Friday, 27 May 2022

Montenegrin And Croatian Fms Push For Resolving Open Issues As Good Neighbours

ZAGREB, 27 May 2022 - Croatia wants to continue developing good neighbourly relations with Montenegro, help it on its journey to the EU as well as discuss outstanding issues in the spirit of good neighbourly relations, Croatia's Foreign Minister said after meeting his Montenegrin host in Cetinje on Friday.

Underscoring that this was his third visit to Montenegro in a short period, Croatia's minister of foreign and European affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, said Montenegro could continue counting on Zagreb's support on its path to full membership in the EU.

However, he underscored that it is important to open dialogue and address outstanding issues between the two countries.

"I believe that issues need to be resolved in the spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourly relations and within the framework of international law. That implies the resolution of the fate of missing persons, prosecuting war crimes and the rights of war victims," said Grlić Radman after the talks with Montenegro's Ranko Krivokapić.

Grlić Radman added that that also involves the problem of border demarcation and the ownership of the Jadran training ship which is now in the hands of the Montenegrin navy.

The two ministers discussed changing the name of the winter swimming pool in Kotor which was renamed last year after water polo player Zoran Džimi Gopčević, who was a guard of the infamous Morinj war camp which led to Croatia sending a protest note to the then government in Montenegro.

Grlić Radman said that he hoped an agreement would be reached for the long term lease of premises in Donja Lastva near Tivat by the Croat minority.

The two officials also discussed an initiative to erect a monumental plaque as a sign of respect to a Montenegrin JNA general, Vladimir Barović, who committed suicide on Vis Island during the JNA aggression against Croatia because he refused an order to bomb Croatian coastal towns.

"Barović showed humanity in a way that decent and fair people do, people who do not wish to cause damage to a nation that did not do any harm to his compatriots," said Grlić Radman.

He further underscored Croatia's support for the Croat minority in Montenegro and to its organisations: the Croatian National Council and Croatian Civil Initiative. He welcomed a decision by the new Montenegrin government to appoint a Croat - Adrian Vuksanović - as a minister in the government.

Krivokapić thanked Croatia for its support to Montenegro in efforts to fulfill the EU accession criteria.

"Croatia has given us unreserved support in that area with the wish to resolve some outstanding issues as soon as possible. Fostering historical remembrance, repentance and reconciliation on the examples of Morinj, Dubrovnik and some other issues, we are building a new trust, showing our readiness to apologise and take responsibility for all the mistakes, primarily by Montenegro," Krivokapić said.

The two officials agreed that the current geopolitical situation has opened the door to the EU for new members and that Montenegro needs to fulfill all the membership benchmarks as soon as possible and start closing negotiation chapters.

After the meeting, Grlić Radman and Krivokapić laid wreaths at a monument marking the Christmas uprising of 104 years ago and Montenegro's struggle for independence.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Grlić Radman: Putin Should Be Convinced By Pressure Of Senselessness Of Invasion

ZAGREB, 3 March 2022 - Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday that pressure should be put on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aides to convince them of the senselessness of the invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in an interview with Media Service, Grlić Radman was asked if fear of a nuclear war was founded, to which he said that "we should act cautiously, but resolutely" towards Russia.

"We should use all the instruments of pressure through political diplomacy to convince Putin and his oligarchy, his closest aides of the senselessness of this political adventure," the Croatian foreign minister said. "We should also raise awareness of the Russian people. We can see a lot of protests in many cities, with people taking to the streets to oppose the Russian aggression," he added.

Grlić Radman said that the purpose of the sanctions was for "the Putin regime to feel the reaction on their own skin, rather than the Russian people, ordinary citizens."

As for the possibility of the Ukraine crisis spilling over to southeastern Europe, Grlić Radman said that "Serbia barely condemned the Russian invasion" and Belgrade signed the UN declaration on the Russian aggression under pressure.

"There could be a spillover of the conflict because of the fact that Kosovo is not recognized by Serbia, Russia, and some other countries, and because there are frozen conflicts in Russia's vicinity, notably in Moldova and Georgia. Therefore, a spillover can happen and we want to avoid it," the Croatian minister said.

