Thursday, 2 December 2021

Gov't Continues to Strongly Support Slavonia, Says PM

ZAGREB, 2 Dec 2021 - The eastern city of Osijek marked its day on Thursday with a special City Council session at which Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said the government would continue to strongly support the region of Slavonia, Baranja, and Srijem through the policy launched five years ago.

He said that five years ago the government concluded that it was necessary to immediately do the utmost for the region's welfare and that that was the backbone of the policy for a region that was devastated by the Greater Serbia military aggression and which suffered major economic and population problems.

"We felt it was time to offer a strong hand of support to Osijek and Slavonia from the national level, and after five years of that policy, the results can be seen. It's visible that that policy was the right one and useful for citizens in all Slavonia counties, notably in Osijek-Baranja County, which is the engine of the modern development of all Slavonia."

Plenković recalled the many investment projects financed by the government and the EU.

They are all messages that we wish to make Osijek a real regional center of eastern Slavonia, a center of the academic community, culture, the economy, and modern technologies which will attract young people, he said.

He recalled that during the pandemic, government measures helped to save 17,000 jobs in Osijek, with 2,800 companies receiving HRK 242.3 million for wages in the private sector.

Plenković also said that Croatia's entry into the euro area would bring further investment.

Mayor: Biggest budget ever for the continuation of economic growth

Osijek Mayor Ivan Radić (HDZ) said the City Council recently adopted the biggest budget in the city's history, HRK 1.08 billion, and that it would facilitate the continuation of economic growth and development, the strengthening of the pre-school and school education system, the maintenance of the local infrastructure, and care for the most vulnerable groups.

He said a good absorption of national and EU funds was a priority for the realization of city projects, adding that funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan would also be tapped.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron Met Mate Rimac in Zagreb

November 25, 2021 - As part of a busy schedule on his first official visit to Croatia, French President Emmanuel Macron met Mate Rimac in Zagreb, and was introduced to the recently merged Bugatti Rimac, a notorious union between France and Croatia.

After meeting President Milanović and signing the agreement for the sale of 12 Rafale fighter jets, the French president continued with the rest of the activities scheduled for his official visit to Croatia. Along with Andrej Plenković, Emmanuel Macron met Mate Rimac in Zagreb.

As Jutarnji List reports, shortly after 1 p.m., Rimac Group CEO Mate Rimac and Bugatti Rimac Chief Operating Officer Christophe Pichon presented two Nevera and Bugatti cars on the terrace of the Esplanade Hotel to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Emmanuel Macron.

By the way, Bugatti is a French company that recently moved to Zagreb, since they were taken over by the Croatian manufacturer of electric hypercars Mate Rimac.

''It is already somewhat common that the Croatian Government likes to show foreign guests what we are advanced in, so I am glad that they chose us. Especially because we have a lot of employees in France as well'', said Mate Rimac.

The French leader was greeted at the entrance to the Zagreb hotel by the Alkars of Sinj.

''This shows the cooperation between France and Croatia'', said Rimac.

''Bugatti has a 112-year history in Molsheim, France, and we make the fastest petrol cars there, and we make the fastest electric cars in the world here in Zagreb. So it made sense to connect the two'', he added.

Macron and Plenković toured Bugatti's Chiron, a car with more than 1,600 horsepower that is the fastest in the world with a speed of 490 kilometers, and Rimčev Nevera, the car with the fastest acceleration in the world.

President Macron will end his official visit to Croatia with a working lunch at the Esplanade hosted by Prime Minister Plenković, which will be attended by people from the public, economic, cultural, scientific, and sports life that connect Croatia and France.

The coach of all the coaches also arrived for lunch.

''I am not only happy to be here, but also proud and I think that all Croats should be proud because this is one of the greatest European politicians. I hope to talk to him about women'', said Miroslav Ciro Blazevic.

Zlatko Dalic did not want to comment on anything, so Ciro added: "That's because he is an athlete, not a politician."

After lunch, Macron travels to Rome, on official visits to Italy and the Vatican.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Croatia, France Sign New Strategic Partnership Agreement

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and French President Emmanuel Macron signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement in Government House on Thursday, which will further strengthen relations between Zagreb and Paris.

The agreement was signed after their bilateral meeting.

France and Croatia already agreed on a strategic partnership in 2010, but the new agreement will expand and deepen it to a number of new areas. It will be a framework for the further strengthening of relations with that country, it was announced.

