Thursday, 2 September 2021

Croatian Defence Minister Attends EU Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan

ZAGREB, 2 Sept 2021 - Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Thursday took part in an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, which focused on the situation in Afghanistan, the Croatian ministry said.

Banožić said at the meeting that lessons learned in Afghanistan should be applied in the common security and defence policy so as not to repeat the same mistakes.

"In cooperation with our partners, we must focus on the prevention of a humanitarian disaster in the form of uncontrolled migrations and make sure Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorist organizations," he said.

As for the EU's operational engagement, Banožić said that support to partners in the Sahel, Libya, and the EU's immediate neighborhood was unquestionable but that at the same time one should make it clear that the partners were expected to implement the necessary political and security reforms.

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Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Božinović Says EU Should Prevent Mass Migration From Afghanistan

ZAGREB, 31 Aug, 2021 - The European Union should adopt a common position on preventing large migrant waves from Afghanistan, which does not exclude humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups in that country, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in Brussels on Tuesday.

"I hope we will take a common position that would place emphasis on the fact that ultimately our goal is to prevent massive, large migrant waves. Croatia certainly holds that position," Božinović told reporters ahead of an extraordinary meeting of European home affairs ministers on Afghanistan.

"Of course, that doesn't exclude humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups, women, girls, children and those who worked for European institutions in Afghanistan," Božinović added.

EU home affairs ministers will discuss the situation in that country, which is again under the Taliban rule, and the possible consequences for the EU.

European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas stressed that the EU should use the Afghanistan crisis to finally agree on a common migration and asylum policy based on the Commission's proposals.

Now is the time for a political agreement on the migration pact, Schinas said upon arriving at the meeting.

The ministers are expected to issue a joint statement in which they will express determination to prevent illegal migrant waves and uncontrolled arrival of migrants from Afghanistan to the Union's external borders in order to prevent a recurrence of the 2015 migrant crisis.

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Sunday, 29 August 2021

Croatia Takes in 19 Afghan Nationals

ZAGREB, 29 Aug, 2021 - Nineteen Afghan nationals, who worked as support staff for the European Union Delegation in Kabul, arrived at Zagreb Airport on Saturday, the Croatian Ministry of the Interior has reported.

The 19-member group consists of three families with children and a single.

They have all said that they intend to apply for international protection in Croatia, the ministry said.

The Afghan nationals had all been vetted prior to their employment with the EU Delegation.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) has called on EU members to take in EU staff from Afghanistan, around 500 Afghan nationals, mostly interpreters, logistics staff and their families.

Croatia has responded to the appeal, deciding to accept 20 persons whose lives and security are threatened by the restoration of the Taliban regime.

The ministry's immigration service is now in charge of the Afghan nationals.

Since the group includes as many as ten minors, it will be accommodated at a ministry facility for vulnerable groups.

The ministry said that it would not provide further information on the immigrants for the sake of their security.

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Thursday, 26 August 2021

Croatian Ambassador: Danger in Afghanistan Increases Every Day

ZAGREB, 26 Aug 2021 - The Croatian Ambassador to Turkey, Hrvoje Cvitanović, who also covers Afghanistan, said in Zagreb on Thursday, that the situation in Afghanistan was getting more dangerous by the day, and believes that there is a threat of terrorist attacks.

Cvitanović, who was attending a conference of Croatian diplomats in Zagreb, said that earlier in the day, there was an attack outside Kabul Airport and three people had died.

We still do not know who is behind the incident, he added,

The situation is more than complicated, and it is changing not by the hour but by the minute, the ambassador explained.

An estimated 30,000 people are around and within Kabul Airport, and he believes that there is a threat of terrorist attacks.

The governments of the USA, Australia, and the U.K. warn their citizens to avoid traveling to the airport in the Afghan capital as they fear that imminent, lethal attacks could be about to take place at Kabul airport.

There are no more Croatian nationals in Afghanistan and the embassy in Ankara is in contact with Croatians in neighboring countries.

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Sunday, 22 August 2021

President: No Mistake in Strategy in Afghanistan, but in Planning and Executing

ZAGREB, 22 Aug, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said in Barban on Sunday that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was not contentious, but mistakes were made in planning the exit from that country and evacuating Afghan associates of the international forces.

"This is not a mistake of the strategy, but a mistake of planning and executing. It's been known for quite some time that (the United States) was leaving Afghanistan, Biden inherited what Trump left, and he too was in favour of withdrawing," Milanović said, recalling that Croatia withdrew from Afghanistan over a year ago.

