Strong support from Finland for Croatia’s EU membership
Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic of Croatia visited Finland on 4–5 October at the invitation of Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb.
The situation of accession negotiations between the European Union and Croatia, regional issues of the West Balkans and bilateral relations between Finland and Croatia were among the topics discussed by the foreign ministers during the visit. At the press conference held in Helsinki, both foreign ministers stated that relations between Finland and Croatia are excellent. In addition, Foreign Minister Jandrokovic thanked Finland for the support Croatia has received in accession negotiations with the EU and said that Croatia strives to bring the negotiations to conclusion during the coming year, in which case Croatia could accede to membership of the EU in 2012. Croatia’s goal is to meet the criteria required for EU membership as soon as possible.
A seminar entitled Business Opportunities in Croatia was held at the Helsinki Delegation of the European Commission during the visit. Foreign Minister Jandrokovic opened the seminar. He gave a brief account of Croatia’s growth following independence and the war, saying that Croatia is now a modern European state where democracy, free markets and rule of law operate flawlessly. Jandrokovic praised the good, many-sided relations between Finland and Croatia and mentioned especially construction, the marine industry and the energy sector as fields with potential for cooperation.
The opening speech for Finland was delivered by Secretary of State Pertti Torstila, who served as the first Finnish ambassador to the newly independent Croatia at the start of the 1990s. Secretary of State Torstila explained that, in particular, the twelve EU twinning projects Finland had won marked the beginning of closer economic relations between Finland and Croatia. He mentioned know-how in the sectors of the environment, energy and innovation as Finland’s strengths and fields of expertise. In addition, he said that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Finpro together are planning the visit of a business delegation to Croatia in spring 2011.
The Croatian Chamber of Commerce representative stated that trade between Croatia and Finland as yet has not played a major role in the foreign trade of either country, but that trade had clearly been on the rise before the financial crisis. Finnish phones, in particular, have sold well in Croatia. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Croatia’s low tax level, incentives directed at foreign investors, infrastructure projects such as the gas pipelines to pass through the country and hydropower plants, a legal environment harmonized to EU requirements and the trained labour force make the country an attractive investment site for Finnish companies.
Foreign Minister Jandrokovic also met with Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors and First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Seppo Kääriäinen during his visit.