Friday, 24 May 2019

Ambassador Calls for Lifting of Sanctions against Russia

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - Russia is not a threat to the European Union and the most important task of Russia's foreign policy is to renew relations with the EU and the United States, Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov said in Zagreb on Thursday, calling for lifting of sanctions against Russia and strengthening of Russia-Croatia relations.

In response to the annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of the neighbouring Ukraine, the EU imposed restrictive measures against the Russian Federation in March 2014. "Sanctions imposed against Russia are non-productive and the European Union is losing the most as a result," Azimov said during a talk he gave on Russia's foreign policy and Russia-Croatia relations. The event was organised by the Croatian Diplomatic Club.

Azimov reminded that Europe still depended on Russian gas, including Croatia which last year imported over two billion cubic metres of gas from Russia.

Azimov also said Russia was a close partner of the EU, adding that efforts were being made to lift sanctions and open dialogue with the bloc regarding a visa-free regime. The ambassador is confident that a visa-free regime would lead to a higher number of Russian tourists in Croatia. "Russia is not a threat to the European Union, but there is a lack of political will to advance relations," Azimov said.

Commenting on Croatia-Russia relations, Azimov said they should be even better. The two countries' trade amounts to approximately two billion euros and Azimov is confident the trade should be at least three billion euros.

He also said there was no alternative to the drawing closer of the European Union and Russia, adding that this "is a natural and logical process."

Also present during Azimov speech was Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić who said that as a sign of friendship with Russia, Zagreb would organise Moscow Day in June and Saint Petersburg Day in September.

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

Friday, 17 May 2019

Russian Art Collection in Zagreb: Putin to Seek Paintings Worth Millions?

Russian diplomats in Zagreb are preparing for the first official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Croatia, which could be organised next year. Putin and Croatian officials would undoubtedly have a number of important topics to discuss: gasification, Agrokor, Russian investments in Croatian companies, hotels, trade exchange, Ukrainian issue etc. But, according to the latest edition of the Express magazine, the question of paintings by Russian artist Nicholas Roerich (born as Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh) could also be in focus, reports 24sata.hr on May 17, 2019.

The issue includes the possible return of ten of his valuable paintings that have been held by the Modern Gallery in Zagreb for more than 85 years. Russian Ambassador Azimov has opened the issue of giving these paintings to Russia, the country which Roerich left in 1917 and never came back. Although the paintings are well taken care of by the Modern Gallery, Ambassador Azimov said Russia would ask for them because there “would be more interest for them there.”

Before the return of the works, it is necessary to determine the ownership, which is why the Russian Embassy has opened talks with the Croatian Ministry of Culture. “We have held talks with representatives of the ministry and the museum. They are ready to discuss this issue constructively, but it also raises the question of whether there are any documents that the Russian side can present to prove its ownership of the paintings. We believe that the extensive correspondence between Roerich, his assistants and the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences from the early 1930s exists in the archives in Belgrade,” Azimov told the Russian news agency TASS.

The Culture Ministry also issued a statement. “The handover of paintings between the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts and the founder of the Modern Gallery, the Croatian Art Society “Strossmayer”, took place in 1934, and there is an official record. The paintings are protected cultural heritage which has been registered in the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia. According to the Law on Protection and Conservation of Cultural Goods, their permanent, unlimited removal from Croatia is not allowed,” said the ministry.

Igor Zidić, a renowned art historian and the director of the Modern Gallery from the late 1980s to 2008, agrees with the ministry. “Somebody is obviously questioning the ownership. If the paintings are registered in inventory books, then there can be no doubt. No institution in the country would decide to hand over the paintings. That is how it used to be 45 years ago. For example, Nikita Khrushchev came to Split and received one of Vidović’s oil paintings that was supposed to go to Vidović’s museum. This is no longer permissible,” said Zidić.

Roerich created more than 7,000 works during his career. His works reach a price of several hundred thousand dollars at auctions, while the famous painting “Madonna Laboris” was sold several years ago for nearly 70 million. The value of the collection at the Modern Gallery is estimated at millions of euros.

Translated from 24sata.hr (reported by Antonija Vrčić/Express).

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

Friday, 29 March 2019

Croatia Emphasises Importance of Relations with Russia

ZAGREB, March 29, 2019 - Croatia attaches importance to its relations with Russia, especially as a trading partner, and Russia's role in Southeastern Europe cannot be ignored, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday.

"Russia is an important trading partner to us, that is what many of our companies say, and its role in our neighbourhood in Southeastern Europe cannot be ignored, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina," the president said at a press conference devoted to her foreign-policy activities.

