Maltese President Visits Croatia

By 26 February 2018

ZAGREB, February 26, 2018 - Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who began a two-day visit to Croatia on Monday by meeting with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, said Malta was lifting restrictions for Croatian workers and that this decision was effective immediately.

This is a historic visit, not just because a Maltese president is visiting Croatia for the first time in decades, but also because it is rare that two women presidents meet, Coleiro Preca said after talks which focused on economic and security cooperation.

Malta has just notified the European Council that all restrictions on the employment of Croatian citizens in Malta are being rescinded, said Grabar-Kitarović. As Croatia's president, I want our citizens to stay in Croatia, but I also believe it is our duty to fight for their equality in European Union institutions and in the member states, she added.

Malta has about 450,000 inhabitants. Last year, its GDP went up 5.5% and the European Commission has forecast a 7.2% rise this year.

Coleiro Preca said her country was recording nearly full employment and that many European citizens already worked on its territory.

Today's meeting follows Grabar-Kitarović's visit to Malta last year. Coleiro Preca arrived with a strong business delegation comprising mostly of construction, tourism and high-tech companies, but also those in recycling, as well as Air Malta representatives.

I hope we will soon talk about introducing direct flights between the two states, Grabar-Kitarović said, adding that the number of Maltese tourists visiting Croatia was rising.

According to the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the delegation comprises representatives of 32 companies and organisations. Grabar-Kitarović said she was pleased by the interest of Maltese businessmen to do business with Croatia. A Croatian-Maltese economic forum is scheduled for later today at which the two countries' chambers of commerce are expected to sign a cooperation agreement.

Grabar-Kitarović said there was big potential for cooperation in maritime transport, fisheries and fish stock protection, adding that Malta could use Croatia's seaports of Rijeka and Ploče to export its products in Europe. Malta and Croatia can share tourism experience and cooperate in the petrochemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture, the manufacturing industry, telecommunications, high technology and shipbuilding.

Grabar-Kitarović said that Croatia, ahead of presiding over the EU in the first half of 2020, would learn from Malta, which she said had proved that it was not the size of the country that mattered, but the size of the idea. Relations with Malta are also important for strengthening the Mediterranean dimension of Croatia's foreign policy, she said.

I'm always saying that Croatia must take a wide step outside its region of Southeast Europe, contributing not only to the development of the EU and NATO, but also to the development of the border areas which are so important for security and stability, the region of the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, where Croatia and Malta are facing the same challenges, notably migration, which we discussed in detail, said Grabar-Kitarović.