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.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Procedure Launched for Dismissal of Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia

ZAGREB, January 12, 2019 - Procedure has been launched to dismiss Ivan Del Vechio as Croatian ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs confirmed to Hina on Friday, two days after he attended a ceremony marking the controversial Republika Srpska Day in Banja Luka.

Ambassador Del Vechio has been recalled to Zagreb for consultations and a procedure for his dismissal has been launched, the Ministry said.

Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, celebrates 9 January as the day on which the Republic of the Serb People in Bosnia and Herzegovina was declared in 1992 by a self-styled Assembly of the Serb People led by Radovan Karadžić and Momcilo Krajisnik, who were later convicted as war criminals by a UN tribunal in The Hague.

The Republika Srpska Day was declared unconstitutional by the Bosnian Constitutional Court in 2015.

Bosnian Serb general Slavko Lisica, who had been sentenced by a Croatian court to 15 years in prison for war crimes committed in Dalmatia during the 1991-1995 war, was posthumously decorated at Wednesday's ceremony.

Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić said on Thursday that Croatia had never participated in those ceremonies and that Del Vechio had made a wrong decision.

The Croatian ministry said on Thursday that Zagreb had not been aware of the ambassador's plan to attend the event and that he had been recalled for consultations for that reason. It condemned the decoration of the Bosnian Serb general.

The ceremony was ignored by almost all representatives of the diplomatic corps in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

Friday, 11 January 2019

Croatian Foreign Minister One of Candidates for Council of Europe Head

ZAGREB, January 11, 2019 – Croatian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić is one of the four candidate that have applied for the position of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, this European organisation reported on Friday.

The CoE states that at the expiry of the deadline for member states to propose candidates for the election of the next Secretary General, the following candidatures have been sent by Belgian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Didier Reyners, a former Lithuanian premier and lawmaker, Andrius Kubilius, as well as a former Greek foreign minister and parliamentary deputy, Dora Bakoyannis.

"The Committee of Ministers will interview the four candidates separately in March 2019, and decide upon a final list of candidates that will be transmitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe," the CoE reported.

The Parliamentary Assembly will then proceed with the election of the next Secretary General, which is due to take place in June 2019. The mandate of the new Secretary General starts on 1 October 2019.

The current Secretary-General is Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister and parliament speaker.

Croatia chaired the CoE from May to November 2018.

More news on Croatia and the Council of Europe can be found in our Politics section.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Croatian Ambassador Erred by Attending Bosnian Serb Celebration, Says Minister

ZAGREB, January 11, 2019 - The Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry had not been informed of the decision by the Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina to attend the celebration of Republika Srpska Day, Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić told HRT broadcaster on Thursday, adding that Ambassador Del Vechio "had made a wrong call."

Croatia has never taken part in the celebration of that day and this is how it should have been this time as well," Pejčinović Burić said.

Ambassador Del Vechio understood that this was a visit by the chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency, the minister said.

Pejčinović Burić dismissed speculation that Del Vechio traveled to Banja Luka following instructions from Zagreb.

Croatia's policy regarding the Republika Srpska has not changed and his presence at the celebration "is a big surprise;" notably in light of the fact that during his term as ambassador he had never attended this ceremony, the minister said. "He should not have been there on that day," Pejčinović Burić said.

The ambassador has been recalled for consultations to Zagreb, the minister said adding that a decision regarding further steps would be made. She added that the ambassadors' term had ended anyway.

HDZ BiH president Dragan Čović's decision to attend the ceremony was "an autonomous decision of the president of the largest Bosnian Croat political party and we in Croatia have absolutely no influence on it or have any intention to decide on the matter," Pejčinović Burić said commenting on the Čović's decision to attend the ceremony in Banja Luka.

The said ceremony in Banja Luka was marking January 9, which the authorities of the Republic of Srpska observe in memory of the establishment of "a republic of the Serb people in Bosnia and Herzegovina," which has since been proclaimed as unconstitutional.

At the ceremony attended by both Čović and Del Vechio, the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Serb entity, Željka Cvijanović, posthumously awarded decorations to Slavko Lisica, a Yugoslav People's Army officer who was convicted of war crimes in Croatia.

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

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia Recalled over Controversial Event

ZAGREB, January 10, 2019 - Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivan Del Vechio, is going to be summoned for consultations to Zagreb after his attendance at the controversial celebration of the "RS entity day" in Banja Luka, although that holiday in the Serb entity was declared unconstitutional by Bosnia and Herzegovina's Constitutional Court.

Wednesday's celebration was also marked by the posthumous awarding of decoration to ex-JNA officer, Slavko Lisica, who was sentenced to 15 years for war crimes in the Croatian city of Šibenik. In 1998, the local county court found Lisica guilty of shelling that Adriatic city in September 1992. In the shelling launched by JNA units under Lisica's control, a woman was killed and the city's landmarks, including centuries-old churches and monuments in the city centre, were damaged.

War Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević on Thursday strongly criticised Croatian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Ivan Del Vechio for attending Wednesday's celebration of Republika Srpska Day in Banja Luka.

Attending such a ceremony "is inappropriate conduct, particularly considering the fact that a war criminal, convicted in Croatia of grave war crimes, was decorated on that occasion," Medved told the press before a government's meeting in Zagreb.

Minister Krstičević said that attending such an event was a disgrace.

Medved said that it was up to the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry to decide on possible measures against the ambassador. "As far as I know, the foreign ministry did not know that Del Vechio was attending that event, and it is now gathering all the necessary information about the case," Medved said.

