Sunday, 15 May 2022

Grlić Radman Asks For Additional US Engagement Regarding BiH Election Reform

ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Sunday asked at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for additional US engagement on the election reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, warning that otherwise radicalisation was possible in the country.

"I told the US Secretary of State that we are very much concerned about the missed chance to amend the BiH election law. I also warned of possible radicalisation of the situation after the elections," Grlić Radman told reporters.

He added that he had asked Blinken that the US enhance its presence and help ensure agreement between local Bosniak and Croat leaders on rules for general elections to be held in October.

The two officials were attending an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO member-countries which again supported Ukraine in the fight against the Russian aggression.

"All the ministers reiterated their solidarity and expressed readiness for stronger engagement, not only by individual countries but by NATO as a whole," said the Croatian minister.

He stressed that NATO was not a party to the conflict but that it supported Ukraine's "just and defensive war."

At a meeting with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, Grlić Radman guaranteed full support to Finland and Sweden's bid to join NATO.

"We discussed also the pace of the procedure and I believe the issue could be resolved before the NATO summit to be held in Madrid in June," Grlić Radman said.

He repeated that he believed the doubts Turkey has expressed regarding the accession of Finland and Sweden would soon be removed through talks.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Grlić Radman Says Life of Croatian National Taken Prisoner by Russians Is Priority

ZAGREB, 14 May 2022 - The life of the Croatian national who has been taken prisoner by Russian forces is our priority, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said on Friday.

"Yes, I am optimistic, especially after we have seen the pictures," the minister told Nova TV, which broadcast footage of a conversation between a Republika Srpska Television reporter and the Croatian national.

"Croatia still has an embassy in Moscow and is invoking conventions, assistance under international law and bilateral relations, and it expects cooperation," Grlić Radman said and added: "The life of the Croatian national is our priority."

The Croatian national said in the footage that he was being treated well in Russian prison. He advised Croats wishing to fight for Ukraine to first check where they were going.

Grlić Radman will be in Berlin this weekend for an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers. He said that on that occasion he would express Croatia's support for the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

The Croatian government disagrees on this matter with President Zoran Milanović who wants to make the two countries' NATO entry conditional on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rejecting media reports that Croatia was disunited abroad, Grlić Radman said: "We speak about our country abroad in such a way that we protect the Croatian institutions."

Speaking of relations with the new government in Slovenia, he estimated that it would not block Croatia's accession to the Schengen passport-free travel area. "I don't believe in that. The word blockade appeared in the media."

Slovenia's Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said that rules defining Schengen accession should include the implementation of the arbitration ruling on the border between Slovenia and Croatia.

"I am sure that my Slovenian counterpart will support Croatia's accession because it is in Slovenia's interests, and I am confident that it will be in a European spirit," Grlić Radman said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Foreign Ministry Says Ambassador Will Obey It As To NATO Entry Of Finland, Sweden

ZAGREB, 12 May 2022 - The Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Croatia's ambassador to NATO would obey its instructions in deciding on the admission of Finland and Sweden.

The ministry issued a statement after Minister Gordan Grlić Radman earlier today did not answer explicitly when asked by the press if the ambassador must obey the president or the ministry.

President Zoran Milanović wants Croatia to make the two countries' NATO accession conditional on changing the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure the equality of Croats. Yesterday he said he would order Croatian Ambassador to NATO Mario Nobilo to veto enlargement if his condition was not met.

The government, on the other hand, supports the accession of Finland and Sweden unconditionally.

The permanent representative to NATO receives his instructions from the ministry, which is the usual procedure and will be so in this case also, the ministry said, adding that in the case of the NATO accession of Finland and Sweden, Nobilo will act in line with the ministry's instructions.

"He is in the service of protecting national interests, which are clear in this case. By enlarging NATO, we are strengthening our own security," the statement said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Croatia Understands Best What Ukraine Is Going Through, FM Says

ZAGREB, 9 May 2022 - Croatia is the youngest and only EU member state which experienced the kind of aggression Ukraine is experiencing, so it understands best what it is going through, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Monday on the occasion of Europe Day.

"We know what's going on, we know how they suffer, we know how proud they are, we know how brave they are and we know they are not allowing their identity to be attacked," he added.

