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Italy-Croatia Joint Declaration

Joint Declaration

 

Italy and Croatia held the sixth meeting of the Coordination Committee of Ministers (COM) on 27 February 2024 in Zagreb. The Ministers reaffirm their commitment to further strengthen bilateral relations, as well as to enhance the partnership within EU, NATO and other multilateral fora. Croatia’s accession to the Eurozone and Schengen area, as well as the progress in the process of joining the OECD have opened additional avenues for closer cooperation. Italy reiterates its support to Croatia’s accession to the OECD and stands ready to cooperate further with Croatia in this regard.

The Ministers welcome the excellent meeting of Prime Ministers Giorgia Meloni and Andrej Plenković held in Zagreb on 16 November 2023 and the participation of Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani at the Dubrovnik Forum held in July 2023, as well as numerous bilateral contacts at political and working/expert level, in line with the commitments taken by the two sides in the Joint Declaration signed in Rome on 24 May 2022.

In accordance with all relevant legal frameworks, the two sides remain committed to promoting and protecting the rights of their respective minorities, whose historical presence and pro-active role have significantly contributed to fostering the bilateral cooperation and people-to-people contacts.

The Ministers welcome the imminent completion of the ratification procedure of the Agreement between the Italian Republic and the Republic of Croatia on the delimitation of the exclusive economic zones, which will enable its entry into force. The cooperation in the North Adriatic basin, both bilateral and trilateral with Slovenia, remains an important cornerstone in relations between the two countries, with particular focus on preservation of its environment and on enhancing better connectivity, security and closer cooperation in the blue economy sectors along the lines agreed during the Trilateral meeting in Ancona, July 2023.

In the time of global challenges, from security to climate change, Italy and Croatia are dedicated to continue building stronger, more resilient and globally competitive Europe, that is strategically autonomous. The two sides remain committed to the double transition, green and digital, and to further strengthening of our internal market. They stress the importance of progressively strengthening European defence and fully implementing the EU Strategic Compass. As EU embarks on a new institutional cycle this year, Italy and Croatia are committed to working, together with their European partners, on the new Strategic Agenda 2024-2029 that will prepare the Union for the future. They also reaffirm their commitment to continue working on all other issues of common interest on the European agenda, including within the MED 9 format. This format provides a valuable platform to address specific challenges related to Mediterranean region.

The Ministers furthermore highlight the value of regional cooperation and express support and commitment to relevant cooperation formats, such as the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) and the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII), both of which Croatia is currently successfully chairing.

Italy and Croatia continue to stand with Ukraine and its people in their fight against Russia’s war of aggression. They condemn Russia’s deliberate attacks and its intensified campaign of systematic air strikes killing civilians and destroying critical infrastructure, which constitute a serious violation of international law. They call on Russia to cease all combat operations and withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory without delay. Italy and Croatia reaffirm their unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. To this end, they will continue to provide Ukraine with financial, economic, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and other support, including support with de-mining. They stress the importance of the long-term EU military assistance to Ukraine via the European Peace Facility (EPF) and the EU Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM), as well as the EU’s financial assistance. They will continue to call for accountability and justice in relation to all crimes committed as part of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Italy and Croatia will continue their intensified diplomatic outreach efforts to ensure the widest possible international support for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace within the key principles and objectives of Ukraine’s Peace Formula and the UN Charter. They welcome the decision of the European Council to open accession negotiations with Ukraine.

Italy and Croatia express their concern about the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. They condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks of 7 October 2023, stress the right of Israel to defend itself in line with the international law, and call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. The two sides are deeply worried about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the suffering of Gaza civilians, calling for more delivery of essential aid; more humanitarian corridors, including the maritime corridor; and a pause in hostilities. The Ministers stress the need to avoid the regional spill over of the conflict, and support efforts aimed at de-escalation, in cooperation with regional partners. They strongly condemn the Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, which significantly hamper global trade flows, and demand their termination. They recognise the importance of international efforts in ensuring the safety of navigation and support an enhanced EU presence in the area to this end. Italy and Croatia support the revival of the political process based on a two-state solution as the only way to achieve the lasting regional peace.

