Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Opposition: New Minister Close to Russian Oligarchs, Vulnerable to Blackmail

ZAGREB, 8 March 2022 - The parliamentary Opposition on Tuesday criticised the ruling majority's proposal to appoint Ivan Paladina the new Construction Minister, saying that he was close to Russian oligarchs, which made him vulnerable to blackmail from the very beginning.

The Opposition also said that by nominating Paladina, the ruling HDZ was trying to dodge responsibility for the failed process of post-earthquake reconstruction.

Sandra Benčić of the Green-Left Bloc told reporters that the latest nomination showed that PM and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković not only made bad personnel choices but that Paladina was in a clear conflict of interest because he was manager of the Kupari company, which was to have made an investment in a former hotel complex whose demolition was opposed by Croatian architects, who demanded its preservation.

Katarina Peović of the Workers' Front said that Paladina was in a conflict of interest even before taking office, which, she said, is a classic example of "the HDZ's personnel policy."

Marijana Puljak of the Centre party said that it was difficult for PM Plenković to find a person for a ministerial post who was not compromised, stressing that this showed that "not everybody wants to have a relationship with the HDZ because people judge you by the company you keep."

Anka Mrak Taritaš (GLAS) said that the HDZ had evidently decided not to deal with reconstruction "but find a minister to shift all the blame onto, so this time they have opted for a manager."

Bridge party vice-president Nikola Grmoja said his party group was already calling Paladina "Vanyushka" because of his ties with Russians.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Minister Says Key to Situation in Ukraine in Hands of Those Who Launched Aggression

ZAGREB, 5 March 2022 - Croatia's Deputy PM Davor Božinović said on Saturday that 1,570 Ukrainian refugees had so far arrived in Croatia, declining to speak about the total number of refugees expected to arrive and noting that the key to the situation in Ukraine was in the hands of those who had launched the aggression.

"There is a lot of work ahead, and as regards organisation, we are very much satisfied. I would not want to talk about any concrete figures because the key to the situation in Ukraine is only in the hands of those who have launched the aggression, they know whether and when it will be stopped," Božinović, who is also Minister of the Interior, told reporters after a meeting with members of the Civil Protection in Osijek-Baranja County and Osijek.

Božinović recalled that the government had set up an interdepartmental task force coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior.

He believes that a solid legal basis has been created to define the status and needs of Ukrainian refugees, and that it will depend on how the situation develops.

Care is being taken of the smallest details, including the issuing of EU COVID certificates to Ukrainian refugees because the coronavirus epidemic is still not over, Božinović said.

Intensive talks are underway at EU level to make Europe's response uniform, notably regarding humanitarian issues and care for those most in need, said Božinović.

Asked about the state of buffer stocks and if they had been checked since the start of the war in Ukraine, Božinović said that they had definitely been checked but that it was a question for  the Directorate for Commodity Stockpiles.

"The Directorate and the competent ministry are part of the interdepartmental task force. Arrangements will be made on a daily basis, depending on the needs, and procurement procedures will be conducted in such a way to enable a response at any time, meeting the high standards of the European Commission," said Božinović.

Asked to comment on a rally of support to Russia in Belgrade, Božinović said that everyone in the current crisis was relying on the values they advocated, and that as an EU and NATO member Croatia had clearly communicated its values and response to the war in Ukraine.

Osijek Mayor Ivan Radić recalled that a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees had been set up in the city, and that a local sports hall was also available for that purpose.

The city administration has ensured free public transport for refugees and their transport from the border to Osijek, and we are also ready for the integration of children in kindergartens and schools, said Mayor Radić.

The head of the Osijek County Civil Protection, Mato Lukić, said that 65 Ukrainian refugees were currently staying in the county, 18 in two boarding houses and the rest in private accommodation facilities in Osijek and other cities in Osijek County.

For more on the Ukraine crisis and Croatia, as well as breaking news, follow our news section.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Who Guards Guardians? Russian Aggression Blow to UN's Authority, Says Ambassador

ZAGREB, 5 March 2022 - The Russian aggression against Ukraine is certainly a blow to the UN's authority, Croatia's Ambassador to the UN, Ivan Šimonović, said on Saturday, noting that Moldova could be Russia's next target.

"The question is who guards the guardians? If permanent members of the Security Council are guardians of peace and security, who will protect us from them when they violate peace and security?" Šimonović asked in an interview with Croatian Radio.

He ruled out the possibility of the UN sending peace troops to Ukraine, which can be done if requested by one of the warring parties, which Šimonović described as improbable, or by a decision of the Security Council.

"But Russia has the right of veto there and we are again back to square one," he added.

The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution asking that Russia immediately stop using force in Ukraine.

Šimonović, a former Assistant UN Secretary-General for human rights, said that was the only way to exert pressure on Russia because in the General Assembly it does not have the right of veto.

