Sunday, 29 December 2019

“Croatia Will Show During EU Presidency It Supports Bosnia”

ZAGREB, December 29, 2019 - Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have very good relations despite occasional miscommunication, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Sarajevo on Saturday, adding that Croatia would show it supported BiH during its EU presidency in the first half of 2020.

He met with BiH's new Foreign Minister Bisera Turković. Speaking to the press, he said that as a co-signatory of the Dayton peace agreement, Croatia supported BiH's territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the equality of its constituent peoples.

He said that during its EU presidency Croatia would be a resolute advocate of the continuation of BiH's Euro-Atlantic journey. "Presiding the Council of the EU is a big responsibility for a stable neighbourhood, notably BiH with which Croatia has the longest border."

Grlić Radman reiterated that for the sake of BiH's stability, its constituent peoples should elect their government representatives.

He also met with the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljić, underlining the importance of his struggle for the survival of Croats in BiH in the spirit of tolerance, which he said contributed to peace, stability and dialogue.

Puljić said the Catholic Church in BiH counted on the continuation of Croatia's support for the survival of Croats in BiH, adding that equality was a burning issue for them. "Because Croatia is presiding the EU, it should help (BiH) to become normal too, and it won't become normal unless there are equal rights."

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Plenković Attends CEI’s 30th Anniversary in Rome

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - The Central European Initiative (CEI), established at the time of the fall of the Iron Curtain, marked its 30th anniversary in Rome on Thursday, in the presence of six prime ministers, including Andrej Plenković of Croatia, and sent out a strong message of support for further EU enlargement.

The CEI was launched in Budapest in 1989 with the idea of helping countries of Central and Eastern Europe join the EU.

"The foreign ministers of the four countries realised what was happening and seized the opportunity" to launch the initiative, at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, said Giuseppe Conte, the Prime Minister of Italy which has chaired the CEI this year. Croatia chaired the initiative in 2018.

The first four CEI members were Italy, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

Even though in the meantime Austria has left the initiative, it has expanded over the years and now has 17 members - apart from the former Yugoslav republics, it also includes Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.

"The father of the initiative, Italian Minister Gianni De Michelis, realised early that divisions on the old continent were disappearing," Conte said, stressing that thanks to De Michelis' vision Italy had focused on dialogue and integration, which it did today as well.

This is evidenced by Italy's commitment to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and to maintaining close relations with Eastern Europe, the Italian PM said, adding that Italy would be the chief advocate of EU enlargement until it happens.

That goal drifted further away in October, when France, Denmark and the Netherlands opposed the launching of membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia, the country which agreed to change its name for the sake of its Euro-Atlantic integration.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in Rome that despite that Tirana would continue the reform process and that Europe would decide when it felt ready.

He also said that one should be frank and admit that French President Emmanuel Macron, the most prominent opponent of enlargement, was right to claim that the EU should start functioning better before further enlargement.

This is not about the Balkan countries but about Brussels, Rama said.

However, opponents of that view stress that launching membership talks does not mean a speedy accession to the EU, and PM Plenković recalled in Rome that closed policy chapters could be reopened if they turned out to contain something contentious.

The issue of enlargement will gain new impetus with Croatia's EU presidency in the first half of 2020. Zagreb has said that this is one of its main goals and in May a summit meeting will be held between EU and Western Balkan countries in the Croatian capital in an effort to step up the accession process.

Pleković said that the Zagreb summit would send out a message that such systematic dialogues should be held every two years. The last summit in Zagreb, focusing on the same topic, was held in 2000. It was followed by the Thessaloniki summit in 2003, after which there was a 15-year break, followed by the Sofia summit in 2018.

The Zagreb summit will discuss ways to make the accession methodology "simpler, clearer and more encouraging", the purpose being to open talks with North Macedonia and Albania before the summit, said Plenković.

Also attending the CEI meeting in Rome was new European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi of Hungary, a country that also strongly advocates the accession of Western Balkan countries to the EU.

Serbian PM Ana Brnabic, Montenegrin PM Duško Marković, Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev and Moldovan PM Ion Chicu also arrived in Rome for the meeting.

Addressing the closed-door session of the CEI, Plenković also spoke about Croatia's EU presidency during which Zagreb will also focus on Brexit, the new European budget, a conference on the future of Europe, the European Green Deal and the digital agenda.

