Friday, 14 December 2018

Interior Ministry Facility Renovated with Help of US Donation

ZAGREB, December 14, 2018 - A ceremony was held in Zagreb on Friday to mark the completion of renovation work on the Interior Ministry facility, arms depot "Gaj", for which the US government donated one million dollars, and in attendance were also Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović and US Ambassador William Kohorst.

Ambassador Kohorst said that the donation would have a far-reaching effect in terms of better security of the ministry's arms storage facilities and the safety of its employees.

The programme will also increase the general security of Croatian citizens and the country's neighbourhood, Kohorst said, adding that the project was also a symbol of partnership between Croatia and the United States.

"Our two countries have been developing good, partnership-based relations in many areas, and the Ministry of the Interior and Croatian police have been reinforcing their very successful strategic, operational and educational cooperation with US law enforcement agencies. We are focusing on joint action with the aim of preventing and solving crimes that are a serious threat to peace and that cross-national borders. Croatia is in an important geopolitical and geostrategic region, at an intersection of many routes," Božinović said, thanking the US government for the donation.

Recalling Croatia's war experience and the still too large number of mines left over from the war, Božinović said that investing in mine protection was one of the key security issues.

The United States has recognised the importance of mine protection and explosive and weapons storage in Croatia as well as of activities of the Ministry of the Interior's mine action service, said Božinović.

He recalled that the partnership between the two countries was additionally confirmed last summer with a memorandum on terrorist screening, which, he said, additionally improved the quality of the joint, global fight against terrorism and prevention of illegal migrations.

The US donation was used to purchase protective ballistic equipment and tool kits for destruction of explosive devices as well as to renovate the warehouse complex. Once it is fully completed, the depot will serve to store weapons, munitions and explosive devices from eastern Croatia.

More news on the cooperation between Croatia and the United States can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

USA: “Israel Must Accept Requirements for F-16 Fighter Jets Before Selling Them to Croatia”

ZAGREB, December 8, 2018 - The US Ambassador to Croatia, Robert Kohorst, commented on Friday on the problem regarding the sale of modified Israeli F-16 fighter jets to Croatia, saying that Israel has to accept the set technical requirements for the American side to agree to the sale of 12 fighter jets, and adding that this debate has to do with who owns the rights to the technical and intellectual property.

"The Israelis need to accept the technical requirements and as soon as that's done, we can move forward and the sale can go through," Kohorst said at a farewell ceremony for the outgoing Israeli Ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman.

According to Kohorst, "the United States has consistently said what the technical requirements are for more than two years and everyone should have known that these are the technical requirements and so it's a bit of a surprise to me that there is this slowdown right now."

He also explained that "the debate is who will pay for the conversion because the USA and its contractors Lockheed Martin have to do the work because they're the ones who own the technology and intellectual property."

"Well, I'm not involved in the negotiations, and I don't think they really have a choice because this is intellectual property of Lockheed Martin and they need to give their approval to do the transfer," the US ambassador told reporters.

Asked whether Israel had withheld information that it had inbuilt its own sophisticated electronic system, Kohorst said: "I don't know what their negotiation strategy was." "I'm sure that they in good faith made an offer," he said and underscored Croatia, the United States and Israel are "great allies" and will resolve this problem.

Israel's ambassador said that she hoped a positive outcome would be found in the interest of the United States and Israel for the technical problem to be resolved. We are all interested in finding a solution and I'm convinced that it will be so, Ambassador Kleitman said, calling for patience. I hope that everything will be resolved by the end of the year.

Her four-year term expires a month from now.

For more on Croatia’s attempts to buy the fighter jets, click here.

Friday, 7 December 2018

US Embassy, Defence Minister Comment on F-16 Sale Rumours

ZAGREB, December 7, 2018 - The US Embassy in Zagreb said on Friday that it was cooperating with Croatia and Israel on finding an acceptable solution that would enable the confirmation of an agreement on the purchase of Israeli F-16 fighter jets by Croatia, following reports in the Israeli media that the US was blocking the F-16 sale.

Israeli media have reported that US Secretary of Defence James Mattis is not allowing Israel to sell 12 F-16 fighter jets to Croatia. The US administration must give its consent to the country to which it has sold its planes if that country wants to sell them to a third country.

