Friday, 14 June 2019

Croatian Foreign Minister Visiting Italy and Malta

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić visited Italy on Thursday and met with her counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the ministry said in a press release, adding that the two officials confirmed the good relations between the two countries and underlined the desire to further strengthen bilateral relations.

The ministers exchanged opinions on numerous regional, European and global issues of common interest such as the results of the European Parliament elections, the EU's new institutional framework, enlargement, the multiannual financial framework, Brexit, the protection of the EU's external borders, and the crisis of multilateralism.

The two ministers underlined the importance of the cooperation between the two countries within the Central European Initiative, whose chairmanship Italy took over from Croatia at the start of the year.

They also discussed Croatia's chairmanship of the Council of the EU next year, extending support for the European journey of Southeast European countries. It was said that Croatia will organise a summit on that topic in Zagreb.

Minister Pejčinović Burić also met with the Italian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

Earlier in the day, Minister Pejčinović Burić was on an official visit to Malta, where she met with her counterpart Carmelo Abela on Thursday to talk about global and regional topics and of improving the already good bilateral relations, her ministry said in a press release.

Pejčinović Burić and Maltese Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Minister Abela underscored the very good relations between the two countries, with the desire to intensify them, particularly in trade, culture, tourism and protection of the sea, according to the press release.

The two foreign ministers exchanged opinions on current global and regional topics, and topics related to the European Union, on a comprehensive approach to migrations, security issues, the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe.

They pointed out the need to intensify dialogue and the exchange of good practice and stances as part of Croatia's preparations for its chairmanship of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

One of the priorities of Croatia's chairmanship will be the European journey of Southeast Europe, which Malta too considers important, and in that regard, Croatia will organise a summit of the EU and Southeast Europe dedicated to that topic, the press release said.

During her visit Pejčinović Burić met with members of Malta's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Pejčinović Burić is a candidate for that organisation's secretary-general, along with Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will decide on the next secretary-general by secret ballot in Strasbourg on June 25, who will then step into office on October 1.

More foreign policy news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Rijeka and Trieste, 2020 Capitals of Culture and Science, Sign Cooperation Agreement

ZAGREB, May 14, 2019 - The Trieste International Foundation for Scientific Progress and Freedom, the University of Rijeka and the Rijeka 2020 company on Tuesday signed an agreement on cooperation that will culminate in 2020, when Rijeka will be the European capital of culture while Trieste will be the capital of science.

Stefano Fantoni, president of the Trieste foundation, Rijeka University Chancellor Snježana Prijić Samaržija and Rijeka 2020's director Emina Višnić signed the agreement.

Prijić Samaržija underlined that culture and science were being connected as part of a coincidence where two cities with a distance of only 70 kilometres between them become the centres of the most important events in Europe next year.

She added that the two towns had been cooperating for a long time in the fields of science and higher education and that the agreement signed today made that cooperation official.

We expect the two universities to continue sharing information and exchanging visits by their lecturers, she said.

Fantoni said that 2020 would be a very important year for this part of Europe, when all eyes in Europe would be on the two towns. That is our opportunity to show the enormous possibilities of this area, he said.

The two universities and two capitals in 2020 are connecting in a very good way, Višnić said.

Europe is at a turning point in its history, Višnić said, expressing confidence that culture, art and science can provide a framework for a new era for Europe following a period when focus was on economy and trade as a way of connecting EU countries.

More Rijeka news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tajani Apologises After Meeting Croatian and Slovenian MEPs

ZAGREB, February 13, 2019 - After a meeting with Croatian and Slovenian representatives of the European People's Party (EPP), European Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Wednesday apologised and expressed his deep regret over statements he made in Basovizza at a recent commemoration for the victims of the foibe, karst pits in Istria.

This afternoon I met with MEPs from Croatia and Slovenia who sent me a letter, I sincerely regret and I apologise for having used words that offended your citizens and were perceived as a form of a territorial claim. I assure you that was not my intention, nor my opinion about that issue, according to a statement by EP President Tajani.

My mentioning Istria and Dalmatia was about Istrians and Dalmatians, their children and grandchildren, many of whom attended the ceremony, Tajani said.

All forms of totalitarianism deserve full condemnation and victims of fascism, Nazism and communism should he treated with equal respect, Tajani said in his statement.

Following an outcry from Slovenian and Croatian politicians, he apologised on Monday saying his comment on the regions "was in no way a territorial claim".

Tajani's explanation that his statement in Basovizza where he mentioned "Italian Istria" and "Italian Dalmatia" was misinterpreted was not accepted by Croatian and Slovenian members of the European Parliament who said on Tuesday they would ask Tajani to retract his statement and announced the possibility of asking for his resignation less than three months before elections for the European Parliament.