Clear legal terminology was used, the operation involving the Russian Federation, and Belarus as an accomplice, was called aggression, and aggression is crime. Russia is becoming more and more isolated, said Šimonović.

The General Assembly resolution, however, does not have direct legal consequences.

"Only Security Council resolutions adopted under Chapter VII are legally binding and force may also be used to implement them," he said, adding that the steps the UN can take at the moment are very limited.

Everyone loses

The diplomat called the invasion of Ukraine a situation in which everyone loses.

"The consequences for Ukraine - from the loss of human lives to material destruction - are already very bad, and what could follow - urban warfare - would be a disaster of epic proportions," he said.

"That is a tragedy for Russia in terms of how much its economy will be affected, isolated and left to the mercy of China, which is its sole orientation," Šimonović said, adding that China, too, would distance itself from Russia if it was left isolated by the rest of the world.

Croatia, too, will be affected in terms of its tourism industry, and since it is part of Europe, where energy prices will go up, its citizens will feel the consequences of the Russian invasion as a drop in living standards, Šimonović believes.

Moldova next possible target

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Saturday that civilians would be able to leave the port city of Mariupol through a humanitarian corridor to be open for five hours, which Šimonović called "the only positive contribution of the negotiations" that "would alleviate the suffering of people at least to some extent."

Šimonović also mentioned Moldova as the next possible target of Russian aggression.

"The south wing of the Russian attack that now goes in the direction of Mykolaiv and Odessa could also be going in the direction of Transnistria, that is, occupied areas of Moldova controlled by pro-Russian forces," said Šimonović.

"Quite certainly Moldova is not sleeping peacefully either," he concluded

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Grlić Radman: Putin Should Be Convinced By Pressure Of Senselessness Of Invasion

ZAGREB, 3 March 2022 - Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday that pressure should be put on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aides to convince them of the senselessness of the invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in an interview with Media Service, Grlić Radman was asked if fear of a nuclear war was founded, to which he said that "we should act cautiously, but resolutely" towards Russia.

"We should use all the instruments of pressure through political diplomacy to convince Putin and his oligarchy, his closest aides of the senselessness of this political adventure," the Croatian foreign minister said. "We should also raise awareness of the Russian people. We can see a lot of protests in many cities, with people taking to the streets to oppose the Russian aggression," he added.

Grlić Radman said that the purpose of the sanctions was for "the Putin regime to feel the reaction on their own skin, rather than the Russian people, ordinary citizens."

As for the possibility of the Ukraine crisis spilling over to southeastern Europe, Grlić Radman said that "Serbia barely condemned the Russian invasion" and Belgrade signed the UN declaration on the Russian aggression under pressure.

"There could be a spillover of the conflict because of the fact that Kosovo is not recognized by Serbia, Russia, and some other countries, and because there are frozen conflicts in Russia's vicinity, notably in Moldova and Georgia. Therefore, a spillover can happen and we want to avoid it," the Croatian minister said.

He reiterated that Croatia supported the European membership prospects for Ukraine, as well as for the Western Balkan countries.

There are  23 Croatian nationals left in Ukraine, of whom ten are married to Ukrainians and do not want to leave the country. Croatian Ambassador Anica Djamić has left Kyiv and will continue her duties in the western city of Lviv, Grlić Radman said.

Croatia has taken in more than 600 Ukrainian refugees, and Grlić Radman said that Croatia would not have trouble accepting even hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Over 800,000 Ukrainians have so far fled the armed conflict in their country, most of them seeking refuge in Poland. Between 4 and 5 million people are expected to leave their homes.

Grlić Radman also said that the government was satisfied with the cooperation with President Zoran Milanović on this issue.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Ukrainian FM Says Croatia Would Like to Reciprocate For Our Support

ZAGREB, 26 Feb 2022 - Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday thanked Croatia for its support to Kyiv and to sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Kuleba held a telephone conversation with Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman.

"Zagreb recalls the early 1990s when Ukraine helped Croatia through practical decisions during the Homeland War. Croatia is now reciprocating for our support. I thank Croatia for its support to the EU sanctions against the Russian invaders," the Ukrainian minister tweeted.

On 11 December 1991, Ukraine recognised Croatia, being thus the first United Nations member state to do that. Ukraine did it after Slovenia and Lithuania, which also at that time had not still gained international recognition, recognised Croatia.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 25 February 2022

Sabor Speaker Worried by Russian Aggression, Expresses Solidarity With Ukrainians

ZAGREB, 25 Feb 2022 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković on Friday voiced concerns over the latest developments in Ukraine and expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian nation.

"We denounce the Russian aggression on Ukraine and we hope that the hostilities will stop and that human lives will be saved," Jandroković said before the parliamentary debate on Croatia's declaration on Ukraine, drawn up by the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.

