Friday, 15 March 2019

US Embassy in Zagreb to Be "Evacuated"

Two US helicopters and one plane will fly over Zagreb on Sunday and Monday. However, there is no reason for alarm among citizens because they will take part in an evacuation exercise conducted by the US Embassy in Zagreb, with the support of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the United States Air Force units based at the Aviano Air Force in Italy, reports Večernji List on March 15, 2019.

The exercise scenario will be based on a possible catastrophic earthquake. As part of the exercise, the Embassy of the United States of America will simulate the evacuation of part of its employees with the help of the United States Air Force in order to train the logistics of the evacuation process. About 50 volunteers from the embassy will take part in the exercise and simulate evacuation.

Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and one MC-130J Commando II aircraft will arrive from the Royal Air Force Mildenhall airfield, located in Suffolk, England, on Sunday morning and will fly over Zagreb during the afternoon. The exercise itself will be held at several locations in and around Zagreb on Monday between 8 am and 4 pm. The plane and helicopter will again fly during this period as well.

“Embassies and consulates of the United States around the world are required to conduct yearly emergency crisis management exercises to help employees prepare for natural disasters or other crisis situations. These exercises are usually conducted through smaller-scale exercises within embassies and consulates. However, strong bilateral relations and cooperation between the United States and the Government of the Republic of Croatia have created a unique opportunity to implement a joint, large simulation exercise in crisis management in Croatia,” said the US embassy.

According to the Embassy’s website, the official presence of the United States in Croatia began with the establishment of the U.S. Consulate in Zagreb in May 1946, in offices on Kumičićeva Street. In 1951, the U.S. Consulate moved to Hebrangova 2 and remained there for the next fifty years. The Consulate gained the status of Consulate General in 1958. On August 25, 1992, the Consulate General became an Embassy after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the new Republic of Croatia. On June 2, 2003, the U.S. Embassy moved to its current location in Buzin.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Sandra Veljković).

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

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

LNG Terminal Will Be Valuable Asset for Croatia, Says US Ambassador

ZAGREB, March 13, 2019 - When asked by the press on Tuesday about Monday's meetings in Budapest with individuals from the energy sector about which he had tweeted, U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst confirmed that most of the talks focused on the LNG terminal.

"Interesting day of meetings in Budapest organized by the US Embassy, including conversations with a number of Hungarians with interests in the energy business. Also, nice to spend time with Marie Royce, ECA Assistant Secretary, and David Cornstein, US Ambassador to Hungary," Kohorst tweeted on Monday.

The U.S. Ambassador said today in Zagreb he was very proud of the Croatian government for having the courage to adopt a decision about investing in the project, stressing that over the next ten years it will be clear to everyone that this is a very important decision regarding energy security for Croatia and the region.

Asked if Hungary was interested in investing, Kohorst answered in the positive, adding that this also depended on conditions, but that very constructive talks were underway.

Kohorst said that the LNG terminal would be a very valuable asset to Croatia, not only as an insurance instrument for energy diversification and security but also when it comes to getting favourable prices when buying energy.

In other related news, participants in a working lunch which was organised in Zagreb on Tuesday by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) called on Croatia to actively seek investments directed to concrete industries and companies.

Addressing this Executive Lunch focused on "Comparative advantages of Croatia for attracting foreign direct investments in comparison with CEE countries", Tomislav Čorak from the Boston Consulting Group said that foreign direct investments in Europe increased by 6% in the past five years. Investments in industrial production are being gradually being restored, he underscores.

Čorak says that the structure of investments in Croatia should be changed because the added value of investments in hotel infrastructure is lower than investing in some high technology activities.

Despite creating favourable conditions for investments, it is necessary to actively pursue investment, Čorak said and added that it is necessary to detect specific companies which Croatia would like to attract.

Economy Ministry State-Secretary Zdenko Lucić underscored that Croatia had adopted one of the best laws in Europe to encourage investments but that it is not promoted enough and that that requires additional effort.

US Ambassador to Croatia, Robert Kohorst, said that following Croatia's success at the World Cup, Croatia is perceived positively but that will not create new jobs or bring investments and that it is necessary to actively seek investments to desired industries.

Kohorst underscored some positive aspect such as the country's security and its position in the region and that it can develop its business in the entire area and that it had the advantage of being a member of the EU.

The Coca-Cola HBC Croatia General Manager, Ruža Tomić Fontana, says that Croatia has a good regulatory framework for investment attraction, however, she called for speeding up the implementation of investments.

