Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Foreign Minister: Finland and Sweden's NATO Aspirations Have Croatia's "Unreserved" Support

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Croatia's Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have Croatia's unreserved support for their NATO membership bids, adding that he has instructed Croatia's Ambassador to NATO to endorse the two countries' NATO applications.

"During an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin last weekend I said on behalf of the Croatian government that we give our unequivocal and unreserved support to those countries," Grlić Radman told Croatian Radio.

He recalled that because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the consequent reconfiguration in the global order, two traditionally neutral countries have decided to seek security in NATO which guarantees that security for its member states.

"They feel threatened and are welcome in the Alliance, considering their potential, they will strengthen NATO's democratic standards and overall potential (...). Croatia's Ambassador to NATO in Brussels, Mario Nobilo, has my instructions to approve Finland and Sweden's membership application and he will be given power of attorney to sign a protocol that will follow in the next few days," Grlić Radman said, adding that "some consultations with Turkey are still under way." 

Turkey has threatened to block Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO unless they fulfil Ankara's demands. Ankara wants the two countries to stop supporting terrorist groups, primarily the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and provide clear security guarantees as well as abolish restrictions on arms exports to Turkey.

Grlić Radman said that after their application is approved, the parliaments of NATO member states are required to ratify the relevant agreement.

"I am absolutely certain that the Croatian Sabor will ratify the agreement when it arrives from Brussels in Zagreb," he said.

Commenting on statements by President Zoran Milanović that Croatia should block the two countries' accession until such time that the election law in BiH is amended, Grlić Radman said that was "blackmail" and "un-European."

He added that the Andrej Plenković government is fighting the most for the status of the Croat people in that country.

"The rights of the Croat people are achieved through legal mechanisms, political and diplomatic efforts and not blackmail (...). The President is ruining our international reputation with his statements and causing political damage that can jeopardise our national interests," Grlić Radman added.

He reiterated that a stable BiH is a strategic interest for Croatia, underscoring that if the election law is not changed, a security problem could emerge in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the election.

"Being the smallest, the Croat people is trapped between Serb separatism and the hyper-unitarism of high-ranking Bosniaks," Grlić Radman said.

He believes that the visit by European Council President Charles Michel to Sarajevo on 21 and 22 May, who will "try to intercede," will be important.

Speaking about the sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia, Grlić Radman said that there are several countries who are opposed to an embargo on Russian oil imports due to their dependence on Russian energy products.

"The sanctions need to be felt in Russia itself and we are trying to eliminate all the negative effects that the sanctions could have on Europe's economy," he explained.

Commenting on Slovenia's possible blockade of Croatia's accession to the Schengen passport-free area, he said that he doesn't expect Slovenia "to spoil the plans."

"I hope there won't be a step backwards. We have had very good cooperation over the past two years with the Janša government. Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area is for the most part in the interest of Slovenian citizens. I am certain that we will find a common solution with our Slovenian friends," he underscored.

Asked about the fate of a Croatian citizen who joined the Ukrainian forces and has been captured by Russian troops, Grlić Radman said briefly, "It is our duty to return him home," and that the procedure requires "discretion."

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatian FM Calls for One More Attempt to Reform Bosnia Electoral Law

ZAGREB, 16 May 2022 - One more attempt should be made to reform the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the present one does not guarantee the equality of its constituent peoples, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said in Brussels on Monday. 

"Bosnia and Herzegovina still does not have an electoral law that guarantees the equality of its three constituent peoples and other ethnic groups, and that is not good for the country's stability. We need to make yet another attempt to carry out the electoral reform because that it the way towards EU membership candidate status," Grlić Radman told reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The main topics of the meeting will be the Western Balkans and the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the EU's response to it.

Grlić Radman said that the EU should send the Western Balkan countries a strong message regarding their accession to the Union, first of all by opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia and by making progress with regard to the liberalisation of the visa regime for Kosovo.

He said he would inform his EU counterparts of his visit to Ukraine last week together with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"We have to increase pressure on Russia to stop the aggression. Croatia supports the sixth round of sanctions against Russia and can contribute to energy security given its geostrategic position and its infrastructure," Grlić Radman said.

Two weeks ago, the European Commission proposed a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its military invasion of Ukraine, including a ban on Russian oil imports. There is still no agreement among the member states, and the main obstacle is Hungary, which seeks an exemption from the oil embargo.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said that the EU is hostage to one member state, without explicitly mentioning Hungary. "We must agree, we cannot be hostages," he said.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has expressed doubt that ministers will be able to reach an agreement on the oil embargo given that some countries have very firm views.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Croatian Foreign Minister Attends Global Coalition Against Daesh Meeting

ZAGREB, 11 May 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman attended a Global Coalition against Daesh ministerial meeting in Marrakech on Wednesday, the ministry said in a press release.

