Thursday, 18 November 2021

Respects Paid to Vukovar and Škabrnja Victims at NATO Headquarters in Brussels

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021- Respects were paid to Vukovar and Škabrnja victims at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and that gesture sends a strong message that the truth about the events of Croatia's Homeland War has crossed Croatian borders, said Defence Minister Mario Banožić, the Ministry of Defence reported on Thursday.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar, Remembrance Day for Homeland War Victims, and Vukovar and Škabrnja Remembrance Day, the Croatian flag was flown at half-mast to commemorate all Vukovar and Škabrnja victims.

Minister Banožić said that the gesture sent a strong message that the truth about the events of the Homeland War had crossed the borders of our country, which was an additional motive for continuing to promote the truth about the Homeland War, especially among young people.

"Today we are reminded of the importance of collective security and how much easier it would have been for us to oppose threats to our territorial integrity during the Homeland War if we had been a member of NATO then. Today, the Republic of Croatia and the Croatia Armed Forces are appreciated among their allies and partners, which show how much we have done in the past 30 years and that with will, effort and perseverance there are no impossible goals," said Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

He underscored that Croatia was a responsible ally that contributed to international missions, global peace, and security, the ministry said.

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Friday, 17 September 2021

Milanović: Pro-European Montenegro Important as Neighbour, NATO Partner

ZAGREB, 17 Sept 2021 - Croatia will continue to support Montenegro's European path as a pro-European Montenegro is important as a neighbour and NATO partner, Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on the Brijuni archipelago on Friday, where Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović wrapped up a two-day visit to Croatia.

The two presidents exchanged information and views on Montenegro's EU accession negotiations as well as the situation in Montenegro and Southeast Europe, Milanović's office said in a press release.

Montenegro should continue to develop as a democratic, secular and pro-European state, said Đukanović.

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Sunday, 22 August 2021

President: No Mistake in Strategy in Afghanistan, but in Planning and Executing

ZAGREB, 22 Aug, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said in Barban on Sunday that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was not contentious, but mistakes were made in planning the exit from that country and evacuating Afghan associates of the international forces.

"This is not a mistake of the strategy, but a mistake of planning and executing. It's been known for quite some time that (the United States) was leaving Afghanistan, Biden inherited what Trump left, and he too was in favour of withdrawing," Milanović said, recalling that Croatia withdrew from Afghanistan over a year ago.

"I said in my election campaign that as the army supreme commander I would do that, the government did not object. It was clear that this needed to be wrapped up. I had the privilege of being one of those at the farewell ceremony for our soldiers in 2003 and in the end, the person who decided to end Croatia's involvement in Afghanistan," Milanović said.

Asked if Croatia should receive Afghan refugees, Milanović said that in his opinion refugees should go to the biggest countries.

"All of them should find their place in the United States. We can symbolically receive a small number of people. It is no longer 2015," Milanovic said.

He said he would always accept a small number of people. "This is why I don't understand and I cannot accept when someone says that we should accept noone. We need to be humane but also have our interests in mind;" the president said in Barban where he attended the 46th edition of the Prstenac tournament.

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Saturday, 31 July 2021

US Sixth Fleet Command Ship Visits Split

ZAGREB, 31 July 2021, 2021 - The command ship of the United States Sixth Fleet, USS Mount Whitney, is visiting the southern Croatian Adriatic city of Split, and its commander said on Saturday that the US-Croatian partnership on land and at sea is crucial for the military cooperation and common security of the two countries. 

The US vessel arrived on Friday and visited the Split shipyard, while reporters were invited to visit the ship on Saturday.

US Chargé d'Affaires Mark Fleming said they were glad to be in Split and that the defence cooperation between the United States and Croatia was the corner stone of their bilateral relations.

