Friday, 11 February 2022

PM Plenković Meets European Council President in France

ZAGREB, 11 Feb 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who flew on Thursday evening to France for "The One Planet Summit for the Ocean", met European Council President Charles Michel ahead of the summit meeting, which is taking place in Brest on 9-11 February.

Plenković tweeted on his account that he and Charles Michel discussed Croatia's aspirations to join the Schengen Area and the euro area, and efforts to address energy price rises as well as the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the importance of the reform of that country's election legislation.

On Friday, PM Plenković and Croatian Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić will participate in the summit, which is being held to mobilize the international community to take concrete action to reduce these adverse effects on the ocean.

French President Emmanuel Macron is the host of this summit.

Plenkovć is due to hold a speech on the protection of oceans and seas and the struggle against plastic pollution.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Opposition Criticises Report on European Council Meetings in 2021

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Opposition MPs on Wednesday criticized a report on European Council meetings in 2021, warning about population problems, the poor status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, higher energy prices, and inflation, while the majority said Croatia's interests were defended well at those meetings.

The report was presented by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Nino Raspudić (Bridge) said the Council of the EU rejected Croatia's amendments on legitimate political representation and the equality of three constituent peoples in BiH through an electoral reform ahead of a vote due in October.

He said that instead of Croatia blocking those conclusions in line with its national interest, the Plenković cabinet "coldly betrayed Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Croatian interest overall."

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said the Council of the EU conclusions were the incumbent government's biggest success. "If anyone has done something for Croats in BiH, then it's Plenković and all of us who were there with him."

Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said that last year the European Council called on the member states and the Commission to help the most vulnerable citizens and companies, to design medium and long-term measures to cut energy prices, and to cut taxes.

"Croatia has done none of that. The only measure was that freezing of fuel prices," he said, adding that Croatia could do a lot to help citizens and businesses.

Grbin said that at the European Council Croatia joined France and some other member states in pushing for nuclear energy, asking why Croatia was not joining countries that pushed for alternative sources. In the long term, he said, Croatia must deal with energy sources and achieving the biggest autonomy possible on that front.

Grbin said the SDP was for Croatia's entering Schengen and for using money from the EU Solidarity Fund for post-earthquake reconstruction.

He called on the government to give an estimate, based on the current inflation, of what awaits Croatia with the introduction of the euro and of how to alleviate the inflation blow to citizens.

Bojan Glavašević (Green-Left Bloc) said Croatia received a lot of money from the EU because it was undeveloped and poor, not because of the prime minister's efforts.

He said the results of Croatia's efforts regarding EU enlargement were such that North Macedonia continued to have a shameful blockade of its accession negotiations, Serbia was adopting laws that were the opposite of the EU acquis and values, and Montenegro was going backward.

The EU has no understanding for BiH and the Croats there nor a big interest in the Croatian government's positions in that regard, Glavašević added.

Marko Pavić of the ruling HDZ said that while Bridge wanted to isolate Croatia in the EU and the Sovereignists were against the euro, even though a majority of citizens were for, the HDZ was pushing for modern sovereignism and not isolating Croatia in the European Council.

He said the government and Plenković knew how to defend Croatia's interests, as evidenced in their ensuring €25 billion from European funds for the country's development over the next ten years.

Croatia came out of the recent crisis in just 18 months, and not in ten years as it took after the 2008 crisis, Pavić said, adding that despite the recent crisis, Croatia's credit rating was upgraded and it had a successful tourist season.

He wondered why Grbin was afraid of nuclear energy and why Croatia, as a co-owner of the Krško nuclear plant, should not be part of the initiative to have nuclear energy recognized as green energy.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Highlights of Major Events in Croatia's Foreign Affairs in 2021

ZAGREB, 1 January 2021 - Entry into the U.S visa waiver program, French President Emmanuel Macron's visit, and the Rafale jets purchase deal, the fulfillment of the criteria for the Schengen Area, and diplomatic efforts to help solve the Bosnia and Herzegovina crisis are major features of Croatia's diplomacy in 2021.

In the year which will be remembered for global travel restrictions due to the COVID pandemic, Croatia entered the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which makes it possible for Croatians to travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes without visas, after obtaining approval via the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.

Croatia formally entered the VWP on 23 October, after meeting strict conditions.