The meeting was led by Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates Nasser Bourita and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The coalition's first ministerial meeting in Africa was aimed at reaffirming the partners' commitment to fighting Daesh via military as well as growing civilian action so as to permanently defeat the terrorist organisation.

The coalition strongly condemned the recent attacks in Afghanistan during Ramadan by Daesh's local Khorasan branch, supporting all victims and their families and reiterating the determination to bring all Daesh members to justice.

The coalition said the priority was civilian protection and respect for international law, including humanitarian law and human rights, as well as for all relevant Security Council resolutions. It also underlined the role of women and youth in preventing radicalisation and implementing de-radicalisation.

The coalition's main job remains to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria as well as to stabilise liberated territories and remove the causes that contributed to Daesh's rise in Syria.

The coalition welcomed the establishment of the Africa Focus Group as well as the coalition's enlargement in Africa.

Grlić Radman reaffirmed Croatia's commitment to the coalition's efforts and goals. In his address, he underlined the importance of the cooperation between the EU and Africa's states, including anti-terrorist cooperation.

He recalled the deaths of Croatian company Hidroelektra's workers in Algeria in 1993 and the execution of a Croatian national in Egypt in 2015. He voiced deep understanding for all victims of terrorism, saying that supporting tolerance, intercultural and interreligious dialogue is one of the best defences against terrorist propaganda and attempts to spread hate and fear.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Grlić-Radman: Croatia Will Prevent Further Disenfranchisement of BiH Croats

ZAGREB, 4 May 2022 - Croatia's Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman criticised the decision by BiH's Central Electoral Commission (SIP) to call an election, claiming that it cannot interpret non-existing provisions of the country's election law and noting that Zagreb will prevent further disenfranchisement of BiH Croats.

"Croatia will continue to prevent any scenario... that are aimed at further disenfranchising and destabilising Croats in BiH. Croatia will not stand by passively. That is why I deliberately came here today to show that we will continue to be resolute and firm," Grlić Radman said and conveyed a message from Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about "support to issues that are of vital interest for the Croat people in BiH."

Grlić Radman was speaking to reporters in Mostar, ahead of a conference dedicated to BiH's European integration.

SIP called a general election for 2 October despite the fact that provisions on the way delegates are elected to the House of Peoples have been erased, and the only one to oppose SIP's decision was its Croat member Vlado Rogić.

According to Minister Grlić Radman, there were no legal preconditions for SIP to call the election.

"We believe that SIP has assumed the prerogatives of the constitution-maker and legislature, which it cannot do. It is an administrative body and is not competent with regard to the erased articles of the election law," said Grlić Radman, noting that the erased positions suggest the law is deficient.

In its ruling on a complaint by Božo Ljubić of the umbrella BiH Croat organisation HNS BiH in the summer of 2017, the BiH Constitutional Court erased provisions of the election law regulating the indirect election of deputies to the BiH Federation House of Peoples, the Bosniak-Croat entity parliament's upper chamber, asking the national parliament to amend them to prevent manipulation in the election of representatives of the three constituent peoples in that chamber.

The Constitutional Court also erased a provision under which each of the ten cantons in the entity had to elect a representative of the constituent peoples to the House of Peoples if they were elected to the cantonal assembly. That segment has remained undefined throughout the election reform process.

Grlić Radman believes that that job is within the remit of the state-level parliament and that SIP cannot decide on the composition of the BiH Federation House of Peoples.

"The House of Peoples is a constitutional category and it cannot be filled by an administrative body," he underscored.

He expressed disappointment that the largest Bosniak party - SDA - had obstructed the election reform and added that outvoting Croats in BiH would not do good to anyone.

Grlić Radman, who was participating in a conference entitled "Preparing for Tomorrow: Europe's Global and Regional Role in Responding to Transnational Challenges", said Croatia wanted BiH and other Southeast European countries to join the EU as soon as possible.

BiH's Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Brkić said that there was no alternative to membership in the EU and NATO for BiH and the entire region.

"We are living the alternative now - an unstable and questionable economic and political situation, not just in BiH but in the entire Southeast Europe, which will stabilise in the future in the EU and become a better place to live in," said Brkić.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Grlić Radman: NATO Countries Think Croatia Has Changed Policy Because of Milanović

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - The statements by President Zoran Milanović about the blockade of Sweden's and Finland's bids to join NATO have led NATO members to believe that Croatia has changed its foreign policy, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday.