"I said in my election campaign that as the army supreme commander I would do that, the government did not object. It was clear that this needed to be wrapped up. I had the privilege of being one of those at the farewell ceremony for our soldiers in 2003 and in the end, the person who decided to end Croatia's involvement in Afghanistan," Milanović said.

Asked if Croatia should receive Afghan refugees, Milanović said that in his opinion refugees should go to the biggest countries.

"All of them should find their place in the United States. We can symbolically receive a small number of people. It is no longer 2015," Milanovic said.

He said he would always accept a small number of people. "This is why I don't understand and I cannot accept when someone says that we should accept noone. We need to be humane but also have our interests in mind;" the president said in Barban where he attended the 46th edition of the Prstenac tournament.

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Wednesday, 18 August 2021

FM: Croatia to Accept 20 Afghans Who Worked for EU Delegation

ZAGREB, 18 Aug 2021 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday that 20 Afghan citizens who had worked for the EU Delegation in their country would be accepted by Croatia.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) has called on the EU member-states to take in EU staff from Afghanistan, that is, about 500 local residents who worked as interpreters and logistic support providers and their family members.

Grlić Radman said that 20 would be allocated to Croatia.

"They provided support to our (NATO-led) forces and it is our duty to protect them," he said.

They were vetted and tested for employment (in EU institutions), they are highly educated. They are not irregular, undocumented migrants but persons known to our institutions, the minister added.

After the Taliban rapidly took control over the whole of Afghanistan immediately upon the withdrawal of NATO troops, many countries are now trying to pull out their diplomats and Afghans who worked for their embassies in that Asian country. 

Until Tuesday, all the 26 Croatians who had been in Afghanistan were evacuated, and the minister today thanked the Ukrainian, U.S., British and German authorities for assistance in their evacuation.

Croatia to follow EU policy on the Taliban

Grlić Radman, who attended an informal online meeting of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday, said that he had emphasized the importance of protecting human rights, primarily the rights of women and girls, as well as the safety of all EU citizens and local staff that used to work for the EU Delegation, so they would not be the targets of Taliban retaliation.

After nearly 20 years, the transformation of Afghan society has failed, he said.

He recalled that Croatia had participated in 70 bilateral projects, including the establishment of a school for midwives in Afghanistan.

That contribution should not go unnoticed, he said.

The minister told the press that Zagreb would follow the agreement of EU member-states on the topic of international recognition of the new regime in Kabul.

Tuesday's informal meeting also focused on a possible new migrant tide after the establishment of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

In order to prevent a new wave of migrants, it is important to have communication with the Taliban, with third countries and Afghanistan's neighbors that are expected to share the burden of a possible migrant wave, the minister said.

"If the Taliban show and prove that they are ready to respect the rule of law and human rights, it will definitely be an opportunity to establish cooperation," said Grlić Radman.

He added that Croatia did not want a recurrence of the situation in 2015 and 2016.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

SDP Chief Says Croatia Should Receive Afghan Refugees

ZAGREB, 18 Aug 2021 -  Social Democratic Party (SDP) president Peđa Grbin said on Tuesday his party advocated that Croatia receives Afghan refugees.                                                                    

Croatia should accept Afghan refugees, notably women, for several reasons. First of all, it is a matter of solidarity. Second of all, Croatia had taken part in a mission in Afghanistan. The most important question is whether the departure of refugees from Afghanistan is going to be organized or is 2015 going to happen all over again, Grbin said.

The SDP chief added that in 20 years, the international community failed to do anything in Afghanistan.

Addressing reporters after a 4-hour session of the party presidency, which focused on the dissolution of party city organization in Zagreb and Slavonski Brod, Grbin said the presidency had decided these processes were over and that they had been conducted in accordance with the SDP statute and party regulations.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Možemo! Party: Croatia Should Secure Int'l Protection For Afghan Refugees

ZAGREB, 17 Aug, 2021 - The Možemo! political party said on Tuesday that Croatia should secure the evacuation of its citizens and support the international protection for refugees from Afghanistan, as should all NATO member states who have deployed their military forces in that Asian country.

"Given that it was militarily present in Afghanistan, a share of the responsibility lays on our country as well. But regardless, now we cannot turn our backs to all those citizens of Afghanistan who have tried to build Afghanistan as a democracy," this left-wing Opposition party writes on its Facebook wall.

