Saturday, 14 May 2022

Grlić Radman Says Life of Croatian National Taken Prisoner by Russians Is Priority

ZAGREB, 14 May 2022 - The life of the Croatian national who has been taken prisoner by Russian forces is our priority, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said on Friday.

"Yes, I am optimistic, especially after we have seen the pictures," the minister told Nova TV, which broadcast footage of a conversation between a Republika Srpska Television reporter and the Croatian national.

"Croatia still has an embassy in Moscow and is invoking conventions, assistance under international law and bilateral relations, and it expects cooperation," Grlić Radman said and added: "The life of the Croatian national is our priority."

The Croatian national said in the footage that he was being treated well in Russian prison. He advised Croats wishing to fight for Ukraine to first check where they were going.

Grlić Radman will be in Berlin this weekend for an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers. He said that on that occasion he would express Croatia's support for the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

The Croatian government disagrees on this matter with President Zoran Milanović who wants to make the two countries' NATO entry conditional on the reform of electoral legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rejecting media reports that Croatia was disunited abroad, Grlić Radman said: "We speak about our country abroad in such a way that we protect the Croatian institutions."

Speaking of relations with the new government in Slovenia, he estimated that it would not block Croatia's accession to the Schengen passport-free travel area. "I don't believe in that. The word blockade appeared in the media."

Slovenia's Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said that rules defining Schengen accession should include the implementation of the arbitration ruling on the border between Slovenia and Croatia.

"I am sure that my Slovenian counterpart will support Croatia's accession because it is in Slovenia's interests, and I am confident that it will be in a European spirit," Grlić Radman said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Croatia Understands Best What Ukraine Is Going Through, FM Says

ZAGREB, 9 May 2022 - Croatia is the youngest and only EU member state which experienced the kind of aggression Ukraine is experiencing, so it understands best what it is going through, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Monday on the occasion of Europe Day.

"We know what's going on, we know how they suffer, we know how proud they are, we know how brave they are and we know they are not allowing their identity to be attacked," he added.

EU membership has brought Croatia additional protection, security and opportunities for growth and development, which is why Croatia is practically predestined to encourage enlargement, the minister said.

He also spoke of his visit to Ukraine yesterday with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, during which they talked with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk.

"We visited the towns of Irpin and Bucha, which were bombed without reason or motive, houses were razed to the ground, civilians killed and thrown into a mass grave, 400 of them," Grlić Radman said.

On the occasion of Europe Day, the European Parliament's Croatian office organised numerous events and workshops focusing on young people as 2022 was designated European Year of Youth.

In the context of the Russian aggression on Ukraine, the EU's importance as a community of solidarity, values and rule of law was underlined.

Speeches were delivered by the head of the office, Violeta Simeonova Staničić, the head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Ognian Zlatev, Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Kyrylych and French Ambassador Gael Veyssiere.

Congratulating young people on Europe Day, Kyrylych said Europe was a strong international community which put up a strong resistance to the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

"They are calling what is happening in Moscow today a victory parade. Victory is not a parade, victory is not a thing, victory is the wisdom and solidarity of the international community, victory is when leaders of peoples visit the guardian of Europe," he said.

"That's what the strong do, that's what the wise and those who look to tomorrow do. Ukraine's big friend, the Croatian prime minister, did that, visiting Kyiv yesterday with the foreign minister," he added.

Zlatev said the role of young people was more important than ever and called on them to use the possibilities and the potential at their disposal, highlighting the Erasmus+ project.

Europe is at your disposal. Research, science and innovation are at the centre of the Union's strategy to stimulate growth and employment, he added.

2022 should have been the year of big recovery, of coming out of the pandemic, of economic growth, of green recovery and digital transition, said Simeonova Staničić.

But, because of the Russian aggression, the struggle for peace and security now comes first, she added.

For more, check out our politics section.


Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Milanović Says He Will Veto Finland's Admission to NATO

ZAGREB, 3 May 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he will veto NATO's invitation to Finland to join the alliance.

"In my capacity as the head of state representing Croatia at the NATO summit, I will veto the invitation, if it is extended at that level," Milanović told the press in Vukovar.

NATO is holding a summit in Madrid later this month.

If the invitation is sent through lower levels, he said he was not sure he would be able to make the Croatian ambassador accept his position and veto the invitation.

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev said in his channel in the Telegram messenger on Monday that Milanović risked Kyiv's retaliation over his views and messages about Russia and Ukraine.