Over the last 10 years, US military aid to Croatia has reached nearly HRK 4.5 billion, which is more than $700 million, for training, equipment, infrastructure building and specialised military training, Fleming said. Since Croatia joined NATO 12 years ago, US and Croatian personnel have served together from Afghanistan to Iraq to Kosovo. The US-Croatian partnership on land and at sea is crucial for the military cooperation and common security of our two countries, he added.

US naval ships often stop in Croatia for maintenance and mutual security operations. The northern port of Rijeka has been the centre of US-Croatian cooperation since 2011, benefiting from contracts with the US Navy worth nearly HRK 900 million. This year three US naval ships have been berthed in the Kraljevica shipyard for regular maintenance.

In April, US Navy EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) divers held a training course on humanitarian mine clearance for Croatian Navy personnel and launched a project to develop an EOD training facility for the Croatian Navy.

Vice Admiral Gene Black, Commander of the US Sixth Fleet, said that Croatia stands as an important NATO ally, facilitating the maintenance of US Navy forward deployed ships.  

Croatian shipyards are world class, and mine action capabilities ensure a continued maritime presence and security in the whole region, Black said.

Dave Pollard, Commander of USS Mount Whitney, said that the US-Croatian military cooperation and sharing the same values brings stability and prosperity to this region.

After the visit, USS Mount Whitney will begin a two-week scenario-driven integrated exercise that will provide high-end training at sea and ashore against a challenging adversary force.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Is Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Line for Top NATO Job?

July the 24th, 2021 - Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic might well be being checked out for a top NATO position amid speculation that has become more serious of late.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Politico portal, which is read worldwide, announced that for the very first time in the 72-year history of this international military organisatio, NATO, Jens Stoltenberg is looking for a successor, preferably from Eastern Europe.

It has been noted that Croatia's former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has an ''impressive biography'', leading this particular story to firmly outgrow the realms of mere speculation and begin to be seriously discussed among those close to the profession and the rest of the public.

Back during the 2015 Croatian presidential campaign, the then HDZ candidate didn't want to reveal what her salary was as an assistant working at NATO.

"I still follow the instructions given to me by NATO, which oblige me as a former NATO employee to make sure this data isn't to be disclosed to the public, and the salary is much less than twenty thousand euros," said former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at the confrontation at which the matter was discused with Ivo Josipovic (SDP), who claimed that salaries in NATO aren't actually kept as some sort of big secret.

Then, in late 2016, there was speculation that former British Prime Minister David Cameron potentially becoming NATO's new secretary general, and the British publication The Independent reported that the salary for the post was £220,000 a year (which is around 21,000 euros or 160,000 kuna a month). According to the document from the beginning of 2020, the highest monthly salary paid out to a NATO employee stood at 23,646 euros or 178,000 kuna, according to a report from tportal.

Fast forward to November 2020, NATO asked its members for more money in order to further increase the salaries of its employees, in accordance with the agreed methodology, which some allies refused, considering it inappropriate at the time of the very height of the coronavirus pandemic.

For more, follow our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

President Zoran Milanović: Reference to Dayton Was Opposed by Germany, Italy And Other States

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that the reference to the Dayton agreement in NATO's communique adopted on Monday had been opposed by Germany, Italy and some other Western countries, and added that possible changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina must not happen without Croatia and Serbia.

Milanović made the statement in Slovakia, where he participated in the GLOBSEC 2021 Forum and met with Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

He discussed with them the NATO summit held in Brussels on Monday, at which Croatia, Milanović said, managed to have a reference to the Dayton peace agreement (General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina) incorporated in the summit's closing declaration only after insisting on it for six days.

"That should not have happened, that should have been resolved a week ago. Somebody is against it, has a problem with the Dayton agreement and wants to dismantle it," Milanović said, adding that at the same time those countries were criticising the Serb BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik for violating the Dayton agreement.

"Something is not right about that way of thinking," he said.

Milanović noted that a number of countries - Germany, Italy and some other Western countries - had been opposed to mentioning the Dayton peace agreement in the communique.

