Monday, 9 September 2019

Croatia and Germany Jointly Preparing Chairmanship of European Council

ZAGREB, September 9, 2019 - Germany and Croatia will work together on preparing to chair the European Council next year and that chairmanship is a great chance for Croatia, it was said following a meeting on Monday in Berlin between Germany's and Croatia's foreign ministers, Heiko Maas and Gordan Grlić Radman respectively.

The most important task that awaits us is chairing the European Council next year. That is a great challenge but also a great chance for Croatia, Maas said after the meeting.

Croatia's chairmanship will be in the first six months and Germany will preside in the following six months next year.

Maas underlined that joint preparations to chair the European Council require a high level of coordination between Germany and Croatia, not just bilaterally but on the European plane too.

Croatia's chairmanship in the first half of next year comes at an exceptionally important period. Early November the new European Commission will begin working. Then there is Brexit which will certainly be a topic next year too. And there is an agreement on the European Union's long-term financial framework, Maas said, announcing that in order to assist with operational preparations and coordination of chairmanship, a German foreign ministry official would be deployed in Zagreb in the first half of next year.

Grlić Radman underlined that Croatia's priorities during its chairmanship of the European Council will be sustainable development of countries and regions, with special focus on demographic revival, infrastructure connectivity and citizens' security, with focus on protecting the European Union's external borders.

The two ministers discussed Croatia's strategic foreign policy objectives, one of the most important being its accession to the Schengen Area, and Croatia enjoys Germany's full support in this aspiration.

Maas reiterated Germany's stance regarding the protection of the EU's external borders and that Berlin advocates that more funds should be allocated for it.

We want to better support countries on the EU's external borders than has been the case until now, he said.

Maas underlined that EU enlargement is one of the challenges during chairmanship of the European Council next year.

That will be a very important issue for Croatia as a sort of bypass to the Western Balkans, he added.

Grlić Radman underscored the importance of EU enlargement to Western Balkan countries.

The Western Balkans is our immediate neighbourhood and we are interested in peace and stability in this region, Grlić Radman said and announced a summit on the Western Balkans that will be held during Croatia's chairmanship of the European Council.

Grlić Radman emphasised that Croatia supports opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in October this year and underlined the need to continue talks on European prospects of other countries in the region as well, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We want equality for all the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that it can be a functioning state with a European prospect, said Grlić Radman.

Maas said the fact that Grlić Radman had until recently been Croatia's Ambassador to Germany is very useful, particularly with regard to developing bilateral relations.

Maas and Grlić Radman also discussed an action plan to develop bilateral relations that was signed in March this year.

We have taken significant steps in a lot of areas in that regard, said Maas.

Grlić Radman said he expected the action plan to additionally strengthen relations between Germany and Croatia as well as provide a broader dimension to the partnership between the two countries within the European Union.

He noted the importance of economic relations and expressed hope that these relations will improve even more.

We particularly underline the automobile, IT, food and wood manufacturing industries as having potential for further cooperation, Grlić Radman said and announced that Germany's Minister of for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Almaier would visit Croatia next month.

Later today Grlić Radman is expected to meet with Norbert Roettgen, the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the German Bundestag, and with the chairman of the Committee on European Union Affairs, Gunther Kirchbaum.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Dutch FM Confident in Croatia's Ability to Preside over EU

ZAGREB, September 4, 2019 - Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in Zagreb on Wednesday that presiding over the European Union was a demanding and responsible job which Croatia will be able to do well.

Croatia assumes the six-month rotating presidency over the Union on 1 January 2020.

Blok said he was glad that he had come to Zagreb in this important period ahead of Croatia's first presidency of the EU. The Netherlands presided over the EU in the first half of 2016.

We are aware of how demanding and responsible this is and we wish our Croatian colleagues a productive chairmanship and we are looking forward to our cooperation, Blok said after his talks with Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman.

The Croatian minister told a news conference that the Dutch minister was interested in what Croatia would put an emphasis on in the first half of 2020.

According to Grlić Radman, Blok appreciates Croatia's plans to work on strengthening economic and infrastructure connectivity among EU member states and on reinforcing the EU's external and internal security.