Italy and Croatia consider as a strategic goal keeping the region of Western Balkans at the top of the EU agenda and advancing decisively on the path of its European integration. A credible enlargement policy is a geostrategic investment in peace, stability, security and economic growth of the whole European continent. Furthermore, the two sides stress the importance of strengthening regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations. The proposed Growth Plan for the Western Balkans provides important opportunities for fostering enlargement, supporting economic growth in the region and for accelerating its gradual integration in the EU single market. Italy and Croatia agree that EU engagement in the Western Balkans has to be ambitious and pro-active and that 2024 must be a year of concrete progress towards the European integration of the Western Balkans. Italy and Croatia will work towards the progress on the EU path of the Western Balkans countries in line with the merit based and individual approach in meeting the established criteria. Italy and Croatia underline the importance of opening of the EU accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 2024 and look forward to the report on progress that the European Commission will provide. They encourage Montenegro to accelerate EU-related reforms in order to further advance in its EU membership negotiations. Italy and Croatia fully support the opening of the first clusters of negotiating chapters with Albania and North Macedonia whose EU accession negotiations should proceed with sustained pace. Italy and Croatia welcome the visa liberalization with Kosovo. They fully support the EU-facilitated Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and call on both sides to negotiate with a constructive approach, in line with legitimate aspirations of their citizens to join the European Union.

Based on the outcomes of the sixth meeting of the Coordination Committee of Ministers, the two sides agree to operationalise their bilateral cooperation as follows:

Agriculture and Fisheries

  1. continue close cooperation within the „ADRIATICA“ Regional Group of General Directors of Sea Fishing as the ideal framework for collaboration and for the pursuit of the best – shared strategies, aimed at guaranteeing the long – term sustainability of fisheries from an environmental, economic and social point of view;
  2. continue applying management measures for shared fish stocks pursuant to the objectives set within both the European Union and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), by replicating the proven approaches and methods, which, particularly in the context of establishing the Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs), implies involving fishing sector and scientific institutions and national administration;
  3. enhance cooperation to further strengthen the capacity and resilience of agri food sector through the establishment and utilization of EU financial support mechanism in case of crises, such as extreme weather phenomena, severe market disturbances or occurrence of animal and plant diseases;
  4. harmonize the monitoring of marine invasive alien species in accordance with the internationally accepted management policies. It is particularly important to support cooperation among all countries of the Adriatic subregion, as well as among the countries of the Mediterranean;
  5. promote the recommendations on sustainable consumption patterns of the Mediterranean diet and develop the awareness that food produced in laboratory (i.e. the cultured meat) cannot be the proper answer, to both farmers and consumers, regarding food availability.

Culture

  1. continue to develop the full potential of bilateral cooperation in the cultural field through the implementation of the new Executive Programme for the period 2022-2026 in all agreed areas for culture;
  2. enhance joint initiatives and partnerships within international organizations and associations (UNESCO, Council of Europe, etc.) and within the EU’s Creative Europe Program;
  3. encourage cooperation and exchange between conservator experts and underwater archaeologists from ICUA Zadar and the National Administration for Underwater Cultural Heritage (Soprintendenza nazionale per il patrimonio culturale subacqueo), including through the negotiation of a Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of underwater archaeology between the two institutions. The International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar (ICUA Zadar), UNESCO II category Centre, deals with the preservation and promotion of the underwater cultural heritage of Croatia, the Mediterranean and Europe;
  4. cooperate in the field of bilateral and regional audio-visual co-production projects including through the development of suitable financing mechanisms; support the promotion and distribution of audio-visual content of the other party in the national market;
  5. improve joint initiatives and partnerships of the music export offices of the two countries (Italia Music Export and Music Export Office Croatia), which aim to valorize and promote the development and cooperation of the music sector, especially in the context of the initiative of the music export offices of the Mediterranean circle;
  6. encourage cooperation between organizations engaged in publishing and distribution of publications and translation of literary works and their publication as well as mutual translation of works by contemporary writers;
  7. develop the cooperation between relevant authorities in the protection of cultural heritage from natural disasters in the framework of the EU initiative “PROCULTHER” and bilaterally.