"Western Europe - and I'm not talking about the leaders, definitely not about Angela Merkel, is acting foolishly, undermining one of the foundations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, regardless of how imperfect it may be, protects it against destabilisation," he said.

Criticism of German diplomacy

Milanović went on to say that talks on the communique had not been conducted by the German chancellor but by the German foreign ministry which, he said, was headed by a political camp different from Merkel's and one he felt close to, "namely by people who in their fantasy are prone to making silly experiments."

The current German foreign minister is Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats who are part of the coalition government with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Some Western European countries advocate a so-called civic model for Bosnia and Herzegovina to replace the concept of three constituent peoples envisaged by the Dayton peace agreement. Commenting on that on Monday, Milanović said that "it sounds very noble but is actually a hoax."

"They should do it back at home. Bosnia and Herzegovina is as it is, we share a long border and we will soon have to guard it for the Schengen area," he said.

Milanović stressed that plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina could not be made "under the radar" and that any changes in the neighbouring country had to involve Croatia and Serbia, co-signatories to the Dayton agreement, adding that he had explained this to his Slovakian and Polish counterparts.

"That is how things are done in diplomacy, as far as I can remember. I used to be a diplomat and I never caused a scandal. Then I entered politics and in politics you have to cause scandals to be heard," he said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

US Department of Homeland Security Officials in Croatia: Week-Long Visit Regarding Visa-Free Travel

June 15, 2021 -  The US Department of Homeland Security officials in Croatia will continue to work in strengthening diplomatic relations with Croatia and ensuring visa-free travel between the two countries situated on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Officials from the US Department of Homeland Security are currently in Croatia on a weeklong visit. As reported by US Embassy on social media, the visit is in regard to Croatia's progress towards Visa Waiver Programme Membership.

If Croatia joins the programme, Croatian citizens will not need a visa to travel to the USA for tourism, transit, or even for work as long as they don't extend the 90 day limit placed on their stay in the country.

As TCN reported earlier this year, The American Embassy in Croatia formally confirmed back in February that Croatian citizens will be able to finally enjoy the right to travel to the USA without the need for a visa later this year, by the 30th of September 2021 at the very latest, as was reported by Večernji list.

The final prerequisite for the removal of visa requirements was the issuing of 2000 further visas before the end of November 2020. Back then, sources inside the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed this criterion had been met, and thus the annual level of rejected applications will be less than 3%. That final bar was set by the USA to Croatia.

''Our two governments are continuing their close cooperation on meeting the requirements for the Visa Waiver Programme participation. US Department of Homeland Security officials are currently here, working with their Croatian Government partners on further advancing our shared goals, as well as addressing any remaining technical and policy requirements. People-to-people ties between the United States of America and the Republic of Croatia are robust,'' says the press release by the US Embassy in Zagreb.

They added that the US Embassy is continuing to focus on strengthening ties between the two countries and that Croatia is a trusted partner, and these new travel arrangements will also contribute to deepening bilateral relations.

This bit of news comes as a refreshment when taking into account some other recent events. Croatia and the USA enjoy a close connection thanks to their NATO membership, and recently, Croatian president Zoran Milanovic stated that he would not accept a NATO closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples.

That statement was criticised even by Željko Komšić, the Croatian member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, saying that ''the concept of constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obsolete.''

Additionally, a bit of challenge can be seen with the fact that while the US Embassy has a diplomatic mission in Croatia, there is no appointed Ambassador to Croatia at the moment. But nevertheless, cooperation and friendly relations between the two nations remain tight.

As TCN reported back in May, Croatia participated in a military exercise of transporting American military supplies, before that, in March, the US donated the GeneXpert Machine to Zagreb's Infectious Diseases Hospital and also invested $480,000 in the Upgrade of Rijeka's Offshore Emergency Response Centre.

In addition to their cooperation in terms of safety and health issues, the US additionally cooperated with the science-technology park - Step-Ri to bring entrepreneurship expertise to the Croats. With this diplomatic friendship evident and constantly being nourished, visa-free travel between the two countries is both fully deserved and now needed.