He reiterated that Croatia supported the European membership prospects for Ukraine, as well as for the Western Balkan countries.

There are  23 Croatian nationals left in Ukraine, of whom ten are married to Ukrainians and do not want to leave the country. Croatian Ambassador Anica Djamić has left Kyiv and will continue her duties in the western city of Lviv, Grlić Radman said.

Croatia has taken in more than 600 Ukrainian refugees, and Grlić Radman said that Croatia would not have trouble accepting even hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Over 800,000 Ukrainians have so far fled the armed conflict in their country, most of them seeking refuge in Poland. Between 4 and 5 million people are expected to leave their homes.

Grlić Radman also said that the government was satisfied with the cooperation with President Zoran Milanović on this issue.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Ukrainian FM Says Croatia Would Like to Reciprocate For Our Support

ZAGREB, 26 Feb 2022 - Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday thanked Croatia for its support to Kyiv and to sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Kuleba held a telephone conversation with Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman.

"Zagreb recalls the early 1990s when Ukraine helped Croatia through practical decisions during the Homeland War. Croatia is now reciprocating for our support. I thank Croatia for its support to the EU sanctions against the Russian invaders," the Ukrainian minister tweeted.

On 11 December 1991, Ukraine recognised Croatia, being thus the first United Nations member state to do that. Ukraine did it after Slovenia and Lithuania, which also at that time had not still gained international recognition, recognised Croatia.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Croatian FM Supports Moldova's Territorial Integrity

ZAGREB, 1 Feb 2022 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, who visited Chisinau on Tuesday, expressed support for the territorial integrity of Moldova which is faced with threats of pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

After meeting his Moldovan counterpart Nicu Popescu, Croatia's foreign minister reiterated Zagreb's support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Moldova within its internationally recognised borders.

The negotiations on Transnistria are being held by Chisinau and pro-Russian separatists as well as by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the USA.

Grlić Radman expressed support for Moldova's efforts to be integrated in Europe.

Currently, Moldovan President is Maia Sandu, a leader who has put this 3.5-million-strong country on a pro-European course.

Moldovan Minister Popescu thanked Croatia for being a great advocate of the European integration of Moldova, and stressed that Zagreb and Brussels had always been with Moldova during its challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy crisis.

Commenting on Transnistria, Popescu said that the current situation was complicated and that without the European support, it would have been even more complicated.

Popescu said that his country would like to join the Tree Seas Initiative.

The two ministers signed a memorandum on cooperation between the two ministries' diplomatic academies.

The two countries established diplomatic relations 30 years ago.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Foreign Minister Calling His Counterparts to Apologise Over President's Statements

ZAGREB, 27 Jan 2022 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday that because of President Zoran Milanović's statements about Ukraine, he had to call nearly every one of his counterparts and apologise.

Milanović said on Tuesday that Ukraine did not belong in NATO, that it was one of the world's most corrupt countries, that president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014 in a military coup, and that the crisis on the Ukraine-Russia border was a consequence of the US home policy.

Ukraine issued a strong response and Milanović's statements were reported by world media.

"We are appalled. I, as minister, have indeed a heavy burden and responsibility because of the ambassadors, who have been besieging me, asking what to say and how, how to communicate," Grlić Radman told the press.

"I have to call nearly every minister and apologise, say that what Milanović said is not the government's official position."

He said there was allegedly an initiative in Ukraine to declare Milanović persona non grata.

"I think the Croatian state doesn't deserve such behaviour" from the president, the minister said, "the Croatian state created with the blood of Croatian defenders, which was led by the visionary first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, who would certainly turn in his grave were he to hear such a narrative."

He said this was an attempt "to destabilise the Croatian authorities" and that it had caused Croatia "big reputational damage" in the international community.

Ukraine is not the first state with which Milanović has managed to "make Croatia quarrel" as ambassadors have been summoned because of his statements also in Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, he added.

Grlić Radman expects of the president "a constructive policy, one which will promote peace, stability and cooperation, send positive, affirmative messages, which will result in cooperation with other presidents and which will contribute to the further affirmation of Croatia's foreign policy."