She said it was important that Russia supported the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as President Vladimir Putin had confirmed several times.

During a discussion after the presentation of the latest report on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the UN Security Council, Russia, along with the United States, was the only country to mention the Dayton peace accords and the need to honour them, and was the only country to speak about the equal rights of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Grabar-Kitarović said. "This, of course, is the result of our dialogue and we want to continue this dialogue with Russia, on regional issues, the issues of stability, peace and the future," she added.

The Croatian president said that Putin's visit to Croatia had been agreed and that she wanted it to be a well-prepared, meaningful visit. "There have been plans for the visit to take place before the end of June, but since we are in an election year, I'm afraid that President Putin's visit would be put too much in the context of the elections. I want to avoid that, so we are proposing the next year regardless of who the head of state may be," Grabar-Kitarović said.

She said she was pursuing a two-track policy in relations with Russia: absolute respect for international law when it comes to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of states, and dialogue with Russia.

The president stressed that between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and her there were no disputes over the conduct of foreign policy. "There are no disputes between the prime minister and me. There may be different interests. He is perhaps more focused on the EU and European issues, and I on the Transatlantic area and other continents," she said.

Asked what she thought of Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić becoming Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the president said that it would be "great for Croatia to have the leader of the Council of Europe."

Speaking about relations with Serbia and President Aleksandar Vučić's visit to Croatia slightly more than a year ago, Grabar-Kitarović said that "it takes two to succeed." She said that any dialogue, regardless of its results, was good and that it was necessary to talk.

She said it was Croatia's success that the EU enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans included a requirement that all membership candidates should settle any open issues with their neighbours before joining the bloc. "We don't want to blackmail anyone, but realistically speaking, we have to take advantage of the rights that we have, which will ultimately benefit citizens on both sides," the president said.

As for the issue of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war, Grabar-Kitarović said she was disappointed by the lack of progress. "I see it as my own promise to mothers, parents, sisters and others. I won't say that I'm frustrated, but I am really disappointed that so far we have failed to take concrete steps in resolving and closing this issue," she said.

Grabar-Kitarović once again appealed to all those involved to make maximum effort so that families who have suffered so much can finally learn what happened to their loved ones and that give them a decent burial.

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

Monday, 25 February 2019

Croatia-Russia Economic Relations Strengthening

ZAGREB, February 25, 2019 - There is a lot of potential to strengthen Croatia-Russia economic relations, particularly in the energy, tourism, pharmaceutical, construction and agriculture sectors, it was said on Monday at a meeting of the Business Council for Cooperation with the Russian Federation and a seminar on how to successfully do business on the Russian market, held at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK).

HGK president Luka Burilović underscored that due to sanctions between the EU and Russia, there were certain restrictions and obstacles to economic cooperation between the two countries and that it was necessary to focus on the sectors that were not covered by those sanctions. "Business has to be a bridge and channel of dialogue between countries, particularly in times of political tension," he said.

He said possible areas of cooperation were energy and tourism as well as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, mechanical engineering, shipbuilding, construction, infrastructure projects, wood and manufacturing industry, agriculture and food industries, textile industry and the like.

Burilović added that figures show that relations between the two countries have stabilised and that foreign trade is slowly growing. Burilović said that in 2012 trade between the two countries totalled more than 2 billion US dollars, however, due to the sanctions it has decreased. Now, its recovery is noticeable and the aim is to get back to the level of 2 billion US dollars as soon as possible and reach 3 billion.

Russia's Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov underscored that economic relations always had the role of an engine and that that was why they had to improve.

We have to learn to develop economic relations regardless of the sanctions, Azimov said, adding that Russia's economy had suffered 50 billion euro in losses because of the sanctions and that the EU had lost up to 200 billion euro.

We want those relations to grow while Americans want them to decrease so that they can achieve more, he said and added that relations between Russia and Croatia had to be better given the great potential for cooperation.

He said that last year Croatia imported more than 2.5 billion cubic metres of Russian gas and added that gas deliveries would continue regardless of plans to build an LNG terminal on the island of Krk, which he sees as healthy competition.

Azimov said that Russians were prepared to invest in Croatia but were not always successful because it was not wanted by some strategic partners in Croatia, who, he said, believed that increasing Russia's share in the energy sector was undesirable.

Croatia-Russia trade in the first eleven months of 2018 amounted to 600.6 million dollars, up 16.6% from the same period in 2017.

Croatian National Bank (HNB) data shows that in the period from 1993 to the end of 2017, Russia invested 416.9 million euro in Croatia, which makes it the 14th biggest foreign investor in Croatia. In the same period, Croatia's investments in Russia amounted to 98.1 million euro.

