Saturday, 16 November 2019

Catalan Foreign Minister Visits Zagreb, Discusses Independence Effort

ZAGREB, November 16, 2019 - Catalan Foreign Minister Alfred Bosch said in Zagreb on Friday the Spanish authorities' response to the question of Catalonia's independence was a huge historic mistake because instead of dialogue they chose repression, the imprisonment of political opponents.

Last month, Spain's Supreme Court convicted nine Catalan officials to prison sentences ranging from nine to 13 years for an uprising, for using public money to organise in 2017 an independence referendum which was banned by the Constitutional Court, and for unilaterally proclaiming an independent republic of Catalonia.

The response not just by the Spanish government, but by the executive and legislative authorities, the judiciary, the army, even the monarchy, it's a big historic mistake, Bosch told reporters in Zagreb during a working visit.

Instead of sitting at the table and talking about politics, they chose repression against the people, he added.

It was wrong to seek a solution in the judiciary, to put people in prison or force them into exile, to suspend the Catalan government or parliament, which are legal, legitimate and constitutional. That's a huge mistake. It's a colossal mistake to sentence nine people to 100 years in prison. It won't solve anything but only make the situation even worse, Bosch said.

He said Catalonia was not imposing anything, neither a Catalan republic nor independence, but the possibility that people decide on their future democratically.

People must be able to decide on their future. We are in the 21st century, not the Middle Ages, Bosch said, adding that as long as Madrid stuck to its strategy, it would only be making an even bigger mistake.

The Catalans want a referendum and to agree on that with the Spanish government, as it was done in Scotland, he said.

The solution from this dead end is in democracy and respect for human rights, he said, adding that now, after the election, when the government will most likely continue to be run by socialist Pedro Sanchez, there is a chance.

Sanchez needs a majority, so he must talk, he must admit that dialogue is necessary. Let's sit down and talk, Bosch said.

The Catalan issue is a European issue. Europeans are for a democratic solution and dialogue; we have seen that over the past three years. The public is behind us. We also have the European Court of Justice decision that there should be no political prisoners in Spain and that Catalan members of the European Parliament should be there, he said.

The ECJ ruled three days ago that Catalan separatists have the right to use the mandate in the EP and that as MEPs, under Article 9 of the relevant Protocol, they have immunity from serving prison sentences.

Bosch praised the ruling and said Europe was not just the European Commission but the EP and the ECJ as well.

The European Commission is the club of European governments and governments stick together, helping each other, he said.

After the Catalan officials were sentenced, the Commission would not comment on the convictions, saying it remained an internal matter for Spain that should be resolved in line with the constitutional order.

More news about Croatia and Catalonia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Spanish Foreign Minister Talks with Croatian Counterpart

ZAGREB, May 29, 2019 - Europe has a lot to learn from China, Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell said in Zagreb on Wednesday after the talks with his Croatian counterpart Marija Pejčinović Burić which also revolved around the construction of Pelješac Bridge.

"I want to emphasise the importance Spain dedicates to relations with Croatia and the wish for them to grow," said Borrell, who is a member of the Socialist government in Spain and although born in Catalonia he is one of the most ardent opponents to that province's independence.

Whether it is coincidental, but Borrell's visit comes after a recent visit by Catalonia's Foreign Minister Alfred Bosch. The Catalan government has a representation office in Zagreb that covers Southeast Europe.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting with his host Pejčinović Burić, Borrell said that they had discussed bilateral topics like strengthening economic cooperation, the future of the European Union in the context of Brexit and the new multi-annual financial perspective as well as Croatia's priorities during its chairmanship of the Union at the beginning of next year, such as enlargement to Southeast Europe.

Borrell said that Croatia has Spain's support to join the OECD, Schengen Area and eurozone and concluded that Zagreb and Madrid need to work on strengthening the mutual interests of citizens in both countries.

Borrell underscored that the talks also focused on relations that the EU and Croatia have with China and the Pelješac bridge that is being constructed near Dubrovnik.

China is a big player and is more and more present in Europe. We have a lot to learn from that country and we are interested in its economic and political activity in east Europe, he said and added that this visit was a good opportunity to become familiar with numerous economic and political activities between Beijing and Europe.

Pejčinović Burić underlined that Croatia and Spain nurture "traditionally good and friendly relations," with cultural and historical affiliation with the same "Euro-Mediterranean circle of countries" and membership of the EU and NATO alliance.

"We nurture common values and mutually support each other on many European and global issues," she concluded.

Trade between Croatia and Spain is on the rise. Two years ago, it amounted to 673 million euro and last year grew to 741 million euro. The number of Spanish tourists visiting Croatia is also growing. Last year, 290,000 Spaniards visited Croatia and Pejčinović Burić said that that was thanks to "good air connectivity," between the two countries.

