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.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Božinović Says He Has Not Been Offered Post of Foreign Minister

ZAGREB, June 28, 2019 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović on Friday dismissed speculation that he would succeed Marija Pejčinović Burić in the post of Foreign and European Affairs Minister, noting that he had not been given any such offer.

"I have not received any such offer nor would I opt for (the post)," Božinović told reporters.

Asked if a government reshuffle was possible and necessary, he said that he was not aware of any talks on the matter.

"In the coming period, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) will be working to prepare in the best possible way for the next election cycle," Božinović said.

Also today, the head of the HDZ parliamentary group, Branko Bačić, said that there had been no talks within the party on the candidates to succeed Pejčinović Burić after she was elected the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe.

"She will take office on September 15 and we have two and a half months to decide on who will take her place. The Foreign and European Affairs Ministry has been preparing seriously for taking over the presidency of the EU on January 1. Not everything is up to the minister, her closest associates are very much involved in the process so there will be no vacuum," said Bačić.

He also said that his party colleague Tomislav Sokol, who was elected a member of the European Parliament, would resign as a member of the Croatian parliament today and that his successor in the parliament would take over on July 12.

Bačić said that the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) would not succeed in having Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević dismissed.

"I still have not seen the SDP's motion for Minister Kuščević's dismissal, I'm interested in the reasons they have cited. In any case, they won't succeed in having the minister dismissed," Bačić said.

The HDZ official went on to say that deadlines for the dismissal procedure were clear as were deadlines for calling regular and extraordinary parliament sessions.

"Only after we receive the SDP motion will we be able to say when the matter will be discussed... it must be discussed at the latest within 30 days from the submission of the motion and the government's making known its position on the matter," said Bačić.

Asked what would happen if the SDP chose such a timing of filing its motion to make the parliament call an extraordinary session after July 15, Bačić said: "If deadlines are such that we cannot conduct a debate before July 15, we will hold talks to see what to do."

The SDP said on Thursday that it was launching an initiative for Kuščević's dismissal and was collecting signatures in that regard, adding that due to procedural and legal time frames, an extraordinary session of parliament might be convened solely to debate the proposal for Kuščević's dismissal.

Speaking of the reasons why the SDP was calling for Kuščević's resignation, SDP MP Peđa Grbin cited his failure to enter his property in the land register, siphoning property from a company and causing it more than a million kuna in damages, purchasing agricultural land and then converting it into construction land during his term in office as the head of Nerežišća municipality on the island of Brač, and construction of government-subsidised flats many of which ended up in the hands of Kuščević's family and close party colleagues.

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

Monday, 17 June 2019

Pejčinović Burić Attends EU Foreign Affairs Council

ZAGREB, June 17, 2019 - Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić on Monday attended a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg which discussed the effectiveness of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the implementation of the EU Global Strategy and the situation in Sudan, the ministry reported in a press release.

The council discussed models to improve the effectiveness of the Common Foreign and Security Policy in view of changes occurring on the international scene and of geopolitical challenges.

The ministers agreed that in the coming period efforts will be focused on strengthening coherency and consistency, and strengthening unity so that the EU can be a strong global stakeholder. With regard to foreign policy, the Eu and the member states will continue advocating the protection of common values and interests, security and peace, the promotion of international cooperation, democracy and the rule of law, the ministry's press release said.

The discussion on implementing the Global Strategy was held together with the defence ministers. Progress in implementing the Global Strategy was considered in five priority areas: the Union's security, resilience, integrated approach to conflicts and crises, cooperation with regions, and global governance for the 21st century.

The importance of working on strengthening multilateralism and a world order based on rules was underscored as the best way to promote national and common interests. The ministers welcomed the significant progress made in security and defence, and it was agreed to continue working on implementing launched initiatives and strengthening the EU's capacities, its strategic autonomy and cooperation with partners, particularly with NATO and the UN.

The ministers discussed Sudan and expressed concern with the deteriorating situation. The importance of avoiding further escalation of violence was underscored and the ministers underlined their support for a peaceful and orderly transfer of government and for constitutional order to be reinstated.

The EU supports the mediation of the African Union aimed at finding a peaceful solution to end the crisis, and the EU is prepared to offer political and economic support to Sudan when the transition to a civilian government begins.

The council briefly reflected on the situation in Venezuela and the Horn of Africa as well as current events in Moldova. The council meeting included an informal meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi, who spoke about the situation in Jordan and events in the Middle East, the foreign ministry reported in its press release.

