Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Thursday urged MPs to support the decision on declaring an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea.
"By declaring an EEZ we will do the best we can in the legal protection of the Adriatic Sea," the minister told the Croatian Sabor.
He said that that all necessary preliminary work had been done so far through diplomatic and other activities and that appropriate conditions had been created for the adoption of the proposed decision, at the beginning of next year.
Exclusive Economic Zone to be declared in January 2021
"Croatia and Italy will declare their zones after a trilateral meeting of Croatia's, Italy's and Slovenia's foreign ministers in January next year," the minister said.
He recalled that the first step in the protection of national interests in the Adriatic Sea had been taken in 2003, when the Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone (EFPZ) was declared.
The only rights we have not yet acquired are the right to build artificial island and the rights to produce energy using the sea, sea currents and winds, and these are the additional rights that will be granted to Croatia with the declaration of the EEZ, Grlić Radman said.
The second and third significant step, he said, were realised when Croatia joined the EU, because the area of the EFPZ, just like all exclusive economic zones and fishing zones of other EU member states, became part of the "EU waters", and in 2016 when the Croatian government asked the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs to hold, in coordination with other relevant ministries, consultations with EU member states and the European Commission regarding the protection of Croatia's interests in the Adriatic, including the possibility of declaring and fully implementing an EEZ.
On 30 November 2020, a meeting of the Coordinating Committee of Ministers of Croatia and Italy took place.
"The mutual readiness of Croatia and Italy to protect the Adriatic Sea enables the complete protection of the Adriatic between the Croatian and Italian coast, thus excluding fishing fleets of all third countries, and this sea area becomes a solid foundation for cooperation in implementing a common fisheries policy, with the aim of achieving sustainable fishery, as well as protecting and preserving the marine environment and developing the blue economy. That is also the third important step we are now ready to take -- to declare an EEC on both sides of the Adriatic," the minister said.
Commenting on questions from the media why Croatia is only now approaching the declaration of an EEZ, he said that there was a right time for every activity and action in foreign policy.
The declaration of the EEZ was previously discussed with other neighbouring countries in the Adriatic, as well, including Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Grlić Radman told MPs that once the decision on the declaration of the EEZ enters into force, the decisions related to the EFPZ would be repealed.