Monday, 25 March 2019

Croatian Foreign Minister Visits Japan

ZAGREB, March 25, 2019) - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić and her Japanese host Taro Kono, confirmed in Tokyo on Monday good and friendly relations between Croatia and Japan and discussed topical global and regional issues as well as cooperation within multilateral organisations, the Croatian foreign ministry said in a press release.

During the second part of his official visit to Japan, Pejčinović Burić held a number of bilateral meetings with representatives of Japanese institutions.

In the first part of her visit, Pejčinović Burić took part in a conference of the World Assembly for Women, held in Tokyo on March 22-24. Pejčinović Burić invited minister Kono to a return visit to Croatia.

The minister also met with representatives of the Japanese-Croatian parliamentary groups of friendship, led by Secretary General Nobu Kishi as well as with the leadership of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) is a Japanese government-related organisation that promotes mutually beneficial trade and investment.

The meeting also focused on the support to the two countries' business people so as to advance bilateral trade and attract investments.

They also discussed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and Japan, the biggest trade agreement ever negotiated by the EU that will create an open trade zone covering over 600 million people. The agreement entered into force on Friday, 1 February 2019.

Pejčinović Burić and the Japanse officials also talked about an agreement between Japan and Croatia aimed at eliminating of double taxation.

The Croatian minister also talked with the Yazaki management board president and the leadership of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), the press release said.

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

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Foreign Minister Attends World Assembly for Women Conference in Japan

ZAGREB, March 24, 2019 - Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Marija Pejčinović Burić, took part in a conference of the World Assembly for Women, held in Tokyo on March 22-24, as part of her working visit to Japan, her ministry said.

The main theme of this year's conference of the World Assembly for Women was diversity.

The purpose of the initiative is to connect women that head states, governments or ministries or hold leading positions in the corporate sector in the context of the empowerment of women in society.

The main guest at the event was Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2014, and the conference was also addressed by Michelle Bachelet Jeria, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Pejčinović Burić attended two panel discussions, the closing one and a panel discussion on the importance of the promotion of diversity in the media.

The Croatian minister also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to whom she conveyed an invitation by Croatian PM Andrej Plenković to visit Croatia.

More news about the Foreign Ministry can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Relations Between Croatia and Romania Improving, Foreign Ministers Say

ZAGREB, March 16, 2019 - Relations between Croatia and Romania are improving, as shown by the increasingly frequent high level meetings, and last year trade jumped by about 30%, the foreign ministers of the two countries said in Bucharest on Friday.

"Croatia and Romania have no outstanding issues. They have very successful cooperation in many areas within the EU and NATO and on the bilateral front. We have the same or similar stances on many issues," Marija Pejčinović Burić of Croatia said after talks with her Romanian counterpart Teodor Melescanu.

The relations have been intensifying recently, including nine high level visits on both sides in the last two years, she added.

We welcome the fact that in 2018 bilateral trade increased by about 33%, which proves the potential for advancing economic cooperation is high, said Melescanu.

Pejčinović Burić said the two-digit trade rise reflected the big interest of the business communities in both countries.

Croatia and Romania, both EU and NATO members, have the same or similar positions on all the topics on the two organisations' agendas, and share common goals, such as entering the Schengen and euro areas, supporting the EU's cohesion policy and enlargement to Southeast Europe, the Three Seas Initiative and the EU's Danube Region Strategy.

Both countries are satisfied with the protection of the respective ethnic minorities.

Pejčinović Burić and Melescanu condemned the recent terrorist attack in New Zealand and extended condolences and solidarity with the people of that country.

Pejčinović Burić also met with Romania's President Klaus Iohannis and Senate President Calin Popescu Tariceanu.

More news on Croatia and Romania can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Croatia and Germany Sign Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement

ZAGREB, March 7, 2019 - Croatia and Germany signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement in Berlin on Thursday, which they described as a milestone in relations between the two countries.

Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas signed a joint statement on increasing government cooperation and an action plan aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation and relations at EU level.

"I think we can describe the signing of these documents as a milestone in our bilateral relations which are developing well in any case and which, based on this action plan, will be further intensified," said Maas.

