In a visit to Zagreb on Thursday (9 July 2015), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Croatia’s role in south-east Europe and its contributions to keeping the Alliance strong. Describing the country as “a committed Ally”, he expressed appreciation for Croatia’s participation in NATO missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and praised Croatia’s leadership role in the region.
At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, Mr. Stoltenberg thanked Croatia for working alongside other Allies to improve its defence capacities, including in the field of special operations, as NATO adapts to meet security challenges to the east and the south.
Mr. Stoltenberg said that as security challenges increase, it is important that Allies invest more in defence. He welcomed the fact that Croatia’s economy is picking up as good both for Croatians and for NATO, as economic growth provides the foundation to increase defence spending, as Allies agreed at the Wales Summit last year.
The Secretary General and Prime Minister Milanović also discussed developments in the Western Balkans region. Mr. Stoltenberg expressed appreciation for Croatia’s leadership role in helping to bring the region closer to the rest of Europe and the transatlantic family. He stressed that NATO remains committed to the region, which is key for the stability of Europe.
The Secretary General also held talks with Defence Minister Ante Kotromanović, Parliament Speaker Josip Leko and leading MPs.
The Secretary General also travelled to Dubrovnik, where he met with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and with Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić. Taking part in the opening session of the tenth annual Croatia Forum on development policy, he spoke about the fact that security is the foundation of development, and development is good for security. One significant reason for the positive transformation of the Western Balkans, Mr Stoltenberg stressed, are NATO’s missions in Bosnia and Kosovo; the Alliance’s cooperation with the UN, the EU and the OSCE; and the enlargement of NATO and the EU.