Milanović said on Tuesday that the Croatian Parliament "must not ratify any country's accession to NATO" until neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina changed its electoral law, adding that he considered Finland's and Sweden's bids to join the alliance "a very dangerous adventure".

Grlić Radman said the president's statement had prompted a number of calls, and that he had discussed the matter with his Finnish counterpart on Tuesday and with his Swedish counterpart on Wednesday.

"With these calls we tried to contain the damage done to Croatia's international political image," the foreign minister said, noting that Milanović's statement has been quoted by all leading foreign media and "all NATO countries have expressed great concern."

"They always think that Croatia has changed its foreign policy if its president said that," he added.

Unlike Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who said on Tuesday that Milanović should block the two countries' accession at the forthcoming NATO meeting if he thought he was "a tough guy", Grlić Radman said no such veto was provided for and "even if it were, it would be political embarrassment." 

After a country applies for NATO membership, the national parliaments of the member states must adopt an act of ratification proposed by the government, the foreign minister noted.

Grlić Radman said that the membership of Sweden and Finland, which are already compatible with alliance standards, should be separated from the electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina which the Croatian government "strongly supports.".

Finland and Sweden have Croatia's "undoubted and unreserved" support, and their accession to NATO is a major challenge to them, given their tradition of political neutrality for centuries and the Russian military invasion of Ukraine which has nearly changed the world order, Grlić Radman said.

In his telephone calls with the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland, Grlić Radman also touched on the issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying that Croatia has their support and understanding. 

He told Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who recently visited Sarajevo, that Bosnia and Herzegovina was "a security, political and emotional" issue to Croatia because the ethnic Croats there were "squeezed between Serb separatism and Bosniak unitarism."

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Grlić Radman: Putin is a War Criminal

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a war criminal, hopeful that "the Russian autocratic regime" would not last long and claiming that Croatia "would know how to respond" if Russian threats were to become a reality.

Speaking in an interview with Croatian Radio, Grlić Radman said that he did not consider threats by the Russian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor Kalabukhov, as realistic, describing them as a form of intimidation.

A few days ago, Kalabukhov warned that Moscow had the right to respond to Bosnia and Herzegovina's potential membership in NATO, asking the interviewer: "How do you know we do not have plans also against Croatia, Poland and Bulgaria as NATO members?"

In an unlikely scenario of the threats becoming a reality, Croatia "would know how to respond" with its allies, said Grlić Radman.

"The ambassador's threat concerns not only Croatia but the entire EU, and if it were to become a reality, it would activate Article 5" of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says that an armed attack against one member state is considered an armed attack against them all, Grlić Radman said.

"That would cause a new escalation of the conflict, which is in no one's interest and I am certain it will be avoided, and ways would be found to negotiate with the Russian president", the minister said.

He added that Putin "has already committed war crimes, but one must negotiate in war."

Putin will "not have any choice because he has not accomplished what he wanted - to conquer Ukraine," said Grlić Radman.

Regime, people not the same thing

Two months after his official visit to Moscow, where he said that "good relations with Ukraine really do not rule out good relations with Russia," Grlić Radman said that he was referring to the Russian people.

"There is no equal sign between a regime and a people. Peoples stay, policies change. I hope this autocratic regime will not last long," he stressed.

The minister said that the EU had pursued a two-track policy towards Russia, with sanctions as well as an open diplomatic channel with Moscow, and that a number of EU ministers had visited Russia before the invasion of Ukraine to advocate de-escalation.

He said that five Croatian nationals were still in Ukraine, and anyone who wanted to leave the country had done so.

More than 9,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Croatia and the number keeps changing, he said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Croatian Foreign Minister says Leaders Should Cease Blaming Brussels for Everything

ZAGREB, 20 Feb 2022 - Leaders in Europe should stop blaming Brussels for everything as they also participate in policymaking of the European Union (EU), Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Munich on Sunday.

Addressing the "Fostering European Cohesion" panel discussion within the three-day conference, Minister Grlić Radman held a keynote speech instead of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who cancelled his attendance after his father passed away on Saturday evening.

"If we want to preserve our Union, based on the values, the elected office-holders should cease bearing a grudge against Brussels for everything. Brussels only yields the outcomes in which creation we participate", said the Croatian minister.