More news about the LNG terminal can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ambassador: US Did Not Block Croatia's OECD Membership Bid

ZAGREB, March 12, 2019 - The US government did not block Croatia's bid to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), US Ambassador Robert Kohorst said at a business lunch organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Jutarnji List newspaper said last week that Washington was opposed to Croatia's OECD membership bid, possibly because of problems with the restitution of Jewish and Serb Orthodox Church property, government reactions to Holocaust denial and Ustasha symbols, corruption and discrimination against LGBT people and other minorities.

"Membership is cooperative discussion among all the members and is done in confidence. I don't know the process, but America is not blocking anything," Kohorst told reporters, declining to say whether Croatia was ready to join.

Croatia formally applied for OECD membership three years ago. Bulgaria, Romania, Peru, Argentina and Brazil are also waiting for accession negotiations to begin.

Croatia's bid has been blocked by Slovenia over Zagreb's refusal to implement the border arbitration ruling. Hungary has recently withdrawn its blockade.

Founded in 1961 and based in Paris, the OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation aimed at boosting the economic growth of the member states and increasing living standards.

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

Friday, 8 March 2019

United States Blocking Croatia’s OECD Membership?

After Hungary withdrew its opposition to Croatia's entry into the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the organisation of 36 most-developed countries of the world, Slovenia has remained alone in its position to continue blocking Croatia's membership. However, according to the latest information, the United States is also opposed to Croatia's accession to the OECD, reports Jutarnji List on March 8, 2019.

Asked whether the information that the US is blocking Croatia's OECD membership is correct, the US embassy in Zagreb said that "the OECD is an organisation based on consensual decision-making and that any decision on the beginning of the process of admitting another country requires the consent of all 36 OECD members.”

The very fact that the embassy did not deny blocking Croatia's entry into the OECD seems to indicate that there are issues. The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges that the United States opposes Croatia's accession to the OECD, but argues that there is no specific problem between the US and Croatia.

“In addition to Croatia, five more countries are awaiting an invitation to start accession negotiations with the OECD (Bulgaria, Romania, Peru, Argentina and Brazil). The USA does not generally oppose the OECD's enlargement to new members but believes that sufficient capacity has not yet been built within the OECD to admit so many countries. Therefore, it demands from the OECD Secretariat and all current members to implement certain reforms to create the preconditions for better functioning of the organisation,” said the Ministry.

Hungary had for a full year blocked Croatia's entry into the OECD, claiming that Zagreb did not respect the decisions of the UN tribunal (UNCITRAL), which stated that there was insufficient evidence that the 2009 contracts concerning INA and MOL oil companies were a result of corruptive activities. In late November last year, Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said that Hungary had withdrawn its blockade, but did not provide any explanation. Slovenia is still blocking Croatia's entry into the OECD because of Croatia’s rejection of the border arbitration ruling.

While the reporters were unable to receive any official explanation from the embassy about reasons for stopping Croatia with regard to the OECD membership, some specific complaints can be found in the State Department report for 2016 (published in 2017). This primarily concerns the issue of property restitution. “The restitution of property remains a problem for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Coordination of Jewish Communities in Croatia, an umbrella organisation representing Jewish communities from across the country, especially the Jewish Municipality of Zagreb. Since 2014, there has been no return of Jewish community property, although there are several requests in the process. Jewish organisations have reported significant problems with the process of recovering private property seized during and after the Second World War,” the report said.

Furthermore, the report also notes that "the Jewish community leaders have put forward evidence of denial of the Holocaust and publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the state to the installation of a memorial plaque with Ustasha greeting from World War II, which a group of war veterans put in 2016 near the Jasenovac concentration camp site." It also states that "there was discrimination of ethnic Serbs and Roma".

Additionally, when it comes to the judiciary, it is highlighted "that the convictions in high profile corruption have often been abolished after an appeal." "Corruption remains a problem, and a significant number of corruption cases is ongoing. Media problems were also mentioned, especially the "lack of transparency about media ownership," especially in local media. The State Department also stressed that "LGBT activists stated that members of their community had limited access to justice, many of whom were reluctant to report violations of their rights due to concerns about the ineffective justice system and fear of further victimisation during court proceedings."

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Frenki Laušić).

More news about the OECD membership can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

US Ambassador: Reporters Shouldn't Be Prevented from Telling Truth

ZAGREB, March 7, 2019 - US Ambassador to Croatia W. Robert Kohorst said on Thursday that reporters should not be prevented from telling the truth but that they do have to be responsible for what they say.

