Thursday, 6 January 2022

PM: Detailed Reports Requested After Dilemmas on Bradleys

ZAGREB, 6 Jan 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday commented on the procurement of Bradley US fighting vehicles, saying there had been dilemmas within the army's General Staff and the Defence Ministry, which was why he requested detailed reports from them.

Speaking to the press, Plenković said he had "initiated (a) detailed verification of what we can get, how much it costs, what the Croatian Army needs."

He said the procurement was a detailed process that began in 2017 and thereby Croatia was reinforcing its defence cooperation with the United States as well as its own army and contribution to NATO. Croatia is also strengthening its economy since part of the job will go to the Đuro Đaković company, he added.

Commenting on President Zoran Milanović's pressure to procure the Bradleys, the prime minister said, "Pressuring the government, which was the one to embark on this process, is a little ridiculous."

Plenković said he initiated a verification process over the past six weeks and that the General Staff and the Defence Ministry were consolidating their stand.

He said more consultations would be held. "We'll decide as we planned, but fully conscious that we have the key elements on the viability of that process."

Plenković said that as he understood it, the stand of the General Staff and the Defence Ministry was to procure the A2 ODS version of the Bradleys. This version is on the table, but together with the weaponry and everything which makes the vehicles good and useful, he added.

Commenting on today's record-high number of daily coronavirus cases in Croatia, Plenković said the fourth wave of the pandemic, dominated by the Delta variant, had merged with the wave in which Omicron is dominant. He said the number was as expected and reiterated that protection from the virus lay in vaccination and individual responsibility.

Asked if hospitality establishments would be required to close earlier, he said the national COVID-19 crisis management team had not yet considered that option.

Commenting on the opposition's collecting signatures for a vote of no confidence in Construction Minister Darko Horvat, Plenković said it would not pass. "We will reject this (initiative) too. The parliamentary majority is strong."

The prime minister also commented on the latest developments concerning Serbian tennis player Novak Đoković, who was denied entry to Australia, saying that everyone should comply with COVID regulations.

A journalist noted that Croatia changed the definition of close contact after Plenković met with Đoković after the 2020 Adria Tour in Zadar. After the tournament, Đoković tested positive for the virus.

Plenković said that story and the one regarding a religious procession on Hvar island, also from 2020, were "the stupidest and rudest theses in the media sphere when it comes to what is called, deliberately and in a politically orchestrated way, the inconsistency of the (COVID crisis management team)."

The prime minister also commented on the search for Matej Periš, a 27-year-old Croatian who went missing in Belgrade on 31 December, saying he was communicating with the relevant ministries on a daily basis and that they were communicating with the Serbian authorities.

"I have the impression we still don't have the whole picture," he said, adding that as prime minister he was interested in "getting the full story."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

PM Reports on Meeting with Defense Minister on US Bradley M2A2 ODS Offer

ZAGREB, 3 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in a Twitter post on Monday that a meeting was held with Defense Minister Mario Banožić and representatives of the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces regarding the US offer to equip the Croatian Army with the Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

"Meeting with Minister Banožić and representatives of the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces on the US government's offer to equip the Croatian Army with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. We want the investment to be good and sustainable in the long run for the Croatian Army," the PM said on Twitter on Monday afternoon.

The Defense Ministry said on its website on 28 December that Minister Banožić took part in a working meeting with PM Plenković and government members as well as Armed Forces officials focusing on further investment and modernization of the Croatian Army, with emphasis on the US Bradley M2A2 ODS offer.

The meeting underlined the government's commitment to strengthening all branches of the military for the sake of a successful response to defense and security challenges as well as achieving the highest security on land, at sea, and in the air.

Regarding the Bradley offer, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff were requested to provide additional explanations on the offer as a good long-term investment for the land forces, the Ministry said on 28 December.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Gov't Says Continuing Activities for Đuro Đaković's Long-Term Sustainability

ZAGREB, 3 Jan 2022 - The Croatian government will continue doing its best to help the Đuro Đaković company survive, and conditions are being created for the company's long-term sustainability with the support of a strategic partner from the Czech Republic, the government said in a statement on Monday.