Medved, however, would not comment on the presence of the local Bosnian Croat leader, Dragan Čović of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnian and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) at the Banja Luka event. "Being a representative of the Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Čović makes his decisions on his own and I do not want to comment on that," said Medved.

The Bosnian Serb authorities on Wednesday organised Republika Srpska Day celebrations despite a 2015 Constitutional Court ruling that declared the entity's holiday to be contrary to the Constitution and discriminatory against the other two constituent peoples in the country.

The parade and celebrations in Banja Luka were ignored by a vast majority of foreign diplomats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the exception of the ambassadors of Russia and Croatia. Also in attendance were Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin as well as top dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The central event included a parade involving 1,500 participants, mostly armed police officers. Some of them wore uniforms resembling those worn by Serb troops in World War I. The parade also included firefighters, civil protection staff, war veterans, student and local branches of the controversial Russian motorcycle club "Night Wolves" that is perceived to be close to Vladimir Putin. The club's leader Alexander Zaldostanov has been banned from entering Bosnia and Herzegovina and declared a threat to national security.

No symbols of Bosnia and Herzegovina were displayed during the parade or at other commemorative events. On the other hand, numerous flags of the RS entity and Serbia were flown and only the anthems and Republika Srpska and Serbia were played.

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

Thursday, 10 January 2019

President Marks 27 Years of Croatia’s International Recognition

ZAGREB, January 10, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović held an official reception in the northwestern town of Čakovec on Thursday for the heads of diplomatic missions and international organisations and military attaches in Croatia on the occasion of Croatia’s international recognition 27 years ago and of the 100th anniversary of Međimurje's secession from Hungary and its reintegration into Croatia, which was then part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

In her address, President Grabar-Kitarović said that the reception was organised in recognition of all those who had contributed to the adoption of the resolution on Međimurje's secession from Hungary one hundred years ago. "That was a historic day for Croatia and the Croatian people and that is why on 9 January 2005 the Croatian parliament proclaimed this as a day commemorating that resolution," she underscored and added that today Međimurje is one of the most developed areas in Croatia.

Referring to Croatia's international recognition on 15 January 1992, Grabar-Kitarović said that the Croatian people were given an opportunity to be included in all positive European processes. "Our aspirations for membership of the great family of European Union countries, which we achieved a few years ago, expresses our deep confidence and feeling that Europe has a shared future," she said.

Speaking of many European initiatives that Croatia has been incorporated in, she underscored the Three Seas Initiative which has received support from the European Commission, the US and a new partner country, Germany. She expressed confidence that this will "have a beneficial impact on European and international relations," hoping that Croatia will soon be able to have the same impact as a member of the OECD.

Among priorities in state policy, she underlined advancing bilateral relations with neighbouring countries and resolving outstanding issues, adding that Croatia will remain dedicated to the mutual protection of national minority rights. She said that as a signatory to the Washington and Dayton peace accords, Croatia is firmly determined to offer further support to Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina in their endeavours to achieve full ethnic equality and constitutionality.

"Croatia will also actively support and encourage all processes that will ensure stability in southeast Europe and for all its peoples and countries that so wish to join the European Union and NATO," Grabar-Kitarović said.

In the year marking the 10th anniversary of Croatia's accession to NATO, she stressed that our relations with other countries, particularly strategic partnership with the United States of America, constructive cooperation with the Russian Federation and China, further strengthening ties with Israel and expanding economic cooperation with other countries in the Mediterranean basin, are a continuation of our presence in international relations.

"We will certainly have an exceptional role in the China plus 16 summit which Croatia is hosting in April 2019 and which should deepen relations and ties between the East and West that started long ago with Marco Polo," she said.

More news on the Croatia’s president can be found in our Politics section.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Australian Police Arrest Man Who Sent Suspicious Parcel to Croatian Consulate

ZAGREB, January 10, 2019 - Australian police said on Thursday they had arrested a man for allegedly sending suspicious packages to embassies and consulates across the country, Reuters news agency reported.

The 48-year-old is suspected of sending as many as 38 packages to 14 embassies and consulates, including the US, British and Croatian missions in Melbourne. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in jail.

The Croatian consulate in Melbourne received a package in the regular mail on Wednesday, containing three little packets. Staff called the firemen and federal police, who took the items away, but there was no need for the consulate to be evacuated.

According to media reports, some of the parcels contained asbestos, a material used in construction that can cause health problems.

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

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Croatian Consulate in Melbourne Receives Suspicious Package

ZAGREB, January 9, 2019 - The Croatian consulate in Melbourne is among the diplomatic offices which have confirmed receiving a suspicious package on Wednesday, CNN said.

Joseph Petrić, Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in Melbourne, told CNN that a package arrived at the consulate in the regular mail, and contained three little packets. Staff called the firemen and federal police, and the authorities came, packaged it and took it away. He said the office was not evacuated.

Croatia's Foreign Ministry could not confirm that the Croatian consulate was one of them by phone because it replies only to written queries.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirmed that police and emergency services had responded to suspicious packages sent to embassies and consulates in both Canberra and Melbourne but did not provide details as to the specific locations or contents of the packages. "The packages are being examined by attending emergency services. The circumstances are being investigated," said the AFP statement.

Australian media have reported that packages had been sent to a total of 14 diplomatic offices, including the British, American, Indian, Pakistani, French, South Korean, Greek, Swiss consulates in Melbourne.

According to the media, some of the packages contain asbestos, material used in construction which can cause health problems.

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

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