Macron in Croatia, an unprecedented visit to strengthen ties

Emmanuel Macron will become on 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.

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.

MM. Plenkovic and Macron will also discuss the tensions in the Balkans with “the deterioration of the situation” in neighboring Bosnia, the presidency said.

The Croatian leader is expected to ask again for the support of Paris so that Croatia, which entered the EU in 2013, can join the euro area and the Schengen area.

– Adopt the euro –

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 application 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.

Emmanuel Macron will begin the second stage of his trip on Thursday afternoon by being received in Rome by his counterpart Sergio Mattarella and then by meeting with the President of the Council Mario Draghi, before signing the Quirinal Treaty, named after the seat the next morning. of the Italian Presidency.

This treaty, which is inspired by that between France and Germany, aims to “stabilize the Franco-Italian relationship in the long term”, underlines the Elysee.

The “trust” and “mutual respect” between MM. Macron and Draghi contrast sharply with the execrable relations between Paris and Rome, “the two Latin sisters”, when the boss of the League, Matteo Salvini, was Minister of the Interior.

– In the Vatican –

Friday at 11 a.m. local time, Emmanuel Macron will be received in audience by Pope Francis at the Vatican, where he will be welcomed for the second time since the start of his five-year term after the June 2018 visit.

They should talk about the climate, inequalities, access to vaccination in the world, but also about Europe.

It is also “probable” that they are discussing the difficult situation that the French Catholic Church is going through after the shocking revelations of the Sauvé commission, which estimates that 330,000 people over the age of 18 have been subjected to sexual violence. since 1950, when they were minors, from clerics, religious or people in connection with the Church.

Emmanuel Macron should also “renew his invitation to the Pope to come to France”, according to the Elysee. A visit that the French faithful have been waiting for since the start of the mandate of François, elected at the 2013 conclave.

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