Addressing the commemoration for WWII foibe (karst pits) victims in Basovizza near Trieste, Italy, this past Sunday, Tajani said "Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia." His statement caused public uproar in Croatia and Slovenia.

More news on the European Parliament and the latest controversy can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Croatian Officials Demand Apology from Tajani

ZAGREB, February 13, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Tuesday wrote to her Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella, dismissing as inappropriate and unacceptable European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's statement about "Italian Istria" and "Italian Dalmatia", and in a separate letter to Tajani she requested an "unambiguos apology".

Grabar-Kitarović on Monday commented on Tajani's statement, made at the Basovizza pit near Trieste this past Sunday, saying that the European Union was not founded on principles of revisionism and irredentism.

Addressing an event commemorating victims of the foibe, karst pits in Istria, Croatia, and part of northern Italy, into which the bodies of Italians, killed by Yugoslav Partisans in the aftermath of WWII, were dumped, Tajani said "Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia."

"I reject in the strongest terms and condemn attempts to change history and lay claims on Croatian territory," Grabar-Kitarović said in a press release on Monday, adding that she would notify Italian and EU institutions about this issue.

"I am deeply appalled and disappointed (...) as is the entire Croatian public, at the statement about the so-called 'Italian Istria' and 'Italian Dalmatia' the European Parliament President made at the commemoration for the foibe victims in Basovizza," the president wrote in the letter to Mattarella.

The statement is contrary not only to the spirit of good neighbourly relations between the two countries and international agreements, but unfortunately revives the spirit of expansionist policies that were the root of many evils in the 20th century, "which, to my knowledge, you, too, have condemned," Grabar-Kitarović says in the letter to Mattarella.

Croatia and Italy are two friendly neighbouring countries and allies sharing common EU values which Croatia wants to promote to the benefit of both nations and the entire EU, she says.

In her letter to Tajani, Grabar-Kitarović said that his words had personally insulted her because she came from a region which in the 1920s and 1930s and in World War II was affected by Italian fascist occupation and where traces of fascist crimes were still visible everywhere.

Any totalitarianism should be condemned and every victim of "fascist, Nazi and communist crimes" should be honoured, she said, expressing regret about all those who had to leave Croatia during and after WWII due to opposition to the communist regime.

That fate befell also many Croats, as well as members of other peoples, including Italians, she said, adding that with his statement, Tajani disregarded the historical context and insulted all Croatian citizens, notably those whose family members were killed during the fascist occupation of parts of Croatia.

Grabar-Kitarović added that Tajani's statement had also caused unease among members of the Italian ethnic minority in Croatia which she described as "a constructive stakeholder" in the Croatian society.

The Croatian and Slovenian members of the European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament wrote to Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Tuesday asking him to apologise and retract his statement about "Italian Istria and Italian Dalmatia" because it can be understood as a territorial claim and revisionism.

"Your statement from Basovizza, which we condemn, has unfortunately opened long healed wounds. Your statement can be understood as territorial pretensions as well as revisionism and unfortunately leaves no room for a different interpretation. We take note that you felt sorry but we expect your clear apology and withdrawal of your statement," the Croatian and Slovenian MEPs said in their letter.

Tajani addressed a memorial ceremony for Italian victims of the Second World War in Basovizza, near Trieste on Sunday, concluding his speech by saying: "Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia."

"Your statement has deeply offended the citizens of Croatia and Slovenia and it goes against the spirit of the duties you perform in your function as President of the European Parliament," the letter said.

The MEPs said that the victory over Fascism "is a civilizational fact, as is commemorating all the innocent victims," regardless of whether they were the victims of Communist or Fascist regimes.

"We believe that it is important from your side to remove any doubt as to the respect for the territorial integrity of Croatia and Slovenia. We therefore invite you, in the name of historical truth, to join us in marking the sites of crimes of all totalitarian regimes in Croatia and Slovenia as a warning that something like that should never happen again. Croatia and Slovenia are independent and sovereign states, while the Slovenian and Croatian regions in Istria and the Croatian regions in Dalmatia are regions with a long history," the letter said.

The MEPs said they were "committed to the continuation of friendly and good neighbourly relations between Slovenia, Croatia and Italy."

The letter was signed by the Croatian MEPs Dubravka Šuica, Ivana Maletić, Željana Zovko, Ivica Tolić and Marijana Petir, and the Slovenian MEPs Milan Zver, Franc Bogovič, Alojz Peterle, Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin.