The two ministers agree that the bilateral relations are very good and friendly, being developed through dialogue.

The Netherlands is a significant trading partner. It is the second biggest foreign investor in Croatia. There are always possibilities for us to additionally strengthen economic cooperation, investments, particularly investments in the maritime sector, urban planning and sustainable development as well as innovations and transport, the Croatian minister said.

He added that the government systematically worked on boosting the country's business climate and that the Dutch business community was invited to invest in Croatia.

Every year a half million Dutch citizens visit Croatia.

Grlić Radman asked his Dutch counterpart for support for Croatia's efforts to join the passport-free Schengen area.

Blok believes that Croatia has accomplished its tasks regarding its Schengen membership bid.

However, we are in the middle of the process in which the European Commission is expected to make public its assessment, and let us wait, said the Dutch official, who will be received by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković later in the day.

More news about relations between Croatia and the Netherlands can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Foreign Minister Outlines Priorities of Croatia's EU Presidency

ZAGREB, September 4, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman spoke in Bled, Slovenia on Tuesday about Croatia's preparations for chairing the EU in the first half of 2020, saying Zagreb would push for the European path of Western Balkan countries.

Addressing a Bled Strategic Forum panel on the challenges facing the new European Commission, he also said Croatia strongly advocated opening EU entry talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Taking over the EU presidency is a big challenge for Croatia, which went from suffering in the war and the military aggression to later development which prove that it can deal with different challenges and tasks, said Grlić Radman.

The EU too is faced with many external and internal challenges such as climate change, migration, cyber-attacks, terrorism, migration and fake news, he said, adding that the EU's position was increasingly complex and that Europe must prepare for and adapt to the challenges.

Former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta told the panel the main priorities the EU must address in the next five years were environmental protection and climate change. They are areas in which global leadership can be shown in relation to other global stakeholders, he said, otherwise the world could soon develop into a twofold China-US system.

As for migration, Letta said a change of discourse was necessary. Since the issue cannot be resolved under the Treaty of Lisbon and the Dublin Regulation, a solution should be sought outside the agreements, adopting concrete tools and measures to approach the problem, he added.

Former Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel said the current EU had organisational problems and that one should therefore consider an all-European debate.

Rupel said he saw three different wings in the current EU - one comprising central and northern European states led by Germany, a second one comprising western countries with France at the helm, and a third one comprising eastern, ex-socialist countries.

He said this was a serious matter which showed the differences within the EU, with the eastern wing countries highly critical of Russia and western countries of the current US.

Former Slovenian PM Alojz Peterle underlined the issue of European identity, which he sees in common values.

Several participants in the panel underlined the need to prepare mechanisms in case of a new economic crisis and a euro area crisis.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Plenković Advises Diplomats to Be Careful in Choosing Their Assistants

ZAGREB, August 22, 2019 - Addressing a conference of Croatian diplomats in Zagreb on Thursday, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković advised them to be careful in choosing their associates, following a recent scandal of a former first secretary in the Croatian embassy in Berlin, Elizabeta Mađarević who was suspended from the diplomatic service due to her racist and xenophobic remarks on her social media profiles.

Plenković reiterated the condemnation of racist and xenophobic statements made by the former diplomat Mađarević. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who joined in the condemnation of the scandal, said that the incident had happened also owing to "omissions in the system".

The case of the dismissed embassy secretary to some extent dominated the annual conference of Croatia's diplomats, however, the event also highlighted the latest successes of the Croatian diplomacy, including the election of Croatia's Marija Pejčinović Burić as the secretary-general of the Council of Europe and the appointment of former Croatian member of parliament, Ivana Maletić to the European Court of Auditors.

The participants in the conference agreed that Dubravka Šuica, who has been proposed for a Croatian member of the future European Commission, is good candidate for the Croatian representative at the EC.

"The election of Pejčinović Burić for the Council of Europe secretary-general is a great Croatian success, we who lobbied for her are aware of that," said Croatian's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman who succeeded her in the ministerial post.

The biggest challenges facing Croatia in the near future will stem from Croatia's chairmanship over the EU in the first half of 2020, the top officials said at the conference.

Plenković said that one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency would be demographic revitalisation.