EU membership has brought Croatia additional protection, security and opportunities for growth and development, which is why Croatia is practically predestined to encourage enlargement, the minister said.

He also spoke of his visit to Ukraine yesterday with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, during which they talked with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk.

"We visited the towns of Irpin and Bucha, which were bombed without reason or motive, houses were razed to the ground, civilians killed and thrown into a mass grave, 400 of them," Grlić Radman said.

On the occasion of Europe Day, the European Parliament's Croatian office organised numerous events and workshops focusing on young people as 2022 was designated European Year of Youth.

In the context of the Russian aggression on Ukraine, the EU's importance as a community of solidarity, values and rule of law was underlined.

Speeches were delivered by the head of the office, Violeta Simeonova Staničić, the head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Ognian Zlatev, Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Kyrylych and French Ambassador Gael Veyssiere.

Congratulating young people on Europe Day, Kyrylych said Europe was a strong international community which put up a strong resistance to the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

"They are calling what is happening in Moscow today a victory parade. Victory is not a parade, victory is not a thing, victory is the wisdom and solidarity of the international community, victory is when leaders of peoples visit the guardian of Europe," he said.

"That's what the strong do, that's what the wise and those who look to tomorrow do. Ukraine's big friend, the Croatian prime minister, did that, visiting Kyiv yesterday with the foreign minister," he added.

Zlatev said the role of young people was more important than ever and called on them to use the possibilities and the potential at their disposal, highlighting the Erasmus+ project.

Europe is at your disposal. Research, science and innovation are at the centre of the Union's strategy to stimulate growth and employment, he added.

2022 should have been the year of big recovery, of coming out of the pandemic, of economic growth, of green recovery and digital transition, said Simeonova Staničić.

But, because of the Russian aggression, the struggle for peace and security now comes first, she added.

For more, check out our politics section.


Thursday, 28 April 2022

FM Says Croatia Supports NATO Membership Of Finland, Sweden

ZAGREB, 28 April 2022 - Croatia supports Finland's and Sweden's potential NATO membership, which would strengthen Croatia's security and defence, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday.

"We feel that the NATO membership of Finland and Sweden will only strengthen our security and our defence," he told the press at Zagreb airport after talks with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto, adding that all NATO member states have the same stand on that.

Grlić Radman said that his Finnish counterpart called him two days ago and his Swedish counterpart yesterday, and that he told them he supported "their future application as an important contribution to transatlantic security."

Croatian President Zoran Milanović has said that the Croatian parliament should not ratify the NATO accession of Finland and Sweden until the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina is changed so that the more numerous Bosniaks do not elect the Croatian member of the Presidency and delegates to the House of Peoples.

According to him, Croatia must use this "historic" chance to fight for BiH Croats' rights and also solve a security issue.

Grlić Radman said today that by joining NATO, Croatia agreed to the open-door policy which envisaged that all countries that met the standards could join if they wanted to.

Szijjarto said Finland and Sweden had not yet applied for membership, but that Hungary would have a positive view if they did.

The two ministers discussed the situation in BiH, with Szijjarto saying that Hungary supported Croatia's position that the Presidency's Croat member must be elected by Croats.

He said that for BiH's stability, it was necessary to respect the will of all three constituent peoples and that Hungary did not support the political campaign and sanctions against the Presidency's Serb member Milorad Dodik.

Grlić Radman said national minorities were a strong link in Hungarian-Croatian relations and that the model of the protection of their rights in the two countries was exemplary.

Speaking of the energy situation in the wake of Russia's aggression on Ukraine, Szijjarto said energy supply was not a philosophical but a physical issue and that Hungary would pay Russian gas so that it reached Hungary.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Serious potential for instability in W. Balkans, Croatia FM says

ZAGREB, 21 April 2022 - There is "serious potential to create instability" in the Western Balkans because it is "a testing ground for geostrategic rivalries," Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday.

Speaking to the press after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Teodora Genchovska, he said they agreed that it was necessary to do everything so that the repercussions of the Russian aggression on Ukraine "don't spill over to the Western Balkans and Southeast Europe."