According to Germany's FM, the action plan that defines the expansion of cooperation between the two governments, covers a "comprehensive range of topics," like digitisation, a dual education system, science and research, climate protection, and security.

Pejčinović Burić said that Germany was one of Croatia's most important trading partners and that the agreement on expanding cooperation, which was reached in August by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, would additionally strengthen mutual relations.

She added that the action plan provided for strengthening cooperation in a dozen areas, from common interest to foreign and European policy to the economy, education, culture, sport and parliamentary cooperation.

"I believe that in two years’ time we will analyse how the plan is developing and will extend it to other areas of cooperation," Pejčinović Burić said before meeting with Maas.

"Signing this agreement is an important step that we will make as part of the existing partnership in the EU and NATO and our common interest for Southeast Europe, which is essential for stability and security in that region and for Europe as a whole. We believe that the signing of this agreement will specifically raise the level of contacts relating to the agreed topics and concrete projects that will develop from those contacts," Pejčinović Burić said.

The talks focused on the future of the European Union, particularly with regard to EU enlargement and Brexit.

Maas recalled that next year Croatia and Germany would chair the Council of the European Union one after the other.

"We wish to use this fact at the European level for a constructive policy and I am already looking forward to joint cooperation between Germany and Croatia," Maas said.

He underscored that the two main themes of the German EU presidency would be unity and strength.

"I think that these are important issues for the European Union's future and am looking forward to cooperation with Croatia," he added.

Maas said that as a "regional power" Croatia brings a rich experience to relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans.

"The Western Balkans is a strategically key region for the EU. What we need in our neighbourhood is stability, democracy, economic growth and that's why we cannot turn our backs on the Western Balkans. That would be a big mistake," he said.

Pejčinović Burić said that it was important to intensify cooperation between Germany and Croatia because, among other things, both countries would chair the EU next year.

"We will discuss countries in Southeast Europe and their pathway and progress toward EU membership, of course, when conditions for that have been met," she said.

Maas pointed out the good relations between citizens in the two countries. "There are 370,000 Croatian citizens living in Germany and last year a record number of German tourists visited Croatia. For me that is an example of the Europe that we live for and that we feel like neighbours," he concluded.

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

Saturday, 9 February 2019

After 20 Years, Croatian Foreign Minister Visits Morocco

ZAGREB, February 9, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić is currently on an official visit to Morocco, the first visit of a Croatian foreign minister in twenty years, the ministry said in a press release on Friday evening.

Pejčinović Burić met with Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani, Speaker of the House of Representatives Habib El Malki and Minister for National Defence Administration Abdellatif Loudiyi.

They discussed bilateral relations and exchanged views on current global and regional issues, as well as a common response to challenges such as terrorism, crime and illegal migration.

Three documents were signed: a memorandum of understanding on comprehensive long-term partnership between Croatia and Morocco, a memorandum of understanding on healthcare, and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in tourism.

Also signed was a framework intergovernmental agreement on defence cooperation, the press release said.

More news on the activities of the Foreign Ministry can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Croatia Supports Juan Guaido as Venezuela's Interim President

ZAGREB, February 5, 2019 - Croatia supports Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president so that, in that capacity, he can carry out presidential elections as part of a solution to the crisis in the country, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry expressed concern about the latest developments in Venezuela and the further deepening of the political, economic and humanitarian crisis, strongly condemning the violations of human rights and the rule of law as well as the violence which resulted in deaths and injuries of citizens and numerous arrests.

Croatia supports the democratically elected legitimate bodies of Venezuela, the National Assembly and its president, in carrying out, in his capacity as interim president, free, fair and democratic presidential elections and ensuring the legitimacy of institutions, the ministry said.

In this respect, Croatia has joined other European Union member states in a joint statement, the ministry said.

We underline the importance of finding a peaceful and democratic solution as part of a viable political process which should include the holding of free, transparent and credible presidential elections in line with international democratic standards and Venezuela's constitution, the ministry said.

