Sunday, 17 July 2022

Croatia Slams Vučić's Plan for Impromptu Visit as Being Against Protocol, Malicious

ZAGREB, 17 July 2022 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's intention to come on an announced, private visit to Jasenovac is against the protocols, because a head of state is a protected person, and visits by presidents require official preparations, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Sunday.

The Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry sent a protest note to Belgrade on Friday over this case, the minister told the press outside the ministry's building today.

The protocol has been violated, said Grlić Radman elaborating that visits by presidents and office-holders must be announced to the host country and require planning for weeks and months.

Making an appointment for a visit by foreign officials implies that the time frame, the character, and program of the visit should be a subject matter of official communication and the outcome of the agreement by both sides, the minister said reading excerpts from Croatia's protest note.

Following Croatia's demarche, Serbia's authorities tried to hand their protest note to the chargé d'affaires in Croatia's embassy in Belgrade, however, she refused to receive it, the Croatian minister said.

He said that Croatia had invested a lot of effort in the improvement of the dialogue with Belgrade, however, there has been no sincere response from the other side.

Croatia's refusal to allow Vučić to pay a private and impromptu visit in such a way to Jasenovac caused an uproar among Serbian officials, who are close aides to Vučić.

Grlić Radman believes that the issue of Vučić's possible visit to Jasenovac, a WW2 concentration camp, had been made topical in Belgrade for the sake of the ongoing talks on forming the new Serbian government. 

He also sees this as Belgrade's attempt to blur unresolved issues stemming from the Homeland War and Croatia's insistence on answers from Serbia about what happened with 1,834 unaccounted-for people who went missing in that war.

The Jutarnji List daily reported that Vučić had contacted Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac to tell him that he would arrive in Jasenovac from Bosnia and Herzegovina where he planned to visit the Serb entity.

According to the Zagreb-based daily newspaper, Pupovac conveyed that information to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and the government found Vučić's plan to dodge the appropriate protocols outrageous.

Grlić Radman today declined to confirm or refuse the claims about Vučić's attempt to implicate the SDSS party leader Pupovac in this affair.

The Jutarnji List daily also comments that Vučić's intention to come on such an impromptu visit to Jasenovac and Pakrac, without official notification to Croatia's authorities and circumventing the embassy is perceived as his attempt to play a role of a victim, who is allegedly denied access to Croatia, ahead of the anniversary of the 1995 Operation Storm and to provoke Croatia's authorities.

Croatia criticizes Serbia's authorities for avoiding the official channels for providing information about plans for Vučić's arrival.

"We see it as ill-intentioned and not as a sincere visit or sincere act of paying respect to victims," Grlić Radman said.

Ex-president says Vučić is lying for propaganda purpose

Following this entanglement about Vučić's plans for paying a visit to Jasenovac and his claim that not any of the previous Serbian presidents had ever been to Jasenovac, former President Boris Tadić told local media outlets that this was a morbid lie made by Vučić. 

Tadić recalled that in 2010 he had visited Jasenovac and Jadovno, two sites of the suffering of ethnic Serbs in World War Two in Croatia, and accused Vučić of exploiting war victims for his propaganda purposes and for satisfying his personal ambitions.

Tadić said that the difference between Vučić and him was the fact that he had not made use of his visits to such sites for one-upmanship or for inciting hatred and fake patriotism.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Croatian FM: Entry Of Finland And Sweden Into NATO Reinforces Collective Defence

ZAGREB, 14 July 2022 - The adoption of the law on the ratification of the protocol for the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO is Croatia's contribution to the further strengthening of the alliance and collective defence, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in the parliament on Thursday.

The foreign minister said in his address he hoped that the Sabor would be among the first ones to give its approval for this "historic enlargement".

On behalf of the government, the pertaining protocol adopted in Brussels on 5 July, was signed by Croatia's permanent representative to NATO, Mario Nobilo.

"Croatia actively participates in all policies and activities that contribute to the strengthening of the alliance and collective defence, and this law additionally supports the strengthening of NATO and our collective defence," Minister Grlić Radman told the lawmakers.

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO will help the alliance to strengthen its northern and eastern flanks, and will include the whole regions of Scandinavia and the Baltic in the alliance, he added.

Grlić Radman welcomed NATO's open door policy, saying that it contributed to peace and security in Europe.

Commenting on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the minister said that it had changed the security environment and that the whole of Europe and the world were in a very sensitive and dangerous situation.

"In this extremely complex international political and economic situation, membership of NATO has become more important than ever before."