For a country to enter the VWP, it must meet criteria regarding the fight against terrorism, law enforcement, immigration, document security, and border management, and the percentage of rejected visa applications must be below 3%, which Croatia met only recently.

EU says Croatia fulfills conditions for the application of Schengen acquis

On 9 December, EU member states agreed on the text of draft conclusions confirming that Croatia has fulfilled the necessary conditions for the application of the Schengen acquis, which paves the way for a final decision on accession to the area without internal border controls.

The final decision could be adopted in about six months during the French EU Presidency. It requires the consent of all Schengen member states.

Also, as of 1 January 2022, Croatian nationals will have the same status as citizens of other European Union member states on the Swiss labor market, which will provide fresh impetus to Croatian-Swiss relations, it was said at a meeting of the two countries foreign ministers in Bern on 23 November 2021.

Macron's visit, Rafale purchase

In 2021, Emmanuel Macron visited Croatia as the first French president to pay an official visit to Zagreb since the country gained independence.

During his stay in Zagreb on 25 November, a deal was signed on the purchase of 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.

Macron said in Zagreb that he supported Croatia's entry into the passport-free Schengen Area and added that Croatia had implemented all the necessary reforms for its entry into the euro area.

The French head of state and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković signed a strategic partnership declaration.

In October, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited Zagreb as the first Spanish head of government to visit Croatia.

On 8 July, European Commission President Ursula von der Layen arrived in Zagreb to convey the Commission's approval for Croatia's recovery and resilience plan (NPOO), worth €6.3 billion, which could significantly boost the country's Gross Domestic Product and create 21,000 new jobs by 2026.

Under the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, Croatia has €6.3 billion in grants and 3.6 billion in favorable loans at its disposal.

On 6 July, Seychellois Foreign Minister Sylvester Radegonde arrived in Zagreb and opened an honorary consulate.

In September, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović was in Zagreb for an official visit and after his talks with his Croatian host, Zoran Milanović, Đukanović warned that "Serbian world" is a euphemism for Great Serbia policy.

Crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina

During their bilateral meetings with their counterparts in 2021, Croatia's diplomats raised the issue of the situation in the southeast of Europe, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia's diplomatic offensive was launched in 2021 ahead of the election year in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In October 2022, Bosnia and Herzegovina are due to hold general elections. Election reform is needed before that and negotiations on it are currently underway.

The Croats, one of the three constituent peoples in the country, want to avoid a repeat of the scenario in which Bosniaks actually elect senior officeholders who are supposed to represent the Croats, the least numerous constituent people.

The crisis is further deepened by the Serb representative in Bosnia's three-member presidency, Milorad Dodik, who is implementing "a creeping" secession of the country's Serb entity.

In March 2021, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister, Gordan Grlić Radman, outlined Croatia's non-paper for its southeastern neighbor. The paper, which was also supported by EU member-states Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, and Cyprus, highlights the importance of adhering to the principle of the three constituent peoples.

Throughout 2021, some of the political actors in Sarajevo accused Zagreb of trying to violate the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Željko Komšić, who sits on the BiH Presidency as the Croat representative although he won the post thanks to the votes of Bosniak voters, accused Zagreb of the construction of a gas pipeline under the River Sava to connect Slavonski Brod and Bosanski Brod in the Serb entity. Some politicians in Sarajevo also disapproved of Zagreb's decision to declare an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic.

In July, Zagreb Mufti Aziz Hasanović said that current bilateral relations between Croatia and Bosnia were worse than during the Croat-Bosniak conflict in the 1992-1995 war.

However, visiting Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Sarajevo on 13 December that the bonds between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are unbreakable and that Croatia remains Bosnia and Herzegovina's greatest friend and advocate in the European Union.

At the end of the year, on 19 December, President Zoran Milanović's visit to central Bosnia was canceled for security reasons against a background of discussions provoked by Milanović's comments on the application of the term genocide for the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995. Bosniak politicians bear a grudge against Milanović who in return calls them unitarianists.

The issue of protection of the status of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina has become another bone of contention between Milanović and Plenković, with Milanović resenting the government's failure to make sure the Council of the EU conclusions on enlargement incorporate the term "constituent peoples" in the Bosnia and Herzegovina section of the document.