Economic Growth

  1. cooperate to create an optimal environment for further bilateral trade, working on strengthening bilateral economic cooperation, exchanging information concerning the business development of the two countries, recognizing the potential for cooperation and strengthening the overall mutual relations in areas of common interest for the development of the industry, especially in the areas of steel making and shipbuilding industry;
  2. organize the second Business Forum in Croatia in 2024;
  3. introduce cooperation in the electrical and automotive industries according to the principle of circular economy, where efforts will be made to thoroughly transform the industry, encourage its sustainable production and provide new forms and services of sustainable mobility;
  4. cooperate in the field of innovative information and communication solutions that enable digital transformation of society and industries;
  5. explore cooperation in the field of food industry on processing technologies and food processing itself;
  6. explore cooperation and nomination of joint projects according to the model “important project of common European interest” (IPCEI).

Energy and Environment

  1. maintain energy safety standards as required by European regulations and their implementation in national laws by promoting joint cross-border actions relating to the monitoring and control offshore plants and infrastructures on the seabed (also through studies and research on issues relating to persistent natural phenomena in the Adriatic area), as well as engaging in joint operations for the prevention of major accidents through on-site exercises;
  2. cooperate on harmonization of the regulatory framework on decommissioning or reusing offshore infrastructures in order to promote collaboration on future strategic planning on decarbonisation and use of existing natural gas infrastructure into infrastructures that can transport alternative energy sources on safety offshore upstream installations as well as the decommissioning and reuse of offshore platform (such as offshore wind projects, CCS potential etc.);
  3. promote and strengthen cooperation within the North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley Project with the aim of establishing a proactive energy policy on our and neighbouring territory through ongoing projects that cooperate on developing environmentally friendly hydrogen technologies to secure the value chain from hydrogen production to use;
  4. comply promptly with all the relevant provisions of EU Regulations regarding the solidarity measures to safeguard the security of gas supply;
  5. promote the strategic role of small islands in the decarbonisation path as innovative laboratories for the development of clean energy projects through the exchange of best practices and the development of joint sectorial initiatives;
  6. reaffirm their full support to strengthen their regional and sub-regional cooperation on the marine environment protection through the Barcelona Convention, and other relevant regional and subregional mechanisms of institutional cooperation including the Joint Commission for the Protection of the Adriatic Sea and its Coastal Area constituted by the Agreement on Cooperation for the Protection of the Waters of the Adriatic Sea and Coastal Zones from pollution (1974) as a platform for cooperation on the implementation of Marine Strategy Framework Directive obligations and other identified environmental priorities in the Adriatic region;
  7. continue close cooperation on national work under the EU pledge process on protected areas designation, including, when needed, joint approach on conservation measures (e.g. areas to be designated in Exclusive Economic Zones) as contribution to targets under EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. Furthermore, cooperation on joint activities in implementation of conservation measures and monitoring activities for marine species, including prevention of introduction and spread of invasive alien species;
  8. improve decision-making process on ballast water management and establish early warning system in Adriatic ports and monitoring of the ports ecosystem, taking also into account the Regional Harmonised Procedures for the Uniform Implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention in the Mediterranean Sea, which were adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention at the last COP in December 2023 in Slovenia (COP 23);
  9. continue efforts in establishing further cooperation at the sub-regional level in the field of preparedness for and response to potential marine pollution incidents, taking into account the current finalization of the “Adriatic marine pollution contingency plan”, developed under the coordination and with the support of REMPEC (UNEP MAP). In this context, the support provided by the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) relevant activities will be welcome.

Home Affairs

  1. following collaboration within the Joint Security Strategic Committee in which common security challenges were identified, continue to strengthen strategic and operational cooperation with the aim of ensuring more efficient combating of cross-border crime, especially in the area of illegal migration and criminal offences of migrant smuggling;
  2. share positions and activities in the implementation of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum and in the implementation of priorities defined within the Security Union Strategy, as well as positions related to the new legislative proposals of the European Commission;
  3. given the global security challenges and political priorities defined on the EU level, including the recently established European Ports Alliance, as two neighbouring and maritime countries, take joint and coordinated action in combating illegal drug trafficking and smuggling of drugs by sea, and exchange information with the aim of protecting Adriatic ports from organised crime groups;
  4. continue to work on concluding the Agreement between the Government of the Italian Republic and the Government of the Republic of Croatia on police cooperation which would be in line with the existing European acquis and define, inter alia, the national contact points for the coordination of operational activities;
  5. taking into account the relevant strategic EU frameworks, strengthen cooperation and exchange of information with regard to safeguarding public security with a special emphasis on preventing and combating terrorism, cybercrime and other types of threats arising from the deteriorated global security situation;
  6. having regard to the specificities of the civil protection systems of both countries, as to the Ministries of Interior, strengthen cooperation in protecting our citizens in emergency situations and natural or man-made disasters.

Research and Education

  1. wish to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation in the fields of research and higher education;
  2. agree to advance the cooperation within the Erasmus+ Programme, encouraging agreements between their respective education institutions, bearing in mind their academic independence, in order to increase mobility at all levels;
  3. intend to consolidate joint training and mobility schemes for scientists, researchers, professors and students;
  4. strengthen cooperation via joint studies and activities of alliances of European universities;
  5. encourage, on the principles of reciprocity, the development and improvement of the level of teaching Croatian language and literature in higher education institutions in Italy, and Italian language and literature in higher education institutions in Croatia;
  6. taking into account the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation signed on October 29th, 1999, in Rome, wish to renew the bilateral Executive Protocol of Scientific and Technological Cooperation, expired in 2015, as soon as the necessary financial resources will be available;
  7. wish to discuss the possibility of defining a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between the Italian and Croatian responsible ministries, focused on common research and higher education priority areas;
  8. continue to encourage cooperation between scientific institutions of the two countries in the fields of blue economy, renewable energy, quantum communication and research infrastructures;
  9. agree, as a further means of strengthening bilateral cooperation in scientific R&D, to encourage their scientists to cooperate in carrying out joint projects for the EU Research and Innovation program Horizon Europe.

Transport and Infrastructure

  1. strengthen the maritime dimension of the bilateral collaboration, with particular regard to the development of the ports of both countries through the implementation of efficient and sustainable network and promotion of the development of short sea shipping, also in the framework of the future new concept of the European maritime space and with advisable help of co-financed projects, as well as strengthening connection of the two countries by liner shipping;
  2. enhance cooperation in the field of maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment within the framework of the Maritime Safety Permanent Transnational Network established by Memorandum of Cooperation of maritime administrations of the Adriatic-Ionian region in 2023, aligned with the goals of the Strategy and Action plan for increasing the level of the maritime safety in the Adriatic-Ionian Region 2023 – 2027, as delivered within the project EUREKA (Adriatic-Ionian joint approach for development and harmonisation of procedures and regulations in the field of navigation safety);
  3. continue joint efforts to amend the International Maritime Organization Resolution on Mandatory Ship Reporting system in the Adriatic (ADRIREP) in cooperation with the European Commission, European Maritime Safety Agency and maritime administrations of the Adriatic-Ionian region;
  4. continue efforts in promoting and conducting regular exercises on search and rescue at the sea in cooperation with maritime administrations of the Adriatic-Ionian region;
  5. support the initiative for the Adriatic-Ionian Corridor, also in the framework of the EUSAIR Strategy, by promoting the connection from Trieste (IT) to Kalamata (EL) in the next TEN-T review through ongoing and planned studies.

Telecommunications

Considering the social, cultural and economic importance of electronic media, in particular terrestrial radio and television broadcasting, and the negative impact of harmful interference which has been experienced for several decades on the Adriatic coast,

Recognising the excellent results achieved since 2022 in the resolution of Italian harmful television broadcasting interference, also thanks to the constructive cooperation within the Radio Spectrum Policy Group’s good offices procedure, Italy and Croatia are committed:

  • to address and resolve, in a spirit of mutual cooperation, the long-standing Italian harmful interference to Croatian FM stations along the Croatian coast, in accordance with existing international regulations and agreements and EU law, in particular Article 45 of Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC);
  • to continue the good cooperation in finalising the agreement on the use of VHF Band III in the Adriatic and Ionian region, in order to resolve the remaining cases of Italian DAB harmful interference and to ensure the future interference-free operation of the DAB platform;
  • to continue to participate constructively in the successful implementation of the Radio Spectrum Policy Group’s good offices procedure, in accordance with the RSPG Rules of Procedure and the above-mentioned EECC, as the preferred means of resolving harmful cross-border interference.

In view of the next meeting of the Coordination Committee of Ministers to be held in Italy, the two sides will carry out a periodic review of the activities agreed above via focal points in the line ministries. The two Ministries of Foreign Affairs will coordinate an assessment of the achievements on a regular basis.

Zagreb, 27 February 2024

 

Head of the Italian delegation:
Antonio Tajani
Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Head of the Croatian delegation:
Gordan Grlić Radman
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

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