(Ankara) - Croatian Parliament Speaker Josip Leko met in Ankara on Wednesday with Turkey's Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called on Turkish business people to invest in Croatia.
Erdogan said during the talks there were many areas to develop economic cooperation and that more bilateral meetings on the high level could help, calling on Turkish business people to invest in Croatia. Aside from tourism, he said energy had big cooperation potential because the construction of the TANAP gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Adriatic Sea would begin this year. Erdogan said Croatia and Turkey began European Union accession negotiations together but that Croatia had overtaken Turkey. The reasons why some are holding us back are not clear, but Turkey is not giving up the goal to become an EU member, Erdogan said, as quoted in a statement from the Croatian parliament. He said he would like it if a Turkish Culture Centre was opened in Zagreb, adding that his government would help with the restoration of several Ottoman period buildings in Croatia.
Leko said Croatia and Turkey were inclined to cooperate and that Croatia would be an advocate for Turkey in the EU. Parliament Speaker Cicek said in his talks with Leko that Turkey had supported Croatia since it declared independence, adding that Turkey saw Croatia as a friend, notably during NATO accession, and that it was happy that Croatia joined the EU. We want to deepen our good political and economic relations and there is a lot of political will for that in both parliaments, Cicek said. He warned about bureaucratic obstacles to doing business, pushing for a meeting of the Croatian-Turkish economic commission to find solutions for easier and better cooperation, notably regarding the visa regime. Turkish-Croatian trade is about US$ 400 million a year and we wish it to be much more, said Cicek.
Leko said Croatia was very interested in Turkish investments and that it was using every possibility within the EU to liberalise the visa regime with Turkey. -Croatia became an EU member but hasn't moved away from the Balkans. We remain friends with Turkey, pushing for the European Union enlargement policy because it is essential for peace in Europe, and there is room for Turkey in this noble project, Leko said.
He and Cicek said tourism offered the greatest possibility for cooperation but also underlined the importance of political and military cooperation in NATO and the good exchange in culture, education and science. President Gul commended Croatia's success in Euro-Atlantic integration. You achieved a lot since declaring independence and, with your location on the Adriatic and the Balkan peninsula, you are very important for the stability of the whole region, he told Leko.
Leko reiterated Croatia's support for Turkey's European path and thanked Gul for the political and economic support Turkey extended Croatia in the most difficult days after the declaration of independence.
After the talks with Turkey's leaders, Leko opened the new offices of the Croatian Embassy in Ankara.