Learn more about visas in Croatia on our TC page.

For more about diplomacy in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Milanović: NATO Summit's Communique To Mention Dayton After Croatia's Insistence

June 14th, 2021 - After Croatia kept insisting for six days that a final statement of the NATO summit meeting should mention the Dayton peace accords, the final text of the document incorporated the reference to that agreement Zoran Milanović said in Brussels on Monday.

On Sunday, the Croatian head of state made his approval of the final document conditional on making mention of the Dayton accords that define Bosnia and Herzegovina as the three constituent peoples: the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Croats and other citizens.

Milanović today explained that after Croatia's request that the final communique should refer to the Dayton agreement as to the basis for the functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been ignored for six days, the Croatian side was forced to say on Sunday that "we would oppose the consensus."

Milanović told the press today while coming to the summit meeting that on Sunday, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had called him, and the things were settled in half a minute.

However, it took six days until we made sure that the communique's Bosnia and Herzegovina segment would mention the Dayton peace accords. This is a small thing for this summit, just a footnote, and a great thing for us, Milanović said.

 All other things in the whole text of the 50-page final declaration have been acceptable for me as the head of the Croatian delegation, he added.

Milanović does not believe that he will manage to hold a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

"I think he has more important things to do," the Croatian president said.

Croatia had insisted on the three points in the declaration: the Dayton peace agreement, the constituent peoples, and the election reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Eventually, there will be no mention of the constituent peoples; however, it is covered by referring to the Dayton agreement that defines Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Serbs Croats, and other citizens.

It remained unclear why the first draft failed to mention the Dayton peace accords.

NATO's declaration in 2004 ceased making mention of the Dayton agreement, and since then, the Dayton accords have not been mentioned by inertia. However, the Croatian side has raised the issue since the Bosniak representatives started trying to eliminate the concept of the constituent peoples. 

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Minister Says President's Statements About NATO Declaration Unsubstantiated

June 14th, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović's statement that the Croatian government did not react to an attempt by some countries to have the Dayton agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples left out of a NATO declaration closing is groundless, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman has said.

Earlier on Sunday, President Milanović said that some countries did not want the closing declaration of the coming NATO summit in Brussels to mention the Dayton peace agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples but that Croatia would not consent to it.

"That statement is totally unsubstantiated," Grlić Radman said.

Grlić Radman claims that as far as Bosnia and Herzegovina is concerned, a formulation in one of the paragraphs, proposed by the Croatian government, was accepted and that the formulation refers to the Dayton agreement, the constituent peoples, equality and reform processes, notably amendment of the country's election law.

"We have agreed that the Dayton agreement and reform processes, that is, the election law, will be mentioned in that paragraph... President Milanović is not telling the truth, we have all the documents," said Grlić Radman, noting that the government had constantly been working on the protection of the status of the Croat people in BiH.

Asked by reporters if he would support President Milanović if he refused to sign the document in case it did not include the said formulation about BiH, the minister did not give a clear answer.

"The Brussels summit is not dedicated to BiH, the document in question has some 50 pages, and we want to agree that text with our allies, the summit is not decisive for the status of the Croat people in BiH anyway," the minister said about the contentious document, repeating several times that it had been agreed that the document would mention, in one paragraph, "the Dayton agreement and reform processes, that is, the election law."

Commenting on Milanović's statement about his father having been a Communist official who got reach through privatization, Grlić Radman said that the statement was scandalous and proud of his father, who had been a patriot and benefactor.

As for Milanović's statement that he was "lamenting the fate of Croats in Communism," Grlić Radman said that any mention of the word Croat meant danger in Yugoslavia.

"You could not sing ordinary patriotic songs such as 'Marjane, Marjane' and 'Vila Velebita'," he said, describing the former state as "a totalitarian, centralist and unitarist system, with one people dominating diplomacy, finances, police and defense structures."

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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