"There is still, unfortunately, in a certain sense, serious potential to create instability given that the Western Balkans is, in a certain sense, a testing ground for various geo-strategic rivalries," said Grlić Radman.

Genchovska said the Bulgarian-Croatian cooperation within NATO was very good and that a more secure European southeast was conditioned by the cooperation between NATO member states.

The Three Seas Initiative is also important to Bulgaria due to energy autonomy, she said, adding that this initiative has become a lot more significant due to the war in Ukraine.

The two ministers said Bulgarian-Croatian relations were friendly, without outstanding issues, and that the two countries supported each other for Schengen and OECD membership.

Grlić Radman said it was important to Croatia that Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law be changed because it "favours electoral engineering" and allowed Bosniaks to outvote Croats.

Genchovska said Bulgaria fully supported Croatia's aspirations for the BiH crisis to be solved.

As for the North Macedonia-Bulgaria dispute over history and identity, Grlić Radman said he hoped the two countries "will find a mutually acceptable solution which will allow North Macedonia to continue its European journey."

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Croatia Could Join OECD in Three Years

ZAGREB, 10 April 2022 - Croatia has adopted the fewest relevant standards of the six current candidates for accession to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and its chief negotiator Gordan Grlić Radman believes talks could be completed in two and a half to three years.

The OECD formally launched accession talks with six candidate countries on 25 January.

Croatia has adopted 29 legal instruments of a total of 253 required by the Paris-based club of industrially developed countries.

Brazil has adopted 105 instruments, Romania 56, Argentina 51, Peru 46 and Bulgaria 33, according to data from the OECD website.

Founded in 1961, the OECD is a forum of countries which call themselves democracies and market economies. It is financed by its member-states which discuss global problems and publish economic analyses.

"We have become a member of all relevant international organisations except for the OECD," Grlić Radman said in a video message to Croats attending a meeting of the diaspora in Paraguay a week ago.

Accession to the OECD is politically important to the Croatian government and it has therefore entrusted the Foreign Ministry with conducting the accession talks.

Brazil, who has made the most progress in accession talks, has entrusted that role to its Economy Ministry, led by Paulo Guedes.

In February 2022 the Croatian government formed a negotiating team for talks with the OECD, with Grlić Radman as the chief negotiator. A representative of the Economy Ministry was also appointed a member of the team.

On 16 March Grlić Radman met in Paris with OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann, saying in a Twitter post afterwards that he had an excellent meeting.

Croatia submitted an official request to join the OECD on 25 January 2017.

"However, due to objective circumstances and inability to participate in OECD working bodies, our progress on that path has been slowed down for most of the time since the submission of the membership request," the Foreign Ministry said in a reply to Hina, without specifying the objective circumstances.

"In 2021 our cooperation with the OECD intensified more significantly and we were given the opportunity to join more working bodies, which eventually led to the opening of talks on 25 January 2022," the ministry said.

It noted that work was underway with the OECD on implementing "demanding reforms" in areas such as state administration, digitalisation, green policy, labour market and justice.

In June 2021 the OECD said that Croatia had to improve corporate governance in state-owned companies.

It recommended that Croatia establish a body in charge of ownership coordination, requesting greater transparency and public announcements for those companies, as well as stronger autonomy and independence of supervisory boards in state-owned companies.

The Foreign Ministry said a steering board was formed by the Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Ministry, with representatives of state administration bodies participating in it, which adopted an action plan for the implementation of OECD recommendations.

The process of meeting the conditions from the action plan is proceeding as planned and the reform of corporate governance is expected to be completed by 2024, the Foreign Ministry said.

OECD technical committees, consisting of representatives of member-countries, oversee the adoption of legal instruments, an OECD spokesperson has said.

At the end of the process, the OECD carries out a full review to make sure the countries have really done what they were asked to do, the spokesperson says.

After that, the OECD Council, the main steering body of the organisation, decides on a country's accession.

According to preliminary estimates by the OECD, Croatia's accession talks would not last longer than two and a half to three years, officials at the Croatian Foreign Ministry said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Grlić Radman: Krakow Has Very Well Organised Reception of Ukrainian Refugees

ZAGREB, 9 April 2022 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Krakow on Saturday that the city had responded in a good and organised way to the arrival of refugees from Ukraine fleeing the Russian invasion, who have increased the city's population by some 20%.