The Croatian government considers Russia's invasion as an attack on freedom of choice, on international law and on the entire European security structure. Therefore, the interest of Finland and Sweden to join the alliance is fully understandable, said the minister.

The protocols will become effective after the parliaments of all 30 NATO member states ratify them, which Finland and Sweden can expect a formal invitation to join the alliance.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

FM: Croatia Ready to Assist Ukraine in Post-War Recovery and Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 5 July 2022 - Croatia is ready to provide Ukraine with support for post-war recovery and reconstruction, and has so far sent emergency humanitarian and technical aid worth €7.3 million and received more than 20,000 refugees, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Tuesday.

Grlić Radman participated on Monday and Tuesday in the International Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, organised by Swiss President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in order to start the process and agree on a plan for the reconstruction of that country as well as its recovery and development, the ministry said in a press release.

"As a country that experienced war on its own territory in the recent past, Croatia has a unique experience in post-war transition and peaceful reintegration. We are ready to provide support for the post-war recovery and reconstruction of the independent, sovereign and democratic Ukraine, which is a priority country for Croatia in terms of development cooperation," Grlić Radman said addressing the conference.

He added that in response to the current crisis in Ukraine, Croatia has sent emergency humanitarian and technical aid worth €7.3 million and received more than 20,000 refugees, who have been provided with adequate education, access to the labour market and social welfare services.

He underscored that Croatia and Ukraine are already cooperating closely in areas such as demining, care for war veterans, protection of displaced persons, reconciliation and building trust.

He in particular underlined that Croatia is ready for stronger engagement in demining, given the fact that Croatia has experience in demining which is highly applicable in Ukraine. He further stressed that the protection of cultural heritage is also an area in which Croatia can provide support.

In his speech, the minister said that Russia's aggression against Ukraine showed a complete disregard for the principles and beliefs of the international community, on the basis of which decades of peace, cooperation and progress were achieved.

"There is no place for a neutral attitude towards this brutal violation of international law, especially international humanitarian law. Together with our transatlantic and European partners, we are focused on a concerted multilateral response."

Grlić Radman met on the margins with the manager of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Achim Steiner and his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod, and during his stay in Switzerland Grlić Radman will also meet with representatives of the Croatian community, the ministry said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Croatia, Italy Sign Agreement on Exclusive Economic Zone Demarcation

ZAGREB, 24 May 2022 - Croatia and Italy have signed an agreement on the demarcation of exclusive economic zones, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Rome on Tuesday, calling the document historic for the two countries' relations.

Speaking to the press after meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio, he said the signing of the agreement was a "keystone" in Croatia-Italy relations.

The agreement defines the demarcation line of the exclusive economic zones between the two friendly neighbours and permanently regulates demarcation with Italy in line with international law, said Grlić Radman.

The agreement confirms the existing demarcation line of the continental shelves, he added. "By defining this line, Croatia and Italy will reinforce their cooperation in the Adriatic Sea, in the Adriatic, our common cultural, historical, geopolitical heritage."

According to him, the two countries have a big responsibility for the protection of the sea environment and the sustainable use of the sea and its natural resources.

That's why this agreement is of historic importance for the relations of the two countries "as well as a paradigm in the European context," Grlić Radman said.

He said Croatia and Italy were developing good neighbourly cooperation in the northern Adriatic also with Slovenia as part of a trilateral established in Trieste in December 2020.

Di Maio said the signing of the agreement marked a new stage in Italy-Croatia relations which put the focus back on the Adriatic Sea. This strategic axis, he added, is additionally strengthened by the trilateral cooperation with Slovenia.

Grlić Radman was in Rome heading a Croatian delegation at the fifth meeting of the coordinating committee of the two countries' ministers which resulted in the signing of a joint statement setting the guidelines for all important areas in the period ahead.

"Italy is one of our most important economic partners," he said, adding that last year's trade was close to €6 billion, up 27%.

In recent years, "bilateral relations have taken off," he said, adding that there is potential to further advance economic relations, notably in IT, digitalisation, the food sector, and infrastructure.

In February 2021, the Croatian parliament adopted a decision declaring an exclusive economic zone, which had already been done by all Mediterranean countries except Greece and Turkey due to border tensions.

At the time, the question arose of why Croatia did it only then and Grlić Radman said that "we waited and talked with the neighbours to raise the level of protection of the Adriatic" and that Italy and Croatia included Slovenia in the process, "although we didn't have to."

Prior to the proclamation of an exclusive economic zone, Croatia protected the Adriatic under the 2003 Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone.

For more, check out our politics section.

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.

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