May 7, 2010
Harper heads to Croatia on European tour
By Bill Curry
Globe and Mail Update
Stephen Harper's tour of Europe takes him to Croatia Friday, marking the
first visit by a Canadian Prime Minister to the country since it
emerged as an independent country following the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and is hoping to join the European Union.
Canadian officials say the visit is simply to strengthen a growing
relationship between the two countries.
Mr. Harper has meetings scheduled Friday afternoon with Croatian Prime
Minister Jadranka Kosor and will meet Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the
Archbishop of Zagreb, on Saturday.
The Prime Minister departs Friday for Zagreb, the Croatian capital,
after wrapping up a two-day visit in the Netherlands.
Mr. Harper had lunch today in The Hague with the Netherland's Queen
Beatrix, who was sheltered in Ottawa as a young princess with her mother
and sisters to escape capture by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The Prime Minister's lunch with Queen Beatrix was held at the Queen's
main residence, a 300-year-old manor set in heavily wooded grounds,
where peacocks strutted about and called loudly to one another.
Princess Margriet was also at the lunch.
'You had a very good day yesterday,' Queen Beatrix said to Mr. Harper
during a brief photo opportunity.
'We always have a good time when we come here,' Mr. Harper replied. 'The
friendship is so deep.'
Mr. Harper and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell - who has been travelling
with the Prime Minister - also held a private roundtable with business
leaders Friday morning in Amsterdam. The invite list included the CEO of
Shell Netherlands and the vice-president of Phillips.
'You all have some business interests already in our country so I'm sure
we'll have a very interesting discussion,' he said Friday, before the
meeting was closed to the media.
Events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Netherlands - of which
Canada's military played a leading role - are the main reason why Mr.
Harper is in Europe this week for a four day tour.
Other stops - including Wednesday's E.U. Summit in Brussels and a visit
Saturday in Berlin - are partly to set the stage for Canada's hosting of
G20 and G8 leaders next month in Toronto and Muskoka.
The Netherlands is not a member of either forum, but Mr. Harper used the
occasion of a bilateral news conference with Prime Minister Jan Pieter
Balkenende - who is in the midst of an election - to suggest the
Netherlands should be at the G20 meeting.
'There have been discussions among sherpas about the invitation list,'
said Mr. Harper. "Let me just say this, to be clear. Prime Minister
Balkenende, I've been at many, many summits with Prime Minister
Balkenende - not just G20 summits, we were at the nuclear summit
recently in Washington. He is always one of the best informed and most
sensible people in the room when it comes to any of these discussions.
That's my view, but we will be making our decisions on that clearer in
the days to come."