The US Embassy said in a statement today that it has been cooperating with Israel for more than a year regarding the details of the proposed agreement on the purchase of F-16 jets. The US side says that during the talks it has been consistent and clear on technical conditions under which it would be willing to agree to the conclusion of the agreement. The embassy said that it was currently cooperating with Israel and Croatia on agreeing an acceptable option that meets Croatia's needs for the set time period.

The Israeli media have reported that Washington is angry because it believes that by upgrading the electronic systems in the US-made aircraft, Israel has unfairly profited from their sale to Croatia.

The Croatian government in March decided to buy 12, about 30-year-old F-16 Barak fighter jets from Israel. Previously, in the summer of 2017 it sent a request for the purchase of aircraft to five countries - the USA, Sweden, Greece, South Korea and Israel. In October 2017, bids were opened and the Israeli offer was selected as the most favourable.

Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Friday that Croatia had not received any official notification that the USA was blocking the delivery of Israeli F-16 jets to Croatia.

In a statement to the press, the minister said that Croatia was not familiar with the information published by Israeli media that US Secretary of Defence James Mattis was not allowing Israel to sell 12 F-16 fighter jets to Croatia.

"The news about that was published on Thursday evening. Croatia has not received any official notification. When we receive it, we will inform the public accordingly," Krstičević told reporters during a visit to Split.

Krstičević recalled that the US government had given Israel permission to offer the Israeli F-16 jets to Croatia. "We have a document to that effect. In its bid, Israel undertook to deliver to Croatia aircraft that is compatible with NATO and obliged itself to ensure that the extension of the planes' service life complies with the original manufacturer's criteria. Delivery, too, is the responsibility of the State of Israel. Based on those documents and the tender, we made the decision on the purchase of the multipurpose fighter jets and the process was legal and transparent," said Krstičević.

The Croatian government on March 29 unanimously adopted a decision to buy 12 F-16 C/D Barak jets that were about 30 years old. Croatia will pay 2.9 billion kuna for the planes over a period of ten years.

For more on the Croatian air force, click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

American International School Relocates to New Campus

ZAGREB, November 17, 2018 - A new, modern building of the American International School of Zagreb was officially inaugurated in Zagreb's Bundek neighbourhood on Friday.

This state-of-the-art school is attended by 250 students of 36 different nationalities, who acquire competencies based on modern learning methods. One-fifth of the students attending the American International School of Zagreb (AISZ) are Croatians.

The American International School was established in 1966 and 52 years after its establishment it has moved to a befitting campus – the most beautiful school building in Zagreb, in the city's most beautiful park, Bundek, Mayor Milan Bandić said at the opening ceremony.

Opening the new school, US Ambassador William Robert Kohorst thanked generations of American International School employees who over the past 52 years had worked with enthusiasm to help realise the project.

He commended the school's location and thanked the mayor of Zagreb as well as the companies that built the new school building – Teh-gradnja and Projektgradnja – for their professionalism, recalling that the building was built in a record 13 months and cost 14.7 million euro.

The ambassador said that the AISZ was the best school in the country, offering many possibilities to help children develop competencies for jobs of the future.

School director Paul Buckley said that the school offered an innovative international curriculum based on the newest education research and practice. He thanked everyone involved in the new school project – current and former members of the school board – as well as the project authors – Boston architects David Croteau and Jenni Katajamäki of FLANSBURGH Architects and Zagreb architects Vedran Pedišić and Erick Velasco Farrera of SANGRAD+AVP.

He noted that the school had been furnished by Croatian companies. The school director also said that the school could admit 500 students.

The school has three atria, halls that also serve as areas for learning, a running track, a theatre with a music classroom, an art studio, a dance studio, two open libraries, chemistry, physics and biology laboratories with modern equipment, a workshop and many other amenities, he said.

The school provides the best possible education for its students as well as encouraging them to accept differences and love their life and the life of others, said the director.

Mayor Bandić said that Zagreb was a multiethnic and multicultural city, open and safe for all. He said the AISZ was proof of Zagreb's multiculturalism and thanked everyone, including the current US ambassador, as well as his predecessors, for everything they had done to help accomplish the new school project.