In reference to Medvedev's statement, Milanović said he did not want to "bite that hook", insisting he was not taking Russia's side.

"The Russians are playing their game. They are the aggressor in this war, and we have our own clique  working actively against the interests of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I took the oath to protect them, too, and I will die a political death for them, if necessary," said Milanović

Milanović added that he was not afraid either of Russia or of Ukraine, and claimed that he was on the Croatian side and was fighting "for the Croatian state and nation."

"We are being treated like fools and a third-class nation," he said, accusing Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of supporting all that "like a scoundrel".

Milanović reiterated his accusations against the Plenković government, claiming that it was pursuing "a treacherous policy" towards the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Without Russian Gas, No Heating During Winter for Croatia, Says Jutarnji List

ZAGREB, 3 May 2022 - If Russia cuts off gas supplies to the European Union, Croatia will be able to fill a maximum 30% of its gas storage capacity, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), which brings together EU member-countries' gas transport companies, has estimated.   

According to the Jutarnji List daily of Tuesday, ENTSOG's estimate is contrary to claims by the Croatian government which has been trying to assure the public that Croatia enjoys a high level of security against possible disruptions in the delivery of Russian gas.

In a scenario of a full Russian supply disruption, most European countries will not be able to reach the storage level target of more than 80%, with significant departures from the target among them, ENTSOG says, noting that its analysis shows import capacity limitations in Central Eastern Europe as well as infrastructure capacity limitations in the North-West and in the South of Europe. Those factors limit possibilities to alleviate gas shortages, ENTSOG says in a report on possible consequences of a Russian embargo on gas exports to the EU.

The same source says that Great Britain, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal will have the least difficulty filling their gas storages if Russia cuts off gas supply, and that in case of such a scenario those countries will fill between 90 and 100% of their gas storage capacity.

Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are estimated to fill 30-60% of their storage facilities, ENTSOG says, warning that the three countries hold 50% of the EU's gas storage capacity.

Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania are in the third group of EU countries that will have most difficulty weathering a Russian gas export embargo, and they are likely to fill a maximum 35% of their natural gas storage capacity.

ENTSOG does not give an estimate for Latvia, Finland and Estonia but rather an assessment saying that in the event of a Russian gas export ban, those countries will be faced with a major rise in demand for gas from Central and Southeastern European countries during the summer months.

ENTSOG recalls that Central and Southeast European countries meet their gas demand during the summer with gas from Latvia, Finland and Estonia, while buying Russian gas ahead of the heating season, says Jutarnji List.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Milanović: Finland, Sweden Can't Join NATO Before Bosnia Election Law Changed

ZAGREB, 26 April 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that Finland and Sweden could not join NATO before the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina was changed.

The Croatian parliament "must not ratify anyone's accession to NATO" until that law is changed, he told the press. The accession of Finland and Sweden can be discussed, but it is "a very dangerous adventure," he added.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, next month the two countries will state their wish to join NATO, their media reported yesterday.

Milanović said that formally he could not decide on his own on their accession to NATO but called it "very dangerous charlatanism."

"As far as I'm concerned, let them join NATO... but until the issue of the election law in BiH is solved, until the Americans, the English, the Germans, if they can and want to, force (Bosniak officials) to change the election law in the next six months and give Croats their fundamental rights, the Sabor must not ratify anyone's accession to NATO."

Milanović said "we are in a terrible situation" because Bulgaria and Romania cannot join Schengen, North Macedonia and Albania cannot begin EU accession negotiations and Kosovo has not been recognised, while Finland "can join NATO overnight."

We are only asking that Finland and Sweden "tell the Americans to solve this," he said. "For me, that's a vital national interest of the Croatian state, nation and people, that BiH be a functioning state."

Milanović said he raised this issue with his French and German counterparts, but that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, due to his function, had a lot more room for that. "But he is neglecting that consciously and cowardly."

Asked if Croats in BiH should boycott general elections in October unless the election law was changed, Milanović said he did not know at the moment. "It seems to me the feeling among Croats in BiH is that they shouldn't boycott so as not to bring into question local government."

Commenting on the victory of manager Robert Golob and his party in Sunday's parliamentary election in Slovenia, he said Slovenia had been "left-liberal" for the past 30 years.

Croatia-Slovenia relations have been "really good" in the past two years, he said, adding that this was due also to Prime Minister Janeza Janša, who was defeated in Sunday's vote.

