Friday, 11 February 2022

Croatian MEP: Russian Troops on Ukraine Border Not Local Issue But Global Threat

ZAGREB, 11 Feb 2022 - The buildup of Russian forces along the Russia-Ukraine border is not a local problem but a global security threat, Croatian member of the European Parliament, Tonino Picula, told the BBC on Thursday.

The war with the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine is entering its eighth year, and pro-Russian separatists, supported by Russia, carried out secession of the three eastern Ukrainian areas:  Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea, said Picula, a foreign policy coordinator of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

According to a statement issued by Picula's office, the MEP said that Ukrainians deserved to be commended for their rational attitude.

It can seem paradoxical that while Ukraine is facing a dramatic situation, citizens and the state leadership of that country are not inclined to dramatize it. Citizens are definitely worried but they are not panicking, the Croatian MEP says.

He added that even without direct military aggression, Russia has been undermining Ukraine's democratic, social and economic development for years, through the dissemination of misinformation and other means, he added.

Picula said, among other things, that during this crisis many European leaders have an opportunity to show their position on the current security architecture in Europe.

Picula believes that the unity of the West is now of crucial importance.

Commenting on the Russian and the European approach, Picula said that it is much simpler for Russia to speak in unison, as it is President Vladimir Putin who speaks about the matter.

On the other hand, the West is pluralistic, various member-states have different sensibilities and interests. In this crisis it is most important to stick to the joint approach in order to make it impossible for Russia to take advantage of disagreements in a bid to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine, said Picula.

"This crisis is a big stress test for us in the European Union, the biggest one since the wars after the breakup of Yugoslavia," he added calling for the European support to Ukrainians' efforts to defend their freedom and way of life.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

European Parliament For Recognising Same-Sex Marriage Across EU

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - A majority of members of the European Parliament on Tuesday endorsed a draft resolution seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states.

The draft was endorsed by 387 MEPs, 161 voted against and 123 abstained.

The resolution says same-sex spouses and partners should be treated equally as heterosexual ones, and that marriages and partnerships concluded in one EU member state should be recognised in all.

Of the Croatian MEPs, the draft was endorsed by Biljana Borzan, Predrag Matić and Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Valter Flego of the Istrian Democratic Party.

Independent Mislav Kolakušić and conservative Ladislav Ilčić were against, while Sunčana Glavak, Karlo Ressler, Tomislav Sokol and Željana Zovko of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) abstained.

Ivan Vilibor Sinčić (Human Shield) did not vote as he was in Rome, and Romana Jerković (SDP) could not because of technical difficulties, but her office told Hina that she "supports this resolution."

Speaking to Hina, Matić said the adoption of the resolution was a "civilisational achievement", while Flego said it was unacceptable that LGBTIQ rights were being reduced instead of advanced in many countries, and that it was time to "finally give everyone equal rights."

Ilčić told Hina the resolution "is consciously trying to equate the legal status of same-sex couples in all member states, thus negating the right of the states to independently decide which unions they will recognise and which they won't."

"That would mean that the whole EU must follow the most liberal states to avoid alleged discrimination, which is absurd, contrary to the treaties and the subsidiarity principle," he said, adding that the LGBT lobby was exerting enormous pressure on the European institutions.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission to take action against Romania, Hungary and Poland for violating LGBTIQ rights and fundamental EU values.

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

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula: Croatia Not interfering In Bosnia's Affairs, Expects Greater EU Involvement

ZAGREB, 3 March, 2021 - The Croatian member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, Tonino Picula, on Wednesday dismissed claims that Croatia was interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal affairs, saying that Croatia had obligations under the Dayton peace agreement.

Speaking in an interview with the Dnevnik news website based in the southern Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar, Picula said that Croatia was accused, almost on a daily basis, of interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal affairs. He recalled that Croatia was a signatory to the Dayton agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country and had an obligation to ensure that the agreement was honoured.

"Unfortunately, we often see political structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina using Croatia to achieve their political points and divert attention from their own problems," the Croatian MEP said.  He, however, added that Croatian institutions and officials should exercise restraint in their communications with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"In its relationship with the Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia should maintain a positive interest with political restraint, taking care that it promotes what will encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue on its EU path," Picula said.

He said that the EU should be more dedicated to the Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina. "As the foreign policy coordinator of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, I have continually pointed out the need for the Union and its external policy to win recognition in its nearest neighbourhood."

Picula expressed an expectation that Bosnian politicians would agree on changes to electoral legislation that would satisfy both individual and collective rights, which is important for the country's further journey towards EU membership. He stressed that this would include amending the Dayton agreement.