The  party insists the least Croatia can do right now is secure the evacuation of Croatian citizens from Afghanistan and international protection for Afghan refugees, as should all NATO members states who have been sending their forces to Afghanistan, but also other countries willing to help people seeking international protection.

The party recalls that nearly 20 years ago, Western allies decided to launch a military intervention in Afghanistan to destroy the Al-Queda terrorist network and bring democracy to that country. After that, military interventions followed in Iraq, Libya, Syria, "often with suspicious motives and false evidence",  the We Can says.

"All these interventions have failed -- they have brought more problems than they have solved. Many human lives were lost, many families have been displaced, societies and cultural heritage ruined, economies devastated." the platform said.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Foreign Ministry: Eight Croats Evacuated from Afghanistan

ZAGREB, 16 Aug 2021 - A total of eight Croatian citizens have been evacuated from Afghanistan and the return of other Croatians from Kabul is expected later today and over the next few days, the Croatian Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Monday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter earlier today that Ukrainian aircraft stationed in Afghanistan took citizens of Ukraine, the Netherlands, Croatia, Belarus, Afghanistan out of Kabul. He, however, did not specify the number of passengers on board.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Ukrainian plane evacuated one Croat.

"The Croatian Foreign and European Affairs is using this opportunity to thank the Ukrainian authorities for enabling the return of the Croatian citizen, as well as the European Union and international partners who are helping in the repatriation of the remaining Croatian citizens from Afghanistan," read the press release.

There were approximately 30 Croatian citizens in Afghanistan, mostly employees of foreign organizations.

The Taliban declared the end of the war and took over Afghanistan's capital on Sunday after the government collapsed. Foreign countries, led by the United States, have started evacuating their citizens from Kabul.

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Sunday, 15 August 2021

Plenković: Repatriation of Croatians From Afghanistan Organised

ZAGREB, 15 Aug, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday there were 20 to 30 Croatian nationals in Afghanistan and that their employers had organised their repatriation.

Speaking to the press after attending a Feast of the Assumption of Mary Mass in Rijeka, he said all services were involved with regard to the Croatian nationals in Afghanistan and that Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman was in daily contact with them.

Plenković said most of those people were working as part of various international engagements and arrangements.

He said that after so many years, the Afghan authorities did not make it independently for long and that there was a sort of disorganisation now, but that it was good that there did not seem to be many casualties. "In any case, it's not good that the Afghan authorities have been so fragile after the withdrawal of international forces."

Asked about "the U.S. president's withdrawal from Afghanistan," Plenković said it was not only him. "He entered a process that... had begun before," he said, adding that "the Croatian army withdrew almost a year ago... and some other states decided to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan."

"That attempt to build a state in such a society, so divided, often tribally organised, evidently failed and it's a lesson we will have to consider well on the international level," Plenković said.

"In relation to what was attempted, I think the intention was good, but after 19 years it was evidently time to see if the Afghan authorities, after so much investment, training, attempting to build a state, could keep that state functioning, but that didn't happen, unfortunately."

Consultations on new Supreme Court president candidate next week

Asked if he had reached an agreement with President Zoran Milanović on a new candidate for Supreme Court president, Plenković said that first the Court's General Convention had to take a position on the candidates, after which it was the turn of the parliamentary judiciary committee.

He said neither the ruling HDZ party nor the parliamentary majority had held consultations on the matter due to the summer holidays and that this topic would be on the agenda next week.

We won't pay someone to get vaccinated

Speaking of the COVID situation, Plenković said the most important thing was for Croatia to remain in the orange zone and that he was confident it would.

He said infection was spreading because of the many tourists in the country but that compared with other countries, Croatia was doing quite well.

He again called on everyone to get vaccinated, saying that over 50% of the population were still unvaccinated and that they were a reservoir from which the virus spread.

As for the coming school year, Plenković said it was necessary to be as disciplined as possible for the safety of students and their families.

He said the government did not have a new plan to speed up vaccination because there were enough doses and he talked about it in every public address. "We certainly won't pay someone to get vaccinated," he said.

The vaccination rate will not exceed 60% "for I don't know how many more months," he said. "The autumn will be as we make it."

Asked about Slovenia's requirement that people in transit be tested for COVID, Plenković said every country would somehow filter people returning from abroad ahead of the school year.

Asked about Croatia's restrictions for the autumn, he said that if they were lifted, so would the job-retention payments, reiterating that Croatia's restrictions had been "normal, reasonable... without a curfew."

He also said the Safe Stay in Croatia scheme had been received well and that plenty of tourists were expected in the next six weeks.

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