"All of us are following the developments in Ukraine with disbelief, anxiety and concern," the parliament's chief said.

The Russian aggression has violated all the tenets of the international order and law, he added.

"We must take into account Croatia's interests, and also being a country that experienced the Serbian aggression, we convey our solidarity with the victims and we will help them as much as we can and thus contribute to efforts to bring this sad episode to an end," Jandroković said.

On Thursday, the foreign affairs committee unanimously adopted the declaration on Ukraine.

The declaration states that the Croatian parliament calls on Russia to immediately stop the military attack and withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

The parliament also condemns the recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent entities because that act represents a gross violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and undermines the foundations of the international order.

The document gives full support to the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

The parliament expresses full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and calls on the Croatian government to provide humanitarian and technical assistance.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Ukraine Situation Brings New Period Of Uncertainty, Croatian Tourism Association Says

ZAGREB, 24 Feb 2022 - Croatian Tourism Association director Veljko Ostojić said on Thursday that after two years of the pandemic, the latest events in Ukraine brought another period of insecurity and uncertainty.

Any war situation, regardless of the vicinity, deters from travel, he told Hina, adding that at the moment it is impossible to predict how the Russia-Ukraine crisis will impact Croatia's tourism.

He said one could expect bookings on the main markets to slow down in the days ahead, but is confident in last-minute bookings as in the last two years.

Croatia's big advantage is that it's predominantly an auto destination and very safe, which will be important in preparing for the summer season, Ostojić said.

The Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ), which has an office in Moscow covering Ukraine as well, told Hina that next week more would be known about the impact of Russia's attack on Ukraine on travel from the two countries. The Tourism Ministry concurred.

According to HTZ data, 145,000 Russians visited Croatia in 2021, generating 800,000 nights, respectively 94% and 80% of the figures registered in 2019, a record year for Croatia's tourism.

Ukrainians generated 146,000 arrivals and 857,000 nights, respectively 4% and 2% more than in 2019.

This year to date 2,000 Ukrainians visited Croatia, generating 12,000 nights, up 47% and 53% on the year respectively.

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

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Croatia's Energy Supply Not In Question, Economy Minister Says

ZAGREB, 24 Feb 2022 - Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said on Thursday Croatia's supply with key energy sources was not in question despite the escalation of the Ukraine crisis and that if prices continued to increase over a longer period of time, the government would consider how to respond.

Speaking to the press after a cabinet session, Ćorić said the supply with gas and oil "has not been brought into question at all" at the moment and that "everything will be under control."

"We hope the war operations will cease and things be brought in order, " he added. "That's what we want for Europe and the world, and first and foremost for the Ukrainian people."

As for the economic situation, Ćorić said it would depend on the energy market. The gas price on the reference market has gone up 31% since yesterday and that of a barrel of Brent oil by 6%, he said.

The minister said those rises "will definitely" impact consumer goods. "However, that is something on which we can't have significant influence at the moment."

He hopes the Ukraine-Russia escalation, and consequently the escalation of energy prices, will be short-lived. The government's measures to buffer the blow of energy price hikes take effect on 1 April.

Asked what sanctions Croatia would impose on Russia and what that would mean for Croatia's economy, exporters and tourism, Ćorić said Croatia would follow other EU member states.

The economic consequences of the crisis will be proportionate to its duration, he said, adding that one could not expect the European and Croatian economies to function normally if the "horrors of war" continued.

Energy prices, which largely depend on Russia's aggression on Ukraine, "dictate the tempo on all other markets" and Croatia, as a small and open economy, can't avoid that, Ćorić said.

As for the Fortenova company, one of whose owners is Russia's Sberbank, he said it had a number of owners, that it used international markets for financing, and that he did not expect any sanctions against the financial sector to affect the company's liquidity and functioning.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Plenković: We Strongly Condemn Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

ZAGREB, 24 Feb 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has strongly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, calling on Moscow to stop the military attack immediately.

"We strongly condemn Russia's aggression and invasion of Ukraine. This unprovoked attack is a gross violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and international law," Plenković wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday morning.

"This is exclusively the responsibility of Russia, which we call upon to immediately stop this military attack."

"We express our solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people," the Croatian prime minister said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Croatian Ministry Stands Firm in Support of Ukraine's Sovereignty

ZAGREB, 22 Feb 2022 - The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs on Monday condemned the Russian decision to recognise the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities.

The Ministry tweeted that the decision made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk/Luhansk is violation of "Ukraine territorial integrity, international law, the Minsk agreements, undermining a diplomatic solution. "

"We stand firm in support of Ukraine's sovereignty," the ministry says.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković also joined in the condemnation of the recognition of the two separatist regions.

Many western countries and international organisations on Monday strongly slammed Russia's move to recognise the separatist regions and accused Putin of violating international law and Ukraine's sovereignty.

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