Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Croatian PM and German Chancellor Talk EU Presidency, Economy, Tourist Season

ZAGREB, June 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the priorities of the presidency over the Council of the European Union and the reactivation of the economy and tourist season, during their video conference on Monday, the Croatian government stated.

Croatia is the current chair of the Council of the EU, and in the second half of 2020, Germany assumes the chairmanship.

Plenkovic outlined Croatia's plans for the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The German chancellor congratulated Croatia and the premier on the country's successful first presidency, against a backdrop of the unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the government says in its press release.

The virtual EU-Western Balkan Summit Meeting and the forthcoming EU-Eastern Partnership summit are gaining more prominence in such circumstances.

The two interlocutors also pointed to the satisfactory epidemiological developments in their respective countries, which will make it possible for their economies, including the tourist trade, to be reactivated along with gradual recovery of the air transport.

All that is supposed to lead to an increase of tourist arrivals this summer, which is seen as conducive to a faster economic recovery, read the government's press release.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Merkel, Plenković Hopeful About Progress on Aspirants' Entry Talks at Zagreb Summit

ZAGREB, January 17, 2020 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who on Thursday arrived in Berlin for a two-day visit, expressed hope that the EU-Western Balkan summit meeting in Zagreb would bring about progress in opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

The two officials discussed the coordination of activities pertaining to the presidency of the Council of the European Union considering the fact that Croatia is the current country-in-chair and Germany will be the next one in the second half of 2020.

Merkel and Plenković reiterated their commitment to finding solutions for the issues such as the exit of Great Britain from the European Union, the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework and a stalemate in the enlargement of the EU bloc.

After the meeting, Merkel said that the EU-Western Balkan summit meeting, set for May in Zagreb, "is a very important thing considering the problems in the opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania."

In late 2019, France, Denmark and the Netherlands vetoed the opening of the membership talks with those two candidates.

Plenković shared Merkel's optimism about progress to be made at the Zagreb summit meeting on 5-6 May.

The summit meeting will provide a realistic perspective on the relations between the EU and the countries in the neighbourhood so as to define a pace of the accession of the aspirants, said the Croatian premier.

Plenković emphasised the fact that his country and Germany have been fostering excellent relations for thirty years.

"Germany has been the most important partner in the political and economic fields for 30 years," he added.

In 2019, three million German holiday-makers visited Croatia and made over 21 million overnight stays.

He recalled that last year the two countries signed an action plan for boosting the bilateral relations. As a result, new economic projects are being implemented and one of them refers to the selection of Croatia as this year's partner country of the Green Week in Berlin, the world's biggest fair for food, agriculture and horticulture. The fair is taking place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds from 17 to 24 January.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Merkel Supports Croatia's Efforts in Protecting EU External Borders

ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 - The perspective of a country safeguarding the European Union's external borders differs from the perspective of member-states in the heart of the Schengen Area, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday in Zagreb, where she arrived for a European People's Party (EPP) congress.

During a news conference, Merkel defended Croatia against accusations that it was violating the rights of migrants.

Asked if Croatia should take over the presidency of the EU now that it was being accused of disrespect for the human rights of migrants at its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the German chancellor said that "the European Union lives off having different perspectives".

Things appear differently from the perspective of a country that is supposed to protect the external borders and from the perspective of a country in the centre of the European region, Merkel said after her bilateral meeting with Croatian Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković on the margins of the EPP congress in Zagreb's Arena sports hall.

Croatia, as a young country, can bring its experiences because its memory of the accession negotiations is still fresh, unlike Germany's memory, since its accession to the EU happened long ago, Merkel explained.

Croatia has done a lot to create the preconditions for its accession to the Schengen area and the European Commission has positively assessed those efforts, she recalled.

Germany has not yet discussed Croatia's Schengen membership bid. However, Merkel said that she would draw attention to all that has been done.

During Germany's chairmanship (in the second half of 2020), this will be on the agenda, said Merkel.

In the first half of 2020 Croatia will chair the EU and after that Germany will assume the rotating presidency.

In October, the European Commission confirmed that Croatia met the technical conditions to join Schengen and it is now on the European Council to make the final decision on Croatia's admission to this passport-free area.

Plenković told the news conference that it was not realistic to expect Croatia's admission to Schengen during Zagreb's presidency over the EU.

This, however, does not mean that at the operational level of working groups the Commission's report will not be discussed, Plenković explained. He also recalled that Bulgaria and Romania have been waiting for the green light for years.

Upon its presidency, Croatia will do its best to assure its European partners that it deserves to be part of the Schengen area, he added.

During its presidency over the EU, Croatia will also address the Union's enlargement to southeast Europe.

Plenković reiterated that the negotiating framework for the accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro includes mechanisms for a suspension of the negotiations.

Merkel said that it was regrettable that Albania and North Macedonia had not opened accession negotiations recently.

In this context, she supported the Croatian government's plans.

Plenković said Germany has always been a friend of Croatia which supported Zagreb in its efforts to accomplish strategic international goals.