The statement was issued following a meeting between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the leadership of the Slavonski Brod-based mechanical engineering company.

"At the meeting, both sides welcomed the European Commission's decision of late December 2021 to approve the program for Đuro Đaković's restructuring. The government had communicated intensively with EC officials and the EC's decision is a clear signal that the plan for the Đuro Đaković Group is viable," said the statement, released after talks between PM Plenković and Đuro Đaković Group Management Board member Pavel Maroušek, Đuro Đaković Special Vehicles Management Board chairman Danijel Marić, and Đuro Đaković Special Vehicles Management Board member Goran Matanić.

The statement quoted PM Plenković as saying that the government would continue doing its best to help the company survive and support restructuring activities.

"Following the stage when, with the government's support, the continuation of production and wages for the workers were ensured, we are entering a stage when conditions are being created for the long-term sustainability of Đuro Đaković, with the support of the strategic partner from the Czech Republic," Plenković said.

The Đuro Đaković officials presented the company's plans and production activities for the coming period.

PM Plenković said that the government would very soon give final approval of the program for Đuro Đaković and adopt other accompanying documents, thus creating conditions for an efficient restructuring process.

EC approved restructuring aid for Đuro Đaković in late 2021

On 22 December, the European Commission approved Croatia's plan to grant Ðuro Ðaković a total amount of €57.4 million in restructuring aid.

The measure will enable the company to finance its restructuring plan and restore its long-term viability with the support of a private investor, the consortium of Czech companies DD Acquisition, the Commission said.

On 8 May 2020, the Commission approved rescue aid to Đuro Đaković in the form of a Croatian state guarantee on a €40.31 million loan. The guarantee allowed the company to meet urgent liquidity needs and continue its activities while limiting distortions to competition until approval of the restructuring plan. At the time, Croatia committed to submit a restructuring plan for Đuro Đaković within six months following the first disbursement of the guaranteed funds.

Croatia submitted a restructuring plan and notified the Commission of its plans to grant restructuring aid to the company. The planned restructuring aid will take the form of a debt-to-equity swap and a guarantee on potential future commercial claims for a total amount of €57.4 million. The restructuring plan provides that a private investor, i.e. the consortium of Czech companies active in the same sector, “DD Acquisition”, will participate in a share capital increase with cash and in-kind contributions of approximately €64 million.

Following the capital increase, the new investor will become the controlling shareholder of Đuro Đaković and will support various aspects of its restructuring with cash and synergies, and contribute its experience and market knowledge.

The Commission found that the aid is necessary to ensure that Đuro Đaković will be viable long-term without the need for continued public support. This will also be ensured by the acquisition of control of the company by a private investor with core activities in the same industry.

The Commission also found that the aid is appropriate, as it supports a comprehensive restructuring plan running until the end of 2023, and proportionate, with an own contribution of over 50% of the restructuring costs provided by the company and the investor at market terms.

Compensatory measures, in particular the withdrawal of the company from the project engineering market through the liquidation of the subsidiary Ðuro Ðaković Industrial Solutions and the discontinuation of the production of three types of wagons, are provided to limit potential distortions of competition on the market for freight wagons where the company operates.

Đuro Đaković employs 733 people and has a diversified industrial portfolio including defense, transport, industry, and energy.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Highlights of Major Events in Croatia's Foreign Affairs in 2021

ZAGREB, 1 January 2021 - Entry into the U.S visa waiver program, French President Emmanuel Macron's visit, and the Rafale jets purchase deal, the fulfillment of the criteria for the Schengen Area, and diplomatic efforts to help solve the Bosnia and Herzegovina crisis are major features of Croatia's diplomacy in 2021.

In the year which will be remembered for global travel restrictions due to the COVID pandemic, Croatia entered the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which makes it possible for Croatians to travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes without visas, after obtaining approval via the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.