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

Friday, 14 June 2019

Croatian Foreign Minister Visiting Italy and Malta

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić visited Italy on Thursday and met with her counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the ministry said in a press release, adding that the two officials confirmed the good relations between the two countries and underlined the desire to further strengthen bilateral relations.

The ministers exchanged opinions on numerous regional, European and global issues of common interest such as the results of the European Parliament elections, the EU's new institutional framework, enlargement, the multiannual financial framework, Brexit, the protection of the EU's external borders, and the crisis of multilateralism.

The two ministers underlined the importance of the cooperation between the two countries within the Central European Initiative, whose chairmanship Italy took over from Croatia at the start of the year.

They also discussed Croatia's chairmanship of the Council of the EU next year, extending support for the European journey of Southeast European countries. It was said that Croatia will organise a summit on that topic in Zagreb.

Minister Pejčinović Burić also met with the Italian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

Earlier in the day, Minister Pejčinović Burić was on an official visit to Malta, where she met with her counterpart Carmelo Abela on Thursday to talk about global and regional topics and of improving the already good bilateral relations, her ministry said in a press release.

Pejčinović Burić and Maltese Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Minister Abela underscored the very good relations between the two countries, with the desire to intensify them, particularly in trade, culture, tourism and protection of the sea, according to the press release.

The two foreign ministers exchanged opinions on current global and regional topics, and topics related to the European Union, on a comprehensive approach to migrations, security issues, the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe.

They pointed out the need to intensify dialogue and the exchange of good practice and stances as part of Croatia's preparations for its chairmanship of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

One of the priorities of Croatia's chairmanship will be the European journey of Southeast Europe, which Malta too considers important, and in that regard, Croatia will organise a summit of the EU and Southeast Europe dedicated to that topic, the press release said.

During her visit Pejčinović Burić met with members of Malta's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Pejčinović Burić is a candidate for that organisation's secretary-general, along with Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will decide on the next secretary-general by secret ballot in Strasbourg on June 25, who will then step into office on October 1.

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

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Spanish Foreign Minister Talks with Croatian Counterpart

ZAGREB, May 29, 2019 - Europe has a lot to learn from China, Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell said in Zagreb on Wednesday after the talks with his Croatian counterpart Marija Pejčinović Burić which also revolved around the construction of Pelješac Bridge.

"I want to emphasise the importance Spain dedicates to relations with Croatia and the wish for them to grow," said Borrell, who is a member of the Socialist government in Spain and although born in Catalonia he is one of the most ardent opponents to that province's independence.

Whether it is coincidental, but Borrell's visit comes after a recent visit by Catalonia's Foreign Minister Alfred Bosch. The Catalan government has a representation office in Zagreb that covers Southeast Europe.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting with his host Pejčinović Burić, Borrell said that they had discussed bilateral topics like strengthening economic cooperation, the future of the European Union in the context of Brexit and the new multi-annual financial perspective as well as Croatia's priorities during its chairmanship of the Union at the beginning of next year, such as enlargement to Southeast Europe.

Borrell said that Croatia has Spain's support to join the OECD, Schengen Area and eurozone and concluded that Zagreb and Madrid need to work on strengthening the mutual interests of citizens in both countries.

Borrell underscored that the talks also focused on relations that the EU and Croatia have with China and the Pelješac bridge that is being constructed near Dubrovnik.

China is a big player and is more and more present in Europe. We have a lot to learn from that country and we are interested in its economic and political activity in east Europe, he said and added that this visit was a good opportunity to become familiar with numerous economic and political activities between Beijing and Europe.

Pejčinović Burić underlined that Croatia and Spain nurture "traditionally good and friendly relations," with cultural and historical affiliation with the same "Euro-Mediterranean circle of countries" and membership of the EU and NATO alliance.

"We nurture common values and mutually support each other on many European and global issues," she concluded.

Trade between Croatia and Spain is on the rise. Two years ago, it amounted to 673 million euro and last year grew to 741 million euro. The number of Spanish tourists visiting Croatia is also growing. Last year, 290,000 Spaniards visited Croatia and Pejčinović Burić said that that was thanks to "good air connectivity," between the two countries.

This is the first visit by a Spanish minister to Croatia in the past 14 years. Borrell is expected to meet with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.

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

Friday, 24 May 2019

Croatia and France Step Up Cooperation

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić and French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday in Paris, where Pejčinović Burić took part in the presentation of candidates for the post of Secretary General of the Council of Europe, that Croatia and France had stepped up bilateral cooperation.