Relations with Serbia

Tensions in relations between Zagreb and Belgrade traditionally become heightened in August when Croatia celebrates Victory Day in memory of the 1995 Operation Storm when Croatia's military and police forces liberated a majority of areas held by Serb rebels since 1992.

This year, things got worse in September when Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called on all Serbs to display the Serbian flag on Serbian Unity, Freedom, and National Flag Day, observed for the first time this year, on 15 September.

However, Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac called on ethnic Serbs to respect the laws in Croatia which ban the display of foreign countries' flags by individuals.

For us it was important to make it clear in which circumstances individuals in Croatia and individuals in Serbia could display flags of other countries. It is important for us that the Serbs in Croatia can be sure that they can display their ethnic flag on holidays concerning their institutions or on important holidays on official events, Pupovac said at the time.

Also, relations between the two countries were adversely affected by the decision of the city council in Subotica, where Vučić's Serb Progressive Party holds a majority, to declare the Bunjevci dialect an official language in that northern Serbian city despite opposition from the Croat community in Vojvodina and from Croatia.

The demand for declaring its speech an official language in Subotica was made by the Bunjevci community, which denies its Croat ethnic background.

The initiative was strongly opposed by the DSHV party of local Croats, the Croatian National Council in Serbia, the Croatian Language Institute, and other Croatian science institutions, and it prompted the Croatian Foreign Ministry to send two protest notes to Serbia.

They all say there is no legal basis for the initiative and that the Bunjevci speech is a dialect of the Croatian community in Vojvodina's northern region of Bačka and not a standard language.

Furthermore, in October Plenković asked Vučić to address the issue of Serbian grammar books that negate the existence of the Croatian language.

No progress has been made in the provision of information by Serbia about sites of mass graves from the 1991-95 war.

Relations with Slovenia at the highest level ever

Croatia's political leaders have underscored that the Zagreb-Ljubljana relations are at the highest level ever. Plenković and his Slovenian counterpart Janez Janša seem willing to settle all the bilateral issues.

The friendship between the two neighbors was evidenced by ceremonies held on 18 October when the two presidents, Milanović and Borut Pahor, unveiled a monument to a leader of the Croatian National Revival, Ljudevit Gaj, in Ljubljana and to a Slovenian poet, France Prešeren, in Zagreb's Bundek Park.

Croatia and Italy declared exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic, and they included Slovenia in the process.

In February, the Croatian parliament proclaimed an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic, giving Croatia additional rights in relation to the Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone declared in 2003 to build artificial islands and exploit the sea, wind, and currents in that zone in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Concerning Croatia-Hungary relations, the most important event was the ruling of Croatia's Supreme Court upholding the guilty verdict against Hungarian executive Zsolt Hernadi in a graft scandal implicating former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and business relations between MOL and INA. Croatia's Justice Minister Ivan Malenica expects Budapest to extradite Hernadi who was given two years for white-collar crimes.

Frictions in relations with Bulgaria and Austria

Milanović's criticism of how Bulgaria treats North Macedonia on its journey towards the European Union prompted the Bulgarian government to summon Croatia's ambassador in Sofia in mid-May.

Ambassador Jasna Ognjanovac was summoned at the request of Minister Svetlan Stoev, and was received by the Director-General for European Affairs, Rumen Alexandrov.

The reason for the meeting was Milanović's statement after a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process at Brdo Pri Kranju, in which he sharply criticized Bulgaria's policy towards the European integration of North Macedonia. Milanović warned that North Macedonia "is in an impossible position" and that one EU member state demanded that North Macedonia "define its national genesis in the way requested by the neighboring state" in history textbooks. He said that he would "openly oppose" that within his powers.

His statement was an allusion to Bulgaria, which is rejecting a negotiating framework for North Macedonia because, as Sofia claims, North Macedonian textbooks "revise and negate their common ethnic and linguistic history."

Milanović's comments on Austria's decision to lock down unvaccinated persons prompted Vienna to summon Croatian Ambassador Danijel Glunčić.

Glunčić declined to reveal details of the discussion but according to a statement from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Glunčić was called over "highly unusual statements by the Croatian president," which were "sharply rejected".