Bandić also said that the new school was evidence that "the United States is seriously counting on Croatia", and expressed his gratitude to the USA "for everything it did for Croatia in the critical moments of its history."

Representatives of the parliament, government and the president's office also attended the opening ceremony.

For more on Croatia’s schools, click here.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Croatian American Official Leaves White House after Row with Melania Trump

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel has left her post, following a high-profile row with US First Lady Melania Trump. A White House spokeswoman said the official leaves the White House to transition to a new role within the administration. She did not elaborate, reports BBC on November 15, 2018. Mrs. Trump said this week that Mrs. Ricardel no longer deserves the honour of serving in this White House. The two reportedly feuded during a tour of Africa in October.

Mira Ricardel was the highest-ranking Croatian American in the US administration. She was born as Mira Radielović in 1960, four years after her father came to the United States, moving from Breza in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In their new American home, they always spoke Croatian and regularly attended masses in the Croatian church in Arcadia, California.

Mira devoted her career to international relations and politics. She graduated from Georgetown University in the field of international relations, and several years later she received her doctorate from the Tufts University. Shortly thereafter, she met his first husband, Robert Baratta. With him she gained the initial political experience and soon defined her political position as a "Reagan Republican", relying on the policies of the Republican president from the 1980s.

In 1986, she was hired by the State Department where she helped managed relations with the US Congress. Three years later, in 1989, she started working with Senator Bob Dole as his legal advisor. After the outbreak of the war on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, she significantly influenced Sen. Bob Dole, enabling him to have a full and real insight into the situation on the ground. Precisely because of this, Serbia accused her at the time for influencing Senator Dole to conduct "anti-Serbian polities".

She supported Bob Dole in the presidential election in 1996 which he lost to Bill Clinton. She moved to New York and worked for Freedom House for the next few years.

With the return of the Republicans to the White House, Mira Baratta returned to politics, becoming the assistant secretary of defence for international security. At that time, her marriage with Baratta fell apart and she soon married the well-known photographer Vincent Ricardel.

With the departure of George Bush from the White House, Mira Ricardel decided to try her luck in business. She soon became the vice president of Teachscape, and in 2006 she became vice president of Boeing, where she would stay for the next ten years.

After Donald Trump became president, she was first appointed to a position in the Commerce Department, and in April this year, she became the Deputy National Security Adviser.

For more on Croatia’s relations with the United States, click here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Croatia and US Sign Agreement on Searching for WWII Dead

ZAGREB, November 14, 2018 - The Croatian Minister of Veterans' Affairs Tomo Medved and the Director of the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Kelly McKeague signed a memorandum of understanding in Zagreb on Tuesday on investigating, locating and transferring the remains of US military personnel gone missing in Croatia during World War II. The memorandum on WWII formalises and reaffirms the excellent cooperation between the two ministries and defines their mutual relations and methods of cooperation in investigating, locating and transferring the remains of US personnel presumed to have gone missing in Croatia in WWII at the expense of the United States, the Ministry of Veterans' Affairs said in a statement.

"I am confident that this memorandum will be a good basis for the further investigation of 61 sites and for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the search for the missing persons," Medved said, adding that Croatia already had similar agreements in place with Germany, Italy and Slovenia.

McKeague said that this visit was a very important opportunity showing cooperation between the two countries, adding that the cooperation would not have been successful without the effort of the Ministry of Veterans' Affairs and the faith that war casualties would be traced.

Tracing those who made the greatest sacrifice in battle is a value that the United States shares with Croatia. This is a search for answers that we can give to the families of those missing, which is a very humane goal, McKeague said.

The US is looking for 161 pilots who went missing in the territory of Croatia during WWII. Their families are grateful to Croatia for signing the memorandum, which is a good indicator of cooperation, McKeague said.

The two countries began working on this issue in February 2017.

Croatia has already provided assistance in locating remains of the crew of a B-24J aircraft, known as the Tulsamerican, that crashed off the southern island of Vis on its way from a combat mission in December 1944.

For more on the cooperation between Croatia and the United States, click here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Pentagon Searching for 200 Missing US Soldiers in Croatia

Croatian Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Tomo Medved and Director of the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Kelly McKeague will sign today in Zagreb a memorandum of understanding on conducting procedures for searching, locating and transferring remains of missing US soldiers who went missing in Croatia during the Second World War, reports Večernji List on November 13, 2018.