Croatia formally entered the VWP on 23 October, after meeting strict conditions.

For a country to enter the VWP, it must meet criteria regarding the fight against terrorism, law enforcement, immigration, document security, and border management, and the percentage of rejected visa applications must be below 3%, which Croatia met only recently.

EU says Croatia fulfills conditions for the application of Schengen acquis

On 9 December, EU member states agreed on the text of draft conclusions confirming that Croatia has fulfilled the necessary conditions for the application of the Schengen acquis, which paves the way for a final decision on accession to the area without internal border controls.

The final decision could be adopted in about six months during the French EU Presidency. It requires the consent of all Schengen member states.

Also, as of 1 January 2022, Croatian nationals will have the same status as citizens of other European Union member states on the Swiss labor market, which will provide fresh impetus to Croatian-Swiss relations, it was said at a meeting of the two countries foreign ministers in Bern on 23 November 2021.

Macron's visit, Rafale purchase

In 2021, Emmanuel Macron visited Croatia as the first French president to pay an official visit to Zagreb since the country gained independence.

During his stay in Zagreb on 25 November, a deal was signed on the purchase of 12 Dassault Rafale F3R used multipurpose fighter jets - ten single-seats and two two-seaters - for €999 million, to be paid in five installments from 2022 to 2026.

Macron said in Zagreb that he supported Croatia's entry into the passport-free Schengen Area and added that Croatia had implemented all the necessary reforms for its entry into the euro area.

The French head of state and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković signed a strategic partnership declaration.

In October, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited Zagreb as the first Spanish head of government to visit Croatia.

On 8 July, European Commission President Ursula von der Layen arrived in Zagreb to convey the Commission's approval for Croatia's recovery and resilience plan (NPOO), worth €6.3 billion, which could significantly boost the country's Gross Domestic Product and create 21,000 new jobs by 2026.

Under the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, Croatia has €6.3 billion in grants and 3.6 billion in favorable loans at its disposal.

On 6 July, Seychellois Foreign Minister Sylvester Radegonde arrived in Zagreb and opened an honorary consulate.

In September, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović was in Zagreb for an official visit and after his talks with his Croatian host, Zoran Milanović, Đukanović warned that "Serbian world" is a euphemism for Great Serbia policy.

Crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina

During their bilateral meetings with their counterparts in 2021, Croatia's diplomats raised the issue of the situation in the southeast of Europe, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia's diplomatic offensive was launched in 2021 ahead of the election year in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In October 2022, Bosnia and Herzegovina are due to hold general elections. Election reform is needed before that and negotiations on it are currently underway.

The Croats, one of the three constituent peoples in the country, want to avoid a repeat of the scenario in which Bosniaks actually elect senior officeholders who are supposed to represent the Croats, the least numerous constituent people.

The crisis is further deepened by the Serb representative in Bosnia's three-member presidency, Milorad Dodik, who is implementing "a creeping" secession of the country's Serb entity.

In March 2021, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister, Gordan Grlić Radman, outlined Croatia's non-paper for its southeastern neighbor. The paper, which was also supported by EU member-states Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, and Cyprus, highlights the importance of adhering to the principle of the three constituent peoples.

Throughout 2021, some of the political actors in Sarajevo accused Zagreb of trying to violate the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Željko Komšić, who sits on the BiH Presidency as the Croat representative although he won the post thanks to the votes of Bosniak voters, accused Zagreb of the construction of a gas pipeline under the River Sava to connect Slavonski Brod and Bosanski Brod in the Serb entity. Some politicians in Sarajevo also disapproved of Zagreb's decision to declare an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic.

In July, Zagreb Mufti Aziz Hasanović said that current bilateral relations between Croatia and Bosnia were worse than during the Croat-Bosniak conflict in the 1992-1995 war.

However, visiting Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Sarajevo on 13 December that the bonds between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are unbreakable and that Croatia remains Bosnia and Herzegovina's greatest friend and advocate in the European Union.