"Comparing the measures against the coronavirus pandemic to fascism is unacceptable. It is our responsibility to protect the citizens of Austria and we are acting accordingly," the Austrian ministry said, as quoted by APA news agency.

Austrian media quoted the Croatian president as saying after an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican that the Austrian decision to impose a lockdown on unvaccinated people was "reminiscent of the 1930s" and called it foolish. On 22 November, the Croatian President's foreign affairs advisor, Neven Pelicarić, held talks with Austrian Ambassador Josef Markus Wuketich. Earlier that day, President Milanović said in the town of Našice that he had apologized for his statement.

"I said that what was happening in Austria reminded me of fascism. I apologize," Milanović said in a statement to the press.

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

Thursday, 16 December 2021

European Council Points to Importance of Vaccination, Including Booster

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - EU leaders on Thursday underlined the importance of vaccination in the fight against COVID-19, including a booster shot given the worrying Omicron variant.

The vaccination of all and receiving a booster shot is crucial and urgently necessary, according to European Council conclusions on the pandemic.

EU heads of state or government said it is crucial to overcome the suspiciousness about vaccination and to fight vaccine disinformation.

As to travel restrictions, the European Council called for coordinated efforts to respond to the situation based on available scientific evidence, and for imposing travel restrictions based on objective criteria, without undermining the single market or disproportionately disrupting free movement within the EU.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told the press COVID certificates facilitated free movement this past summer and that this helped Croatia to record 90% of the numbers logged in the record tourism year 2019.

EU leaders called for the updated travel recommendations within the EU that the Commission published last month to be updated as soon as possible.

The Commission recommended a person-based approach, i.e. that a person with a valid digital COVID certificate should not be subjected to additional restrictions such as testing or quarantine.

Persons without a certificate could be required to get tested before or upon arrival.

The Commission also recommended that the certificates be valid nine months after the last vaccination.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Plenković Comments on Council Conclusions on Bosnia

ZAGREB, 16 Dec 2021 - The conclusions by the Council of the European Union concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina contain everything that is important for the Croats in that country, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Brussels on Thursday.

"Whenever the Dayton agreement is mentioned, that implies the constituent peoples. Any reference to Constitutional Court judgments implies the judgment in the Ljubić case, which concerns legitimate representation. All that is essential is in there, but one should have background knowledge and be able to decipher the conclusions, what they actually mean," Plenković told reporters in response to criticisms from President Zoran Milanović regarding the Council's conclusions on enlargement.

The prime minister said that these conclusions, adopted by EU ministers for European affairs on Tuesday, were much better for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina than those adopted at the NATO summit this summer when the Croatian delegation was headed by Milanović.

Milanović had threatened to block the adoption of the joint NATO declaration unless a reference was made to the Dayton agreement, constituent peoples, and electoral reform. Eventually, it was agreed to mention the Dayton agreement and the need for electoral reform.

Commenting on Milanović's claim that Croatia should block conclusions whenever it failed to have its views incorporated into them, Plenković said that this was done only in extreme cases. "Anyone well-versed in European topics will not do that. This is done only in extreme cases when there is no other way."

He said that Croatia knew how to protect its interests, as in the case of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that it was constructive towards its neighbor. "It is also a wise interlocutor who knows how to get what it wants through very complicated negotiations involving a lot of member states, without antagonizing all others."

Plenković said that the latest conclusions were not linked to ongoing talks on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are mediated by the United States and the European Union.

"We included everything of importance to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and sent strong messages," the PM said.

Milanović has criticized the Council's conclusions on enlargement and called out the Croatian government for supporting the conclusions because "they do not guarantee the rights of the Croats as a constituent people in Bosnia and Herzegovina," according to a press release from the President's Office.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Friday, 24 September 2021

Iron Age Danube Route Magazine: The First Issue Available For Free Reading

September 24, 2021 - The Iron Age Danube Route Magazine which was recently presented is now available online for free reading to better present the first cultural route in Croatia acknowledged by the European Council.

With the Iron Age Danube Route getting recognition as a cultural route by the European Council earlier in 2021, the Iron Age Danube Route Association continues to promote this valuable, educational, scientific, and tourist site in eastern Croatia.

As Zagreb's Archaeological Museum website informed its visitors, the first issue of the Iron Age Danube Route Magazine (written in English) has recently been presented, and you can download and read it as a PDF file.