This is the first visit by a Spanish minister to Croatia in the past 14 years. Borrell is expected to meet with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

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

Monday, 27 May 2019

Spanish Foreign Minister to Visit Zagreb

ZAGREB, May 27, 2019 - Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who will pay an official visit to Croatia on Tuesday and Wednesday, told Hina on Monday that he was coming to give an additional boost to the good relations between Spain and Croatia.

I believe that institutional contact at different levels should be expanded to enhance coordination and cooperation so as to make the most of the partnership potential, Borrell said.

The 72-year-old member of Spain's Socialist government will arrive in Zagreb on Tuesday and will conduct most of his meetings with senior Croatian officials on the following day.

Borrell said that he would meet with Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić, President Kolinda Grabar-KItarović, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

The talks will focus on the bilateral agenda, the EU agenda and on foreign affairs, said the Spanish minister.

Borrell is the first Spanish foreign minister to visit Croatia after 14 years. He is visiting Zagreb 13 days after Catalan Foreign Minister Alfred Bosch visited the Croatian capital.

On 15 May, the first stop of Bosch's visit was the northern town of Varaždin where he met with Varaždin County head Radimir Čačić, with whom he discussed cooperation in the sectors of industry, trade, health tourism and education. Čačić said on that occasion that he was surprised that Croatia's top state officials would not meet with the Catalan official, who came with a Catalan government delegation for a working visit.

The Catalan government in February opened its representation in Zagreb covering Southeast Europe.

Bosch's visit to Croatia was the first visit of a Catalan government official to this part of Europe after Catalonia in 2017 held a referendum on independence despite a ban by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Twelve officials of the former government were charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds and have been on trial in Madrid.

Parliamentary elections were held in Spain on April 28 after which strained relations between Madrid and Barcelona became evident again.

Borrell is a minister in Spain's incumbent caretaker government and he was a candidate of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in Sunday's elections for the European Parliament in which the party won 20 of 54 seats allocated to Spain.

Talks on government formation are expected in the coming weeks. The PSOE has won the 28 April parliamentary election, having secured 123 or 350 seats in the Spanish parliament and is set to hold talks with smaller parties on government formation, which requires 176 parliamentary seats.

Spain has been a member of NATO since 1982 and of the EU since 1986.

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

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Catalonia Representatives Visit Croatia, Ignored by Officials

ZAGREB, May 15, 2019 - The Minister of Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency of Catalonia, Alfred Bosch, visited Croatia's northern Varaždin County on Wednesday, expressing great interest in the region and possible cooperation in industry and trade, while his host, County Prefect Radimir Čačić expressed surprise that state officials would not meet with the Catalan official, who is heading a Catalan government delegation on a working visit to Croatia.

After meeting with Čačić, Minister Bosch said that there was a lot of room for cooperation, particularly in industry and trade. The talks also focused on health tourism, spas and education.

We are interested in cooperation in education, particularly secondary education. The achievements of Varaždin County in that area are inspiring. We can cooperate in all these areas and will continue talks. I am certain that we will reach certain agreements and utilise those opportunities, Bosch said.

Čačić underscored the possibility of cooperation in the car industry and mentioned in that context the SEAT car industry, which is headquartered in Catalonia, and the Boxmark company, which operates in Varaždin's business zone.

We are certain that we will identify opportunities and achieve cooperation of common interest, Čačić said, adding that communication was being sought with Catalonia's health system with regard to health tourism.

Čačić added that Catalonia "is incomparably more interesting to us than we are to Catalonia, as it has a population of 7.6 million people and a per capita GDP that is three times higher."

Čačić did not want to speculate why the president and prime minister would not meet with the Catalan delegation like Slovenia's President Borut Pahor and many others, who met with Bosch before he arrived in Croatia.

The Catalan delegation will be in Zagreb this evening where it will attend a concert - "Catalonia, Harmony," which will be held ahead of a panel discussion where Bosch will present the programme of the Catalan Delegation to Southeast Europe, called European Dignity, with emphasis on the future of human rights in Europe and on culture as the backbone of dialogue, respect, democracy, peace and development in building a free, open and inclusive Europe.

The Catalan government has a representation in Zagreb which covers almost all of Southeast Europe and maintains relations with Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece.

The representations, which Spanish media outlets refer to as "embassies of Catalonia", were closed in the autumn of 2017 when the Spanish government took over direct rule over the province, which is one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions.

After pro-independence parties won last year's elections in Catalonia and formed the government, Bosch, a member of the Catalan Republican Left party (ERC) became the Minister of Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency of Catalonia.

The Delegation of the Government of Catalonia reopened its office in Zagreb in March. "Zagreb is an important city in this region, it has a favourable strategic position," Bosch told Hina in an interview in March.

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

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Catalonia Opens Regional Office in Zagreb

ZAGREB, March 3, 2019 - The Delegation of the Government of Catalonia has recently reopened its office in Zagreb with an aim of establishing and developing relations not only with Croatia but also with other countries in southeast Europe in a bid to ensure the recognition of Catalonia, the current Minister of Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency of Catalonia, Alfred Bosch says in an interview with Hina.