"We have seen that Croatia-Slovenia relations have been more stable when Janša was in power, but they were not hostile when the left was in power either."

Tanja Fajon, whom Slovenian media say might be the new foreign minister, was in the past against Croatia's accession to Schengen.

"If they want to prevent Croatia's Schengen entry, okay. Croatia won't go down because of that. They will cause damage to themselves," said Milanović.

He said Croatia was ready for Schengen already in 2015, but added that it was "a political decision and torture." He also criticised the fact that Bulgaria and Romania have not yet entered Schengen, despite being in the EU since 2007.

"Slovenia will, if it looks after its interests, ask that Croatia join Schengen. If not, if will have to hire another 20,000 police officers," said Milanović, who is meeting with Slovenian President Borut Pahor later today.

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

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Croatia Begins to Block Russian Assets, Newspaper Says

ZAGREB, 23 April 2022 - Croatia has begun to block the assets of Russian nationals who are under sanctions, the Večernji List said on Saturday, adding that Russian-owned holiday homes, forests and companies have been seized.

Based on the EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Croatia has blocked the property of the wife and sister of Alisher Usmanov, one of the richest Russians, on the southern peninsula of Pelješac, the newspaper said, citing documents from public registers.

It appears that in locating Russian-owned properties in Croatia the Croatian authorities have largely relied on the findings of the Oštro website, the only Croatian website to be participating in the international journalistic project the Russian Asset Tracker, which tracks down the assets of Russians close to President Vladimir Putin.

Oštro has found that Usmanov's wife Irina Viner-Usmanova and his sister Guljbahor Ismailova are behind the off-shore and Croatian companies registered as the owners of the Pelješac properties concerned.

Among the properties seized is a villa in Mali Lošinj, on the northern Adriatic island of Lošinj, which is owned by a company in which Maja Tokareva is a member of the management board. She is a daughter of Nikolay Tokarev, president of the Transneft oil pipeline company, which is also under EU sanctions.

For now there are no indications in the court register of companies and land books that Croatia intends to block a villa in Lozica, an attractive section of Dubrovnik, owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, or a villa on Šipan island, off Dubrovnik, Večernji List said.

An anonymous source told Večernji List in early March that Putin's friends had renovated Katino Villa and its large grounds on Šipan island for Dmitry Medvedev, now the deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Russia Announces Response Measures Against Croatia Over Expulsion of Diplomats

ZAGREB, 12 April 2022 - The Russian Federation has expressed a strong protest to Croatia over the expulsion of 24 Russian Embassy staff, threatening "response measures", TASS news agency said on Tuesday.

"On April 11, the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs notified about the decision to reduce the staff of the Russian embassy in Zagreb and expel 24 employees of the Russian diplomatic mission. We express our strong protest against this deliberately unfriendly and absolutely ungrounded step, which has a destructive impact on the entire spectrum of Russian-Croatian relations," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

According to TASS, Zakharova slammed the expulsion of the diplomats as an "anti-Russian step" and stressed that responsibility for its consequences would "rest entirely on the Croatian side."

"Response measures will follow," she warned.

Croatia announced on Monday it would expel 18 Russian diplomats and six members of the administrative-technical staff, thus joining a number of other European countries that had done the same "due to the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine," the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said.

The expelled Russian diplomats have been given until 25 April to leave Croatia, Ambassador Andrey Nesterenko told Rossiya-24 television. "That is a serious blow to our bilateral relations because the expelled diplomats are upstanding people," he said according to TASS.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Russian Diplomats Have Until 25 April to Leave Croatia

ZAGREB, 12 April 2022 - The Russian diplomats expelled by Croatia have until 25 April to leave the country, Ambassador Andrey Nesterenko told the Rossiya-24 broadcaster.

They have been given until 25 April to leave the country, the TASS news agency quoted the ambassador as saying.

"That is a serious blow to our bilateral relations because the expelled diplomats are upstanding people," he said.

Croatia on Monday said that it would expel 18 Russian diplomats and six members of the administrative and technical staff.

By doing so Croatia has joined a number of European countries that have done the same "due to the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine," the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS on Monday that Russia would respond accordingly, from which it can be concluded that Russia is preparing a reciprocal measure.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Plenković: EU Was united, Quick and Efficient in Response to Russian Invasion

ZAGREB, 12 March 2022 - The European Union has demonstrated unity, speed and efficiency in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will continue to adopt sanctions against Moscow, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in interviews with two France24 programmes on Friday.