Madrid, London, Paris, Berlin and several other European capitals recognised Guaido today as Venezuela's interim president after Nicolas Maduro refused to give in to an ultimatum and call presidential elections. The European Union is divided over this, with some countries, such as Italy and Greece, deciding to wait to see how the situation develops before making a decision.

The Foreign Ministry said that Croatia, as part of efforts for overcoming the current crisis peacefully, supported the establishment of an International Contact Group on Venezuela which should help create conditions for a credible political process and the holding of elections.

We are working with partners in the EU to enable the provision of humanitarian aid which, due to a regime ban, cannot be delivered. In this context, Croatia is especially concerned about the large Croat community living in Venezuela, the ministry said.

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

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Fake News Used to Elect Candidates to European Parliament

ZAGREB, January 22, 2018 - The European Union's foreign ministers on Monday discussed an action plan to tackle fake news in the context of perceiving fake news as a challenge in the run-up to the forthcoming European Parliament elections, and Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said that there were some in Croatia who resorted to fake news in a bid to win a seat in the European Parliament.

"In the context of preparations for countering fake news and in connection with the forthcoming EP elections, it is obvious that the election campaign has already been launched in Croatia and that there are some who use fake news in an attempt to win a seat in the European Parliament," Pejčinović Burić said in Brussels, answering questions from the press.

She also believes that the recent developments and debates in the Croatian parliament should be perceived in that context.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council focused its debate on the prevention of fake news and the influence of third countries on east and southeast Europe and on the EU's southern neighbours, as well as on the EU member-states.

The action plan outlined by the European Commission in December revolves around the exposure of citizens to large scale disinformation, including misleading or outright false information.

The Commission has engaged with all stakeholders to define a clear, comprehensive and broad-based action plan to tackle the spread and impact of online disinformation in Europe and ensure the protection of European values and democratic systems.

"The European Union has outlined an action plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond focusing on four key areas. This plan serves to build EU's capabilities and strengthen cooperation between member states by improving detection, having a coordinated response to threats, collaboration with online platforms and industry as well as raising awareness and empowering citizens," according to information on the EC's website.

The Croatian minister said that by March, the EU member-states are supposed to set up national contact points for the exchange of important information.

In the medium- and long-run it is essential to raise awareness of the existence of fake news and to enhance media culture and ways to interpret information and verify it, she added, calling for a broad struggle against this phenomenon.

More news on the elections for the European Parliament in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

No Conflict of Interest Proceedings Against Foreign Minister

ZAGREB, January 19, 2019 - The Conflict of Interest Commission decided on Friday that it would not launch proceedings against Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić, thus rejecting a motion tabled by an association of war veterans from Slavonski Brod that accused Pejčinović Burić of being in a conflict of interest as the minister who used to provide Serbia's government with counselling in the accession negotiations with the EU from 2013 to 2016.

The Commission concluded that having been an adviser in the project aimed at helping Serbia to expedite its accession negotiations, Minister Pejčinović Burić did not create any interest in contravention of Croatia's interest.

The association filed the report against the minister insisting that Pejčinović Burić's counselling activities before her ministerial term and her current position in which she monitors the achievements of Serbia in meeting benchmarks within the EU membership talks amounted to a clash of interests.

Dismissing the association's request, the commission explains that the contents of the project in which Pejčinović Burić offered counselling services from 2013 to 2016 and the duties to monitor Serbia's progress in fulfilling the benchmarks differed completely.

Tatijana Vučetić of the Commission explained that being hired as an international expert by the European Commission following the advertised tender for counselling Serbia in a specific project, Pejčinović Burić did not pursue private interests that might have clashed with Croatia's interests.

More news on the conflict of interest issues in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Foreign Minister Rejects High Treason Allegations

ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 - Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić on Friday dismissed the accusations of high treason and favouring Serbia's interests levelled against her by the political secretary of the opposition MOST party, Nikola Grmoja, saying MOST had done nothing to prevent Serbia from opening EU accession negotiations on Chapter 23 while it was part of the government.

Speaking at an extraordinary press conference, the minister recalled the establishment of a commission following the implementation of transitional benchmarks in chapters 23 and 24 as part of Serbia's European Union accession negotiations.

