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US Looks to Boost Private Investment Ahead of Croatia EU Membership

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic in Zagreb, October 31, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Croatia's upcoming entry to the European Union could attract more U.S. investors, if the country opens its markets to greater outside competition.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said that joining the European Union next July is a chance to show investors how much his country has to offer. He spoke following talks with Secretary Clinton.

"We will have to show what we can do. It’s a major opportunity for us, but it’s up to us to show how we will take advantage of it," said Josipovic.

Clinton said that in today's economic climate, everyone is looking for ways to create jobs, restore competitiveness and spur economic growth. She said she believes Croatia is well positioned to attract more foreign investment if it opens its domestic markets.

"You have an educated workforce. You have a developed infrastructure. You have a very favorable geographic position. You are a promising destination for investment. But you also have a very high rate of unemployment for young people that could be addressed by opening up your business sector to greater competition," said Clinton.

President Josipovic said Croatian leaders understand those obstacles and are working to remove them.

"There is, of course, a problem of the actual openness to investment. But we are aware that the Croatian government is preparing a number of measures to facilitate investments in Croatia, and I am sure that there will be a major number of American investors who will come and invest in Croatia," he said.

Clinton said Croatia serves as an anchor of stability and prosperity in the Balkans and demonstrates unequivocally what people and political leaders can accomplish when they work together toward a shared goal.

"This country has taken great strides to combat corruption and uphold the rule of law - from prosecuting domestic war crimes cases to reforming your justice sector. Croatia has also made it a priority to include ethnic minorities and ensure opportunities for all of your citizens," she said.

Clinton thanked the Croatian president for his country's participation in the international security force in Afghanistan and for what she called "the extremely difficult problems" presented by Syria and Iran.

Clinton came to Croatia following stops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. She is scheduled to travel to Albania on Thursday for talks with President Bujar Nishani.