Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe on the Occasion of the Farewell Function of Ambassador Marko Županic, Tuesday, 06 December 2005.

Your Excellency Ambassador Županic
Ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps
Colleagues and members of Government Departments
Business leaders and members of the media
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentleman

Once again, we bid farewell to a colleague and a friend. His Excellency Ambassador Županic is scheduled to complete his tour of duty later this month after a stay of more than four years in South Africa. I understand that you will be joining the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the next stage of what I am sure will continue to be an illustrious diplomatic career.

I feel greatly honoured to present my congratulations to you Ambassador on your new appointment and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

Ambassador Županic has represented his country in South Africa with distinction. We have known him to be unfailingly cheerful and always the immaculate diplomat!

Your Excellency,

Please allow me to remind ourselves of just a few examples that demonstrate the commitment with which you have pursued the promotion of our bilateral relations:

- Last year in September, my colleague Deputy Minister Pahad paid an official visit to the Republic of Croatia. You played a pivotal role in arranging an extremely interesting and suitable programme for him to enable him to obtain the maximum benefit from the visit. Apart from conducting very fruitful political consultations with his counterpart the State Secretary for Political Affairs, Deputy Minister Pahad also had the opportunity to address the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb with a view of strengthening trade and economic relations between our two countries.

- During your tour of duty in South Africa, you worked tirelessly to promote high-level visits between the two countries with a view to identifying areas of co-operation. Among these visits was the visit by President Mesic, who successfully led an official Croatian delegation to attend the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

- In April 2002, the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Her Excellency Dr Kurelec, also attended the Ministerial Non-Aligned Movement Conference in Durban, as an observer. She met with Deputy Minister Pahad and they signed a Declaration of Co-operation between the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Croatia. This Declaration provides amongst others for an exchange of information on subjects of mutual interest and issues related to multilateral negotiations.

- In August 2004, the then Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Dr Zuzul, visited the Republic of South Africa to attend the 14th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Durban.

- Ambassador Županic was instrumental in the successful conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement between South Africa and Croatia. The agreement was signed by His Excellency, Dr Zuzul, the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Mandisi Mpahlwa, Minister the South African Minister of Trade and Industry in 2003. The agreement specifically aims to strengthen bilateral trade relations between the South Africa and Croatia and provides a legal framework for trade and economic co-operation. It also creates a platform to facilitate business relationships between companies in the two countries.

- In the field of mining equipment a number of Croatian firms participated in the Electra Mining Africa 2004 Exhibition in Johannesburg introducing a range of products such as switch gear and transformers, generators, shipboard and offshore cables and special machines for underground mining as well as a host of other products for use in the mining, oil and gas sectors.

Trade volumes continue to grow between our two countries, and we need to capitalise on the strategic positions that our countries enjoy as gateways for trade in our respective regions. Moreover, Croatia's recent consistent economic growth rates together with its imminent accession of Croatia to the European Union represents an appealing market for investment, particularly in the areas of infrastructure development and services. The recent appointment by South Africa of an eminent Croatian citizen as our honorary consul in Zagreb will no doubt further strengthen our economic relations.

Our improving trade relations need to be underpinned by strong people-to-people contact. The presence of about 3 to 5, 000 Croatians and South Africans of Croatian descent living in South Africa provides a further opportunity to learn more about each other and provide further impetus to the growing tourism figures between our two countries. The number of South African citizens visiting Croatia as tourists has exploded to more than 8 000 in 2005.

In addition to the improvement in trade relations, I cannot neglect to mention the positive developments between our countries in the fields of arts and culture. Ladies and gentlemen, over the past four years Ambassador Matko Županic and his staff have worked tirelessly in this regard. There are many examples, such as the "Croatian Story in 2003" and the "Exhibition of the tie" earlier this year, the latter also involving some SA participation. Both these events, as well as the number of awards that you have won with your successful participation in diplomatic events, Sir, did your country and Embassy proud and served also to strengthen bilateral relations and to bring our two peoples closer together.

In conclusion, Mr Ambassador, I would like to thank you for your efforts to promote South African and Croatian relations over the past four years. I am sure you will be as successful in your future endeavours and I wish you well on behalf of not only Minister Dlamini Zuma but also the Department of Foreign Affairs and everybody here present.

I thank you.


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