The memorandum of understanding, as explained by Veterans’ Affairs Minister Tomo Medved, define the relations of the stakeholders and ways of cooperation in locating and transferring the remains of US staff believed to have gone missing in the territory of Croatia during the Second World War.

“The memorandum is a continuation of the regulation of relations between our two countries in the area of search for the missing persons. Last year, we searched for missing US pilots on the island of Vis,” said Medved, adding that similar agreements were signed recently with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

More than 87,000 US soldiers from the two world wars are still missing, of which 29,000 in Europe and about 200 in the territory of the Republic of Croatia. In July 2017, Croatia provided assistance to the United States in locating the remains of missing US soldiers, members of the B-24 Tulsamerican aircraft crew, who crashed near the island of Vis on December 17, 1944, while returning from a combat task. Next to the wreckage, which was accidentally discovered 1.2 miles south of the island of Vis in 2009, the remains of bones were found.

“This is the first in a series of initiatives which we want to use to find as many as 203 missing American soldiers. They have carried out their mission, and now it is up to us to do our best to demonstrate they have not been forgotten,” said the then US ambassador to Croatia, Julieta Valls Noyes.

The Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs is working on developing the Croatian model of searching for missing persons, which includes positive experiences of international organizations dealing with this issue.

For more on Croatia-USA relations, click here.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Tea Romić).

Friday, 9 November 2018

US Ambassador: Croatia-USA Relations Excellent

ZAGREB, November 9, 2018 - Croatia and the United States have excellent relations and are continuing to strengthen cooperation in areas of common interest, from security and economy to regional cooperation, US Ambassador Robert Kohorst said on Thursday. Croatia's interests and our priorities are very tightly aligned and we have a lot in common when it comes to security, economic growth and regional cooperation, he said in a talk on Croatia-USA relations as partners for the future which he gave at the invitation of the Croatian Diplomatic Club.

Kohorst said that after Croatia joined NATO and the European Union, its role in Europe and the world had grown and changed, and that Croatia-US relations developed and grew stronger. Now we are real partners, our relations are strong and we are continuing to develop them, and we must not take the friendship between our two countries for granted, he added.

My duty therefore is to show respect for Croatia as a US partner. Too often we forget who our partners are. We share common obligations in NATO, both countries agree that a threat to one member represents a threat to us all. Croatia is in a region which suffered a lot because of wars and political turbulence. Therefore Croatia understands better than most the importance of strong partnership, said Kohorst.

Speaking of Croatia's important role in the stabilisation of the region, he recalled that Southeast Europe had experienced plenty of conflict. We know that ethnic tensions and regional disputes can cause new conflicts with big consequences, not just for Europe. We look on Croatia as an important player in resolving the main disputes in the region, Kohorst said, underlining the importance of developing Croatia-Serbia relations. He said the US and Croatia shared the same goal of promoting peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the framework of the Dayton peace agreement.

Speaking of defence matters, the US ambassador said Croatia was a committed and active partner in security. For more than 15 years, US and Croatian troops have been deployed side by side in NATO missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As a member of the coalition against Islamic State, Croatia plays an important role in the fight against global terrorism, said Kohorst. He commended Croatia's decision to increase defence funds which should eventually reach 2% of GDP.

We wish to support our partners and goals around the world but our partners should invest more in defence and be financially more responsible. Croatia is doing that, having recognised its obligations, he said. Another important chapter in bilateral relations is the upgrade of military equipment so that Croatia can replace old Soviet weapons and come even closer to NATO standards, Kohorst said.

Speaking of the economy, he said it was especially important to him to help Croatia become a regional leader in energy, improve its business climate and adopt the necessary economic reforms, as well as to help in the signing of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.

I want to help Croatia utilise its potential to become an energy hub for Europe, this is a big priority for the US. Croatia's geographical position and its connections with the neighbours make it an entry point for the import of natural gas, said the ambassador. He said the Croatian government was making progress in realising an LNG terminal on Krk island which would give Croatia and the region an additional option for gas imports.