Next year CEI chairmanship will be taken over by Montenegro.

More news about Croatia’s foreign policy can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Croatia: Slovenia's Parliament Confirms Arbitration Was Compromised

ZAGREB, November 26, 2019 - The international community knows that the arbitration proceedings in the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute was compromised and now that has been confirmed in Slovenia's parliament, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said in Brussels on Monday.

"The arbitration proceedings have been compromised and the international community is aware of that fact and that fact has now been confirmed in Slovenia's parliament. Who else needs to confirm that the arbitration proceedings were compromised if even the country that claims it wasn't, no longer thinks so," Grlić Radman said commenting on a report by a parliamentary commission for the oversight of Slovenian secret services.

The report actually admits that the Slovenian secret service SOVA had from the very start of the border arbitration process provided support to Slovenian diplomats in their attempts to lobby for the Slovenian side.

Grlić Radman reiterated Croatia's stance regarding the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute, saying that this is a bilateral matter that needs to be resolved by the two countries.

"There is no point in trying to prove whether the decision by the compromised arbitration is valid or not. Slovenia's side is unnecessarily exhausting itself by trying to prove that the arbitration award is valid. It is unnecessarily wasting time instead of sitting down at the table and start resolving outstanding issues," Grlić Radman said.

More news about the border issue between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Foreign Minister Meets with Members of European Academies' Science Advisory Council

ZAGREB, November 16, 2019) - The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, addressed a meeting of the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) in Zagreb on Friday, presenting the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

Croatia is making thorough preparations for the presidency, Radman said, adding that the presidency implies a mediating role and the art of compromising among the member states. He noted that Croatia was taking over the EU presidency after only six years of membership.

"The unity of the European Union members in understanding that we need one another to face the challenges of today is one of the distinctive strengths of the European Union," Radman said, according to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

The meeting, hosted by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, focused on support for research projects in the EU, especially financial support, harmonising the member states' policies on migration, and the brain drain within the EU, from eastern to western member states.

The EASAC brings together members of the science academies of the EU member states, Switzerland and Norway to discuss current and future EU policies, notably those concerning sciences and arts.

The Council is currently chaired by Thierry Courvoisier of Switzerland. The issue it is now primarily preoccupied with is sustainable development and the future of the planet, with the focus on preserving healthy soil and food, reducing exhaust emissions and alleviating the consequences of climate imbalance.

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

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Croatia Advocates Stronger Multilateralism at Paris Peace Forum

ZAGREB, November 12, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said at the 2nd Paris Peace Forum on Tuesday that he was in favour of strengthening multilateralism and he underlined its importance in dealing with geopolitical challenges.

"In today's world of great challenges, unity on peace and stability is of extreme importance. Responding to geopolitical challenges requires joint efforts and advocacy for stronger multilateralism," the Croatian minister said, as stated by the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry.

Grlić Radman said that he was glad to hear French President Emmanuel Macron underline the necessity of multilateralism.

In an interview with The Economist earlier this month, Macron said that NATO was experiencing brain death, a statement that drew criticism from numerous NATO members.

"I'm glad that in his address French President Macron also spoke about the importance of multilateralism, mentioning in that context the Alliance for Multilateralism, launched by the French and German foreign ministers, which we supported strongly at the UN General Assembly," Grlić Radman said.

The Paris Peace Forum, established on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, is an annual gathering of statesmen, politicians, international organisations, civil society organisations and the business community, focusing on various global challenges.

This year's forum has brought together around 100 delegations, including some 30 heads of state and government, as well as leaders of big international organisations, the ministry said.

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

Monday, 4 November 2019

Support to Neighbouring Countries' European Future Guarantee of Croatia's Security

ZAGREB, November 4, 2019 - Southeast Europe is one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020 because Southeast European countries deserve a European future and Croatia must lend a hand, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Monday, noting that support to Southeast Europe also guaranteed Croatia's security.

"As of January 1, Croatia is neutral in terms of the presidency itself, meaning that it is responsible for all member countries and must listen to what they say and pursue a policy of consensus. And Southeast Europe indeed is one of the priorities," said Grlić Radman.

Grlić Radman and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday held a working meeting in Zagreb with ambassadors and permanent representatives of Croatia as part of activities in EU member countries during Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU.