Asked to comment on a reporters' protest against censorship held in Zagreb last Saturday, Kohorst said that the United States believed that there was nothing more important than freedom of the press.

"The United States is very much in favour of freedom of speech and hopefully journalists have the freedom to write articles that are both truth and informative," Kohorst said at a regional conference on the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Programme.

The ambassador said that he did not know much about the specific details of the protest but that he believed that there was good freedom of the press in Croatia. "I think that lawsuits that are not appropriate should not be done and we should not try and keep journalists from telling the truth but they do need to be responsible for what they say and hopefully there can be a balance between freedom of expression and telling the truth," said Kohorst.

Commenting on the case of reporter Đurđica Klancir, who was carded by police at workplace on Tuesday in relation to a private lawsuit against her, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Thursday that if police conduct in the case should prove to be problematic, it was up to those in charge to deal with the problem and he announced possible changes to rules of police conduct or the police law if they proved not to be sufficiently clear.

"If the police officers acted lawfully, if their conduct was in line with professional rules, and if despite that there is a problem, it's up to those in charge of the police system to deal with it. If the problem concerns insufficiently clear rules that were defined by the minister of the interior in 2010, then we can deal with it promptly by adopting certain changes, and I will sign them," Božinović told Hina in Brussels where he was attending a meeting of the EU ministers of the interior.

He said that upon his return to Zagreb he would convene a meeting of the Police Directorate to discuss in detail existing rules and see what can or should be amended so that citizens as well as police officers do not find themselves in situations such as the one in question due to possibly unclear regulations. "If that requires changes to certain laws, we are authorised to launch a legislative procedure," said the minister.

Klancir, a reporter who works for the web portal, was carded by two police officers at workplace on Tuesday and the police officers told her that they were doing so at the request of an attorney who was filing a private lawsuit against her on behalf of Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivo Žinić, who was suing her for slander.

The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) has condemned the case as an act of political and police pressure" against the journalist and the Union of Police Officers has called on Božinović to replace national police director Nikola Milina over the case in which, it said, police were used for political purposes.

"This is not the first case where rules are interpreted differently. On the other hand, as minister I have to do my best for citizens not to feel intimidated or under pressure in cases of standard police conduct, as was this case," said Božinović.

He said that the Police Directorate, in charge of police conduct, had established that police officers in the specific case had acted in line with the law. "But, if certain conduct, regardless of its lawfulness, can cause disputes of such proportions, we have to ask ourselves... what we can do to avoid them in the future," said the minister.

"It is important that there is no hidden agenda, that police did not act on an order that would be outside the usual, legal procedure. The information I have received from the Police Directorate suggests exactly that... but I repeat, it is also our job to make laws and rules better, in the interest of all, and we will do it."

More on media freedom in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Croatia and the United States Key Partners in Defence

ZAGREB, March 7, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said in Zadar on Thursday that the government was determined to maintain the combat readiness of the air force and that Croatia was in contact with all interested parties concerning its plan to purchase fighter jets. In this context, Krstičević said that Croatia and the United States are key partners in defence and security. We have good relations. We talk with all interested parties and after we analyse the whole situation, we will make the next step.

Krstičević said this when asked by the press to comment on U.S. Ambassador Robert Kohorst's statement about the United States being supportive of whatever Croatia decides regarding F-16 combat aircraft.

Asked if the United States was willing to negotiate directly with Croatia about the purchase of F-16 fighter jets, Kohorst said that the US would fully support Croatia's decision on the matter.

"We are fully supportive of whatever Croatia decides with F-16s, we don't have a position as to what that decision should be, we are waiting for the government to make their position clear, and we are happy to be supportive. We are a good military ally of Croatia, Croatia is with us and we want to be fully supportive of what they do," said Kohorst in Zagreb earlier in the day.

More news on the fighter jet acquisition can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

American Expatriate in Croatia Confused by Local Customs (VIDEO)

An American expatriate in Croatia Kaleigh Hendershot has been living in Sesvete for the last two years. Over the last several months, Kaleigh has been posting videos on her This Croatian Life YouTube channel with her thoughts and opinions about living in Croatia. One of the most popular videos was the one in which she spoke about things about her husband which drive her crazy. In the latest video, she discusses five things in Croatia which are confusing to Americans, reports Večernji List on February 26, 2019.

The first thing that surprised me is that in Croatia when you buy something at a store, you have to put it in the bag yourself. In America, you have a person who puts your products in the bag and gives them to you after you pay. The first time I went into a shop, I was confused after I realised that the things I bought were just put to the side, Kaleigh said.