Asked about the LNG terminal on Krk and if it could affect Croatia's relations with Russia, Burilović said that Croatia had to have a backup solution that was competitive in price and ecologically acceptable.

"I see the construction of the LNG terminal primarily as an alternative to the only existing supply route and the market will show where we will supply gas from. Our primary concern are Croatia's interests and the interests of consumers," Burilović said.

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

Monday, 25 February 2019

Sberbank Focused on Further Stabilisation of Agrokor

ZAGREB, February 25, 2019 - Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov said on Monday the sale of Russian banks' stakes in Croatia's Agrokor was a corporate issue and that he was certain that in the period ahead Sberbank's main accent would be on further stabilising and improving the situation in the food and retail conglomerate.

Responding to questions from the press about the possible sale of Russian state banks' interest in Agrokor, Azimov underlined the positive role of Sberbank and VTB. After the implementation of a settlement for Agrokor, Sberbank will hold 39.2% and VTB 7.5%.

Azimov said their main goal had been to salvage Agrokor, stabilise and restructure it.

All those objectives have been met. The situation in the company is much better now, it's profitable, and Sberbank's job is to make the company even more profitable in the interest of Croatia and its stability, he added.

As for the possible sale of Agrokor shares, Azimov said it was a corporate issue between Sberbank and Agrokor. We in the embassy don't interfere in these things, but I'm absolutely sure that in the months ahead Sberbank's main accent will be on further stabilising and improving the situation in Agrokor, he added.

Asked if Croatia's future LNG terminal would affect its energy cooperation with Russia, Azimov said it would not as Croatia would always need Russian gas.

If Croatia is interested in building an LNG terminal, we can welcome that. Even if it builds the terminal, Croatia will always need Russian gas. Last year we exported more than 200 billion cubic metres of gas to European Union countries and the demand for gas is rising, while at the same time production in EU countries and Croatia is falling, Azimov said.

He said all they wanted was fair competition. I know that the LNG terminal can't compete with Russian gas, which is cheaper, more reliable and better, he added.

More news about Agrokor can be found in the Business section.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Croatian Reintegration Model Applicable to Ukraine and Georgia, Says Plenković

ZAGREB, February 17, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković reiterated on Saturday that Croatia's experience with the peaceful reintegration of its Danube region in 1998 could benefit Ukraine and Georgia which have lost parts of their territories in wars with Russia.

Similar statements in the past have provoked sharply-worded responses from Moscow which believes that "parallel domestic structures" encourage Kiev's "war campaign" rather than call for the restoration of dialogue with Moscow through the Minsk process.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Plenković said that the experience of Ukraine and Georgia was comparable to that of Croatia, parts of whose territory were occupied by Serb insurgents backed by the Yugoslavia from 1990 to 1998.

"We had two solutions: a military solution and a diplomatic solution. The solution that relied on pressure and diplomacy resulted in the reintegration of our territory," Plenković said.

He said that this model could be applied to Ukraine and George, adding that the two countries would have fared better had they been members of the EU and NATO.

"Ukraine and Georgia are neither members of the EU nor of NATO and this complicates the situation. Had they been members, the situation would have been much different," said Plenković, who had formerly served as chief of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian ministry for temporarily occupied territories and displaced persons said recently it was studying the Croatian model for the reintegration of its eastern Donbass region, controlled by Moscow-backed pro-Russian rebels since 2014.

Georgia, which fought a war with Russia in 2008, has been left without its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and East Ossetia which depend on Moscow militarily and economically.

Croatia regained sovereignty over its Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem region in January 1998 after a UN transitional authority was established there in 1996.

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

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Lighting of Evolution Tower in Moscow Designed by Croatian Company

The Transneft global corporation has organised the opening ceremony of their new corporate headquarters in Moscow, one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the world, the Evolution Tower, whose lighting design has been created by Skira. The award-winning Croatian designer Dean Skira and his team worked on the prestigious project of the new Moscow skyscraper for the last four years and have achieved outstanding results in the field of deployment of the latest lighting technology, reports Jutarnji List on February 2, 2019.

"I would like to point out that Transneft is the largest oil company in the world and I am personally convinced that our skyscraper will contribute to the reputation of the company. The Moscow Kremlin and the basilica symbolise the Russian past, while our building will become a symbol of Moscow's future,” said CEO Nikolay Petrovich Tokarev.

020219-Evolution Tower3.jpg

Skirin's task was to implement a complete interior and exterior lighting design with a centralised light management system. The project contains lighting solutions designed for the interior and exterior of skyscrapers in accordance with European and Russian standards, regulations and special requirements of the client.

