President Meets with Croat Community in Macedonia

By 27 April 2018

ZAGREB, April 27, 2018 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović told the Croatian community in Macedonia on Thursday that Croatia would continue to help them exercise their rights.

"Today we have talked with Macedonian officials about you as well and we will continue these talks when it comes to the exercise of your rights, particularly the right to preserve your national heritage, language and culture," Grabar-Kitarović said during a meeting with representatives of the Croatian minority in Skopje, after meeting with President Gjorge Ivanov and Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi.

According to the 2002 census, 2,686 people in Macedonia identified themselves as ethnic Croats, but unofficial estimates put their number at 4,000. Most of them live in Bitola and Štip, but smaller groups also live in Kumanovo, Ohrid and Tetovo, the President's Office said.

Croatian language classes are taught in several Macedonian towns for about 70 students, and their number in the last four years has increased by 40 percent.

On the other hand, about 4,100 ethnic Macedonians live in Croatia, mostly in Zagreb, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County and Istria County.

Earlier in the day, during the meeting with Ivanov, Grabar-Kitarovic said that the minorities were a bridge connecting the two countries. She noted that the Macedonian minority is recognised by the Croatian constitution, has its representative in the national parliament, and Croatia financially supports the activities of Macedonian associations.

Ivanov said that by mentioning them in its constitution Croatia was the first country "to take the Macedonians into the European Union, which is great support that is rarely emphasised."

Grabar-Kitarović said she was pleased that the joint committee for the implementation of the agreement on the protection of the minorities, which Skopje and Zagreb signed in 2007, would soon hold its third meeting, expressing hope that concrete progress would be made.