"That is our immediate neighbourhood. All those countries deserve a European future and we must help our neighbours. Support to that part of Europe also guarantees our own security," the minister said in a comment on presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro's statement that it was not good to put emphasis on the Western Balkans during Croatia's EU presidency.

Škoro said that the EU presidency should be used to derive benefit for Croatia rather than to focus on the Western Balkans.

PM Plenković recalled that the coming Zagreb summit meeting of EU member states and Southeast European countries, or technically speaking Western Balkan countries, had been planned carefully and for a long time but that that could not be easily recognised by someone who had served as a diplomat only in Pecs (a reference to Škoro's serving as Croatia's consul-general in Pecs in the 1990s).

"We also view the summit in the context of what Croatia can do for Croats as an equal and constituent ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for Croats in Serbia. One should first expand one's horizons and then make statements, but there will be time for that," Plenković said.

Among Croatia's priorities is a Europe that connects - in terms of transport, infrastructure and digitally, keeping pace with the fourth industrial revolution, said the PM.

Grlić Radman explained that those dealing with the EU and processes in it should know that when a member country was taking over EU presidency, it could not focus on its own interests but was responsible for all member-countries.

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

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Croatia Wants to Pass on “Enlargement Torch” During Its EU Presidency

ZAGREB, November 2, 2019 - The issue of EU reforms can proceed in parallel with enlargement and Croatia will try to show that enlargement is a credible process as it is one of the most successful European policies, Croatian ambassador Gordan Bakota has said, adding that Croatia has a special responsibility to pass on the torch of enlargement during its EU presidency.

"It is very complex to achieve EU unity on such topics, but we will do our best to show how important enlargement is for the transformation of countries, and we... regret that North Macedonia and Albania were not given a date for opening accession negotiations," he told Danas daily of Saturday on the occasion of Croatia's six-month EU presidency as of January 1, 2020.

Bakota said he regretted "perhaps a historic omission because the EU had the responsibility for enlargement to move on." He added, however, that "steps forward will be made" during Croatia's presidency, both regarding the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and the continuation of Serbia's EU integration.

He said Croatia also wanted to see Bosnia and Herzegovina "make progress on the Euro-Atlantic journey."

Bakota noted that Croatia would start its EU presidency "at a very interesting time" because the EU would have new institutions, because of Brexit which "will certainly be one of the main topics," and because of talks on the 2021-27 financial framework.

He also mentioned the protection of the EU's external borders, calling that very important for Schengen and for maintaining security. He recalled that the European Commission recently assessed that Croatia met the criteria for joining the Schengen Area of free travel.

"The enlargement policy, which is of special importance for Serbia, has outstanding importance for the European Union and its global role," Bakota said.

In the first half of May 2020, Croatia will organise a Western Balkans Summit "because we place enlargement very high on our presidency agenda," he said, adding that Croatia looks on enlargement "as a transforming power for every society."

He assessed Serbia-Croatia relations as "complex" and said it was very important that "there is uninterrupted dialogue." "It's impossible to expect Serbia and Croatia to resolve all outstanding issues overnight. We'd like Serbian-Croatian relations to always have a strong European context, which is why enlargement and the spirit of enlargement are significant."

He recalled the mixed groups and commissions in charge of dealing with outstanding issues, saying the "most sensitive issue" were the people gone missing in the 1990s war. It is time the families find out what happened to their dearest ones, he added.

Bakota said there was "certain progress" in dealing with the problems of the Serb minority in Croatia and the Croatian in Serbia, adding that it was very important the two minorities "exchange experiences and recommend to the governments what to do."

Ethnic minorities are "the best bridge between the two countries," he said, adding that his and Croatia's position was "that both minorities must feel very good and that this should be regulated in the European spirit, by meeting the commitments from the treaty on minority rights.

A key issue is to ensure political mandates for the Croat minority in Serbia's state and local governments, Bakota said.

"The Serb minority has three guaranteed seats in the Croatian parliament, it also has a score of representatives at local level as well as state secretaries in ministries. It's a very good solution and it should be applied in Serbia also," he said, recalling that in Croatia "the Serb minority is a government coalition partner, which is extremely important, while (in Serbia) that's not the case."

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

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Croatia Denies Blocking EU Condemnation of Turkey's Syria Offensive

ZAGREB, October 15, 2019 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Monday denied a media report that Croatia had blocked the adoption of an EU joint statement condemning Turkey's military intervention in north-eastern Syria.

