Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović left for a presidential visit to Australia and New Zealand, the first such visit in 22 years, since the region was visited by then President Franjo Tuđman in 1995. The President travels with her husband, which is customary for state visits, and with their son, whose expenses will be borne by herself, reports Večernji List on 11 August 2017.
In Australia, the President will meet with the governor, the prime minister and other senior political officials, both at the national level and in federal states – New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. In New Zealand, where the President will arrive on 19 August, she will meet with the governor and the prime minister. The delegation will return to Zagreb on 23 August.
“Australia and New Zealand have few state visits, so this is an indication of how much they respect the Croatian community, and how much Croatia is open for bilateral cooperation and the cooperation at the EU and NATO levels,” say sources close to the President.
Tickets for meetings with Croatian emigrants have been sold out, and in some cities, larger venues had to be found in order for as many local Croats as possible to meet with the President. According to official Australian statistics, there are about 180,000 Croats living in Australia, while unofficial estimates put this figure at around 300,000. According to diplomatic sources, the organization of the visit also involves local Australian coordinators, in order to avoid possible inappropriate signs at the locations of the presidential events. Many of the Croatian clubs in Australia are known for having prominently displayed signs and symbols connected with the Independent State of Croatia, and the President wants to avoid them.
The President will also visit several smaller towns. For example, in Fort Lincoln, she will visit fishers who have developed the tuna breeding technology, while in New Zealand she will visit the largest olive grove, owned by the Šimunović family, as well as some of the famous local winemakers. The President will give a speech at the Macquarie University in Sydney about the Croatian cultural identity and language, while in Canberra, at the International Relations Institute, she will talk about the global step forward of Croatian foreign policy. Some of the topics of her speeches will be migration, climate change, security and terrorism.
The President is accompanied by the head of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) Luka Burilović. The trade exchange between Croatia and Australia amounted last year to 27.5 million US dollars, with a surplus on the Croatian side, while the exchange with New Zealand was only 6 million dollars. Croatia is among EU members which support the signing of a free trade agreement, while Australia and New Zealand, in the context of Brexit, are looking for new partners within the European Union.
Translated from Večernji List.