“The Evolution Tower is an example of a project in which the investor's trust has resulted in an exceptionally successful and energy-efficient building. According to our knowledge, the Evolution Tower is the largest office building in Russia that is fully illuminated by the LED technology. The skyscraper is highlighted during the night because the light reflects the beauty of its architecture and at the same time allows a pleasant stay for its users,” explained Skira.

The unique spiral shape and extreme climate conditions (from -40 to +40 degrees) have demanded creativity in finding the best facade lighting solution. The specially designed products by iGuzzini have been mounted from the inside of the windows next to the glass surface so that the light does not enter the interior. The RGBW technology allows for endless programming of separate 3,500 mounted pixels. Horizontal white lines are illuminated with fixed white spotlights positioned around the skyscraper. Their purpose is to emphasise and highlight the architectural rhythm of the architectural lines. Each space is individually designed to achieve uniformity of lighting throughout the building. The glass facade tilt is different on each side of the skyscraper.

The Evolution Tower is a 55-floor skyscraper, with a height of 255 metres and the total area of 169,000 square metres. It is recognisable by its DNA form, and it was designed by Toni Kettle, in collaboration with Karen Forbes. The construction of the skyscraper started in 2011 and ended in late 2014. In 2016, the Evolution Tower was named as the second-best skyscraper in the world at the Emporis Skyscraper Awards. It was named the best Moscow office building in 2015 and won the first prize at the 2015 Glass in Architecture Awards and many other recognitions.

More news on the Croatian design can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Barbara Ban).

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Russia Has Nothing against Croatian LNG Terminal Construction

ZAGREB, January 31, 2019 - Russian Ambassador to Croatia Anvar Azimov said on Wednesday that Russia had nothing against building the Croatian LNG terminal, adding however that his country was prepared to deliver cheap Russian gas to Croatia as much as necessary.

Asked to comment on the energy situation in Croatia, given that the government approved the purchase of the water-based LNG terminal, Azimov said Russia was interested in seeing Croatia always be a safe country energy wise.

Azimov said that on the energy diversification front, the source of the gas supply was always important, that this moment Russian gas was still the cheapest and that Russia last year released two billion cubic metres of gas to Croatia. He said Croatia would always be interested in buying cheap Russian gas.

The Russian ambassador said that last year EU member states imported over 200 billion cubic metres of gas and that Russia has proved itself as a safe partner.

Azimov said that if the floating LNG terminal was to be built, Russia would be happy if it would benefit Croatia. He, however, said he was confident that Croatia and the entire Europe would be interested in cheap Russian gas. Russia is prepared to supply Croatia with gas as much as necessary, he said.

The Russian Ambassador was in Rijeka where he attended the annual meeting of the Croatian-Russian Friendship Society session and spoke about challenges in 2019.

He said that the latest developments in relations between the United States and Russia and Russia and the EU were not good.

The ambassador said sanctions were unfounded and that apart from Russia they also affected the EU and Croatia.

He said Russia was prepared to defend its partners and friends and that it wold not agree to a model on which the United States insisted, stressing that not a single country could control the others.

Azimov said that following Croatia's entry into NATO and the EU, relations between Croatia and Russia had deteriorated, but that Russia was confident that Croatia had made the right choice which suited its interests, namely that Russia respected the fact that Croatia had joined NATO and the EU because that was a reality.

He said it was difficult for him to hear the Croatian government say that its strategic partner was the United States and that there was no mention of Russia. Azimov underlined that Russia was prepared to invest in Croatia and issue loans to it, but that strategic partners were against it.

He underscored that Croatia-Russia relations were now growing, that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović made a huge contribution to that, as did Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Putin: Relations Between Russia and Croatia Progressing

ZAGREB, January 16, 2019 - Russia respects Serbia's choice to join the European Union and is not trying to impose an artificial choice, either Russia or the EU, Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Belgrade media, adding that his country has many friends in the Balkans and that Serbia has a special place among them as a strategic partner.

Russia "knows and understands how complicated the Balkans and its history is, but has always considered this region as one for constructive cooperation," Putin was quoted as saying in an interview with Politika and Večernje Novosti ahead of an official visit to Belgrade on Thursday.

"When we talk about the situation in the Balkans, a serious factor of destabilisation is the policy of the US and some Western countries which is aimed at strengthening their domination in the region," he says, mentioning NATO's strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999, Kosovo's separation from Serbia and the "illegitimate recognition" of Kosovo's independence, "dragging Montenegro into NATO", and forcing Macedonia's accession to NATO and a change of its name contrary to the will of its citizens.