"We were surprised when we saw it. It is possible that someone confused Croatia with another country which may have wanted milder wording. We strongly supported a condemnation of the unilateral military intervention," Grlić Radman told reporters when asked to comment on a media report that Croatia, along Great Britain, had vetoed the adoption of the joint statement.

"We advocate multilateralism and are interested in stability in that region. We are against unilateral actions that cause instability, insecurity and a possible new wave of refugees," Grlić Radman said.

AFP journalist Damon Wake wrote on Twitter, citing unnamed sources, that Great Britain and Croatia were currently blocking the EU joint statement condemning the Turkish offensive and that they objected to the use of the word "condemn".

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, condemned Turkey's unilateral military action in north-eastern Syria and urged Ankara to withdraw its troops from the area.

"The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region, resulting in more civilians suffering and further displacement and severely hindering access to humanitarian assistance," says the statement agreed by the foreign ministers of the 28 member states.

Last week Turkey launched a military operation in north-eastern Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia. The aim of the operation is to form a security zone in north-eastern Syria, along the border with Turkey, and settle there Syrian refugees currently staying in Turkey.

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

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Croatia Dissatisfied with Nobel Prize for Peter Handke

ZAGREB, October 13, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign Ministry on Saturday expressed "surprise and dissatisfaction" with the awarding of the Nobel prize for literature to Peter Handke.

"Without going into Handke's literary opus and the quality of his literary work, the Ministry expresses concern about the awarding of the Nobel prize to a person politically engaged in supporting Slobodan Milošević's Greater Serbia policy in the 1990s," a press release said.

"That policy led to wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, grave crimes in Kosovo and the aggression on the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in which many lives were lost, numerous people were driven out and long-term instability was introduced in this part of Europe," the ministry said.

"Milošević was held to account for genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, dying only a few weeks before a verdict was delivered. The European and world public was also taken aback by the fact that Peter Handke gave a eulogy at Milošević's funeral," the ministry said.

It recalled that "the American, British and international PEN, as well as numerous renowned philosophers and authors around the world, assessed as unacceptable this decision by the Swedish Royal Academy because he is an author who denied historical truths and supported advocates of a genocidal policy."

The awarding of the Nobel prize to Handke has undermined the reputation and brought into question the credibility of the prize itself, the press release said.

More culture news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Most of Croatian Development Aid Directed at SE Europe, Bosnia

ZAGREB, October 11, 2019 - Over 80 percent of Croatia's development aid last year was directed at Southeast Europe, primarily Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croatian parliament heard on Thursday during the presentation of the report on Croatian development aid to foreign countries in 2017 and 2018.

Croatia's official development aid amounted to 355.26 million kuna in 2017 and 452.63 million kuna in 2018, with multilateral aid accounting for 72 percent, bilateral aid for 23 percent and humanitarian aid for 5 percent, Zdravka Bušić, state secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, reported.

Two-thirds of the funds were contributed to the general EU budget for development, and of the remaining funds, the bulk was directed into Southeast Europe and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bušić said.

Of multilateral contributions, she cited 600,000 euro contributed in the last two years to the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa, and 50,000 dollars contributed in 2018 to the World Food Programme for famine relief in Yemen.

Bušić said that Croatia was currently allocating 0.1 percent of Gross National Income for aid and the target for new EU member states is 0.33 percent.

Davor Ivo Stier of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that the bulk of development aid was directed at Bosnia and Herzegovina because the situation there had a direct impact on Croatia's national security. "This is a single geostrategic area where energy, transport and economic connections are necessary," he said.

Stier said that more should be done to help Croats living in Venezuela to return to Croatia.

Joško Klisović of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said that development aid was not a waste of money but an instrument to achieve national interests. That's why, he said, it was necessary to define more clearly which interests and goals Croatia wished to accomplish by providing development aid.

Vesna Pusić of the Civic Liberal Alliance (GLAS) said that the report showed that official development aid was slowly diminishing because of the 504 projects only 12-15 concerned development aid, while the rest related to support to Croats abroad, mostly those in Southeast Europe and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"For example, 40 million kuna paid to drug wholesalers for debts, that's not development aid, but aid to the budget. It can be interpreted as aid to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that's not development aid," Pusić said and added that that's why GLAS would not support the report.

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

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