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.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Croatia Supports Ukraine on Its European Path

ZAGREB, December 4, 2018 - Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Marija Pejčinović Burić, met with the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, in Zagreb on Monday, and reiterated the position that Croatia supports Ukraine on its European journey.

Pejčinović Burić said that Croatia supported Ukraine on its European path by providing operational and technical assistance and sharing its experience from this process.

She praised Ukraine for the progress made in implementing reforms, saying that the reform process was going well and was bringing Ukraine closer to Euro-Atlantic integration despite the difficult security situation and challenges the country was facing.

The two officials expressed satisfaction with the cooperation within the working group for Croatia-Ukraine cooperation, the work of the joint commission on economic cooperation, and the positive trend in trade and tourism, which is evident in the growing number of Ukrainian tourists visiting Croatia.

Pejčinović Burić said that Croatian companies were interested in doing business in Ukraine, notably in the IT, energy, pharmaceutical and chemical industries and other sectors of the economy.

They also discussed the security situation in Ukraine and its surroundings. Concern was expressed about the current situation in the Sea of Azov and the Strait of Kerch, Russian activities and the further escalation of tensions, which has resulted in the injuring of Ukrainian seamen and their being taken prisoner, the blockade of Ukrainian seaports, and the prevention of maritime traffic.

Pejčinović Burić called for exercising restraint, respecting international law and preventing further escalation. She said that Croatia continued to strongly support the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

Before meeting Pejčinović Burić, Klympush-Tsintsadze had met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who emphasised the importance of further strengthening bilateral relations between Croatia and Ukraine.

For more on relations between Croatia and Ukraine, click here.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Pussy Riot to Give Performance in Zagreb on Monday

ZAGREB, December 2, 2018 - A multimedia show from the Russian punk activists Pussy Riot called "Riot Days" will be held in Zagreb on Monday, as part of the 16th edition of the Human Rights Film Festival.

The hallucinatory media comment on Vladimir Putin's Russia tells a story about present day Russia and gives voice to all those whom the repressive apparatus is trying to silence. According to critics, the show that is still being persecuted for anti-Putin protest is as funny as it is nerve-shredding.

Pussy Riot songs championed feminism and LGBT rights while lambasting inequality and oppression.

The Riot Days project is based on a book by Maria Alyokhina, a band member who was arrested for giving a “punk prayer” performance in an orthodox cathedral in Moscow in 2012, drawing international outrage and attention on how Russia treats its dissident artists.

Riot Days is directed by Yury Muravitsky, one of Russia's leading theatre directors.

For more on the human rights in Croatia, click here.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Croatian-Russian Cooperation Discussed by State Commissions

ZAGREB, November 30, 2018 - The Croatian-Russian intergovernmental commission on economic and scientific-technical cooperation met in Zagreb on Friday, concluding that energy, agriculture, tourism, science and education are areas with cooperation development potential. The talks focused on the Croatian-Russian cooperation in energy, agriculture and tourism, and long term cooperation in science and technology transfer, Croatian Economy Minister Darko Horvat said after the commission's eighth meeting.

The two parties also signed two protocols which he said contained certain commitments and concluded that certain progress had been made in the development of the good bilateral relations between Croatia and Russia.

Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said agriculture, energy, tourism, science and education remained the basic directions of cooperation.

I hope we will continue our work in 2019 at a joint session in Moscow, he said, adding that the next stage in the development of bilateral relations would ensue after that.

He gave a positive assessment of the intergovernmental commission's work, saying he hoped trade between the two countries would continue to grow.

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

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Zagreb Mayor Bandić Decorated by Russian President Putin

ZAGREB, November 4, 2018 - The Russian Federation's President Vladimir Putin on Sunday awarded a decoration to the mayor of the Croatian capital city of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, for his efforts in strengthening friendship between the nations, according to a press release issued by the Office of the Zagreb Mayor.

During the ceremony, Bandić said that he expected the continuation of the enhancement of cooperation between the Croatian and the Russian people.

President Putin thanked the recipients of the Order of Friendship for their contribution to the promotion of the relations with Russia and its culture.

To read more about Zagreb’s Mayor Milan Bandić, click here.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Russian Chief Prosecutor Visits Zagreb

ZAGREB, October 19, 2018 - Croatia's chief state prosecutor Dražen Jelenić and his Russian counterpart, Yuri Y. Chaika, met on Thursday in Zagreb for talks on strengthening the struggle against crime and reinforcing the protection of human rights and freedoms, the Office of the Croatian Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) said in a press release on Friday.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Croatia and Russia Agree to Increase Economic Cooperation

ZAGREB, September 13, 2018 - Croatian Economy Minister Darko Horvat met with Russian Ambassador Anvar Azimov in Zagreb on Thursday, and they agreed that ways of improving investment cooperation should be explored, the ministry said on its website.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Russian President Putin Awards Order of Friendship to Zagreb Mayor Bandić

The only other Croat to receive the honour is footballer Ivica Olić.

Monday, 13 August 2018

WTO Says Croatia Discriminates Against Foreign Gas Pipeline Operators

ZAGREB, August 13, 2018 - Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania discriminate against foreign gas pipeline operators, according to a finding of a panel of three adjudicators of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that thus sustained a part of objections made by the Russian Federation against the European Union's gas market rules, the Reuters news agency has reported.

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