With the new strategic partnership, France is supporting Croatia in several areas, political, economic, and cultural, including those that are Zagreb's strategic goals - entry into the Schengen Area and the eurozone, and Croatia's membership in the OECD, Croatian sources said earlier.

After meeting with President Zoran Milanović earlier today, Macron hinted that France would support's Croatia's Schengen Area entry.

He said France and Croatia would continue to cooperate in security and migration, and "there's also Schengen."

Croatia expects that the legal process of making a formal decision to join Schengen could begin in December this year during Slovenia's EU presidency, and the final decision made during the French presidency in the first half of next year.

France's support is also important in light of the fact that France is one of the core members of the EU, but also one of the most influential countries in the world. It is the only permanent member of the Security Council from the EU, the number one military and nuclear power of the bloc, and the seventh-largest world economy.

The new strategic partnership also includes chapters on defence issues, economic relations, cultural, scientific, academic, and administrative cooperation.

The idea of ​​the new strategic partnership is also for "Croatia to become a privileged partner of France in this part of Europe," sources said earlier.

Macron's visit to Croatia is taking place ahead of the French takeover of the six-month presidency of the EU Council from January 1 next year, and in 2022, the current head of state will run again in France's presidential elections.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Croatia, France Sign Deal on Purchase of Rafale Squadron

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - Croatia and France signed an agreement in Zagreb on Thursday on the purchase of French Rafale fighter jets, which will raise the defense capability of the Croatian Army to a much higher level.

The agreement was signed by the two countries' defence ministers, Mario Banožić and Florence Parly, in the presence of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrived on Wednesday for the first official bilateral visit of a French president to Croatia.

Croatia is buying from France 12 Dassault Rafale F3R used multipurpose fighter jets - ten single-seats and two two-seaters - for €999 million to be paid in five installments from 2022 to 2026.

"Those agreements open a new dimension and page in strengthening the defence capabilities of the Croatian Army, the Croatian Air Force. Strategic partnership," Plenković said at a government session on Wednesday.

He had previously stressed that "the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets is strategically changing Croatia's position in the military and defence context, in terms of strength towards international partners, security alliances and coalitions".

On the occasion of signing the agreement, two Rafales flew over Zagreb, exactly the same kind that Croatia is procuring from France.

The first planes are expected to arrive in Croatia in late 2023 or early 2024.

In 2007, Rafale jets proved themselves in Afghanistan, then in Libya, the Sahel, and the Middle East, and in 2015, the first sales of those planes started in Egypt, Qatar, and India a year later.

Croatia is the second country in the European Union after Greece to buy Rafale, and the French bid was chosen in competition with the American (new F-16 Block 70), Swedish (new JAS 39 Gripen), and Israeli (used F-16 Barak) planes.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Macron Hints at French Support for Croatia's Admission to Schengen Area

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - President Emmanuel Macron said in Zagreb on Thursday that France and Croatia would continue cooperating in the sectors of security and migrations, and hinted at French support for Croatia's plan to join the Schengen Area.

Marcon was received by Croatian President Zoran Milanović in his office on Thursday morning with the highest state honors.

Addressing the press after their talks, Milanović said that it was a special honor for him to receive the French head of state.

Macron said that he was proud of being the first French president to visit Croatia since the country gained independence. He said that it was unfair that no French president had visited Croatia before.

Announcing the continuation of cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of security and migrations, Macron added, "Schengen is also here."

Croatia expects the legal procedure for a formal decision on its accession to the Schengen Area to be launched this December when Slovenia is still the chair of the Council of the European Union, and the final decision to be made in the first half of 2022 when France presides over the EU.

Milanović and Macron also discussed the procurement of 12 Rafale fighter jets from France for the Croatian Air Forces.

"This is a big deal in Croatia, both strategically and financially. I am happy about that," Milanović said, adding that the strengthening of Croatia's defence cooperation with France did not mean a halt in cooperation with the United States.

"We have cooperated and we will cooperate with the USA," he said.

During the reception at the Pantovčak presidential office, Macron also held a brief meeting with Croatian pilots who will be trained to fly 12 Dassault Rafale F3R used multipurpose fighter jets.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Plenković Extends Condolences to North Macedonia PM

ZAGREB, 23 Nov 2021 - Croatia is with you in these difficult moments, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in his condolences to North Macedonia PM Zoran Zaev and the families of that country's citizens killed when a bus caught fire in Bulgaria, killing 45 people, the Croatian government said on Tuesday.