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Croatian President Extends Condolences to Turkish Counterpart Over Wildfires

ZAGREB, 3 Aug, 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanovic has offered his condolences to Turkey, where forest fires have led to deaths and material damage, and invited his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Croatia.

I spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this evening and he thanked Croatia for sending the Canadair CL415 plane and two crews to help put out wildfires in Turkey. I extended my condolences to him and the entire Turkish nation for the suffering of people in the wildfires," Milanovic wrote in his Facebook post on Monday evening.

He said that sending the firefighting airplane to Turkey was a token of friendly and partner-like relations between the two countries, saying that the decision to send the plane was made together by the Croatian government and him as the Supreme Commander of the Croatian Armed Forces.

"I invited president Erdogan to officially visit Croatia so that we can continue to build and develop friendly relations between our two countries.

Turkey is suffering the worst fires in at least a decade. The fires in Turkey began last week and now threaten the cities of Antalya, Bodrum and Marmaris, where hundreds of tourists and residents were evacuated from their hotels and homes.

Eight people have been killed by the fires.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Economy Minister Ćorić on EC Plan to Reduce Gas Emissions

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić on Wednesday spoke of an informal EU meeting of environment ministers in Slovenia on new legislation on climate and the European Commission's recommendation to reduce greenhouse emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990.

He explained at a press conference that this refers to 12 legislative proposals from various areas that are being considered by EU member states in reference to the set objectives.

Ćorić said that this was an important step towards strengthening the EU as a leader in the fight against climate change.

Tax on carbon is a novelty - legislation is very ambitious

Ćorić explained that the new legislation envisages a carbon tax that should protect production in the EU compared to countries that export to the EU but are not encompassed by EU standards and mechanisms.

We are aware that if nothing is done in the next ten years, the potential costs of the damage could be much higher than the costs of transforming economies, he said.

With reference to financing that transformation, Ćorić said that Croatia has more than HRK 60 billion available over the next ten years to be spent in various commercial segments to reduce carbon emissions.

He underscored that the new legislation is very ambitious and a step towards Europe's economic transformation.

Price hikes to be eased with absorbed funds

He said that transition is a huge challenge and is being disputed by some but that it is also a huge opportunity for economies like Croatia through generous allocations of EU funds.

He recalled that Croatia's energy sector has a very small portion reliant on carbon, considering the significant share of hydro-power and potential for renewable sources.

Referring to the announcement for the construction of a new block at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) in Slovenia, Ćorić said that that project could take up to a decade to be achieved, adding that Croatia has still not been officially informed of that project.

He recalled that obligations existed under international conventions for projects of that nature with a cross-border impact. Croatia has been advised of extending the lifespan of NEK to 2043.

He underscored that NEK is a stable source of energy and believes that it will continue to be so. He added that his ministry is interested in seeing more formal proposals to see whether Croatia would enter into a partnership with Slovenia regarding the construction of a new block at the Krško plant.

He added that Croatia was monitoring the situation with the Paks Nuclear Power Plant in Hungary because Croatia imports 30 to 45% of energy needs from abroad, depending on the hydrological situation.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Croatian Defence Minister and Chief-of-Staff on Official Visit to USA

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić and the Croatian Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff , Admiral Robert Hranj are on an official visit to the USA to mark the 25th anniversary of cooperation with the Minnesota National Guard, as part of the State Partnership Programme, the Defence Ministry reported on Wednesday.

This is Minister Banožić's first official visit to the United States since stepping into office.

Banožić and Hranj visited the Sikorsky helicopter factory in Connecticut on Monday where they met with the company's executives and president Paul Lemmo.

The company is a subsidiary of the Lockhead Martin company which also producers UH-60 Black Hawk and SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. 

The Defence Ministry (MORH) points out the importance of military and technological cooperation with the USA which includes donations and the procurement of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the armed forces. During the meeting, Minister Banožić said that a US donation in 2019 was an important support to Croatia's national policy aimed at transitioning to equipment originating in the West.