The magazine's intention is to present the Iron Age Danube Route.

''We start with the basics by briefly explaining what the Iron Age was and then we go on to explain the route itself. After that, we invite you to follow the route by meeting the institutions and people behind the entire endeavor. Then you can check out our activities during this year (one little tip: it works even better if you check out the fresh information on our website),'' says the Archaeological Museum on its website.

The topics that will present how things were along the Danube back during the Iron Age include prehistoric landscapes, customs, and even gastronomy.

''The Iron Age Danube Route magazine — and indeed the route itself — not only wishes to demonstrate that the Danube of the Iron Age had an extremely interesting past but also seeks to ensure that it also has a future — a future you're all invited to share. Join us as readers or join us as tourists, if you wish. And who knows, one day, you might even think of joining us as partners. But whatever role you do reserve for yourself, two things are certain: first, you'll be most welcome, and second, there's no better way to start your journey than by continuing reading this magazine. We hope you will enjoy it!'' wrote Sanjin Mihelić, President of Iron Age Danube Route Association, in the magazine's editorial letter.

As TCN previously wrote, the European Council granted the culture route certificate to the Iron Age Danube Route, which stretches through Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Germany, and Slovenia.

That certificate is important as it enhances the overall visibility of the site, allowing the public to become better informed about the area and enriching the overall Croatian cultural and tourist offer, creating new opportunities for business, scientific and educational purposes.

The Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, the Centre for Prehistoric Research, Kaptol County, Papuk Nature Park, and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb are the founders and partners of this international project that allows Croatia to learn more about its past while creating new opportunities for today's and future generations.

Did you know the Croatian Hero City of Vukovar is located along the Danube river? Learn more about it in our TC guide.

For more about Croatian history, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Croatia's FM Attends Gymnich Meeting in Lisbon

ZAGREB, 27 May 2021 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Thursday attended the informal meeting, known as Gymnnich, in Lisbon, which is, as a rule, organized by the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The latest edition of the Gymnich meeting of foreign ministers organized by Portugal, the current chair of the EU, focuses on EU-Africa relations, the unresolved conflicts in the Eastern Neighbourhood and the Indo-Pacific region.

Before the start of the meeting, Minister Grlić Radman said that the issues of migrations were important also for Croatia.

"We expect African partners to show greater engagement so that their citizens will not embark on a precarious journey towards Europe. We will help them to build migration management capacities," Grlić Radman told the press while entering the congress hall where the meeting took place.

"We would like to help efforts aimed at creating conditions for a better life in Africa."

Concerning the EU'S Eastern Neighbourhood, the minister recalled that several countries in that region did exercise complete control over the whole of their territories. Those are Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, and the EU would like to make a stronger engagement in a bid to find solutions to those conflicts, with some of them lasting several decades, he added.

Croatia has the experience of peaceful reintegration and can make its contribution to those EU efforts, Grlić Radman said.

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

Monday, 24 May 2021

Plenković and Michel: Forced Landing of Plane Unacceptable

May 24, 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday after a meeting with the President of the European Council Charles Michel that the two condemned the forced landing of a Ryanair civil plane in Belarus and demanded an international investigation.

Plenković met with Michel in Brussels ahead of an EU summit.

Croatia's Prime Minister wrote on Twitter that he had spoken with Michel about "the fight against COVID-19, the vaccination process, Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area and the euro area and the continuation of enlargement."

"We condemn the unacceptable move by the Belarusian authorities and demand an international investigation," Plenković said.

Plenković then spoke with the Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson at the Commission's headquarters.

The two-day summit of the leaders of 27 EU member states starts on Monday evening, and the agenda includes meeting the set goals for climate protection, foreign policy issues, and the COVID-19 situation.

EU leaders will also address the unprecedented move by the Belarusian authorities, who on Sunday forced a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk and then arrested Roman Protasevich, one of the main opposition activists who were on board. It is expected that there will be a debate on measures the EU could introduce against the Belarusian regime.

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

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Online Shoppers, Rejoice: New European Regulation on Cross-Border Parcel Delivery

The new regulation will lead to more transparent delivery rates and a drop in shipping prices

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Prime Minister Plenković Attends His First European Council

Just one day after being confirmed in Parliament, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is in Brussels at his first EU summit.

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