The bus with North Macedonia license plates and 52 people on board caught fire on a motorway in western Bulgaria this morning.

An employee of the North Macedonia Embassy in Sofia told BTV that most of the fatalities were North Macedonia citizens.

"It was with great sorrow and genuine regret that I received news of the horrible tragedy in Bulgaria in which most of those killed were your citizens. In these difficult moments for the victims' families, as well as for all North Macedonia, Croatia is with you," Plenković said in his note of condolence to Zaev.

Plenković extended condolences to Zaev, the victims' families, and all of North Macedonia on behalf of the government, the Croatian people, and his own.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 22 November 2021

PM Says Saturday Protest Predominantly Political

ZAGREB, 22 Nov 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the protest against the COVID-19 certificate mandate on Saturday was predominantly a political protest, described as shameful political profiteering from people's fears, COVID-19 deaths, and COVID-19 patients fighting for their lives.

He stressed that he also condemned attacks on reporters during the protest.

"I most strongly condemn the attack on your fellow reporter (Goran) Latković, it is a cowardly and brazen act and it is not clear to me why anyone would bring into question the right of reporters and media to report about a public event. I regret it happened and believe police will identify the perpetrators," Plenković told reporters during a visit to Slovenia.

Noting that it was not problematic to protest and express one's view or disagree with the measures the government was undertaking, Plenković said that the protest was nonetheless of a political nature.

"The gentlemen from the Bridge, the Homeland Movement, the remnants of the Human Shield, and the exhibitionist from the European Parliament whom no one knows there, (Croatian independent MEP Mislav) Kolakušić, have jumped on the bandwagon. (President Zoran) Milanović supported them before and afterward. He is the only president of an EU member country who openly opposes COVID-19 certificates and measures introduced by the government to protect public health," said Plenković.

As for protesters shouting that there was no coronavirus and that they were being denied their freedoms, Plenković said profiteering from people's fears was shameful and called on the protesters to visit an intensive care unit in a Croatian hospital where COVID-19 patients are being treated.

He repeated that vaccination is not mandatory and that testing is being offered as a non-invasive alternative.

"What is invasive about swabbing that lasts half a second? The sole purpose of the protest was to profit from COVID-19 deaths. There are people who try to profit from people's fears while themselves being afraid of a simple test," said Plenković.

Constitution protects Milanović but not his secretary and chief of staff

In a comment on decisions by individual local officials to defy restrictions imposed by the national COVID-19 response team, the PM said that in normal circumstances, everyone fights against disease but that there are know-it-alls who say that there is no coronavirus in Primošten, Sinj, and Čabar, a reference to the three towns' mayors.

"We are dealing here with petty politics and politicians who are sabotaging our measures designed to protect citizens," he added.

As for President Milanović's statements about COVID-19 certificates, Plenković said that the president was protected by the constitution but that his secretary and chief of staff were not.

In a comment on an announcement by the opposition Bridge party that it would organize a referendum on COVID-19 certificates, he said Bridge officials were "the biggest parasites" trying to profit from the current situation, adding that they should be asked if they had got vaccinated as "there are many who are making noise and have protected themselves."

As for a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights pointing to omissions by Croatian police in a case involving the death of a six-year-old Afghan migrant child, Plenković said that he regretted the tragic event and that he respected the ruling.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 22 November 2021

Croatia, France to Sign Aircraft Agreement, Support for Entry to Schengen, Euro Areas

ZAGREB, 22 Nov 2021 - French President Emmanuel Macron is the first French president to officially visit Croatia, and his visit on Wednesday and Thursday is exceptionally important for Zagreb, which will receive support for entry to the Schengen and euro areas and finalize a contract on the purchase of French fighter jets.

"The visit is in line with Croatia's strategic goals for 2022 - entry to the Schengen and euro areas and the strengthening of defense capabilities with the Rafale aircraft," a Croatian government source said on Monday.

Croatia expects the legal procedure for the adoption of a formal decision on its admission to the Schengen area of passport-free movement to begin in December this year, during Slovenia's EU presidency, and it expects the final decision to be adopted during France's presidency in the first half of 2022.