"The purpose of all three sanctions packages is to prevent Russia from carrying out this brutal aggression on Ukraine. The European Union once again demonstrated unity, our political position was quick, efficient and clear," Plenković told the Ici l'Europe programme, speaking in French.

He spoke of the consequences of the Russian invasion, which has entered its third week.

"First, it is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, with whom we stand in solidarity. Second, it has triggered a refugee crisis in Europe unprecedented since 1945, and third, energy prices have gone up," Plenković said, adding that the latter was the main subject of a two-day summit of EU heads of state or government in Versailles, which ended on Friday.

Europe's dependency on Russian gas is above 40 per cent, and the EU leaders are trying to change this "by increasing domestic production or by importing from other gas producing countries such as Norway, Azerbaijan, Libya or Algeria, or by importing liquefied natural gas by sea," Plenković said in the Talking Europe programme. He mentioned the construction of the LNG terminal on the northern Adriatic island of Krk, which provided Croatia with an alternative gas supply route.

The EU heads of state or government have sent "a strong political signal that we want to intensify relations with Ukraine in any way possible on its European path," the Croatian PM said.

However, the 27 EU member states have made it clear to Ukraine that it will not be able to join the EU under fast track.

Plenković said he had met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv in December and signed a declaration on Ukraine's European perspective, stressing that he remained committed to this process.

Plenković said it was important that the EU was united in its condemnation of the Russian invasion. "After the statements by the Russian foreign minister we can conclude that we live in two different realities and that's why we will continue sending strong messages and adopting packages of restrictive measures to let Moscow know that what it is doing is not appropriate and that it should end it immediately," he said.

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

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Minister Talks Heineken Croatia's Green Policy, Price Hikes, Đuro Đaković TEP

ZAGREB, 8 March 2022 - Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić on Tuesday visited the Heineken Croatia production plant in Karlovac which has invested €10 million in green projects over the past ten years as part of its sustainable business strategy.

We had great support from our employees, consumers and the local community in that, underscored Heineken Croatia's CEO Marta Bulhak.

Ćorić assessed that the company is a good example of "what Croatia needs because all industry has to move to a green transition and to undergo digitisation and transfer to a circular economy."

He congratulated the company, that employs over 300 workers, 120 of whom are hired in Karlovac, for the company's "green policy."

Heineken Croatia is a part of the international brewing company HEINEKEN and is the second largest beer producer in Croatia.

More measures to deal with rising prices, if necessary

Speaking about the decision taken by the government yesterday to cap the fuel prices, Ćorić said that "as soon as it becomes necessary, additional measures will be taken to preserve the living standard of citizens and to make it possible for the economy to function normally."

"The thing that is happening on the gas and petroleum products markets as well as on the electricity market is the consequence of extraordinary circumstances in eastern Europe and the Russian aggression on Ukraine which has led to all markets erupting but I am certain that that will calm down," said Ćorić.

In the context of whether Croatia should ban the import of gas and oil from Russia, Ćorić said that Croatia will follow suit with the majority of EU countries. It is good that Croatia has an alternative supply direction through the LNG terminal, he underscored.

The fact that we have an LNG terminal on the island of Krk could help us to experience a smaller blow than many other European economies, said the minister.

Ćorić would not specify if he supported a ban on importing energy from Russia and underscored that that decision would be made at the highest political level while in his capacity as the economy minister he would try to make sure that the economic shock in Croatia leaves the least trace and for us to come out of this even more resilient and stronger.

Asked about the coming tourism season, Ćorić said that we can expect it to be a good season if the war in Ukraine stops in a short time, however, if the crisis lasts, people will be more cautious about deciding to travel.

Asked about workers' expectations for a similar procedure to be taken for the Đuro Đaković Termoenergetska Postrojenja (TEP) company as in the case of the takeover of Sberbank Croatia by Croatia's HPB bank, Ćorić said that contact has already been made and that the ministry's officials for industry are seeking a solution.

"Đuro Đaković TEP has been existing for decades. It has changed owners and has now fallen victim to the circumstances. The fact is that the owner is on the list for sanctions. We are deeply convinced that the company that employs 860 workers, particularly in Slavonia which is a less developed region, deserves special attention and that is why we are seeking a solution to prevent production from halting and with regard to liquidity and bank loans, to ensure undisturbed functioning," he said.

The minister said that refugees arriving from Ukraine would not be treated as a burden or cost as the Croatians had experienced the same destiny in the early 1990s.

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