She is also confused by the floor counting rules. There is no ground floor in America, so the ground floor is called the first floor. Because of this, Kaleigh lost her way several times when she tried to visit her friends.

She has already gotten accustomed to the Croatian habit of spending endless hours in coffee shops, but what is not clear to her is that after the initial order you have to call the waiter again. In America, the waiter comes back after a while and asks you if everything is okay and do you need something else. In Croatia, you have to raise your hand and establish eye contact with your waiter if you want to order something more, added Kaleigh.

Another thing she is confused about is that it is not allowed to turn right while driving if you have the red light. In America, you can turn right regardless of the light, provided of course that no one is passing through the intersection.

“Fuel is much more expensive in Croatia than in America, and the particularly confusing situation is at gas stations. In America, diesel is denoted with a green colour while gasoline is black. Here it is the opposite. Also, in America, you first pay for the fuel, and then you put it in your vehicle. In Croatia, you pay afterwards. Why is that? One of my friends forgot to pay and returned later to the pump to settle the bill,” Kaleigh concluded.

More news about driving in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Samir Milla).

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

US Ambassador: “For the Homeland Ready” Salute Has No Place in Public Discourse

ZAGREB, February 19, 2019 - US Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst on Tuesday welcomed Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's admission that she was wrong to say that the salute "For the Homeland Ready", used by the pro-Nazi Ustasha regime in Croatia during World War II, was a Croatian historical greeting, noting that notwithstanding respect for freedom of speech, "there are some phrases which have no place in modern society."

"While all countries must protect free speech and political expression, there are some phrases which have no place in modern society," the ambassador wrote on his Twitter account.

"We applaud recent statements by President Grabar-Kitarović regarding the use of divisive speech in Croatia," the ambassador said in his message, including a link to Grabar-Kitarović's statement of Saturday, when she admitted to having made a mistake by describing the salute "For the Homeland Ready" as a historical greeting.

"I accept what historians have said, that it is not a historical Croatian greeting. But the point of my statement was not that part of the sentence, but that it (salute) is compromised and unacceptable," the president said this past Saturday, noting that she was wrong to have trusted her advisors on the issue.

More news on the dark era of Croatia’s history can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

US Secretary of State Meets with Croatian Troops in Poland

ZAGREB, Feb 14 (Hina) - NATO is fully committed to preserving Europe's peace and stability and maintaining its freedom, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a training area in Poland, thanking the NATO, including the Croatian troops in Poland, for their contribution to the alliance's activities, the Croatian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Pompeo on Wednesday visited NATO troops in the Bemowo Piskie training area who are taking part in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence operation as part of the Battle Group Poland.

Among them are members of the Croatian Army, whom the US official thanked, as he did US, British and Romanian soldiers, for their engagement and contribution to security, the ministry said.

The coming celebration of NATO's 70th anniversary will be an opportunity to pay tribute to all those who laid its foundations and defined its main goals, which is that war horrors never happen again in this part of the world, Pompeo said.

He also attended a display of Polish and BGP tactical and technical military equipment, at which Croatian troops presented the Croatian-made M-92 VULKAN self-propelled multiple rocket launcher.

US and Polish officials also attended a live fire exercise, which also involved Croatian troops.

The Croatian troops in the northeast of Poland are taking part in NATO activities designed to accomplish and maintain readiness and support the strengthening of NATO and its member-countries' security.

More news on Croatia’s role in NATO can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

President Receives US Generals from Capstone Programme

ZAGREB, February 14, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Wednesday received a delegation of 17 generals and high ranking civilian officials from the United States Armed Forces who are in Croatia as part of the Capstone programme, a joint service professional military education course for newly promoted brigadier generals and rear admirals serving in the United States military, the Office of the Croatian President said in a press release.

The participants of the programme were led by retired US general Philip Breedlove and US Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst.

Addressing her guests, Grabar-Kitarović focused on bilateral relations between Croatia and the United States as a key strategic partner in the defence sector, key security challenges Croatia was faced with and the importance of a trans-Atlantic alliance in maintaining Europe's security architecture.

The talks also focused on possibilities to further promote defence cooperation, support the development of Croatia's defence abilities and joint initiatives aimed at facing some of the key challenges to European and global security, such as terrorism, hybrid threats and energy security, the press release said.

More news on the relations between Croatia and the United States in the military and other sectors can be found in the Politics section.

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