At the end of the year, on 19 December, President Zoran Milanović's visit to central Bosnia was canceled for security reasons against a background of discussions provoked by Milanović's comments on the application of the term genocide for the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995. Bosniak politicians bear a grudge against Milanović who in return calls them unitarianists.

The issue of protection of the status of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina has become another bone of contention between Milanović and Plenković, with Milanović resenting the government's failure to make sure the Council of the EU conclusions on enlargement incorporate the term "constituent peoples" in the Bosnia and Herzegovina section of the document.

Relations with Serbia

Tensions in relations between Zagreb and Belgrade traditionally become heightened in August when Croatia celebrates Victory Day in memory of the 1995 Operation Storm when Croatia's military and police forces liberated a majority of areas held by Serb rebels since 1992.

This year, things got worse in September when Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called on all Serbs to display the Serbian flag on Serbian Unity, Freedom, and National Flag Day, observed for the first time this year, on 15 September.

However, Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac called on ethnic Serbs to respect the laws in Croatia which ban the display of foreign countries' flags by individuals.

For us it was important to make it clear in which circumstances individuals in Croatia and individuals in Serbia could display flags of other countries. It is important for us that the Serbs in Croatia can be sure that they can display their ethnic flag on holidays concerning their institutions or on important holidays on official events, Pupovac said at the time.

Also, relations between the two countries were adversely affected by the decision of the city council in Subotica, where Vučić's Serb Progressive Party holds a majority, to declare the Bunjevci dialect an official language in that northern Serbian city despite opposition from the Croat community in Vojvodina and from Croatia.

The demand for declaring its speech an official language in Subotica was made by the Bunjevci community, which denies its Croat ethnic background.

The initiative was strongly opposed by the DSHV party of local Croats, the Croatian National Council in Serbia, the Croatian Language Institute, and other Croatian science institutions, and it prompted the Croatian Foreign Ministry to send two protest notes to Serbia.

They all say there is no legal basis for the initiative and that the Bunjevci speech is a dialect of the Croatian community in Vojvodina's northern region of Bačka and not a standard language.

Furthermore, in October Plenković asked Vučić to address the issue of Serbian grammar books that negate the existence of the Croatian language.

No progress has been made in the provision of information by Serbia about sites of mass graves from the 1991-95 war.

Relations with Slovenia at the highest level ever

Croatia's political leaders have underscored that the Zagreb-Ljubljana relations are at the highest level ever. Plenković and his Slovenian counterpart Janez Janša seem willing to settle all the bilateral issues.

The friendship between the two neighbors was evidenced by ceremonies held on 18 October when the two presidents, Milanović and Borut Pahor, unveiled a monument to a leader of the Croatian National Revival, Ljudevit Gaj, in Ljubljana and to a Slovenian poet, France Prešeren, in Zagreb's Bundek Park.

Croatia and Italy declared exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic, and they included Slovenia in the process.

In February, the Croatian parliament proclaimed an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic, giving Croatia additional rights in relation to the Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone declared in 2003 to build artificial islands and exploit the sea, wind, and currents in that zone in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Concerning Croatia-Hungary relations, the most important event was the ruling of Croatia's Supreme Court upholding the guilty verdict against Hungarian executive Zsolt Hernadi in a graft scandal implicating former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and business relations between MOL and INA. Croatia's Justice Minister Ivan Malenica expects Budapest to extradite Hernadi who was given two years for white-collar crimes.

Frictions in relations with Bulgaria and Austria

Milanović's criticism of how Bulgaria treats North Macedonia on its journey towards the European Union prompted the Bulgarian government to summon Croatia's ambassador in Sofia in mid-May.

Ambassador Jasna Ognjanovac was summoned at the request of Minister Svetlan Stoev, and was received by the Director-General for European Affairs, Rumen Alexandrov.

The reason for the meeting was Milanović's statement after a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process at Brdo Pri Kranju, in which he sharply criticized Bulgaria's policy towards the European integration of North Macedonia. Milanović warned that North Macedonia "is in an impossible position" and that one EU member state demanded that North Macedonia "define its national genesis in the way requested by the neighboring state" in history textbooks. He said that he would "openly oppose" that within his powers.

