ZAGREB, Jan 22 (Croatia Sun News) – Outgoing Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Wednesday that the Three Seas Initiative, as one of the most important initiatives in Europe and the European Union, was important for Croatia, calling on her successor, Zoran Milanovic, to support Croatia’s participation in it.
Grabar-Kitarovic was speaking at a panel called: “Growing Europe: The Economic Vitality of Central and Eastern Europe”, organised on the margins of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos by the Atlantic Council, Goldman Sachs and the largest Polish insurance group PZU.
In her address, she presented the Three Seas Initiative which she had launched together with Polish President Andrzej Duda. She said that the initiative is aimed at “strengthening this part of the European Union and ensuring that our citizens enjoy the same living conditions as exist in other European countries.”
Asked by the press about the questionable support for the Three Seas Initiative of President-elect Zoran Milanovic, Grabar-Kitarovic said that it was his decision, but that she would recommend to him to support this initiative.
“As for the President-elect, it is up to him to decide whether he will participate or not. I would certainly recommend to him to participate. However, I believe that Croatia will not withdraw from the initiative because it is not just at the presidential level but also at many other levels, including the prime minister, relevant ministries and business,” Grabar-Kitarovic said.
The panel also involved Polish President Duda and Latvian President Egils Levits.
In her speech, Grabar-Kitarovic noted that the European Union was still a community of differences in levels of development between its north and south, east and west, adding that this was due to the circumstances in which the countries of Central Europe had found themselves during several decades of the 20th century.
“During this period, they were hindered or delayed in developing their potentials and were disjoined from modern European economic and political democratic trends,” the president said, adding that the consequences of this are most evident in the lack of infrastructure networks in energy, transport and telecommunications – areas that underpin Europe’s growth and development.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that with its three main pillars – transport, energy and digitisation – the Three Seas Initiative aims to overcome Europe’s uneven development and contribute to the cohesion of the EU.
Noting that at its core, the Initiative is aimed at the prosperity of the entire European Union, the President remarked that this is especially relevant for the energy independence and security, economic, social and territorial cohesion, as well as the overall resilience of the European Union to the various challenges being faced on the global level.
“Ultimately, the development and prosperity of the countries of Central Europe is bound to have a positive impact in the political arena, as it will strengthen the cooperation among Central European nations and steer them in the direction of greater economic, cultural and other cohesion,” Grabar-Kitarovic underscored.
She went on to say that Central Europe represents one of the fastest growing EU regions and said she is convinced that with its goals, continued development and supporting deliverables of the summits in Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Bucharest, and Ljubljana, the Three Sees Initiative will boost this success even more.
She added that the participation of the United States and Germany, as partner countries of the Initiative, and the support of the European Commission, but also of the financial institutions – the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank – has reaffirmed the commitment of everyone involved to the economic development of Central Europe, with a view to reaching the real convergence of the economies of the Initiative countries with the western part of the EU.
“In addition to political challenges that threaten the unity of the European Union – at this moment, Central Europe could be seen as a beacon of commitment to the European idea. It is the idea of cohesion, consolidation, prosperity and a fully integrated and functional internal market, making the European Union more resilient globally,” Grabar-Kitarovic said.
In conclusion, she said that in the context of EU membership Croatia has two more goals to fulfil: entry into the Eurozone and the Schengen Area.
“Our objective is to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in the first half of this year, during Croatia’s Presidency of the EU Council. Becoming part of the Schengen Area is of great importance for the security of not just Croatia but the entire European Union,” Grabar-Kitarovic said.
After the panel, Grabar-Kitarovic has left for Jerusalem to attend the World Holocaust Forum. Among those attending will be French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin.