Sánchez wants Spanish companies to build infrastructure in Croatia

Photo: Igor Soban/Pixsell

ZAGREB, October 7, 2021 – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez used his visit to Zagreb on Wednesday to open the door to Spanish companies that want jobs in Croatia to upgrade railways and other infrastructure co-financed with money from the EU.

“European funds represent a great opportunity for Spanish companies, world leaders in sectors such as transport, renewable energy and food, to share their experience with Croatian companies”, he said after meeting Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandroković and President Zoran Milanovic.

In February, Spanish company COMSA landed a €35.7 million contract to build an aqueduct in Metković, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the southern Croatian town to date. . COMSA is also modernizing a railway from Vinkovci to Vukovar in eastern Croatia.

Brussels is pushing for the construction of a 7,000 kilometer railway from Spain via France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary to the Ukrainian border. Known as the Mediterranean Corridor, this route could be completed in 2030. It would reduce transport costs and the pollution created by road transport.

Croatia joined the project in 2016 and sees it as an opportunity to upgrade its railway from Rijeka via Zagreb to Budapest, with a branch line from Zagreb to Ljubljana. Croatia has requested the extension of its section through the Lika region to the Dalmatia region and the southernmost seaport of Ploče.

As part of its cohesion policy aimed at reducing the differences between poor and rich parts of the EU, the European Commission has made €10.7 billion available to Croatia in the period 2014-2020 , but Croatia has contracted projects worth more than that, so they should enter the 2021-27 EU budget. In the coming months, Croatia will propose other projects for funding.

The Spanish company COMSA and other foreign companies will participate in tenders in Croatia, 85% of which will be co-financed by the EU. Since joining the EU in 1986, Spain has modernized its railways and roads with EU money.

The Spanish government therefore supports Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area and the euro zone.

“Croatia and Spain share many common interests within the EU,” Sánchez told a news conference in Zagreb.

In 2019, Spain sold 840 million euros worth of goods and services to Croatia, while importing 266 million euros worth of goods, according to data from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. After this record, the coronavirus halted the trade.

Although Spanish companies lag behind German and Italian companies in terms of their presence in Croatia, they are trying to expand their activities. Gift shop chain Ale-Hop opened a store in Zadar last week, which is its first store outside Spain and Portugal.

Spain supports EU enlargement to Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo to expand its market.

“Since my arrival at the head of the government, I have always pushed for a greater presence of my country in this region, convinced that we share many things”, declared the socialist Sánchez, in power since the summer of 2018.

At an EU-Western Balkan summit in Slovenia on Wednesday, the EU did not specify when those Western Balkan countries might join the bloc.

Croatia, which joined in 2013, invited Sánchez to surrender last month, but he canceled due to a reshuffle in his coalition government.

In recent years, Spain has intensified its official visits to Croatia. In 2019, then-foreign minister Josep Borrell visited Zagreb, which was the first visit by a Spanish minister in 14 years.

Every year, 10% more Spanish tourists visit Croatia. In 2019, there were 315,000 arrivals, but after the pandemic outbreak in spring 2020, arrivals fell to 27,000, according to figures from the Croatian Tourist Board for the last year.

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