His statement was an allusion to Bulgaria, which is rejecting a negotiating framework for North Macedonia because, as Sofia claims, North Macedonian textbooks "revise and negate their common ethnic and linguistic history."

Milanović's comments on Austria's decision to lock down unvaccinated persons prompted Vienna to summon Croatian Ambassador Danijel Glunčić.

Glunčić declined to reveal details of the discussion but according to a statement from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Glunčić was called over "highly unusual statements by the Croatian president," which were "sharply rejected".

"Comparing the measures against the coronavirus pandemic to fascism is unacceptable. It is our responsibility to protect the citizens of Austria and we are acting accordingly," the Austrian ministry said, as quoted by APA news agency.

Austrian media quoted the Croatian president as saying after an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican that the Austrian decision to impose a lockdown on unvaccinated people was "reminiscent of the 1930s" and called it foolish. On 22 November, the Croatian President's foreign affairs advisor, Neven Pelicarić, held talks with Austrian Ambassador Josef Markus Wuketich. Earlier that day, President Milanović said in the town of Našice that he had apologized for his statement.

"I said that what was happening in Austria reminded me of fascism. I apologize," Milanović said in a statement to the press.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Milanović: Plenković Made Mistake for Not Blocking EU Council Conclusions

ZAGREB, 20 Dec 2021 - President Zoran Milanović believes that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković didn't make a mistake by going to Sarajevo but he should have used a mechanism at Croatia's disposal in Brussels to block the adoption of the conclusions by the Council of the EU concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Plenković didn't make a mistake by going to Sarajevo but he did make a mistake when he did not, consciously or intentionally, use the mechanism that Croatia has at its disposal in Brussels and that is to block the adoption of the conclusions that are in contradiction to Croatia's starting positions," Milanović said in a statement after attending a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Military Academy. 

Plenković visited Bosnia and Herzegovina last Monday. Several days later Milanović criticized the government's support to the Council's conclusions on enlargement because the final document does not mention the constituent states and the legitimate political representation of Croats in BiH. 

Today he said that the time has come to replace Croatia's Ambassador to Brussels, Irena Andrassy.

Milanović on Sunday canceled his visit to Travnik and Nova Bila, Bosnia and Herzegovina for security reasons, but today he would not discuss the security threats in question. He said he would visit Bosnia and Herzegovina some other time and that "no moral rabble-rousers would stop him."

"I cannot be friends with everyone, especially not with the unitarist clique in Sarajevo who are posing as patriots, and I will oppose them," Milanović said.

He said that the Serb member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Milorad Dodik, is provoking those people and that he can understand his behavior. "I understand such behavior, but I do not encourage it. Realistically, Dodik can do nothing to them. He doesn't have two long barrels, which is good in this situation. He is provoking them, but he is dealing with people who are professional liars who would rob an entire community, Croats in BiH. Well, that just won't go," said Milanović.

He criticized the Croatian government for not doing enough to protect the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government is ignoring its job and what it has at its disposal. Those are diplomatic measures to protect state interests, in this case, the Croats in BiH", said Milanović.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot exist without Croats. They are the smallest constituent group, but they tip the scales for the country's survival. If after all that a handful of unitary rabble-rousers, moral usurers don't like me, that's fine," Milanović said.

He said that nearly 200,000 Croats remained in the Lašva valley. "If you talk to them, they are more for BiH than the Croats in Herzegovina - naturally. We are talking about that political community. They are loyal to Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Milanović.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

European Council Points to Importance of Vaccination, Including Booster

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - EU leaders on Thursday underlined the importance of vaccination in the fight against COVID-19, including a booster shot given the worrying Omicron variant.

The vaccination of all and receiving a booster shot is crucial and urgently necessary, according to European Council conclusions on the pandemic.

EU heads of state or government said it is crucial to overcome the suspiciousness about vaccination and to fight vaccine disinformation.