Pejčinović Burić was on a visit to Paris on May 22-23, where she held a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings.

She is running of the post of Secretary General of the Council of Europe against her Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders.

The Parliamentary Assembly will proceed with the election of the next Secretary General during its June part-session.

The talks with Le Drian focused on the "year-long implementation of the action plan for the Strategic Partnership 2018-2021. The two ministers agreed the political dialogue had been stepped up and bilateral cooperation intensified, notably in the sectors of the economy, home affairs, culture, science and education," the Croatian foreign ministry said in a press release.

The ministers also talked about France's support to Croatia's entering the Schengen zone and the euro area, the ministry said, adding that special attention was attached to cooperation aimed at strengthening stability in Southeast Europe and EU prospects of Southeast European countries.

Pejčinović Burić also held talks with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay about UNESCO's strategic transformation and initiatives regarding education, artificial intelligence and biodiversity.

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

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Croatia's EU Chairmanship in 2020 Opportunity to Promote Country

ZAGREB, May 11, 2019 - Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić said on Friday that Croatia's chairmanship of the Council of the European Union would be a great opportunity to present and promote Croatia.

"Any large gathering, not just a political one, when someone comes to our country, is an opportunity to present ourselves," Minister Pejčinović Burić said at a round table discussion on the challenges of Croatia's chairing the European Union in 2020 for international positioning.

"In just over six months, we will have the opportunity, literally every day, sometimes in Zagreb, sometimes in Brussels, to communicate with a lot of people in different formats," she said at the round table, organised as part of a conference on the branding of Croatia.

She said that the activities of the Council of the EU are pretty much set and that the two large topics during Croatia's chairmanship will be Brexit and adopting the next seven-year multiannual financial framework, i.e. the European budget.

The issue of migration and security will also be very important, i.e. reforming the Dublin Agreement and the Schengen Zone, she said and added that Croatia will try to turn the focus during the remainder of that programme toward education, tourism, health and demographic revival.

She added that most of these activities will continue to be conducted in Brussels, but Zagreb will host about thirty events of the greatest importance, including EU ministerial meetings.

Croatia will also organise about 1,400 other events, one being a conference of civil society organisations with about 1,200 participants that will be held in Šibenik.

Events at the highest level, she said, will on the most part be held in Zagreb, because meetings at the highest level, if held anywhere but Zagreb, would cost twice as much, she claimed.

She recalled that Croatia plans to spend about 60 to 70 million euro during its chairmanship, while other member states spent between 50 and 130 million.

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Croatia Opens Embassy in Azerbaijan

ZAGREB, April 30, 2019 - During her official visit to Azerbaijan on Monday, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić opened the Croatian embassy and a business forum in Baku, her ministry said in a statement.

The minister met with her host Elmar Mammadyarov and the two officials discussed current global and regional topics and cooperation in multilateral organisations, energy security, Brexit and preparations for Croatia's presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The embassy opened by Minister Pejčinović Burić is certain to contribute to the further strengthening of the two countries' relations, which are good and friendly, it was said.

Croatia supports Azerbaijan's negotiations with the EU aimed at concluding a comprehensive bilateral agreement on cooperation and strengthening of cooperation within the Eastern Partnership.

Minister Pejčinović Burić also met with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov.

They discussed ways to strengthen economic cooperation ahead of the second meeting of the joint commission for economic cooperation, as part of which a business forum would be held.

The Croatian minister also met with Parliament Speaker Ogtay Asadov and the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Samad Seyidov, with whom she discussed bilateral and multilateral topics of mutual interest, notably the further strengthening of parliamentary cooperation.

Pejčinović Burić also opened an Azerbaijani-Croatian business forum, which was organised by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and AzPromo and which brought together more than 80 business people. Azerbaijan is rich in oil and gas reserves and has significant agricultural potential.

Attending the business forum were the companies Atir, Enigma Aviation Travel, GEO-TEO, IND-EKO, Končar, Podravka, Tehno Filter, Potestas, Telecor and Velox.

Trade between Croatia and Azerbaijan in 2018 amounted to 407 million dollars, an increase of 62% from 2017.

Croatian exports in 2018 totalled 980,000 dolars, an increase of 25%, while imports amounted to 406 million dollars, an increase of 62%.

Even though the increase is significant, trade is still far below the actual potential, the HGK vice-president for industry and energy, Tomislav Radoš, said. "Forums held so far show that business people are interested in closer cooperation in many areas, from the chemical industry to energy and agriculture, IT sector and infrastructure," he said at the forum.

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

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