Austria is grateful to Croatia for protecting the EU's external borders, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said after meeting with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlic-Radman in Vienna on Friday.
Our security and migration policy is highly praised. We protect national and European Union borders, Grlic Radman said, adding that the EU can count on Croatia in that respect. He was responding to Austrian reporters' questions about criticisms of Croatian police over the treatment of migrants on the Croatian-Bosnian border.
Migration topics won't go away, said Schallenberg, recalling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent statement that he would open the path to Europe to a large number of refugees currently in Turkey.
We are extremely grateful to Croatia for protecting the borders and for its cooperation, which has been very good since 2016, Schallenberg said, just one day after Slovenia's Prime Minister Marjan Sarec said Croatia should be protecting the EU border better.
Croatia's EU presidency
Today's meeting focused on Croatia's EU presidency in the first half of next year. Schallenberg said a big responsibility awaited Croatia, while Grlic Radman said it was a historic moment and that 30 years ago Croatians could not have imagined they would not only be free, but also chairing such an organisation.
He said Croatia's presidency would focus on economic issues and enlargement, and both ministers agreed on the importance of opening EU entry talks with North Macedonia ad Albania in October already.
They also talked about the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Austria is strongly engaged, with Grlic Radman saying it was necessary to ensure that all three nations in the country were constituent and equal, as guaranteed by the Dayton peace agreement.
The tenth Austrian state
Schallenberg further said Croatia and Austria were strategic partners, citing as an example the fact that 1.3 million Austrians spent their vacations in Croatia every year, which he said made Croatia Austria's "tenth federal state" during the summer.
He underlined that Austria is the biggest foreign investor in Croatia with 650 companies.
You have my full support, Schallenberg said.