As to travel restrictions, the European Council called for coordinated efforts to respond to the situation based on available scientific evidence, and for imposing travel restrictions based on objective criteria, without undermining the single market or disproportionately disrupting free movement within the EU.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told the press COVID certificates facilitated free movement this past summer and that this helped Croatia to record 90% of the numbers logged in the record tourism year 2019.

EU leaders called for the updated travel recommendations within the EU that the Commission published last month to be updated as soon as possible.

The Commission recommended a person-based approach, i.e. that a person with a valid digital COVID certificate should not be subjected to additional restrictions such as testing or quarantine.

Persons without a certificate could be required to get tested before or upon arrival.

The Commission also recommended that the certificates be valid nine months after the last vaccination.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Plenković Comments on Council Conclusions on Bosnia

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - The conclusions by the Council of the European Union concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina contain everything that is important for the Croats in that country, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday.

"Whenever the Dayton agreement is mentioned, that implies the constituent peoples. Any reference to Constitutional Court judgments implies the judgment in the Ljubić case, which concerns legitimate representation. All that is essential is in there, but one should have background knowledge and be able to decipher the conclusions, what they actually mean," Plenković told reporters in response to criticisms from President Zoran Milanović regarding the Council's conclusions on enlargement.

The prime minister said that these conclusions, adopted by EU ministers for European affairs on Tuesday, were much better for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina than those adopted at the NATO summit this summer when the Croatian delegation was headed by Milanović.

Milanović had threatened to block the adoption of the joint NATO declaration unless a reference was made to the Dayton agreement, constituent peoples, and electoral reform. Eventually, it was agreed to mention the Dayton agreement and the need for electoral reform.

Commenting on Milanović's claim that Croatia should block conclusions whenever it failed to have its views incorporated into them, Plenković said that this was done only in extreme cases. "Anyone well-versed in European topics will not do that. This is done only in extreme cases when there is no other way."

He said that Croatia knew how to protect its interests, as in the case of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that it was constructive towards its neighbor. "It is also a wise interlocutor who knows how to get what it wants through very complicated negotiations involving a lot of member states, without antagonizing all others."

Plenković said that the latest conclusions were not linked to ongoing talks on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are mediated by the United States and the European Union.

"We included everything of importance to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and sent strong messages," the PM said.

Milanović has criticized the Council's conclusions on enlargement and called out the Croatian government for supporting the conclusions because "they do not guarantee the rights of the Croats as a constituent people in Bosnia and Herzegovina," according to a press release from the President's Office.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

PM Condemns Attacks and Insults Against Healthcare Workers

ZAGREB, 15 Dec 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday condemned in the strongest terms attacks and the invective against healthcare workers, underscoring that COVID certificates were not anything special or any kind of restriction, but a tool used across Europe.

"Insulting healthcare workers is inappropriate and unacceptable... instead of expressing gratitude to them for their commitment, we can see insults that deserve to be strongly condemned."

On Tuesday evening, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković also deplored the aggressive behavior of some demonstrators at rallies against COVID certificates and vaccines.

Commenting on the latest COVID numbers in Croatia, PM Plenković said at the cabinet's meeting that although those numbers were falling, they were still high.

He reiterated his appeal for vaccination against coronavirus.

Pleković recalled that in the last two years, Croatia had implemented some of the easiest epidemiological restrictions in Europe, without long and strict lockdowns and curfews.

We conduct the struggle against the pandemic in the way we consider to be appropriate. Of course, we do not want to encroach on the human rights framework. The precondition for the protection of human rights is that citizens are well and alive, he said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Catholic and Islamic Dignitaries Thank Croatian PM for Help to BiH

ZAGREB, 13 Dec 2021 - The Catholic Archbishop of Sarajevo, Vinko Puljić, and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia's Islamic community, Husein Kavazović, thanked on Monday Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for the help his government had provided to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Croatian prime minister, who is on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, after a meeting with the country's executive and legislative authorities' officials, also met separately, behind closed doors, with the leaders of three major religious communities, including Cardinal Puljić, Reis Kavazović and the Bosnian prelate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Hrizostom Jević.