"After that donation, we decided to procure two more Black Hawk helicopters and have allocated $85 million for that purpose. Our ambition is to continue developing this investment because, being a reliable and credible member of the NATO alliance, the transition to Western technology is the only possible and correct path," Banožić said. He expressed his satisfaction that at the moment Croatia's military pilots and aviation technicians are attending various training courses in the US, specialising in particular on the  Black Hawk helicopter.

"We also have two pilots gaining additional flying hours in Minnesota in cooperation and assistance of the Minnesota National Guard. This is important for us, not only in the context of buying equipment but in the context of security because we will obtain the necessary support in training," added Banožić.

Black Hawk helicopters can be used to support civilian institutions - in fighting wildfires, search and rescue missions, and emergency medical transport.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

European Comission Publishes Rule of Law Report on Croatia

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - A series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings against them, public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and lawsuits against journalists give rise to concern, the European Commission says in a report on the rule of law in Croatia.

The Commission on Tuesday published its second annual report on the rule of law in the EU member states, a new instrument that should help in early detection and prevention of problems relating to the rule of law.

The report covers four key areas: the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media freedom and pluralism, and institutional issues relating to checks and balances.

The Commission noted that the report only provides a description of the situation without giving any recommendations and is not designed as a ranking. Its purpose is to raise public awareness and promote open discussion between the member states on rule of law issues both at national and at EU level.

The justice system

The Commission says that the Croatian justice system has seen improvements in reducing length of proceedings and backlogs, but that further improvements are still needed to address serious efficiency and quality challenges.

"The ongoing process for appointing the new Supreme Court President has given rise to controversy and to repeated disparaging public statements against judges", and "the Constitutional Court stressed the importance of cooperation between state authorities" in addressing different views on the appointment of the Supreme Court President.

"The State Judicial Council made proposals to strengthen its role in selecting judges – an issue already raised in the 2020 Rule of Law Report."

Without naming any names, the report says that "a series of alleged ethical breaches and disciplinary violations by judges led to proceedings before the State Judicial Council and Judges’ Councils, as well as to a criminal investigation."

"The level of perceived judicial independence remains very low. Shortages in human resources of the State Judicial Council and the State Attorney’s Councils remain, even if some limited reinforcements have been allocated to verify the newly published asset declarations of judges and state attorneys," the Commission says.

The anti-corruption framework

The reports notes that a new Strategy on the Prevention of Corruption for 2021-2030 is in the public consultation process, envisaging the strengthening of the legal framework on prevention of conflict of interest, which is currently being drafted. Codes of Ethics for members of the Government and for members of Parliament are still missing, while “revolving doors” are only partially regulated.

"Detailed rules on lobbying activities remain to be introduced. While changes to the framework of political immunity of the members of Government were announced, the legislative action has yet to follow. Public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and several cases have been discovered due to reporting by whistleblowers. The prosecution and investigation of high-level corruption continues, but due to protracted proceedings convictions are often delayed."

Media freedom

"Croatia is updating its media legislation to transpose the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, with the revision of the Electronic Media Act to be adopted still in 2021. Concerns about the political independence of the Agency for Electronic Media persist," the Commission says.

"Croatia has a solid framework on transparency of media ownership information and envisages further improvements. While state advertising is partly regulated by the Electronic Media Act, stakeholders report it often undermines the political independence of media outlets which are economically dependent on such funding, notably at local level.

"A legal framework for the protection of journalists is in place, but they continue to face threats. In particular, the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists continues to be a serious concern. Access to information is ensured by law, but delays in the processing of requests from journalists persist."

Checks and balances

The Commission says that although public consultations are embedded in legislative procedures, stakeholders perceive citizen participation to be rather formalistic than substantive.

It notes that Croatia did not declare a state of emergency, and COVID-19 pandemic measures were based on the twice-mended law regarding infectious diseases. "The Constitutional Court has reviewed these measures, finding that they were compatible with the Constitution and also ruled that Parliament should find ways to guarantee its functions during the pandemic."

"The People’s Ombudsperson’s access to the information required to undertake investigations
needs further improvement. The National Plan for Creating and Enabling Environment for
the Civil Society Development 2021-2027 remains in drafting phase since 2016 – an issue
raised in the 2020 Rule of law Report," the Commission says.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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