Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen arrived on a two-day official visit to Croatia on Monday, during which he will meet with country leaders and attend a Croatia-Austria economy forum.
Today, Van der Bellen met with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
“I am exceptionally pleased I can host Alexander today, and that we can continue our dialogue, not only on the subject on improving our bilateral relations, but also the relations between countries in Southeast Europe,” Grabar-Kitarovic said after the meeting.
There was talk on economic cooperation, but also protection of EU external borders, she said, adding that Croatia was doing everything in its power to join the Schengen Area by the year’s end.
Although Croatia had joined the European Union in July 2013, it is still not a member of the EU's Schengen passport-free travel area. On the other hand, its eastern borders with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro form the EU's external border.
“I hope the procedure will be objective in terms of evaluating whether the technical criteria is fulfilled and in terms of looking at EU strategic interests as a whole,” she said.
“I can confirm that relations between Croatia and Austria are better than good, they are excellent,” Van der Bellen said.
Grabar-Kitarovic and Van der Bellen supported the EU membership bids of Southeast European countries, saying it was in the interest of the region and the EU as well as a prerequisite for regional peace, stability and prosperity.
Both Croatia and Austria support the accession of Croatia’s neighbours to the EU, but on the condition they meet the membership criteria, Grabar-Kitarovic said.