"Those are delegations of the Catalan government. People such as Eric Hauck (the Catalan envoy in Zagreb) are representatives of the Catalan government in certain regions, and Hauck covers southeast Europe," Bosch says in the interview published on Sunday. "We want Catalonia to be recognised as a country. We would like to have the relations with all countries in the world.".

The Zagreb office is supposed to be the place for establishing the relations with Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece.

Those offices to which Spanish media outlets refer as "embassies of Catalonia" were closed in the autumn 2017 when the Spanish government took over the direct rule over this 7.5 million-populated region, which is one of 17 autonomous regions in Spain.

After pro-independence parties won the last year's elections in Catalonia and formed the government, Bosch, a member of the Catalan Republican Left party (ERC) became the minister of Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency of Catalonia.

In his capacity as the minister, Bosh continued reopening the Catalan offices, including the one in the Croatian capital city.

"Zagreb is an important city in this region, it has a strategically suitable place," said Bosch who praised the Croatians for pro-Catalan sentiment. In his opinion, Catalonia has a good image in the eyes of the Croatians. In this context, he said that he perceives the Dalmatian coast as very akin to Catalonia, particularly owing to the climate, scenery, food.

The Spanish government has warned that those offices cannot develop political relations, with an explanation that in political terms, Catalonia is represented by Spanish embassies.

This prompted Bosch to raise the question whether anybody from the Spanish embassy in Zagreb had ever enabled someone to get acquainted with a real state of affairs in Catalonia.

"It is our duty to tell you what is going on here, in the society and among the people. We want the whole world to get an opportunity to be get an insight with our real life. When we did not have these offices, it was difficult to explain what we did," Bosch said underscoring that in the political reality "there are political prisoners and people in exile".

Recently, a trial started in Madrid against former Catalan officials who are charged with rebellion. Bosch says in the interview that this "a trial against democracy as it is based on accusations against the Catalan government of holding the referendum."

"This is a political farce, revenge and punishment against those who set up ballot boxes enabling the Catalans to decide on their future," Bosch says. He also insists that the court proceedings are pointless.

"The positions of the Spanish and Catalan governments are far away, however wee need to talk." He also insists that the Catalan path is peaceful, democratic and civic.

In reference to the trial which started on 12 February, the Spanish Ambassador to Croatia, Alonso Dezcallar de Mazarredo told a news conference in the Croatian capital that former Catalan officials were accused of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds.

The trial will not decide on the future of that region or any ideology but only whether a breach of law occurred, the Spanish diplomat said at the news conference he held on 12 February.

Ambassador Dezcallar underscored that the actions of the defendants have triggered a constitutional crisis.

"Catalonia's future is not being decided here. Secessionist parties will probably exploit this trial as an instrument of propaganda. They are already claiming that Spain's judiciary is not independent and that they are political prisoners and that they have a right to go to referendum," the ambassador told the press conference then.

He underscored that the officials are not being tried for their ideas, because there are a lot of people who are calling for Catalonia's independence and are still free.

"They aren't in prison because of what they believe in but because of what they did," the Spanish diplomat said.

They are indicted for rebelling against Spain, disobedience and misuse of public funds to organise a referendum that had been banned by the Constitutional Court, according to his explanation.

The ambassador underscored then that according to the Economist Intelligence Unit index, Spain is among the 20 most advanced democracies in the world.

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

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Iberia Introduces Winter Flights from Madrid to Croatia

ZAGREB, May 30, 2018 - Spain's Iberia Airlines has launched their seasonal flights to Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik and its planes will continue to fly to Zagreb and Dubrovnik during the winter as well, the company said on Tuesday.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Spain Rejects Croatia’s Request to Extradite Former Yugoslav Intelligence Agent

ZAGREB, February 3, 2018 (Hina) - Spain has refused to extradite former Yugoslav secret service agent Vinko Sindičić to Croatia after he was arrested in a hotel in the northern city of Burgos on January 26.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

10% More Spanish Tourists Expected in Croatia This Year

ZAGREB, January 28, 2018 - Last year, 256,000 Spanish tourists visited Croatia, 13 percent more than in 2016, and this year their number is expected to increase by a further 10 percent, travel agencies and air carriers say.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Croatia and Spain to Cooperate on Mediterranean Rail Corridor

ZAGREB, January 25, 2018 - The Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure and the Spanish rail manager ADIF on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding to establish cooperation in developing a Mediterranean rail corridor, one of the EU's nine main transport corridors, the Croatian company HŽ Infrastruktura said on Thursday.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Croatia Does Not Support Catalonia's Independence

Although many people in Croatia believe that Catalonia should be able to do what Croatia itself did 25 years ago, the government does not agree.

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