The Archdiocese of Sarajevo said in a press release that Cardinal Puljić informed Plenković and the ministers accompanying him of the state of affairs in the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina and underscored that after the last war, it was necessary to rebuild about 60 churches destroyed during the 1992-1995 the war. Croatia has significantly helped in the reconstruction and in many other projects.

Cardinal Puljić said that the help was valuable, and Plenković promised the continuation of support to the Archdiocese through the State Office for Croats Abroad.

He thanked the Cardinal for his reassuring messages so far, underscoring that his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina also aimed at alleviating tensions in that country. Plenković confirmed that as a member of the European Union and of NATO, Croatia was prepared to provide clear support to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the talks between Kavazović and the Croatian prime minister, the Riyaset of the Islamic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina said in a press release Kavazović thanked for the support the Croatian government was providing to Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the period of the current political crisis.

Kavazović recalled that the Islamic community in Croatia, led by Aziz Hasanović, who also took part in the meeting in Sarajevo, had a significant role in building good relations between the two countries.

Plenković thanked Mufti Hasanović for everything the Islamic community in Croatia was doing, promising the continuation of cooperation and assistance the country was providing to the Meshihat in Zagreb.

Participants of the talks agreed that the relations between the two countries, as well as the relations between Bosniaks and Croats, had to improve further.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Croatia PM: BiH Crisis Should Be Solved Through Agreement, Starting With Election Law

ZAGREB, 13 Dec 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday the crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be solved through talks and agreements based on the Dayton peace agreement which, he added, would defuse tensions and ensure equal rights for all its inhabitants.

He was speaking to the press in Sarajevo after meeting with the leaders of both houses of the BiH Parliament, including HDZ BiH party president Dragan Čović and SDA president Bakir Izetbegović.

Plenković said that as a friendly country with great respect for BiH, Croatia wants to advance cooperation through political dialogue in order to support reforms leading to EU membership and to help BiH catch up with its neighbors on the EU journey.

He said Croatia would like electoral law changes to satisfy all three constituent peoples and for Croats, as the smallest people, to be equal.

If such changes were made, Plenković said, the relations within the Federation entity would relax, and "the gentlemen's agreement between Bosniaks and Croats" would contribute to better relations with the Serbis and all government bodies would start functioning.

The European reform processes could resume as soon as the current crisis ended, he added.

Responsibility for such an agreement is solely on the political parties in BiH and its institutions, he said, adding that it is necessary to have a feeling for nuance and reality.

"Izetbegović understands that too. There are different models and solutions, but it's important to keep the letter and spirit of Dayton which, until 2006, was never in question," Plenković said, implying that the election of Željko Komšić to the BiH Presidency has undermined the substance of the peace agreement.

Responding to questions from the press, Plenković said that as far as he knew, EU bodies were not preparing to deploy European troops in BiH and that this was rather the stand of some MEPs.

The stand-in the EU is to condemn all actions leading to new tensions in BiH and that the Dayton agreement must be honored, he added.

It was Greens MEP Thomas Waitz who said in Sarajevo that the EU stood ready to deploy up to 6,000 troops in case the crisis escalated.

His colleague Romeo Franz, head of the European Parliament delegation on relations with BiH, said today this body was following with great concern the secessionist threats coming from the Bosnian Serb entity.

That poses a big danger to peace in BiH as well as all of Europe, he told the press after meeting with BiH MPs which was not attended by those from the Serb entity, who refuse to communicate with Greens representatives.

Franz said their group expects High Representative Christian Schmidt to react if necessary by using his broad powers, adding that he will insist in the European Parliament on urgent sanctions against all those in BiH who jeopardize its peace and stability.

After talks with representatives of the executive and legislative branches, the Croatian prime minister laid a wreath at the monument to the first victims of the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-1995 war.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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