Negative demographic trends are present in the whole of Europe, he added.

More news about Croatia and the European Union can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Ministry: Diplomats Supposed to Comply with Croatia's Official Policy

ZAGREB, August 18, 2019 - Being prompted by a growing interest of the public in the case of diplomat Elizabeta Mađarević and xenophobic views expressed on her Facebook profile, the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that diplomats accept the responsibility of representing their country abroad and are supposed to comply with Croatia's official policies.

According to the index.hr web portal, Mađarević, who became the first secretary in Croatia's embassy in Berlin in January 2019, has spread racist and xenophobic views on her Facebook profile and advocated anti-migrant and anti-LGBT attitudes.

Following this report made by the web portal, the Croatian ministry promptly responded on Friday evening when it "strongly distances itself from the views which its employee Elizabeta Mađarević, a staff member of the Croatian Embassy in Berlin since January 2019, has posted on social networks, as reported by index.hr".

The ministry said last night that the diplomat had been recalled to Zagreb and that all the facts regarding the case would be established without delay.

On Saturday, the Mađarević case made top news in electronic media outlets.

A growing public interest in this case has prompted the ministry to state on Saturday afternoon that "diplomats are aware that all they do during their diplomatic mandate, both privately and in their free time, can be connected and is connected with their diplomatic job."

The right to a different opinion and freedom of expression cannot mean that Croatia's Constitution and other laws as well as international conventions can be disrespected, the ministry explains.

People who have chosen a diplomatic career accept the responsibility of representing their country and all institutions and people of their homeland abroad during their diplomatic mandate both officially and privately and they are supposed to adhere to the official policy of Croatia, the ministry noted.

The ministry distances itself from any statements or behaviour marked by xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance, made by anybody in the diplomatic service regardless of the rank of that person in the diplomatic hierarchy.

Under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, interfering into the internal affairs of the Receiving State, which includes comments of foreign diplomats on office holders in the Receiving State, is unacceptable, the ministry underscores.

"Diplomats are sent to missions abroad to strengthen the reputation of the Republic of Croatia and not to harm its image and do political damage."

According to the index.hr web portal, Mađarević has criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her migrant policy.

The ministry reiterated that the procedure is under way to establish all the relevant facts in connection with the case.

In the meantime, the diplomat has stated that her Facebook profile is hacked.

"My profile is hacked. I am shocked with contents cited by media. Being a professional, I fully share the policy of the Government of the Republic of Croatia. None of those media outlets have contacted me to ask me about that statement," Mađarević told on Saturday afternoon the Fenix Magazin, which is published in Frankfurt by the Croatian expat community.

She went on to say that she is currently vacationing outside Croatia and is now thinking of filing lawsuits against those who are disseminating the untruth.

Mađarević does not believe that she is the target of those accusations but that they are directed against the Croatian government and the new Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Radman Grlić who was until recently Croatia's Ambassador to Germany.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Croatian and Japanese Ministers Hold Talks on Boosting Bilateral Ties

ZAGREB, August 15, 2019 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met in Zagreb on Wednesday evening for the talks on boosting bilateral relations, which also includes the improvement of the economic cooperation.

Taro Kono is the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Croatia after 24 years when his father Yohei Kono also visited Zagreb as the Japanese foreign minister. Grlić Radman' s predecessor Marija Pejčinović Burić paid an official visit to that Asian country this past March.

The main topic of today's meeting was the bilateral relations. We agreed that these relations are very good and friendly, marked by regular political dialogue and visits of senior officials of both countries, as well as by excellent parliamentary cooperation, the Croatian minister told the press after the talks.

We have discussed the possibilities for the further strengthening of economic cooperation, which will be definitely facilitated by the entry into force of the double taxation avoidance agreement between Croatia and Japan this September, Grlić Radman said.

The two countries are set to conclude an air traffic agreement, too.

Grlić Radman underscored that his country registered a surplus in the trade with Japan, and added that small and medium-sized businesses have good opportunities in plans to boost the economic cooperation with Japan. In this context he mentioned the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), signed by the European Union and Japan, which also provides good opportunities for that cooperation. The EPA came into force on 1 February this year and abolishes 97% of tariffs imported from the EU.

