Bavarian Prime Minister Soeder Visits Zagreb

By 3 May 2019

ZAGREB, May 3, 2019 - Migration and innovation were the main topics discussed by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his Bavarian counterpart Markus Soeder during their meeting at government headquarters in Zagreb on Thursday.

It was the third meeting between Plenković and Soeder, and the first visit of a head of government of the German state of Bavaria to Croatia after 12 years.

Trade between Croatia and Bavaria exceeded 1.1 billion euro in 2018. Some 1,300 Bavarian companies have a presence in Croatia, and 1.2 million Bavarian tourists visit Croatia annually, Plenković said, adding that "this testifies to the diversity of our relations and closeness of our countries."

About 110,000 Croats currently live in Bavaria, providing "a strong link" between the two countries in political, economic and cultural terms, the Croatian PM said.

The two heads of government discussed ways of promoting relations as part of preparations for a meeting of the Croatian-Bavarian Commission which is to take place in Croatia. They also talked about the EU strategy for the Danube region and the Croatian presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020. Also discussed was prevention of illegal migration and Croatia's bid to join the Schengen area.

Croatia and Germany, including Bavaria, need to have a single, coordinated policy, and the migration issue should be addressed at its source and EU members located at that source should be helped, Plenković said.

An agreement on academic cooperation between the University of Rijeka and the University of Regensburg, in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, was signed. "Scientific, research and university cooperation is one of the keys to a successful future," Plenković said.

Soeder said that cooperation is necessary in the areas of innovation, robotics and artificial intelligence, because countries cannot make much progress on their own. "We are not as large as China or America, but through our cooperation, which we seek to promote today, we can be stronger," Soeder said.

Speaking of the forthcoming election for the European Parliament, Soeder said it "is very important that we are not together with those who want to split Europe, but with those who want to support it and ensure its further progress."

Asked about the rise of far-right parties and how to deal with them, Soeder said that in Germany they will have to fight against Alternative for Germany (AfD) "with substance and more active communication."

"It seems to me that AfD has gained a monopoly over social media and that's why we need to better explain to people who they are and what they want and be more present in public debates," Soeder said, adding that AfD's influence in Bavaria had been reduced.

Plenković said that the rise of extremist parties, both on the right and the left, was caused by the migrant crisis of 2015, Brexit, the rise of social media and disinformation campaigns.

Plenković and Soeder later attended a round table where they spoke of scientific cooperation, development of academic resources, promotion of academic exchanges and economic initiatives between Croatia and Bavaria.

Plenković said that improving competitiveness by investing in science, education and innovation was the key to the success and prosperity of the European Union and all its member states on the global market.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.