More news about the relations between Croatia and Italy can be found in the Politics sections.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Italian Minority MP Criticises Tajani's Statement

ZAGREB, February 12, 2019 - The leader of the Italian minority in Croatia and deputy speaker of the Croatian parliament, Furio Radin, said on Tuesday he was surprised by the statement of the European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, about "Italian Istria and Dalmatia", adding that it was incompatible with the present time.

"Nowadays when all of us are members of the European Union, we should take friendship among nations seriously. I expected that Tajani's speech would have been in accordance with that, however, his rhetoric was the rhetoric from the past and not oriented towards the future," Radin said in his comment on Tajani's speech during Sunday's commemoration for WWII foibe (karst pits) victims in Basovizza near Trieste, when he said "Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia".

Tajani's speech was "the voice outside a great choir, and the voice was differently intoned". That speech "was an incident that occurred," Radin said in his statement to Hina.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, whose statement about "Italian Istria and Dalmatia" has caused public uproar in Slovenia and Croatia, has expressed willingness to visit the site of Risiera, a former five-storey brick compound in Trieste that served as a concentration camp for non-Italians during World War II, Slovenian media outlets reported on Tuesday.

The strong reactions in the two countries prompted Tajani to say that he was sorry to see that his statement was misinterpreted." My statements do not mean territorial claims in any way. I was talking about Italian-speaking Istrians and Dalmatians whose many sons and grandsons were present at the commemoration. The Italian, Croatian and Slovenian peoples and states have strong ties and I'm sorry if the meaning of my words was misinterpreted. I didn't intend to offend anyone. I wanted to send a message of peace to everyone so that what happened then doesn't happen ever again, Tajani said at the start of the plenary session of the European Parliament on Monday after Croatian MEPs Ivan Jakovčić and Ruža Tomašić asked for an explanation.

On Tuesday, Slovenian media reported that Tajani had expressed willingness to visit the Risiera compound in Trieste where thousands of Slovenians, Croats, Jews and Italian anti-fascists were killed in the last two years of WW II.

More news on the relations between Italy and Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Tajani: No Territorial Claims on Croatia and Slovenia

ZAGREB, February 12, 2019 - European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said at a plenary on Monday that in his statements in Basovizza, Italy on Sunday there were no territorial claims on Croatia and Slovenia and that he was sorry they were misinterpreted.

My statements do not mean territorial claims in any way. I was talking about Istrians and Dalmatians who speak Italian, whose many sons and grandsons were present at the commemoration. The Italian, Croatian and Slovenian peoples and states have strong ties and I'm sorry if the meaning of my words was misinterpreted. I didn't intend to offend anyone. I wanted to send a message of peace to everyone so that what happened then doesn't happen ever again, Tajani said at the start of the plenary after Croatian MEPs Ivan Jakovčić and Ruža Tomašić asked for an explanation.

Tajani said he was commemorating the victims on the Italian side as well as all the victims of that unfortunate period, Slovenians and Croats, and that he was talking in a historical context. Speaking of thousands of innocent victims, he underlined that it was not a matter of retaliation for the wrongs of fascism because, he said, among the Italian victims of unacceptable hatred, which was ideological, ethnic and social, there had been many who had nothing to do with the fascists and their persecutions.

With my presence, I wanted to remember thousands of victims, notably Italians, but also Croats and Slovenians, Tajani said, adding that in his address at Basovizza he wanted to highlight the path of peace and reconciliation between the Italian, Croatian and Slovenian peoples as well as their contribution to the European project.

By re-establishing the historical truth, it was possible to make a turnaround in the relations between Italy, Croatia and Slovenia, countries bound by a firm friendship today, Tajani said, adding that lasting peace between former enemies was the best example of how the EU was a success story.

During Sunday's commemoration for WWII foibe (karst pits) victims in Basovizza near Trieste, Tajani said "Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia".

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday he had rung European Parliament President Antonio Tajani over his controversial statement about "Italian Istria and Italian Dalmatia" and told him that Croatia was extremely displeased with it and wanted an explanation.

Plenković condemned the statement in the strongest terms, saying it "has elements of territorial claims and revisionism" and that the government and his HDZ party were against it in the strongest terms. The HDZ is part of the European People's Party like Forza Italia, the party in which Tajani is a key figure.

"I spoke to Tajani today. I told him we were extremely displeased with such a statement, which is inappropriate, and we requested an explanation," Plenković said, adding that he expected Tajani to issue a statement on the matter.

"The Croatian government and the HDZ will always strongly oppose any statements which could have either territorial or revisionist pretensions," Plenković said, adding that he had not expected such a statement from Tajani, with "whom I've had a very good relationship in every possible cooperation situation."