The data provided by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce show that in 2017 the trade between Croatia and Japan reached 85.8 million dollars, and Croatia's export amounted to 55 million dollars. Last year, the trade reached nearly 100 million dollars.

According to Grlić Radman, Croatia would like to diversify its exports to Japan, and in this context, he mentioned the possibilities for exports of wines, oil, neckties, video games and applications.

"We are particularly proud of our export of high-quality tuna meat, which makes up 80% of total Croatian exports to Japan," he added.

The minister said that Croatia "is committed to improving its business and investment climate", calling on Japanese businesses to invest in his country.

Currently, 24 Japanese companies do business in Croatia. One of them has acquired the Kali Tuna company at the price of $33 million, while Yazaki, a worldwide operating automotive supplier from Japan, has opened a research and development centre in Croatia.

The Japanese minister expressed hope that the bilateral economic cooperation would improve in other fields apart from the tuna export.

He said he was looking forward to a higher number of Japanese investors in the manufacturing sector, IT and in high-tech industries, and praised Croatia's human resources.

Croatia's network of ports and railways can make the country a gateway for Croatian companies towards east and central Europe, Kono said.

The two ministers expressed satisfaction with cooperation in the tourist trade.

Grlić Radman thanked his Japanese counterpart for Japan's strong support to Croatia's OECD membership bid.

He informed Kono of Croatia's preparation for taking over the rotating presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

He reiterated that Croatia is committed to efforts aimed at enabling western Balkan counties to join the European Union and to the stability of that region.

Kono said that Japan strongly supported EU aspirations of Western Balkan countries and would like to help them in that regard.

Japan committedly supports social and economic reforms in Western Balkan countries and inter-regional cooperation through Initiative for Cooperation with the Western Balkans, the Japanese minister said.

In January 2018 during his visit to Belgrade, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed that Initiative, underscoring the importance of that western Balkan region for the stability of Europe and the international community.

Kono said that Japan would be glad to offer assistance and to closely cooperate with Croatia in the promotion of the admission of western Balkan countries to the EU. Before arriving in Zagreb, Kono visited Bulgaria and Slovenia and the next two stops of his regional tour are Serbia and Italy.

More news about relations between Croatia and Japan can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Croatian and Bosnian Foreign Ministers Meet to Discuss Bilateral Relations

ZAGREB, August 12, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak, who met for the first time since Grlić Radman recently stepped into office, agreed on the need to solve outstanding issues in the bilateral relations and to work on the improvement of the relations in the region, the Bosnian ministry said in a press release on Monday.

According to the press release, the meeting was held in the southern Croatian seaside resort of Brela on Sunday evening.

The press release quotes Crnadak as commenting on Croatia's plan to build a disposal site of waste from the Krško nuclear power plant at the Trgovska Gora location near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. He urged the completion of the construction of a new bridge across the River Sava at Gradiška near the Croatia-Bosnia border.

The two ministers also discussed the implementation of the August 5 agreement reached by the leaders of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As soon as the agreement on the formation of the state-level authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina was concluded, Zagreb welcomed that deal.

"The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs welcomes the agreement reached by the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political parties, facilitated by the EU special representative, as an important step towards the formation of the Council of Ministers as well as the strengthening of the functionality and effectiveness of BiH state bodies and the implantation of the necessary reforms," reads a statement which was issued by the Croatian ministry on 6 August.

"The agreement is vital for the further stabilisation of BiH and its progress in the EU integration, which Croatia fully and unequivocally supports."

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Croatia's EU Presidency to Cost 70 Million Euro

ZAGREB, July 27, 2019 - Newly-appointed Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Friday that Croatia was ready for the presidency of the EU, estimating that the presidency would cost the state about €70 million.

In his first press conference since stepping into office and succeeding Marija Pejčinović Burić, who has been elected as the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Grlić Radman said that the ministry and media needed to be partners and underscored that he would be more open to the media.

"The public has the right to information and we wish to truly work transparently," he said.

Stating that the presidency of the Council of the EU is the ministry's "main priority", Grlić Radman said that Croatia was prepared for that role in the first half of 2020.