"The commission was established in 2016 under a decision of the then caretaker government and the commission was tasked solely with following the implementation of transitional benchmarks in negotiation chapters 23 and 24. The fact is that MOST was in power at that time. Why didn't the justice minister, the one in charge of monitoring the implementation of Chapter 23, block the closure of that chapter, which he absolutely could have done and had the right to do?" said Pejčinović Burić.

Pejčinović Burić said Croatia "is closely and systematically following" Serbia's compliance with all commitments and that chapters 23 and 24 were "key for Serbia's overall progress in the accession process."

She said it was in Croatia's interest to push for the rights of Croats in Serbia, resolving the issue of persons gone missing in the 1990s war as well as jurisdiction. "Serbia hasn't closed even one chapter in more than five years," she added.

Serbia opened chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security) in summer 2016, but they will be closed only at the end of the negotiation process, after the benchmarks have been met. At the time, MOST was a ruling coalition partner of the HDZ party in the Tihomir Orešković cabinet and the minister of justice was MOST's Ante Šprlje.

Grmoja said in parliament on Wednesday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovič was "working for Serbia's interests." "Serbia has opened new chapters in negotiations with the EU and Croatia has done nothing about it, even though Serbia is not meeting the benchmarks undertaken from Chapter 23," he said, adding that Pejčinović Burić "is breaching a government decision and not convening the commission, while our former camp inmates are bringing suits against Serbia alone, without any help."

Last December, Serbia opened negotiations on chapters 17 (Economic and Monetary Union) and 18 (Statistics).

The minister also commented on today's press conference by Hrast MP Hrvoje Zekanović and Croatian member of the European Parliament Ruža Tomašić, who called for an unreserved blockade of Serbia's EU entry talks until outstanding issues between Croatia and Serbia have been dealt with.

Pejčinović Burić said she was not surprised by Zekanović's request but was by Tomašić's. "If she's that unfamiliar with the accession negotiations process and the functioning of the European Union, then we can really wonder what she has done in Strasbourg and Brussels for more than five years."

More news on the relations between Croatia and Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Croatia to Appoint New Ambassador to Bosnia

ZAGREB, January 13, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday he had not talked yet with HDZ BiH president Dragan Čović, who has been criticised for attending a Republika Srpska Day commemoration, as has Ivan Del Vechio who, because of that, was dismissed as Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) . "I leave it up to Mr. Ćović and the HDZ BiH to comment on this," Plenković told reporters in Split.

He reiterated that Croatia had not been informed that Del Vechio would attend the commemoration in Banja Luka on January 9. He said Del Vechio should have consulted Croatia if he had a meeting in Banja Luka that had nothing to do with the commemoration. "He shouldn't have been there on that day."

Plenković recalled that Del Vechio had been Croatia's ambassador to BiH five years and had never attended Republika Srpska Day commemorations. "It's a little unusual that he ended up in such a situation at the end of his term and career. That's why he was recalled to Zagreb for consultations and we will start appointing a new ambassador to BiH very soon."

Asked what message Čović had sent by attending the commemoration, Plenković said "it's extremely important that Croatia's stance on BiH is well-meaning and friendly." He added that Croatia had been the country "which has supported BiH's European journey the most, but by ensuring the equality of the Croat people as a constituent people, of course."

Plenković said he informed the European Council twice that BiH's current election law "makes it possible to get around the Dayton/Paris agreement, which is also BiH's Constitution, bringing Croats, as the least numerous constituent people, into an unequal position because their member of the BiH Presidency is elected by members of the other people in the Federation." He was referring to Bosniaks in the Croat-Bosniak entity, called the Federation.

Aside from government formation in BiH and the continuation of its European path, it is important that the international community, primarily the European Union, help BiH "adopt a just election law under which all three constituent peoples will be equal," Plenković said.

"We would certainly prefer it if Dragan Čović, who won 155,000 votes, or 80% of the vote of the Croats in BiH who went to the polls, was a member of the BiH Presidency and if he was seeing to the vital interests of the Croatian people in BiH," he added.

More news on Croatia’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

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