"We've known each other very well for six years now and there's never been even the smallest hint of such a position, nor could it have been guessed," said Plenković.

"I don't want to justify him at all, it's very important that you understand that. However, putting into context the event at which this happened, in Basovizza, with the heirs of the people who left Croatian territory as well as the defendants of those whose lives, unfortunately, ended in the foibe, he was addressing them. But this doesn't exculpate him in any way from formulations which in Croatia, to all political stakeholders, I believe, especially the government, me personally and the HDZ, are absolutely unacceptable, and we made it very clear to him."

Plenković said Tajani's statement about "Italian Istria" and "Italian Dalmatia" left no other interpretation other than one of revisionism, adding that he assumed Tajani would say in his explanation that he meant the people he was addressing, not the territory, and that he told him so.

The leader of Croatia's strongest opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP), Davor Bernardić, said on Monday that the idea that Istria and Dalmatia were Italian was "a basic idea of fascism" which had been fought against by Croatian antifascists in the Second World War.

The Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) and the SDP's Pula branch expressed regret that "the fate of this region is again being manipulated by people who do not live in Istria and Dalmatia."

"At a time that called for resistance to fascism as the common enemy, the people of Istria uncompromisingly joined the victorious side regardless of their Slovenian, Italian or Croatian background. What gives Mr Tajani, and his ilk, the right to use historical revisionism, which is not in the spirit of the European acquis communautaire and our values, to reopen divisions in this region where antifascism and convivenza (co-existence) are the foundations of today's society, the society of the 21st century," the SDP said.

"Unfortunately, statements like this are nothing but the consequence of an irresponsible policy, both in Europe and in Croatia, because they did not promptly respond to historical revisionism but are testing the limits of democracy and freedom of speech for the purpose of getting cheap votes," it added.

The SDP said it was particularly worrying that messages like this came from a person who was supposed to promote European values, wondering: "In what direction is the European People's Party group, of which the (ruling Croatian party) HDZ and Mr Tajani are members and which has a majority in the European Parliament, heading?"

The head of Istria County, Valter Felgo, said: "I condemn in the strongest terms such unreasonable and insane statements. Tajani is the current President of the European Parliament and as such he must respect historical facts, state borders and achievements on which the European Union is founded. To make such a statement in his capacity as European Parliament President is dangerous and disgraceful."

Flego said that Istria would never allow such statements to upset the co-existence of different ethnic groups that has been built for decades. "We have put in a lot of effort so that Istria can become a bilingual and multicultural region. Such brazen provocations cannot jeopardise this," Flego told Hina.

The IDS said that promoting the ideas of fascism was frightening, adding that their message to "all promoters of such ideas and ideologies is: no pasaran!"

Tajani's statement was also condemned by the SDP mayor of Rijeka, Vojko Obersnel, and the HDZ head of Split-Dalmatia County, Blaženko Boban, who said that "Dalmatia is a cradle of Croatianism ... and will forever be an indivisible region."

More news on the relations between Italy and Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Statements about "Italian" Istria and Dalmatia Raise Concern

ZAGREB, February 11, 2019 - The Croatian Parliament Deputy Speaker and vice president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Milijan Brkić, on Monday condemned a revisionist statement by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani about “Italian” Istria and Dalmatia, saying "God forbid Italians should care about Dalmatia and Istria the way fascists cared about the Croat people in Dalmatia and Istria."

"The Croatian people is very familiar with the fate that befell us in World War II and God forbid that Italians should care about Dalmatia and Istria the way fascists cared about the Croat people in Dalmatia and Istria," Brkić told a press before a meeting of the HDZ presidency and the National Council when asked to comment on Tajani's statement.

Brkić said Tajani should "sell those ideas of his somewhere else because no-one in Croatia will buy them."

"This is the Croatian state, a lot of blood was spilled for it. It was created in the Homeland War, and Croatian veterans and its people will most definitely not allow that," Brkić said.

Tajani spoke at an event commemorating foibe victims in Bosovizza.

Foibe are karst pits in Istria, Croatia and part of northern Italy into which the bodies of Italians, killed by the Partisans at the end and after WWII, were dumped. Italy remembers the victims on February 10.

Tajani reportedly said, "Long live Italian Istria! Long live Italian Dalmatia!"

More news on the relations between Croatia and Italy can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Italian Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro to Visit Zagreb

ZAGREB, February 4, 2019 - A famous Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, an Oscar award winner who has worked with distinguished film directors including Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola, Warren Beatty, Woody Allen and Dario Argento will be visiting Zagreb on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Academy of Dramatic Art (ADU) said on Monday.