Talks with President Macron on Schengen, therefore, have a twofold significance - France is one of the main EU members and its EU presidency starts on 1 January, the source said.

The source noted that Croatia also expected to receive France's support for admission to the euro area.

The French president will arrive in Croatia on Wednesday evening, his formal host being Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and the reason for that is that the French president, in line with his extensive powers in the presidential political system, is one of the few heads of state who sit on the European Council, which comprises mostly prime ministers. As such, Macron is a formal colleague to other countries' prime ministers, the source said.

Macron will on Thursday be received for talks by President Zoran Milanović, after which he will meet with PM Plenković.

The talks between Plenković and Macron will focus on bilateral relations, the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership, with emphasis on Ukraine and Belarus, the strengthening of the EU's strategic independence, and global topics.

France and Croatia already have an agreement on a strategic partnership but they will sign a new one covering a number of new areas, the source said.

The first visit of a French president is considered important also in light of the fact that France is the EU's leading military power, its only nuclear power, and the only permanent member of the UN Security Council from the EU.

After Plenković and Macron sign a new agreement on strategic partnership, the two countries' defense ministers, Mario Banožić and Florence Parly, will sign an agreement on the procurement of the Rafale jets.

Country's security to be raised to the highest level ever

The purchase of the Rafale jets, "the most modern, new-generation aircraft, for the least money and with the fastest delivery" will mean a huge step forward in Croatia's defense security, raising it to the highest level ever, government officials have said.

Croatia will obtain the most powerful aircraft in the area between Germany and Greece, which will enhance its geopolitical importance as there are no jets in its neighborhood that could be compared with the Rafale.

The jets are expected to arrive in late 2023, which is when Croatia will be able to control its entire territory for the first time, the government source said.

Zagreb in May announced that it would buy 12 Rafale jets to modernize its armed forces, opting for the biggest procurement of military equipment since its war of independence, the Agence France Presse has said ahead of Macron's visit.

Clear French support

The document on a strategic partnership to be signed by Plenković and Macron underlines France's clear support to Croatia's accession to the euro area as well as the Schengen area. France also supports Croatia's admission to the OECD, the Croatian source said.

The idea behind the new agreement on strategic partnership is for Croatia to "become a privileged partner to France in this part of Europe," the source said.

The other elements of the strategic partnership refer to economic relations and cultural, scientific, academic, and administrative cooperation.

Croatia is one of the two EU members, the other being Hungary, which Macron has still not visited since the start of his presidential term.

The French president will end his visit with a dinner, to be organized for members of Croatia's public, cultural, scientific and sports life, after which on Thursday afternoon he travels to Rome, where he will sign an agreement on strategic partnership with Italy, while on Friday he is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Plenković: Vukovar is Croatia and Croatia is Vukovar

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - On the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Homeland War and Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja we recall the heroes to whom the Croatian people owe their freedom and democracy, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday.

"Today, on the 30th anniversary of Remembrance Day, we recall all the heroes to whom the Croatian people owe their freedom, democracy, and the life that we have after the Homeland War. Vukovar is Croatia and Croatia is Vukovar. This can be seen today with numerous people arriving here from all over Croatia and from abroad to pay their respects," Plenković said in Vukovar ahead of the commemorative procession.

He added that this can also be seen in young people attending and is felt in the people.

Vukovar has a future

"The battle for Vukovar is respected, as is its sacrifice. It is a pledge for our future, the sacrifice of Croatian defenders will never be forgotten," said Plenković.

He said that the government has the duty to always do more for Vukovar and its citizens, to invest in its development, economy, social inclusion, and jobs. Plenković recalled that over the past five years the government has done a lot financially and economically as well as symbolically because it wants Vukovar to have a future befitting those who gave Croatia the most.

"It is up to us to make our small contribution and reward that with our actions in the years ahead," said Plenković, once again expressing his gratitude and respect to all those who gave their lives for Croatia's freedom in Vukovar 30 years ago.

Prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of Vukovar defenders and civilians continues

The prime minister said that Croatia is still searching for 1,800 missing persons from the Homeland War and that Veterans' Minister Tomo Medved is working on that.

"We are seeking information from those who have it and that is the Serbian authorities and individuals who know where the graves of those who fell for Croatia are located. We will persist in those efforts in partnership with the families of the missing, with associations and all those who have suffered and are still suffering because they don't know the fate of their loved ones," said Plenković.

