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.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Foreign Minister Visits Baden-Wuerttemberg

ZAGREB, October 1, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Wednesday visited the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, meeting with its Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann, the ministry said in a press release.

Baden-Wuerttemberg is one of Croatia's main foreign trade partners in Germany.

The two officials said the cooperation was excellent thanks to the activities of the mixed commission of the Croatian government and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

The two sides hold regular meetings since 2004 and they address the economy, agriculture, energy, culture, science and education.

The interlocutors said cooperation was excellent also as part of the EU strategy for the Danube river region which Croatia will chair next year. As part of this cooperation, Croatia and Baden-Wuerttemberg coordinate the strengthening of enterprise competitiveness and the development of enterprise clusters.

The two officials welcomed the intensified cooperation between twin cities such as Osijek and Pforzheim, Nova Gradiška and Mengen, Rijeka and Karlsruhe, and Vinkovci and Kenzingen.

Grlić Radman and Kretschmann agreed that there is room to further intensify relations and investment in IT, machinery and equipment production, and the auto industry.

Kretschmann singled out Croatia's Rimac Automobili car company as an example of the excellent cooperation between Croatia and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Grlić Radman also met with the local Croatian Catholic Mission.

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

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Not All Options Have Been Exhausted in Search for Croatian Sea Captain

ZAGREB, October 6, 2019 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Sunday that together with the family and friends of missing Croatian sea captain Dino Miškić he believed that Miškić was alive.

"Instructions have been issued to all merchant ships and aircraft to observe the area. Not all options have been exhausted. The family, friends and we hope and believe that the captain is alive," Grlić told reporters.

"When it comes to the lives of Croatian citizens, we here are the first to protect them," he added.

The ship Bourbon Rhode, with a 14-member crew on board, sank on September 26 in the Atlantic, about 2,000 kilometres from the nearest mainland, the French island of Martinique. The crew were mostly Ukrainians and it also included one Russian, one South African and one Filipino. The captain was Dino Miškić, a Croatian national.

The search operation lasted for a week and resulted in the discovery of three crew members who were alive and four members who died. No other bodies have been found since October 1.

More shipping news can be found in the Business section.

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