Croatia and Italy have signed an agreement on the demarcation of exclusive economic zones, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman said in Rome on Tuesday, calling the document historic for the two countries' relations.
Speaking to the press after meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio, he said the signing of the agreement was a “keystone” in Croatia-Italy relations.
The agreement defines the demarcation line of the exclusive economic zones between the two friendly neighbors and permanently regulates demarcation with Italy in line with international law, said Grlic-Radman.
The agreement confirms the existing demarcation line of the continental shelves, he added. “By defining this line, Croatia and Italy will reinforce their cooperation in the Adriatic Sea, in the Adriatic, our common cultural, historical, geopolitical heritage.”
According to him, the two countries have a big responsibility for the protection of the sea environment and the sustainable use of the sea and its natural resources.
That’s why this agreement is of historic importance for the relations of the two countries “as well as a paradigm in the European context,” Grlic-Radman said.
He said Croatia and Italy were developing good neighborly cooperation in the northern Adriatic also with Slovenia as part of a trilateral established in Trieste in December 2020.
Di Maio said the signing of the agreement marked a new stage in Italy-Croatia relations which put the focus back on the Adriatic Sea. This strategic axis, he added, is additionally strengthened by the trilateral cooperation with Slovenia.
Grlic-Radman was in Rome heading a Croatian delegation at the fifth meeting of the coordinating committee of the two countries’ ministers which resulted in the signing of a joint statement setting the guidelines for all important areas in the period ahead.
“Italy is one of our most important economic partners,” he said, adding that last year’s trade was close to €6 billion, up 27%.
In recent years, “bilateral relations have taken off,” he said, adding that there is potential to further advance economic relations, notably in IT, digitization, the food sector, and infrastructure.
In February 2021, the Croatian parliament adopted a decision declaring an exclusive economic zone, which had already been done by all Mediterranean countries except Greece and Turkey due to border tensions.
At the time, the question arose of why Croatia did it only then and Grlic-Radman said that “we waited and talked with the neighbours to raise the level of protection of the Adriatic” and that Italy and Croatia included Slovenia in the process, “although we didn’t have to.”
Prior to the proclamation of an exclusive economic zone, Croatia protected the Adriatic under the 2003 Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone.