Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Claims She and Putin Would "Talk for Hours"

March the 22nd, 2022 - Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has claimed that she and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently waging an unjustified and utterly bizarre war on neighbouring Ukraine, would ''talk for hours''.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the former Norwegian Prime Minister will leave his position in the Defense Alliance next autumn after serving a period of eight years and become the governor of the Norwegian Central Bank, and it is speculated that he will be succeeded by a woman from an Eastern European country.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic didn't want to comment on a possible new position in NATO

In an interview with Dagens Nyheter, Index reports, former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic didn't want to comment on any of the circulating media speculations that she could become NATO Secretary General, the competition for which includes former British Prime Minister Theresa May, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and former Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, but she did make sure to point out that she enjoyed working as Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy from 2011 to 2014.

"Most of the employees there weren't used to having a woman as an associate, but they didn't treat me differently because of my gender. Congratulations to those generals and others who worked hard and didn't protest when we worked hard to empower women,'' the former Croatian president told a Swedish daily.

Former NATO Secretary General and former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to whom Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was an assistant in NATO until the end of his term back in 2014, commented on the upcoming election of a leading civilian official in the defense alliance:

"I think it would be good to choose a strong secretary general with good connections. What's happening in the world now means that NATO will play an even bigger role in the coming years. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is one of the possible candidates, but there are other rumours. I can't say anything more about it at the moment.''

They described her as a conservative Croat

Two Dagens Nyhetera journalists interviewed Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic back on March the 8th after her lecture was held at the Stockholm Business School, a prestigious economic higher education institution, at which Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson completed her education.

Apart from speculating on whether "a conservative Croat would step up to the position in the footsteps of a social-democratic, peaceful and wealthy Norwegian", and stories about growing up in Yugoslavia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin were particularly interesting given current times.

The former Croatian president immediately emphasised that she had been pointing out Russia's aggression against Ukraine for a long time and had previously warned of the possibility of a global crisis: "Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. I think there was a certain naivety in people's thinking. What Putin wanted was quite clear in his 2000 political manifesto, which mentioned the restoration of Russia's economic power and position in the world. The events in Georgia and Crimea later made it known what would happen.''

However, unlike many international leaders who have described Vladimir Putin as a war criminal and lunatic because of his ongoing invasion of Ukraine; US President Joe Biden wondered if his Russian counterpart even had a soul; Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic chose her words carefully in response, Dagens Nyheter points out.

"He was normal and respectful"

“During my meetings with him, he was normal and respectful. We discussed bilateral issues, but also the regional situation across Southeastern Europe. We talked, among other things, about Agrokor, a company that was majority owned by Russian banks and was threatened with collapse and the creation of a crisis in Croatia. In that, but also in some other regional issues, Putin was constructive and provided a solution.

But there were areas in which we didn't agree, and on a very deep level, and that included, of course, NATO enlargement,'' said Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, adding that during numerous meetings with Putin, they'd talk for hours about various topics, including sport.

However, Dagens Nyheter didn't fail to mention that Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, while she was the Croatian president, during her visit to Moscow in 2018 during the World Cup, handed Putin a jersey of the Croatian national team with his name on it. The photos show them both smiling with the red and white jersey in between them, writes the Swedish daily, and reports Index.

For more, make sure to check out our politics section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Grlić Radman: BiH's EU, NATO Membership, Equality of Croats in Croatia's Interest

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday that Bosnia and Herzegovina's Euro-Atlantic integration is in the national interest of Croatia and that it cannot be achieved without the equality of Croats in that country.

"On the international scene, Croatia is the biggest and sincere advocate of Euro-Atlantic associations. That is our clear national interest. That won't be possible without resolving the legitimate and legal demands of Croats" in BiH,  Grlić Radman said at a conference in Neum in an online message in reference to reforms in BiH. 

The fifth conference "Untying the knots - BiH on the path to EU and NATO membership" was organised by Mostar University, the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts in BiH and Croatian universities, with the participation of scientists, politicians and foreign diplomats.

Grlić Radman explained that the Croatian side in BiH has been the most constructive about reaching an agreement on amendments to the election law, providing proposals of how that can be done.

Negotiations on election reforms are continuing in Sarajevo today with the mediation of the USA and EU.

Grlić Radman said that BiH "hasn't resolved the problem of the political disenfranchisement of Croats or stability and institutional functioning in BiH."

According to Grlić Radman, the reason for that is two dominant conflicting politics in BiH, separatism and unitarism.

"It is difficult to say which is more detrimental to the Croat people. Both politics directly demolish the historical and constitutional foundations of BiH as a joint state of three equally constituent peoples and citizens. Without respect of those principles, the knot in BiH will not be untied for it to be a functional and stable country on the path to the EU and NATO," added Grlić Radman.

The president of the Croatian National Assembly of BiH, Dragan Čović, said that BiH has to preserve its multi-national nature and that local politicians have to see the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity.

US Ambassador to BiH Michael Murphy called on political leaders in BiH to reach a compromise so the country can come closer to the European Union.

A new geopolitical moment has emerged in the European Union and the Western Balkans. It's up to leaders to use this opportunity. BiH leaders have the opportunity to move faster to the EU based on compromise and reconciliation, said Murphy.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Drone Which Crashed in Zagreb Was Unarmed, Stoltenberg Says

ZAGREB, 15 March 2022 - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday the indications available so far were that a drone which crashed in Zagreb last Thursday was unarmed and that it was not an armed attack.

Asked about the incident, Stoltenberg said at a press conference that the preliminary information available so far indicated it was not an intentional attack, but that such cases were also dangerous, so NATO increased surveillance.

A Soviet-made unmanned aerial vehicle crashed in a residential area in Zagreb shortly after 11 pm last Thursday, having entered Croatia's airspace from Hungary and Hungary's from Romania.

Stoltenberg recalled that he discussed the incident with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Sunday.

The alliance's secretary-general said the investigation was still under way and the facts were being established, but the indications so far were that the drone did not carry a bomb nor explosive but was a reconnaissance drone.

The drone ran out of fuel and crashed in Zagreb, he added.

Stoltenberg also said that Croatia, Hungary and Romania were yet to exchange all information on this incident and cooperate more closely.

Monday, 14 March 2022

Croatian FM Visits Estonia, Says Russian Invasion Could Destabilise Bosnia & Herzegovina

14 March 2022 - Croatia's foreign minister told his Estonian counterpart Eva-Maria Liimets on Monday that Croatia was being solidary with Ukraine by sending it financial aid and defence equipment and taking in refugees, warning of possible destabilisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the war in Ukraine.

The talks between Minister Gordan Grlić Radman of Croatia and his Estonian counterpart Eva-Maria Liimets focused on the Russian aggression on Ukraine. "The importance of the unity and solidarity of the EU and transatlantic partners was underlined, as was the importance of continuing the implementation of restrictions against Russia," the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

Grlić Radman said Croatia "is showing its solidarity with Ukraine by sending it financial assistance and defence equipment and by taking in Ukrainian refugees. The minister warned of the possibility of further destabilisation of the Western Balkans, notably Bosnia and Herzegovina, due to the war in Ukraine," the Croatian ministry said.

"We strongly advocate the election reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, confident that it would improve relations between the constituent peoples and secure legitimate and just elections," Grlić Radman said.

As regards the security situation in Europe, Grlić Radman reported about the crash of an unmanned aerial vehicle in Zagreb last week and the continuation of the investigation into the incident.

The minister stressed that the case was an indicator of the need for a better and closer communication and cooperation between NATO members, the ministry said in the statement.

It underlined the very good, friendly relations between Croatia and Estonia, their regular cooperation at the highest levels and their partnership within the EU, NATO, Three Seas Initiative and other international formats as well as the potential for enhancing bilateral cooperation.

During his visit to Estonia, Grlić Radman and his host opened a Croatian-Estonian business forum focusing on IT and digitalisation, which was attended by executives of IT companies from the two countries.

Grlić Radman also met with Estonian Defence Minister Kalle Laanet and Parliament Speaker Jüri Ratas and visited the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

Monday, 14 March 2022

PM: France Will Help us Control Croatian Airspace

14 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that France had expressed readiness to help Croatia to control its airspace and that their early warning and control aircraft had already flown over Croatian skies.

The Croatian premier added that that talks were being held with the US to see how they could help Zagreb.

After a meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Presidency and National Council, the prime minister said that the unmanned aerial vehicle that had crashed in Zagreb on Thursday night carried explosive, a sort of bomb, and that the ongoing investigation was aimed at establishing who had launched the drone and how, and if it had been a mistake, sabotage or plan.

He pointed out that he had already spoken with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday and that they had expressed readiness to let French aircraft help Croatia to control its airspace. After that, a Hawkeye E2C patrol aircraft flew over the Croatian airspace on 12 March, and it would do it again tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will visit the aircraft carrier located in the Adriatic near Dubrovnik, the premier said.

We are also in talks with the US to see how they can help us in the case of such unforeseen circumstances, he added.

PM Plenković said he would continue with intensive communication within NATO with regard to the crash of the UAV. We are talking about it with partners in the EU. On Wednesday, I will visit NATO headquarters in Spain and try to gather additional information on how the aerial vehicle ended up in Croatia.

He also recalled that he spoke with the military leadership today about the possibilities for strengthening the air defence.

Earlier today, PM Andrej Plenković said on Twitter that he had spoken with Defence Minister Mario Banožić, the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, and commanders of branches of the Armed Forces about investments in strengthening the capabilities of the Armed Forces.

Before that, he held a meeting with members of the government and relevant institutions about the facts established so far about the crash of the military aerial vehicle in Zagreb.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Plenković to Meet With NATO Commander at Base Near Madrid on Wednesday

ZAGREB, 12 March 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković will visit the NATO base near Madrid on Wednesday and meet with its commander in connection with aviation control, a government source told Hina on Saturday.

Plenković is going to Madrid for a bilateral meeting with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez, who visited Zagreb last October.

The Spanish military base at Torrejón de Ardoz, 20 kilometres northeast of Madrid, is used by NATO to monitor the skies of its southern member states, including Croatia.

Although the Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón is tasked with identifying unknown flying objects, it did not report or react to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that entered Croatia's air space on Thursday night.

The UAV is a Soviet-era TU-141 which was launched from Ukraine and crashed in the Croatian capital after flying over Romania and Hungary, both NATO members.

A source at the Torrejón base, which is manned with staff from 17 NATO nations, including Croatia, said today that "everyone is gathering data" and that analysis would take a certain time.

In Madrid, Plenković will also meet with King Felipe VI and the Spanish parliament speaker.

For more on politics, visit TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 11 March 2022

Spokesman Says NATO Air Defence System Tracked Drone's Flight Path

ZAGREB, 11 March (2022) - NATO's integrated air and missile defence tracked the flight path of an object which subsequently crashed in Zagreb, an official of NATO told Hina on Friday.

"NATO's integrated air and missile defence tracked the flight path of an object which subsequently crashed in Zagreb. The Croatian authorities have announced that they are investigating this incident," a NATO spokesman, Daniele Riggio, said in his brief answer to HINA's query.

According to some speculations, a Tu-141 "Strizh" reconnaissance drone is believed to have arrived in Croatia from Ukraine, flying across Romania's and Hungary's airspace.

Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić said earlier today that the drone had been detected by Croatian radars and that it had been under surveillance as soon as it entered Croatia's airspace.

It crashed seven minutes after entering Croatia's air space, and the fall happened shortly after 2300 hours.

President Zoran Milanović said that radars in Croatia had detected the object which was in the Croatian airspace for a brief period. He also added that no alert information had been provided to Croatia.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 11 March 2022

Croatia Sending Up to 70 Troops to Hungary, Parliament Decides

ZAGREB, 11 March (2022) - Croatia will send up to 70 troops to Hungary as part of NATO's Enhanced Vigilance, parliament decided by majority vote on Friday.

One MP voted against and 118 for the decision to send troops to Hungary, where they can be deployed this year and the next, with the possibility of rotation.

The decision was tabled by the government whose representative, Defence Ministry state secretary Zdravko Jakop, told MPs that Russia's invasion of Ukraine represented one of the most serious threats to European security in decades.

"The attack on an independent, peace-loving, democratic state is a bitter reminder that freedom, peace, security and stability can't exist if we are not ready to defend them," he said.

Jakop said NATO enhanced its rapid response force in recent months, deploying additional forces on its eastern flank, reinforcing forces in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and organising new battle groups in Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

HRK 38 million has been set aside in the state budget to send Croatian troops to Hungary.

Currently, 181 Croatian troops are deployed in UN and NATO missions, the most, 141, in Kosovo.

Also today, parliament unanimously voted for the participation of five Croatian troops in the EU's Cyber Rapid Response Teams and Mutual Assistance in Cyber Security.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Parliament Supports Deployment of Croatian Troops in Hungary

ZAGREB, 10 March 2022 - Members of parliament on Thursday supported a proposed decision to send up to 70 Croatian troops to Hungary as part of NATO forces, agreeing that this was required by the current situation and was also Croatia's obligation.

Presenting the proposed decision, the State Secretary at the Defence Ministry, Zdravko Jakop, said the current security situation in the east of Europe was one of the most serious threats to Europe's security in the past decades.

"The attack on an independent, peaceable, democratic state is a bitter reminder that freedom, peace, security and stability cannot exist if we are not prepared to defend them," Jakop said.

Jakop said that in recent months NATO had generated additional rapid reaction forces, deploying additional forces in the eastern members of the alliance, consolidating existing forces in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and forming new battlegroups in Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

A total of HRK 38 million has been secured in the state budget for the implementation of the government's decision to send troops to Hungary, he said.

Currently, Croatia has 181 troops in UN and NATO peace missions, and most of them, 141, are serving in the mission in Kosovo.

We must be solidary, we must respect our obligations, this is the defence of peace and international order, MPs of both the ruling majority and the opposition said during the debate.

"That is the only guarantee that we will preserve what we have acquired because we live in a crazy world, with crazy leaders that will stop at nothing to launch armed conflicts," said HDZ MP Rade Šimičević.

"It is important to send a message that participation in NATO does matter, a message that in the event of a threat we are prepared to act together," said Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin.

Nino Raspudić of the Bridge party, too, supported the decision but noted that a risk assessment should have been made and the context of the decision should have been explained in geopolitical terms.

Care was taken of security assessment, and the estimate was that this is the best, least risky proposal, Jakop replied.

MPs also wanted to know if the Defence Ministry was considering increasing the number of Armed Forces members, considering the instability in Croatia's neighbourhood.

"There is a possibility of enhancing the forces with reservists, the law also provides for civil-military cooperation, there is no grading of readiness for the time being but activities are defined on a daily basis," he said.

Asked by independent MP Marijana Petir if additional NATO forces would be needed in Croatia, Jakop answered in the negative.

"That option is not being considered," he said, adding that the security situation in the neighbourhood and in Southeast Europe was being monitored and that for the time being there was no reason for concern.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Sabor to Debate Deployment of 70 Soldiers in Hungary

ZAGREB, 4 March (2022) - The Sabor has included on its agenda a motion regarding the deployment of 70 Croatian troops as part of NATO's enhanced forward presence in Hungary.

The parliament also put on its agenda the motion for up to five Croatian Armed Forces' members in the European Union's Cyber Rapid Response Teams (CRRTs).

Lawmakers are expected to debate the motions next week.

The government made a recommendation to the Sabor on Thursday for Croatian troops to participate in the forward presence mission.

Defence Minister Mario Banožić has said that a NATO meeting of defence ministers in February and an extraordinary NATO summit determined that the current situation in Eastern Europe and particularly in Ukraine represents one of the gravest threats to European security in the past decade, adding that all NATO members are dedicated to continuing diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution.

For more, check out our politics section.

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