Germany is Croatia's main trading partner and one of the biggest investors.

Also, some 395,000 Croat expatriates live in Germany. Merkel praised them for a good coexistence with local Germans, and recalled that a rising number of German tourists visit Croatia.

She believes that bilateral economic cooperation could be boosted.

Both Merkel and Plenković agreed that topics high on the agenda of the Croatian presidency would be the next stage of negotiations on Brexit, the EU's multi-annual budget for the 2021-2027 period, including the cohesion policy, the common agricultural policy and allocations for security, climate change, investment, education and development policies.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Did Angela Merkel Really Understand What Happened at HDZ Rally?

The German chancellor Angela Merkel, otherwise one of the most powerful people in the European Union, was recently in the Croatian capital of Zagreb at HDZ's pre-European election rally. HDZ is a party which divides opinion vastly among the public, with some loathing it more than anything and others loyal like dogs to it, its leader and its core values, regardless of whether or not the party actually sticks to them.

But, what exactly did Angela Merkel, a highly respected and intelligent political figure who has dominated both German and European politics for such a long time, think of HDZ's performance? The real question is, what did she really take away from it at all, or did the somewhat bizarre undercurrents manage to pass her by entirely? 

As Index/Davor Tomsic writes on the 19th of May, 2019, whether or not Merkel, from the vastly different (and vastly wealthier) Germany, truly grasped what was really going on at HDZ's recent gathering at Zagreb's Cibona is perhaps the most brutal question that could be posed right now, as it appears that HDZ decided to use their limelight in front of Europe's most powerful woman to drop any proverbial mask and show, let's say, a rather old face of the party.

HDZ is a topic as tired as any in Croatia, and the country and its populace have had more than enough time and equally as many chances to make up their own minds about HDZ over the past thirty years, and Plenković once again decided to reveal the true face of his party just before the European elections, and in front of no less than the German chancellor herself, who came to the party's pre-election gathering in the capital for the first time.

Why did Merkel choose to come in the first place?

Of all the countries where the European People's Party operates, the family of which, as HDZ love to state, both Merkel and Plenković proudly belong to, she decided to come to Croatia. It's still not clear why. It's true that HDZ, given the number of MPs it has in Croatia, has a very high percentage of EEP MEPs, but it's not very likely that this is the sole reason Merkel came to show her personal support to Plenković in Zagreb.

It is possible, however, that Plenković is very well respected in the EEP, but that doesn't quite seem to be the real reason for Merkel's arrival, either. Her reasons should probably be sought during the campaign for Manfred Weber, who was also present at the recent HDZ rally. The fact that Croatia is set to assume the rotating EU presidency for six months may have a lot to do with it all.

The reason for Merkel's arrival is certainly more to do with Andrej Plenković than anything else, to whom the whole European environment is a natural habitat. HDZ's main man is a loud and proud member of the European family and is generally seen as a modern European among his peers, as a diplomat deeply attached to European values. Merkel recently announced that this is to be her last term in office in Germany, but despite that decision, she's still probably the most powerful woman on the international political scene.

Despite being a very ''out and proud'' Europhile and a member of the very progressive EEP, just what did Plenković and his party choose to present to Merkel? Rather bizarrely, the Bleiburg tragedy, Thompson and Franjo Tuđman...

Although HDZ's European election program was entitled "Croatia for Generations"; which is supposed to suggest that the party's main focus is the future, it seems that at HDZ's mildly odd rally, there were more words said about the past than much else.

What might not be surprising to that party is the fact that Croatia has somehow managed to gain a massive 1687 new ex-defenders, a whole 24 years after the end of the Homeland War.

To make the matter even more absurd, a controversial topic of the past was openly discussed by HDZ's Karlo Ressler, a 29-year-old man who is present as a promising new face in the party. Ressler was born in no less than Bleiburg, the location of the infamous Bleiburg tragedy, for which a commemoration to murdered Croatian soldiers is held annually, which unfortunately tends to attract political symbols of the past, and which, most importantly of all, Austria has sought to ban.

Austria is a nation that Germany shares very many special ties with, and discussing something that the aforementioned country appears dead set on banning in front of the German chancellor might not have been the most well thought out approach. Germany is far from the horrors of the Second World War, and discussions about it don't seem to scream that HDZ is a party with its eyes on the prize - the future.

Ressler took to the stage and stated that the Bleiburg tragedy was one of the greatest tragedies of the Croatian people, receiving HDZ's ovations in response. Ressler was otherwise born 44 years after Bleiburg happened.

Next on the rather strange agenda was to play a bit of Thompson to Merkel at the rally in Zagreb. The controversial singer, regardless of personal opinions, is banned in half of Europe, and his concerts are banned in Germany of all places, but HDZ still decided to go ahead and blast out Lijepa li si for the German chancellor anyway.

