It is a short trip but for all that historic. Emmanuel Macron will become this Wednesday the first French president to pay an official visit to Croatia since the independence in 1991 of this country, which wants to strengthen its membership of the European Union, of which France is preparing to take the presidency.
The head of state is expected at the end of the day in Zagreb, where he will remain about twenty hours before flying to Rome where he will sign a Franco-Italian treaty and meet Pope Francis on Friday.
A purchase contract for 12 Rafale
By meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, in power since 2016, Emmanuel Macron will seek to give impetus to Franco-Croatian relations so far rather limited, especially in economic terms, the market share of France being less than 3%. These links were, however, boosted by the announcement in May of a contract to purchase 12 used Rafale fighter jets by Croatia for one billion euros. It will be acted on Thursday by the defense ministers in the presence of the two leaders.
With this acquisition, Zagreb intends to modernize its armed forces and carries out its largest arms order since the Balkan war and independence. “This is not only a commercial contract, but also the strengthening of strategic cooperation” between the two countries, underlines the Elysee. The two leaders will also discuss the tensions in the Balkans with “the deterioration of the situation” in neighboring Bosnia.
Paris wants to support Zagreb on the euro
The Croatian leader should especially once again ask for the support of Paris so that Croatia, which entered the EU in 2013, can join the euro zone and the Schengen area. Emmanuel Macron should give positive signs since Zagreb “meets the criteria” which should allow him to adopt the single currency in the coming years, according to the Elysee. And “we welcome” the request for entry into the Schengen area of Croatia, which has one of the “most extensive” external borders of the EU.
Croatia is one of the last two EU countries where Emmanuel Macron has not yet visited since the start of his five-year term. A visit to the last country, the Hungary of Viktor Orban, is “in preparation”, indicated the Elysee, stressing that it should take place within the framework of the presidency by Budapest of the group of countries of Visegrad, which includes four central European nations.