As regards war crimes, he said that almost one-sixth of those accused of war crimes in Croatia were from the Vukovar area. The entire JNA command has been indicted, as well as individuals, and there have been more than 100 convictions, but that process is continuing.

Some of the perpetrators of war crimes are out of reach of Croatia's judiciary, but we will continue with the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of numerous Vukovar defenders and civilians.

Question of the missing part of the criteria for Serbia's accession to the EU

As far as Serbia is concerned, the issue of the missing is raised at every meeting at all levels and that is something that will continue to be insisted upon, Plenković said.

"Recently there have been some signals of political will to take a step forward but given the experience we have had, we are cautious in analyzing those announcements, and only when we have concrete evidence and information that is currently unknown to the Croatian authorities will we be able to take a step forward. It is clear that the issue of the missing is part of the obligations Serbia has to fulfill on its journey toward the EU and we will always emphasize that," said Plenković.

Asked about his opinion of segregated classes in schools and kindergartens, Plenković said that the process of peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region resulted in certain occurrences in that area but the government is working on inclusive policies towards all minorities in Croatia, including the Serb minority.

"We will continue that policy. We consider it to be good and useful for Croatia which has European values that we want to be shared throughout Croatia, including Vukovar," he added.

With reference to the epidemiological situation, Plenković said that the expectation is for everyone in Vukovar to act responsibly.

"We cannot ignore the disease that exists around the globe and has been with us for two years and has caused us to change our way of life. That is why I expect today's commemorative procession, gathering in front of the hospital, attendance at the memorial cemetery, and Ovčara to pass in dignity, above all because of the victims, and everyone should make a small contribution towards responsibility. Even though we will be outdoors, we should not put others at risk," he said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Croatian PM Calls on Kosovo, Serbia to Hold Dialogue, Normalise Relations

ZAGREB, 15 Nov 2021 - Kosovo and Serbia should find a way to normalize relations and Croatia will support them in that, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Priština on Monday.

"Croatia's stand is that we support stability, that we are for de-escalating all the tensions we have seen in recent weeks, that it's first of all up to Serbia and Kosovo to find the optimal way to resume dialogue and respect either the existing agreements or reach new agreements which will make the relations better," Plenković said at a joint press conference with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Croatia is interested in developing relations with Kosovo and normalizing the relations with Serbia as much as possible, Plenković said. "We will do our best to support normalization between Kosovo and Serbia."

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Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenković with Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti. (Photo: @AndrejPlenkovic/Twitter)

Kurti invited Serbia to mutual recognition of the two countries, saying that they should talk about the disappeared.

"We want to join NATO and the EU. It's necessary to make progress in the Euro-Atlantic integration process," he added.

Plenković said Croatia supported EU enlargement and that the road to membership represented "a clear anchor and course of political, social, economic and sectoral development."

"Serbia's European perspective is equal to that of all Southeast European countries, he added.

Serbia is conducting EU accession negotiations, while Kosovo has not been recognized by five EU member states - Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain - so Serbia, Plenković said, "is several steps ahead of Kosovo."

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Photo: @AndrejPlenkovic/Twitter

He is confident the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue with the EU's mediation will bring them closer to membership and "eventually, I don't know when bringing to mutual recognition. But it's up to the states to agree on that."

A meeting was held between Plenković, Kurti, their delegations, and the two countries' business people, including representatives of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Ericsson Nikola Tesla and KONČAR - Electrical Industry.

Before the pandemic, Croatia-Kosovo trade was €100 million annually. Croatia is Kosovo's seventh biggest foreign trade partner.

Plenković said the relations between the two countries were "friendly, full of understanding and the wish to intensify them."

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Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic with President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani. (Photo: @AndrejPlenkovic/Twitter)

He also met with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, who presented him with the Saint Theresa presidential medal.

The medal was also given to Josip Samardžić, director of the general hospital in Slavonski Brod which treated the passengers from a Kosovo bus that crashed near the Croatian city in July. Ten people were killed in the accident.

Plenković was also received by Kosovo Parliament Speaker Glauk Konjufca.

Later today he will visit the Croat community in Janjevo and the Croatian contingent within the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force.

This is the first official visit by a Croatian prime minister to Kosovo in ten years.

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