Grlić Radamn added that the process of decision-making in the EU had always been complicated and thus difficult, as the process had been conceived to take into account the differences between big and small, rich and poor countries with diverse cultures and languages so as to make it possible for each voice to be heard.

"This has been a success, and the EU is the most successful peace project in the world."

"Nowadays, European leaders are faced with new economic and political pressures", he said.

"Negotiating has become a more and more difficult task, the pressure from the public is growing and the digital environment makes each voice, no matter how extreme it may be, resonate strongly and far", he said.

"Some of the politicians engaged in the struggle against irresponsible populists have taken over their language, and it often includes blaming Brussels for everything", he said.

During the discussion, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that it was not strange that the EU was in a state of crisis as the entire world is in a crisis.

"It may be that we have internal wranglings, but we take concerted actions at the global level", she added.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares called for more emphasis on commonalities for all in the EU.

The 58th Munich Security Conference was held from 18 to 20, at its usual venue in Munich, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Croatia Advises its Citizens to Leave East Ukraine

ZAGREB, 20 Feb 2022 - Croatia has advised its citizens staying in east Ukrine to leave that area, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Munich on Sunday.

The recommendation has been adopted during an intensive communication session with Croatia's Ambassador in Kyev and following the experience of other countries, said the minister.

A week ago, Grlić Radman said that there were 25 Croatians in the east of that country.

Most of them are believed to have departed from the area in the meantime.

The Croatian minister said in Munich today that the situation in Ukrine was worrisome, however this did not mean that it would escalate.

"Diplomatic efforts are being made to prevent escalation", said Grlić Radman in the Bavarian capital city where he attended the international security conference.

This year's conference has brought together US Vice President Kamala Harris, State Secretary Antony Blinken, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, amongst other office-holders.

Russia has not sent any representative for the first time in recent years.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

Milanović: "Dumb" Grlić Radman Officially Invited Putin to Croatia

ZAGREB, 29 Jan 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Friday that Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman had officially invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Croatia, but not on his behalf.

During a visit to Sisak, Milanović was answering questions from the press concerning accusations from the ruling HDZ party that he had pro-Russian views and that his statements caused harm to Croatia's reputation.

"The dumb foreign minister visited Moscow the other day," Milanović said in reference to Grlić Radman's official visit to Russia on 17 January.

"What was he doing in Moscow? I would expect he went to reproach (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov, but no, he goes there and hands in an official invitation for Putin to visit Croatia."

"Is he the president of the state? Does he speak on my behalf? He does not. (PM Andrej) Plenković is not the head of state and cannot play host to Putin," said Milanović.

"So the very same Russians that you threaten and stigmatise you hypocritically invite to Croatia," Milanović said.

The president denied having been the one to speculate that Croatian troops would go to Ukraine.

"No, it was Jutarnji List (daily) that did it, saying on its front page that NATO is looking for 1,500 soldiers" and asking if Croatia would send them, Milanović said.

"And what is that but alarming the public?"

"I never said that NATO had asked for that, I said preemptively that Croatia would not send its troops."

"Croatia will not send troops to Ukraine, and as for Poland and Lithuania, we'll see in the future," Milanović said, adding that HDZ officials did not know what they were saying, did not listen to what was said, and did not read the newspaper "that is the long arm and prosthetic device of the Plenković government."

Croatia was not liberated by NATO

Milanović went on to say that Hanza Media, the company that publishes Jutarnji List, scared the public by saying that 1,500 Croatian troops would go to Ukraine.

"Someone had to tell the public that that is a lie, so I said it."

Speaking of the situation in eastern Europe and possible deployment of troops along Ukraine's eastern border, Milanović said that Croatia would not promise anything to anyone unconditionally.

"That's not credibility, that's lack of intelligence. We'll see what happens. If the situation escalates, our people will not expose themselves to the risk," Milanović said, adding that ultimately, the decision was up to him.

"Either that or the two-thirds majority in the parliament, and that will never happen because people have a brain in their head and care for this country, unlike the HDZ, which only steals, insults and disgraces," said Milanović.

"Croatia has not been asked anything yet, and should not be," he said, repeating that Croatian troops would not be sent to Ukraine.

"If things get more complicated, the army will not go anywhere. They will be in Kosovo and in Croatia. Croatia paid too high a price and nobody helped it significantly in its struggle. Croatia was not liberated by NATO but by Croatian soldiers."

"Croatia does not owe anyone anything to have to gamble and for (Croatians) to be sheep for slaughter," Milanović said, recommending that his critics go to Ukraine.

For more, check out our politics section.

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."

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