Croatia is unreliable and isn’t doing its job. If the Croatian police do their job and make mistakes at times, exceed their authority, then it is something that Europe points its finger at Croatia. That’s not fair. Therefore these issues have to be solved in the interest of both sides. Why should Croatia make further efforts, and why should it make the efforts it makes if it won’t be rewarded”, President Milanović wondered, and requested Malta’s support for Croatia’s entry into the Schengen Area. “I hope you will support us so that we enter the Schengen Area as soon as possible, I think it’s good for Croatia, but also very good for the EU”, he added.

Malta’s experience in the eurozone was a further topic discussed by the two presidents. President Milanović considers that the Croatian economy has many common points with the Maltese economy since it is based on the service sector, especially tourism. “Our economy isn’t distinctly export oriented, we’re also a service based economy, and that is one of the reasons why I think the euro will be more positive for Croatia than negative. Entry into the eurozone isn’t a pittance, it’s relinquishing one’s national currency forever, it isn’t done with a happy heart, but a cool head”, President Milanović noted.

Regarding EU expansion, the President of Malta told the press: “As for the Western Balkans, we have always advocated for the Western Balkans to become part of the EU. It isn’t simple, we are aware of the challenges that exist between different countries, however in the past few years great strides have been made. The Balkan countries will most certainly have greater stability and security when they become EU members with time, and the EU is incomplete without the Western Balkan countries. Countries such as Croatia and Slovenia have become members and can definitely help, they can show the way. The process of EU accession is lengthy, certain sacrifices are necessary, but I am sure that there is a strong will both in the EU and in the Western Balkans for them to join the EU.”

Still President Milanović once again warned that there is a lot of indication of procrastination in the accession of these countries into the EU. “A lot indicates that the EU has such a policy because in fact it hasn’t got one, it’s buying time and the years are passing. Croatia has had a very hard time before joining the EU, has had to meet stricter criteria than any other former socialist state. Croatia paid a high price to enter the EU. What is presently happening to Bosnia and Herzegovina and other states isn’t an encouragement, but procrastination in which negotiations aren’t even getting under way or are delayed. It is in Croatia’s interest to solve this problem so that the region is safe. When we talk about the Western Balkans, we must talk about stability, predictability and security, and ultimately we talk about money too because those are fundamentally impoverished states. Some have perhaps made progress, such as Kosovo and Macedonia, but Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia were pushed back to the start or even further back in relation to where they could have been. I don’t feel great in such an environment, and I want a more stable neighbour”, President Milanović stated.

“My visit confirms the splendid relations between the two countries and the friendship that has been developing between our nations. President Milanović expressed a wish for the further enhancement of our relations, and there is great potential in the area of trade, engineering, education, maritime affairs and tourism”, President Vella said in his statement to the press following the meeting. Speaking about cooperation in tourism and the increasing number of Croatian tourists visiting Malta, President Vella expressed hope that the slump in tourism as a result of the coronavirus will be a thing of the past and that things will return to normal with tourists from Malta visiting Croatia in greater numbers. “A number of opportunities for cooperation are opening up within the EU. I am certain that our two countries will do their best to resolve the challenges lying ahead. Malta is concerned about the pressure of migrants and their increasing numbers, that’s a challenge for the EU, the countries that are exposed cannot deal with this matter alone”, the President of Malta George Vella stated among others.

PHOTO: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia / Tomislav Bušljeta, Filip Glas, Ana Marija Katić