President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the first Croatian president to visit Australia and New Zealand in 22 years, met on Sunday in Sydney with representatives of the local Croatian community, reports Večernji List on 13 August 2017.
The President, who will meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other senior Australian officials in the next few days, met on Sunday with representatives of the Croatian community in New South Wales. The President visited the Croatian Catholic Centre and attended a mass in the church of St. Nikola Tavelić in St. John Park. After the mass, Grabar-Kitarović gave a short speech and unveiled a memorial plaque marking her visit. The President later greeted the assembled people.
In all the cities to be visited during her Australian trip, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Port Lincoln, the President will meet with members of the Croatian community, and official dinners are planned at the Punchbowl Club in Sydney and the Sunshine Croatian Catholic Centre in Melbourne.
Australian Prime Minister Turnbull, who will meet with Grabar-Kitarović in Canberra, said ahead of the visit that Australia appreciated its good relations with Croatia and pointed out that this year marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“The visit of the Croatian President is an opportunity to celebrate the significant contribution of the Australian-Croatian community to the Australian multicultural society. More than 43,000 people born in Croatia live in Australia, and there are additional 133,000 Australians who are of Croatian origin,” Turnbull said. He added that he would talk with Grabar-Kitarović about strengthening business and other links with Croatia.
In a separate statement, Prime Minister of New Zealand Bill English said that his country had a warm and constructive relationship with Croatia. “The Croatian community, which has found its home on New Zealand, actively contributes to our economy, to our cultural and political life,” said English, announcing numerous topics for discussion with Grabar-Kitarović, including “her vision of recent events in Europe and the opportunity for New Zealand to strengthen the relations with this region.”
Australia and New Zealand are members of the Commonwealth and therefore monitor the events surrounding Brexit and are searching for new partners in the EU. On the eve of the visit, sources close to the President pointed out that Croatia is one of the members which these two countries can count on, especially given the fact that Croatian communities represent a strong bond.
Grabar-Kitarović's state visit to New Zealand will begin on 19 August in Auckland and will also include a visit to Wellington. She will return to Zagreb on 23 August.
Economic relations between Croatia and the two countries are not particularly developed. In 2016, Croatia's trade with Australia amounted to 27.5 million US dollars, and with New Zealand to just six million US dollars. The goal of the visit is to encourage new partnerships, to open local markets for Croatian products, and to present investment opportunities in Croatia.
Grabar-Kitarović is accompanied by the president of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) Luka Burilović, who will sign a memorandum of cooperation with the chambers of four Australian federal states.
Translated from Večernji List.