Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an official visit to Croatia over the weekend and praised the country for the progress it has made in the nearly 20 years it has been an independent nation.
Speaking at a press conference in Zagreb, the prime minister noted that this was the first visit of a Canadian prime minister to Croatia since the country’s independence, adding that such a visit was “overdue”.
“Canada is obviously extremely supportive of the general policy of the government of Croatia to more fully integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community,” said Harper. “Notwithstanding the history of the Communist period, Croatia has really always been, not just today, but Croatia has always been at heart a western country.”
Croatia is in the process of negotiating its accession to the EU, and it hopes to complete the talks by 2011.
In Zagreb, the Canadian prime minister met with his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor, President Ivo Josipovic and the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanic.
In a statement, Josipovic and Harper expressed their satisfaction with the development of relations between the two countries, noting the role of the Croatian diaspora in Canada.
“Croatia has proven to be a true ally of Canada in Afghanistan for example, and also in our campaign for a [non-permanent] seat at the UN Security Council,” the Canadian prime minister said.
The two premiers signed a memorandum of understanding on youth mobility which will enable Canadians and Croatians aged 18 to 35 to work in each other’s country for up to one year.