Pusic and Baird talk strengthening of Croatia-Canada relations, international challenges

(Hina) - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird in Zagreb on Wednesday for talks on the strengthening of bilateral relations, notably in the economy and the energy sector, on the situation in the region and multilateral challenges. Speaking at a joint press conference, Baird said he arrived in Croatia to strengthen bilateral relations and pursue the cooperation in some multilateral challenges. He said the word "opportunity" could be used for Croatia-Canada relations, opportunity for more trade, more investment and more jobs in both countries. He added that economic growth was a big priority in Canada, just as in Croatia. Baird said Canada was looking forward to the upcoming ratification of a free trade agreement with the European Union. The EU and Canada completed negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement on August 1. The agreement should be officially presented at an EU-Canada summit in Ottawa on September 25. Ratification could take two years. Pusic said Canada was interested in Croatia"s energy sector and that she and Baird also talked about Europe"s energy independence. The talks also addressed the situation in Southeast Europe, with Pusic saying Baird"s visit proved that Canada was interested in the region. A goal and a very important component of Croatia"s foreign policy is to keep the interest of EU and NATO member states, but also other world powers and countries, in Southeast Europe or the Western Balkans, given that with the situation in North Africa or the South Mediterranean, Iraq and Syria, and in the countries of the eastern neighbourhood such as Ukraine, it risks falling out of the focus of countries which take part in the making of important decisions, she said. Baird recalled that between 100,000 and 200,000 people of Croatian descent live in Canada, notably in the Toronto area, saying Canada and Canadians closely followed what was going on in Croatia and its neighbourhood. We are glad that Croatia has a leading role in promoting Euro-Atlantic integration. The great progress it made by joining NATO and the EU is impressive and very inspiring for others in the region, he said. We are looking forward to further talks on what we can do to spread freedom, security and well-being in the world, he added.

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