President Donald Trump fully supports the construction of the terminal on Krk. You have a central location in Europe and incredibly big potential. EU membership gives you greater access to European markets than before, he said.

Kohorst, who comes from very successful business circles, warned that the business climate in Croatia remained difficult, underlining legal uncertainty. Business people have plenty of risks anyway and don't need additional risks related to the system, he said, adding that one of his missions was to help Croatia become an attractive business location.

For more on Croatia-USA relations, click here.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Pag Lace Conquers New York

“New York will always be my home. I spent ten years of my life there, the ten most successful years in my modelling career. That is the reason why my sister and I wanted to use the latest collection ‘Helena’s New York’ to pay homage to my favourite city. There are venues which I have to visit whenever I am in the city. I always stay at a hotel in the Soho neighbourhood. One of my favourite restaurants is located there, offering the finest Pavlova, a cake named after the famous Russian ballerina. After brunch, I always buy some magazines and books at the Bookmarc bookstore by designer Marc Jacobs, I walk around and sit on the bench in Washington Square Park,” said Helena Šopar, the top Croatian model originally from Novalja on the island of Pag, known for its lace, reports Večernji List on November 3, 2018.

031118 pag lace 1

She has also used New York as a backdrop for a photo-shoot for the new 2018/2019 winter collection of her brand Sopar Collection, which she founded three years ago together with her younger sister Tamara Rebić. The Šopar sisters combine tradition and modernity in their collections, and the leitmotif of each piece of clothing is the lace, which their home island Pag is widely known for. And they are inspired by it: the Lafayette shirt from the new collection was inspired by the male pyjamas from the early 20th century Novalja, while the West Village dress, with lace on its sleeves, was named after one of her favourite New York neighbourhoods.

031118 pag lace 3

“Tamara and I imagined a young businesswoman walking as the foliage falls in late autumn and her face feels the final rays of sunshine. I am happy that we have managed to recreate this fantasy picture during the photo-shoot,” said the model talking about her new collection, which is dominated by pastel tones and rich wool dresses.

Almost all pieces of clothing have at least one element med of lace, including earrings.

If you want to read more about the Pag lace, click here.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Marijana Marinović).

Monday, 29 October 2018

US Senator Hatch Receives Croatia’s State Decoration

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who is President pro tempore of the Senate, on Monday received a high decoration from President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović for his outstanding contribution to Croatia's reputation and status in the United States.

I am honoured to be here in this beautiful country. It is a great country that I love and honour, Senator Hatch said receiving the Order of Duke Branimir, the president's office said in a press release.

Senator Hatch is the President pro tempore of the US Senate who acts in place of the Vice President of the United States. The U.S. Constitution provides that the Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate (despite not being a Senator), and mandates that the Senate must choose a President pro tempore to act in the Vice President's absence.

Hatch underscored that he values and loves Croatia. He added that he was a close friend of Croatian basketball player Krešimir Ćosić who played for Brigham Young University in Utah, where Hatch comes from originally and added that Ćosić was a lovely person and his personal friend.

Senator Hatch also met with Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and the two officials confirmed the high level of bilateral and friendly relations between Croatia and the USA that both countries are developing through frequent exchanges of visits at all levels.

Jandroković asked Hatch to support Croatia's bid to be covered by the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the parliament speaker's office said in a press release. He also asked for the senator's support to efforts to have a double taxation avoidance agreement signed by Croatia and the USA.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met on Monday with US Senator Orrin G. Hatch for the talks on the continuation of excellent cooperation between the two countries, the government's office said in a press release. Plenković and Hatch confirmed the excellent political and friendly relations between Croatia and the USA.

The prime minister expressed his conviction in the continuation of successful political, economic and defence cooperation between the two countries within the NATO alliance. Plenković and Hatch discussed accelerating the process of visa liberalisation for Croatian citizens and the need to incorporate Croatia in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). They advocated strengthening American investments in Croatia and in reference to energy and diversifying energy sources, they discussed the construction of an LNG terminal on Krk Island which the US supports, the press release said.

Hatch, aged 84 is the longest-serving Republican Senator in the history of the United States, having served the Senate since 1977.

If you want to know more about relations between Croatia and the United States, click here.

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