Croatian president certain NATO leaders will reach consensus

Croatian president certain NATO leaders will reach consensus Izvor: REUTERS/Paul Hanna

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Wednesday she was confident that NATO leaders at their summit in Brussels would reach a consensus on common objectives, despite the negative atmosphere created over the past several days.

"Unfortunately, the atmosphere created over the past several days is not as constructive, but I believe that through our common values, notably solidarity, we will achieve the necessary level of consent regarding NATO's common objectives," Grabar-Kitarovic said before the NATO summit, held in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, amid tensions between the two sides of the Atlantic.

"What's important for Croatia is that we have managed to attract attention of NATO members, and have them focus on NATO's southern flank and dangers coming from that area – potential terrorist activities, illegal migrations, weapons and people smuggling and all other problems we are seeing in the Mediterranean," Grabar-Kitarovic said.

The president said that NATO enlargement was particularly important to Croatia and welcomed the announcement that a positive message would be sent to Macedonia from the summit.

"To us it is particularly important to stabilise Europe's southeast. I am glad that positive messages would be sent today to Macedonia, following an agreement with Greece. I believe and I hope that the agreement, which I believe is historic, would be confirmed at a referendum,” the president said.

Greece and Macedonia recently reached a historic accord to resolve a dispute over the former Yugoslav republic's name that has soured the relations between the two neighbours for decades.

Under the deal, the former Yugoslav republic would officially be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia. Until now, it has been known formally at the United Nations under the interim name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

“I hope that all of us in NATO will help Macedonia wrap up this process. The admission into the Alliance can be expected only in a year, a year and a half, and it is important that in the meantime Macedonia can attend meetings without the right to vote," she added.

One of the main topics of the NATO summit will be expanding military budgets. The meeting is expected to see more pressure from US President Donald Trump who has already sent letters to some NATO member countries in an attempt to make them expand their military budgets.

Commenting on expanding defence budgets, Grabar-Kitarovic said she saw that as an investment and not as an expense.

During the 2014 Wales summit, the leaders of the Allies pledged to aim to move towards spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defence, 20 percent of which on new equipment, by 2024. For countries which spend less than 2 percent they agreed that they should "aim to move towards the 2 percent guideline within a decade."

Eight member-states already fulfill this requirement: USA, Great Britain, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Furthermore, 9 countries, including Croatia, are expected to meet that requirement by 2024.

Ahead of the summit, the Croatian president held a bilateral meeting with the President of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and announced a number of bilateral meetings with foreign officials on the fringes of the summit, including one with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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