ZAGREB – First formal meeting

New Croatian President Zoran Milanović chose neighbouring Slovenia for his first official visit, where he was welcomed by his counterpart Borut Pahor.

Bilateral relations between the two countries have lately been challenged by the issue of border arbitration and razor wire put on Slovenia’s border with Croatia to prevent migrants from illegal entry.

The fifth Croatian president, and the fourth Slovenian one, have both previously served as social democrat prime ministers at the same time, and have known each other for the last 15 years. Milanović stressed the importance of bilateral relations with Slovenia and argued the two neighbours should nourish a strategic partnership during his presidential campaign.

“Naturally, Slovenia is our closest ally and a partner. I can see that, and I believe that a lot of people here can see it too. The challenges between us can be solved, in that context, I would argue that relations with Slovenia are close to perfect,” Milanović said during his campaign.

Milanović was the PM when Croatia decided to withdraw from international border arbitration in 2015, which has contributed to the worsened bilateral relations between the two countries.

Pahor announced that he will kick off his relationship with the new Croatian president with “an open heart”, in order to give arbitration a chance, but he has nevertheless expressed his doubt that Milanović is going to change his position on the matter. Meanwhile, the two prime ministers are bickering over coronavirus. Slovenia’s outgoing PM Marjan Šarec said that the checks Croatia has introduced at some of the border crossings with Slovenia are ineffective and economically harmful. According to information provided by Slovenian traffic services, trucks had to wait for six hours on the Slovenian border. 

“What we are doing at the border is just as important for us as it is for Slovenia. We are being responsible under the circumstances,” Croatian PM Andrej Plenković responded.

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