Our aim – Strong and United Europe

Germany’s foreign policy remains value-oriented, the EU is not only an economic alliance, it is an union based on shared values like human dignity, freedom of speech, rule of law. We need to jointly defend these values

Germany’s foreign policy is committed to Europe, global engagement for peace and security, promotion of democracy, rule of law and human rights, said the German Ambassador to Croatia, H.E. Mr. Thomas E. Schultze for Diplomacy&Commerce magazine. He added that Croatia and Germany have always been close partners. We share the same values, H.E.says.

At the time of great geopolitical changes, the new administration in Washington, Brexit and the migrant crisis, what is Germany’s current position on the global geopolitical map, and what does your country advocate in international relations?

― We want the European Union to play an important, reliable and predictable role, both globally and in the European neighbourhood. We need to engage with our neighbours to the east and to the south. Given the challenges of an undeniable climate change with all its global impact we strongly support climate protection. We need a sustainable energy management with a strong focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. I am convinced that this is also an opportunity for Europe – politically and economically. Our economic policy follows the principles of a social market economy with a strong focus on free and fair international trade.

What are the medium and long-term goals of the German foreign policy?

― We support a just and sustainable globalization and an international order based on rules. In other words we strive for a world that will still be worth living in for our children. We believe that the European Union can and should play a crucial role in making this happen. If we don’t make the EU a fullfledged global player all members of the union will loose. Therefore strengthening European integration is a key principle of German foreign policy shared by all major parties in Germany.

The relations between Croatia and Germany have been continuously good. During the official visit of the Croatian PM, Andrej Plenković to Berlin, even the German Chancellor Angela Merkel called these relations excellent. In which direction are these relations going to develop, in your opinion? ― Germany is the biggest trade partner of Croatia, our economic ties are strong and sustainable. So there is a solid basis for our mutual relations. For us Croatia is a key partner in the EU in our joint efforts for stability and prosperity in the region. We very much appreciate the strong European policy approach of the current government under the leadership of Prime Minister Plenković and we are confident that Croatia will constructively support all European efforts aiming at further developing the European perspective for the countries in the region.

How does the German government view the border conflict between Croatia and Slovenia, and what is the solution to that problem considering the speculations that Washington shares similar views of the issue like Croatia, unlike the German governrnment?

― International arbitration is a valuable instrument of international law and plays an important role in the settlement of inter state disputes. I understand that Croatia also generally agrees to this principle. It is, in our opinion, a key principle of international law that decisions of arbitral tribunals be respected and implemented. Preserving the integrity of international arbitration is in the common interest of all states. We remain confident that the EU member states Croatia and Slovenia will therefore find a way to solve this bilateral border dispute amicably.

Regional cooperation and the Southeast European countries joining the EU are one of the priorities of the German government in terms of its European policy. What role does Croatia play in all of this, considering it has been an EU member for four years now?

― Croatia has already achieved a lot. As a member of both EU and NATO it plays an important role in supporting the countries in the region and we would like to see even more of this. Socio-economic development of all Southeast European countries in our view is a crucial component of stability and prosperity and will eventually lead to a win-win situation for all concerned – also for Croatia.

What are the main characteristics of the German-Croatian bilateral relations?

― As I said before the relations are very close and intense. Croatia and Germany have always been close partners. More than 300,000 Croats live in Germany, more than 2 million German tourists travel to Croatia each and every year. This year we are seeing an all-time high. The relations between our peoples are based on friendship, trust and mutual respect. I am impressed how many Croats speak German fluently. More than 165.000 children in Croatia learn German as a foreign language. More than 380 member companies of the German Croatian Chamber of Commerce and Industry employ roughly 80.000 people in Croatia. So Croatian-German bilateral relations are deeply rooted in our societies and go far beyond daily political business.

In which way do you help Croatia in terms of developing civil society and improving the quality of life? The German Federal Parliament has also launched a competition for allocation of scholarships. Could you elaborate on that please?

― Germany supports stronger links between our two countries especially among young people. Several scholarship schemes are available: The German Academic Exchange Service DAAD and the Alexander von Humbold Foundation are accessible for university students and researchers. The East-Commission of the German economy (Ostausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft) offers scholarships for young professionals. As you mentioned, the German Bundestag awards a special scholarship/internship programme in Berlin every year in cooperation with the Croatian Sabor. Furthermore we support the teaching of German as a foreign language at Croatian school through the network of 59 German partner schools across the country and with the activities of the Goethe Institute. This will enable young people to find their dream jobs. I should also mention that the German political foundations are an active partner in fostering contacts between various actors of the civil society.

What would you like to mention as an important topic in the economic relations between Germany and Croatia?

― Providing the best possible education and training for our children is of utmost importance for our societies. One of the major goals is to reduce youth unemployment and to bring qualified young people together with their future employer. Therefore the vocational education and training (Duale Bildung) is one of the main topics in our bilateral cooperation. We will continue to support our Croatian partners in promoting and developing a more practice-oriented educational system which will contribute to more employment in Croatia and to more sustainable growth. As a welcome side effect it will also help to tackle the challenges of demography and improve social cohesion.

You have been the German ambassador to Croatia for two years now, and before that you served at the German embassies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan…What do you think of the life in Zagreb and generally in Croatia, and what similarities do the two friendly nations share?

― My family and I tremendously enjoy living in this beautiful country. We really feel at home in Zagreb with its rich cultural life, we enjoy buying groceries on Dolac and then having an espresso in one of the many coffee places downtown. But we also like to travel and have managed to see large parts of coastal and continental Croatia. My wife and I grew up in a wine growing area in Germany and both of us therefore very much enjoy the food and wine culture of this country. That is certainly something large parts of Germany and Croatia have in common. Although Croatia is not a huge country it is quite diverse with all its different regions like Dalmatia, Istria, Slavonia and others. There are variations in terms of food, habits and the use of some words. In Germany we also find this sort of regional diversity. These differences make Croatia even more interesting and I sincerely hope that in the years to come more tourists will discover and appreciate the beauty of continental Croatia.