"Russia has many friends here, among which the strategic partner Serbia holds a special place. That's why helping to strengthen regional security and stability is our unconditional priority," Putin says, adding that Moscow pushes for "respecting the rights and interests of Balkan countries and nations, for respecting international law."

He says "the relations with Slovenia and Croatia are developing progressively, regardless of the fact that the dialogue between the EU, of which they are member states, and Russia is experiencing hard times."

He recalls that Russian and Croatian leaderships held several meetings last year and points out that economic relations have improved. "Trade is growing, with Slovenia it went up by almost 10% for three quarters in 2018 and with Croatia by 27%. Last year, Russia and Slovenia successfully organised seasons of culture, and a big Hermitage exhibition was organised in Zagreb, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of brotherly ties between Croatia's capital and Saint Petersburg."

Speaking of Russian-Serbian trade, Putin says it was 2 billion dollars in 2017 and that it continued to increase last year, and that Russian investments in Serbia's economy have exceeded 4 billion dollars. Cooperation with Gazprom Neft has enabled Serbia's NIS oil industry to become a leader on the Balkans energy market, he adds.

Putin says Serbia might be part of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline as a client and as a transit state to Europe given that Gazprom is considering various options of extending the land transit line to Europe, one of them being Bulgaria-Serbia-Hungary with a connection to the gas distribution centre in Baumgarten, Austria.

He says the European Commission's position will be taken into account when the Russian gas delivery route is finally defined. "We believe the EU member states interested in Russian gas should receive the EU's guarantee that plans to extend TurkStream won't be thwarted by an arbitrary political decision in Brussels."

Putin was also quoted as saying that Moscow "highly appreciates the Serbian leadership's firm commitment to keeping the country's neutrality" and that for years it "has been helping to strengthen Serbia's defence capabilities" through weapons deliveries and military equipment upgrades, which it will continue to do.

Putin says the Kremlin was "surprised by the EU's quite passive response" to the Kosovo parliament's decision "to transform the Kosovo security forces into a real army," which he says Kosovo Serbs saw as a "direct threat to their security."

"That move creates the serious risk of the situation in the region becoming strained. It is hardly in the EU's interest to close its eyes before such unilateral actions which grossly breach international law, notably if Brussels counts on continuing to fulfil its obligation as mediator in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina," Putin was quoted as saying.

He sees NATO expansion as a legacy of the Cold War and as a wrong and destructive military and political strategy. "NATO is trying to boost its presence in the Balkans. But thereby it is only renewing the division lines on the European continent," he says, adding that all that does not lead to stronger stability but "less trust and growing tensions in Europe."

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Croatian Prime Minister Condemns Russian Action in Kerch Strait

ZAGREB, December 4, 2018 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković condemned on Tuesday Russian action in Kerch Strait, saying that it was an unacceptable violation of international law.

Tension between Russia and Ukraine has escalated after Russia captured three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews a week ago as they tried to pass through the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Russia has ignored international calls to release 24 crew members, of whom three have been wounded, claiming that they crossed the Russian border illegally.

"We are concerned about the situation in Ukraine. ... That is unacceptable and contrary to international law," Plenković said in his opening remarks at a Central European Initiative (CEI) summit in Zagreb. "We support all international initiatives to ease tensions, fully supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," he added.

Security and migration are among the topics to be discussed at the summit, with which Croatia wraps up its year-long presidency of the 18-country regional initiative.

Plenković said that the problem of migration could be tackled effectively only if approached comprehensively, by regulating legal migration and preventing illegal migration.

"We are not a country that has decided to put up physical barriers at the border. Instead, we have deployed 6,500 border police to guard the border, preparing to enter the Schengen system," the Croatian prime minister said.

He said that cooperation with other EU members and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, known as Frontex, was crucial. "I believe that such an approach can deliver results."

Plenković emphasised the importance of the CEI for the transfer of experience to countries aspiring to join the EU and NATO. "As the youngest member state, we will unselfishly offer all our experience, knowledge and political support," he concluded.

The CEI summit is taking place at the end of Croatia's year-long presidency of the organisation. The main topics discussed are security and economic issues.

Five CEI prime ministers arrived in Zagreb on Monday, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Romanian Prime Minister Vasilia Victoria Dancila have left before the summit ended. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was not present, although he had announced his attendance.

The CEI was established in Budapest in 1989 with a view to assisting countries in the region in joining the European Union. Of the 18 CEI member states, 10 have joined the EU, five are on track to becoming members of the bloc, while three are members of the Eastern Partnership. The CEI members are: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

The next CEI president is Italy.

For more on the relations between Croatia and Russia, click here.

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