Storaro will hold a masterclass lecture on Wednesday at the F22 ADU hall for students, professors and interested public.

On Tuesday he will make an introductory speech in the Europa cinema as part of a cinema lecture programme dedicated to film classics ahead of a screening of the 1970 film, The Conformist.

Storaro's visit to Zagreb is being organised by the Italian Cultural Institute in cooperation with the Academy of Dramatic Art and Europa Cinema.

Vittorio Storaro was born in Rome in 1940 and was actively involved in photography from an early age. In 1956 he enrolled in the Experimental Film Centre as the youngest student in his generation.

This cinematographer has won several awards. He is a three-times Oscar winner - Apocalypse Now (1980), Reds (1981) and The Last Emperor (1988).

More news on the film and arts in Croatia in general can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Will Recession in Italy and Problems in Germany Spread to Croatia?

Italy has sunk into a recession, which has been confirmed by the latest statistics on the economic trends of Croatia’s largest export partner. In the last three months of 2018, the economy sank 0.2 percent, while the quarter earlier it dropped 0.1 percent over the same period of 2017. Although it might seem to be a mild recession, the Italian government expects the deepening of the crisis later this year. The recession in Italy will negatively affect Croatian exports and is undoubtedly a source of risk for Croatian economy that should not be ignored, reports Večernji List on February 3, 2019.

Italian economists say that the decline of the GDP was a consequence of a fall in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and industry, but that so far there is no indication of a reduction in consumption by citizens, which is crucial for Croatia. The latest figures from Italy in December even gave a hint that the economy might accelerate, but the decline in production and orders was too significant for the recession in Italy to be avoided.

From January to October 2018, Croatian entrepreneurs exported to Italy 12.9 billion kuna worth of goods, increasing the value of exports to the country by 10 percent. At the same time, Croatia imported 19.5 billion kuna worth of products, which was also an increase of 10 percent compared to the previous year.

The recession in Italy has not yet spilled over to Croatia, but if the Italian government's expectations come true, the orders could fall this year.

Another issue is that the German Ministry of Economy has revised its growth forecasts for 2019, from 1.8 percent to just 1 percent. That is the lowest growth rate of Germany in the last six years, but also a very conservative forecast inspired by the fear of the consequences of Brexit. For the time being, everything is stable in Germany, so the country has again recorded exceptionally low unemployment. What is essential for Croatia is that the Germans expect growth of imports as well as of the consumption of citizens, so it is possible that the slowdown in Germany could pass without significant consequences for Croatia.

Croatia’s exports to Germany grew by about 13 percent last year, but the trade balance is still unfavorable since Croatia exports just 12 billion kuna while at the same time importing 22.5 billion kuna worth of goods and services from Germany.

The trends in Germany and Italy should be a warning sign for Croatia, especially concerning public finance planning. Since the slowdown of growth is noticeable at a global level as well, this is the time for savings and cuts, and not for brisk spending, given that external and internal risks threaten to derail Croatia’s 2.8 percent growth plans for this year.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Marina Šunjerga).

More news on Croatia’s economy can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Croatia and Italy Discuss Respective Minority Protections

ZAGREB, November 16, 2018 - Italy is satisfied with the status of the Italian minority in Croatia, while the Croatian minority in Italy still needs help in preserving its identity, Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and his Italian counterpart Maria Elisabeta Alberti Casellati said in Rome on Thursday while discussing minority protections, the Croatian Parliament said in a press release.

Meeting with Casellati, Jandroković began a visit to Italy. Croatia wants to strengthen parliamentary cooperation with its western neighbour.

The two speakers also talked about improving the status of the Croatian minority in Italy, in the Molise and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, and the need for further support from the two countries so the minority can nurture its cultural and language identity.

Casellati said she was satisfied with the Italian minority's status in Croatia, adding that the minorities were a bridge between the two countries.

She and Jandroković also talked about the need to advance the European migrant policy and about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jandroković voiced concern about the situation after last month's general elections in BiH and the status of Bosnian Croats.

Jandroković on Thursday visited the Croatian church of St Jerome and the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome, a Catholic college, church and a society in the city of Rome intended for the schooling of Croatian clerics.

After meeting rector Bože Radoš and Croatian priests, Jandroković said that the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome had a great spiritual and cultural meaning for the entire Croatian people and that through the history, the institution witnessed the connection between Croats and the Holy Father, the Vatican and the Catholic faith, the parliament's public relations office said in a press release.

Radoš briefed Jandroković of the activities of the Croat community in Rome and the activities of the college which is currently the home to 2 priests studying at various pontifical universities.

For more on Croatia’s relations with Italy, click here.

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