On March 2, Croatian Minister of Defense Mario Banozi met with Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar in Ankara. Banozi is the first Croatian Minister of Defense to visit Turkey in nine years. The meeting covered various topics, including the war in Ukraine, the earthquake that occurred on February 6, and military education cooperation. Akar and Banozi met privately before overseeing the meeting between their delegations.
The Turkish delegation included Turkish Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler and Croatian Chief of General Staff Robert Hranj, with the Turkish Deputy Minister of National Defense, Muhsin Dere, also attending the meeting. Both ministers commented on how their respective countries have supported Ukraine through various forms of aid. Minister Akar also personally thanked Banozi and the entire country of Croatia for the aid they sent to Turkey following the deadly earthquake that occurred on February 6, which consisted of “40 experts in urban search and rescue from ruins and 10 search dogs,” according to the Balkan Insight website. The website croatiaweek.com, also reported that €819,600 worth of aid was sent via convoy to Turkey.
The two countries have been able to collaborate via military education, which likely means the Turkish and Croatian forces have held joint military exercises. Along with those exercises, Minister Akar also referred to President Erdogan’s visit last year, wherein, in September 2022, Erdogan visited Croatia on a three-day tour of the Balkans. His time in Croatia further strengthened diplomatic, economic, and military ties between the two countries. As of March 2022, the Turkish Ambassador to Croatia stated that 45 Turkish companies were located in the country, with President Erdogan noting that Turkish enterprises in Croatia have investments worth nearly 200 million euros. According to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “There are 20 Turkish investment firms in Croatia, representing a total of 350 million euros’ worth of investments. Up until today, projects valued at $1.2 billion were undertaken by Turkish construction firms in Croatia.” The two countries are also aiming to maintain their trade volume at $1 billion, which they achieved in 2022. They set the goal for 2021 when their trade volume reached $888 million. Reaching their trade volume goal was a major milestone in diplomacy between the two countries.
Turkey and Croatia continue to maintain a strong relationship, which continues to grow every year through investment and military cooperation. The Turkish government has invested a great deal of money and resources in the relatively young country, with relations being reciprocated. Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and Turkey prides itself on being one of the first countries to recognize Croatian independence. It seems that Turkey will continue to invest in Croatia for many years in order to foster a strong relationship with one of the many expanding economies in the Balkans.