He said that based on previous presidencies by countries similar to Croatia in terms of economic strength, the presidency would cost Croatia around 70 million euro, adding that it was difficult to be more precise because some public procurement procedures were underway and some departments had requested additional co-funding from the EU.

He expects that when "Zagreb becomes the EU's capital" that will bring some profit to Croatia.

Grlić Radman said that the first priority was to ensure a timely agreement on the new multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2027.

The focus will also be on Brexit and economic objectives such as balancing economic growth, improving competitiveness and deepening the economic and monetary union.

The other priorities include demographic challenges and Europe's external and internal security, with Grlić Radman noting that "Europe is very grateful" to Croatia for stopping migrant waves.

During its chairmanship Croatia will advocate the better functioning of the Schengen Area and Eurozone, with emphasis on enlargement which includes Croatia. Zagreb will advocate the further enlargement of the Union and we will organise a summit on that topic in 2020.

"Anyone who wishes to join this club is welcome but based on merit," Grlić Radman said, reiterating that Croatia strongly supported the European integration of countries in Southeast Europe and cooperation with countries in the Eastern Partnership.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

New Foreign Minister Grlić Radman Meets with Foreign Diplomats

ZAGREB, July 25, 2019 - The newly-appointed Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Wednesday met with foreign diplomats accredited to Croatia to present to them Croatia's foreign policy priorities in the coming period.

Grlić Radman underscored that Croatia's presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020 was one of the top priorities of Croatia's diplomacy in the coming period, along with accession to the Schengen Area, the Eurozone and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the ministry said in a press release.

He pointed out that over the past three decades Croatia had achieved its most significant strategic objectives, including joining the UN, NATO and the European Union. From a country that at one time had European Community monitors deployed because of the war in Croatia, it has grown into a country that will, in five months' time, take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, the minister said.

Minister Grlić Radman recalled his early days in Croatian diplomacy and his contribution to establishing the diplomatic service. He thanked the Diplomatic Corps for its work until now and expressed his confidence in the power of diplomacy for common responses to current challenges to peace and security.

Grlić Radman stepped into office last week as part of a major government reshuffle by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković after the position was vacated by Marija Pejčinović Burić who has been elected Secretary-General of the Council of Europe.

More foreign policy news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

EU Membership Has Strengthened Croatia's Reputation

ZAGREB, July 2, 2019 - In the six years of its EU membership Croatia has proven to be a member that promotes European values and at the same time it has strengthened its reputation, influence and visibility in the European, global and multilateral context, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MVEP) said in a press release on Monday, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of Croatia's joining the EU.

By using the numerous advantages of EU membership, including the possibility of taking EU grants, Croatia has achieved visible progress in several areas, the press release said.

"Croatia is improving internal transport connectivity as well as connectivity with other countries thanks to projects such as the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, the reconstruction of railway lines and roads and air and sea ports, and a number of other projects," the MVEP adds.

It further recalls that Croatia has become part of a developed network of agreements on free trade which the EU has concluded with third countries.

"The European Union has 36 agreements on free trade with third countries which cover 63 countries around the world, and that has opened significant markets for our exporters. Also, Croatian entrepreneurs have equal access to the European market, which has contributed to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and boosted economic growth and helped create new jobs and reduce unemployment," the MVEP says.

The Erasmus+ programme has enabled young people to study and gain experience in other member countries while projects financed with EU funds support economic progress, a more even development of all Croatian regions and the preservation and development of agriculture, the ministry says.

With regard to participation in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, the ministry says that it provides Croatia with the opportunity to achieve its foreign policy priorities, thus having a greater international impact, visibility and recognisability.

It is particularly important for Croatia to make sure the EU's attention stays on the area of Southeast Europe, it says.

"Engagement in the EU's neighbourhood is also important to us as is a common response to global challenges such as migrations, terrorism or hybrid threats. Croatia is especially engaged and contributes to strengthening Europe's security-defence dimension by participating in EU missions and operations, supporting a tighter cooperation between the EU and NATO and participating in efforts to advance Europe's defence capabilities and cooperation," the press release concluded.

The ministry also recalled that Croatia was continuing to work on its accession to the Schengen area and the eurozone.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

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