If HDZ's message wasn't quite clear enough to everyone yet, the party leader made sure to confirm it all again, by going out onto the stage and literally screaming about it for around twenty minutes. Screaming about what you might ask? The past and Dr. Franjo Tuđman, I'd answer. He described HDZ's strength and even went as far as to discuss the party's ''enemies'', but refrained from naming them.

Let's not forget that among all of this, there was also a language barrier to deal with, too. Uncomfortable? Yes.

HDZ managed to glorify nationalism and Croatia's membership of the European Union at the same time, and while there were Croatian and HDZ flags galore, there was not one single EU flag to be seen.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.


Click here for the original article by Davor Tomsic for Index

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Merkel and Weber Participate in HDZ Election Rally

ZAGREB, May 19, 2019 - Addressing the main campaign rally of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in Zagreb on Saturday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European People's Party's (EPP) lead candidate for European Commission President, Manfred Weber, said that nationalism was an enemy that wanted to destroy the European Union, whereas patriotism was not against European values.

Our values are that we can be proud of our country - patriotism and the EU do not clash with each other. On the other hand, nationalism is an adversary that wants to destroy Europe and we must say that clearly, said Merkel at the rally which brought together 6,000 HDZ members and supporters in the Dražen Petrović Sports Hall.

Merkel said that the European Union was a project of peace, freedom and prosperity. "We in Germany now have 74 years of peace. You (in Croatia) had a war in the 1990s and you are aware what it means and why it is important to preserve this peace," she said.

And that can be accomplished only if the national cause is advocated on the one hand, while on the other hand we need to be able to put ourselves in other people's shoes and build bridges, the German chancellor said.

She wrapped up her speech in Croatian calling on voters to go to the polls for the EP elections and support the Europe of peace, freedom and prosperity. "Support the EPP and the HDZ, support Manfred Weber and Karlo Ressler," she said. Ressler is the top candidate of the HDZ slate in the 26 May elections for the new EP.

Weber said in his speech that "we love our countries, we are patriots, but we also believe in unity at the European level." Weber called for a response to nationalists and promised that nationalists would not be part of his majority in the future EP.

In his comment on a rally held in Milan earlier on Saturday, at which Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen addressed their supporters, Weber said that nationalist ideology in the past had caused a lot of tragedies and should be resisted.

Weber said that the EU was not only an economic alliance but also a community which shares values, underscoring that Christianity is a pillar of Europe. He said that while travelling across Europe he saw diversities of the continent, however he also noticed that in the centre of each town, city or village there was a church which, he added, signifies the Christian faith as a European foundation.

As for illegal migration, Weber said that each country had the right to decide who could pass through its territory and that such a decision should not be made by smugglers.

He also noted that after Athens he visited Zagreb which he described as an obvious and reasonable decision as Croatia was the newest EU member, describing Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković as a close friend.

Weber, who has served as leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament since 2014 and who is an official of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, congratulated Croatian football coach Niko Kovač for the success of Bayern Munich which won the Bundesliga championship under his leadership this season.

The HDZ's lead candidate for the European Parliament elections, Karlo Ressler, said he was confident that his party would score yet another convincing victory in the forthcoming elections. "The list of candidates that I lead is an alliance of several generations of the HDZ and several generations of Croatia. But we all work together and breathe as one," Ressler said.

He said that the HDZ's programme was forward-looking, aimed at growth, employment and security, and was promoting a safe and strong Croatia within a strong European Union. He said that young generations in Croatia today had the honour to fight for a better Croatia and prepare it for technological, social and political challenges.

Ressler said that patriotism today was proved with dedicated work and knowledge, citing the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, the construction and reconstruction of over 500 kindergartens, and the creation of over 96,000 jobs in the last three years. "That's what we do today and what we insist on," he said.

At the end, the rally was addressed by Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković. He called on all those present to support Weber as the EPP spitzenkandidat for President of the European Commission.

Plenković also mentioned successes of his government, including the budget surplus, better absorption of EU funding, and EU-funded projects such as the Pelješac Bridge and other infrastructure projects.

More news about the European elections can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Chancellor Merkel to Help Solve Slovenia-Croatia Border Dispute

ZAGREB, October 12, 2018 - After talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec in Berlin on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was willing to contribute to the resolution of the Slovenian-Croatian dispute over the border and the border arbitration decision.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Prime Minister Meets with German Chancellor Merkel

ZAGREB, August 28, 2018 - Croatia and Germany will soon sign an action plan on strengthening political, economic and cultural relations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the visiting Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Berlin on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Croatia Intensifying Relations with Germany

ZAGREB, August 28, 2018 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković arrived in Germany on Monday for a two-day visit and announced, addressing the Croat community at the Croatian Embassy in Berlin, an action plan for enhancing Croatian-German economic relations.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Plenković to Meet with German Chancellor Merkel and Diaspora in Berlin

This will be Plenković’s second visit to Berlin.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

President Speaks with German Chancellor Merkel

ZAGREB, March 17, 2018 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation on her fourth term as the head of the German government, Grabar-Kitarović's office said in a statement.

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