"Krakow has been faced with refugees not since yesterday but since 2015. At the time, Europe took in around one million migrants, including illegal migrants. Today there are 2.5 million refugees in Poland alone, and they have been promptly integrated," Grlić Radman told reporters after meeting with the mayor of Krakow, who, he said, "was also interested in our experience with refugees during the Homeland War."

Speaking of the refugees from Ukraine, he said they left their country fleeing the Russian aggression and that they had been given a friendly welcome.

The refugees have been enabled to continue with education and have been provided with adequate accommodation, Grlić Radman said.

Krakow Mayor Jacek Majchrowski said the refugee crisis was putting huge pressure on the city administration, with the refugees now accounting for close to one quarter of the city's population.

Majchrowski explained how their reception and integration had been organised but stressed that the problem was that "women, children and the elderly have come here while men, who could work in Poland, have returned to Ukraine."

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, four million people have fled the country while the total number of those displaced exceeds ten million, according to UNHCR.

More than 2.52 million Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Poland, according to Polish border services.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Grlić Radman: BiH's EU, NATO Membership, Equality of Croats in Croatia's Interest

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday that Bosnia and Herzegovina's Euro-Atlantic integration is in the national interest of Croatia and that it cannot be achieved without the equality of Croats in that country.

"On the international scene, Croatia is the biggest and sincere advocate of Euro-Atlantic associations. That is our clear national interest. That won't be possible without resolving the legitimate and legal demands of Croats" in BiH,  Grlić Radman said at a conference in Neum in an online message in reference to reforms in BiH. 

The fifth conference "Untying the knots - BiH on the path to EU and NATO membership" was organised by Mostar University, the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts in BiH and Croatian universities, with the participation of scientists, politicians and foreign diplomats.

Grlić Radman explained that the Croatian side in BiH has been the most constructive about reaching an agreement on amendments to the election law, providing proposals of how that can be done.

Negotiations on election reforms are continuing in Sarajevo today with the mediation of the USA and EU.

Grlić Radman said that BiH "hasn't resolved the problem of the political disenfranchisement of Croats or stability and institutional functioning in BiH."

According to Grlić Radman, the reason for that is two dominant conflicting politics in BiH, separatism and unitarism.

"It is difficult to say which is more detrimental to the Croat people. Both politics directly demolish the historical and constitutional foundations of BiH as a joint state of three equally constituent peoples and citizens. Without respect of those principles, the knot in BiH will not be untied for it to be a functional and stable country on the path to the EU and NATO," added Grlić Radman.

The president of the Croatian National Assembly of BiH, Dragan Čović, said that BiH has to preserve its multi-national nature and that local politicians have to see the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity.

US Ambassador to BiH Michael Murphy called on political leaders in BiH to reach a compromise so the country can come closer to the European Union.

A new geopolitical moment has emerged in the European Union and the Western Balkans. It's up to leaders to use this opportunity. BiH leaders have the opportunity to move faster to the EU based on compromise and reconciliation, said Murphy.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Grlić Radman, Žigmanov Advocate Better Status for Croat Minority in Serbia

ZAGREB, 8 March 2022 - Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman on Tuesday spoke with the leader of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats, Tomislav Žigmanov, and the two discussed improving the status of the Croat minority in Serbia, the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry said in a press release.

"Considering that Serbia is still not implementing the provisions of the bilateral agreement on the mutual protection of rights of the Croat minority in Serbia and the Serb minority in Croatia, the talks underscored the importance of continuing to work on improving the status of the Croat minority in Serbia," the press release said.

The two officials talked about the current social and political circumstances in Serbia, with emphasis on the ethnic Croat community and activities by its key institutions.

They underscored that Croats in Serbia still live in an unfavourable social and political climate while Grlić Radman said that Croatia would continue to actively participate in protecting their cultural and identity interests as well as take the necessary steps in that regard, both in bilateral relations but also within the relevant international organisations.

As regards the coming election in Serbia, Grlić Radman and Žigmanov agreed that it was necessary to invest joint political efforts for ethnic Croats to obtain legitimate political representatives in Serbia's political institutions.

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