"The existing arrangements under the Dayton agreement are obviously preventing the country's progress, but the international community will not support any solution that deviates from the principle of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single country," the Croatian MEP said.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Croatian MEP Tonino Picula Nominated for EU Energy Award

As Morski writes on the 12th of February, 2020, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula has been shortlisted for a prestigious MEP Award, known as the "EU Oscar", which is awarded to the best MEPs in certain categories. MEP Tonino Picula was nominated among the top three candidates for the Energy Award.

''I'm extremely honoured with this nomination as it's a great recognition of my many years of work. But this is first and foremost a tribute to the European islanders who have recognised the energy transition as a priority and made my initiative a success! I look forward to continuing to work on the energy transition of the islands, which already serve as one of the roadmaps of Europe's most important project for decades to come, the European Green Plan,'' said MEP Tonino Picula about the nomination.

One of MEP Tonino Picula's priorities was to include geographically vulnerable areas in European policies. That is why, back in 2016, he proposed a preparatory action plan and submitted an amendment to the EU budget, which provided 2 million euros.

This resulted in the creation of a Clean Energy Initiative for the EU islands. The initiative has involved more than 40 island communities across Europe to date in the Secretariat projects, and with the new amendment, Picula has secured an extra million euros from the budget for their work in 2020. The success of the initiative has also been confirmed by the European Commission, who has listed it in the European Green Deal.

Seeing in practice a positive outcome for the EU islands, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula suggested another successful initiative to extend a similar concept to a clean energy transition in rural areas, with another 1 million euros from this year's EU budget under preparation.

Following his successful Vice-Presidential term, Picula was elected President of the SEARICA Inter-Group for Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas (SEARICA), which brings together 114 MEPs from as many as 24 EU member states.

MEP Tonino Picula continues to work towards achieving the goals of an energy transition that will not leave anyone out and that will take special care of vulnerable environments.

The decision on the nominations was made by a jury of Parliament Magazine, and the winner will be announced on Monday, February the 17th, 2020.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for more.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

MEP Picula: Rural Areas and Islands Also Included in Green Deal

ZAGREB, December 12, 2019 - Over the next two years the EU will provide an additional 4 million euro to finance the transition of rural areas and islands to clean energy sources, following an initiative by Croatian MEP Tonino Picula. Through the European Green Deal, currently the most important EU document, the European Commission has decided to focus special attention on rural areas and islands, bearing in mind their exposure to climate change and natural disasters as well as the extraordinary potential for a transition to renewable energy sources that they have, Picula's office said in a press release on Thursday.

Seven months ago, Picula put forward two amendments to the EU budget, each worth 2 million euro. One concerned his initiative for the transition of islands to clean energy sources, which he launched four years ago, while the other proposed applying the same model to rural areas.

After an evaluation by the Commission and lengthy negotiations within the European Parliament and with the Council, the amendments have also been adopted through the EU budgets for 2020 and 2021.

As many as ten Croatian Adriatic islands, namely Cres, Ilovik, Lošinj, Male Srakane, Velike Srakane, Susak, Unije, Brač, Hvar and Korčula, are currently implementing preparatory projects for the transition to clean energy.

More island news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

MEP Picula Appointed as EP Rapporteur for Western Balkans

ZAGREB, November 27, 2019 - Croatian MEP Tonino Picula has been appointed EP rapporteur for Western Balkans ahead of a summit in Zagreb in May 2020.

His role will be to prepare recommendations to the Parliament, Council and Commission regarding the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as well as providing new impetus to the enlargement process, Picula's office reported on Wednesday.

One of the main topics and challenges that Picula will be involved with in the report is reaching a consensus in the Council regarding the enlargement process to countries in the Western Balkans, his office said in a press release, adding that the report is also aimed at analysing and responding to new proposed reforms for the enlargement reform process.

"Reform debates must not stop the process. Countries need to be assessed individually based on individual merits and achievements. Montenegro is the forerunner in that process and I expect that the achieved results and invested efforts to be recognised and that pre-accession negotiations be closed during this term," Picula concluded.

"I am exceptionally honoured with this new role as rapporteur for recommendations on the Western Balkans ahead of the coming summit in Zagreb...I will offer concrete recommendations that will enable blockades to be removed and to finally open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in Zagreb already," Picula said.

"By making a mistake, French President Emmanuel Macron, who blocked the process of opening negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, in fact succeeded in something he did not plan - he returned the issue of enlargement into the focus of being debated at the European level," added Picula.

More news about the European Parliament can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Tonino Picula Highlights Croatia's Vulnerability to Climate Change

November the 27th, 2019 - Global warming threatens the survival of both Croatian and European citizens and cultural heritage, warned Croatian MEP Tonino Picula.

''The most famous protected Croatian sites, such as the Old City of Dubrovnik, Diocletian's Palace and the Cathedral of St. Jacob are at risk of sinking due to global warming,'' Croatian MEP Tonino Picula warned during a plenary session in the European Parliament.

Speaking on the European Union's response to extreme meteorological events and their impact on the protection of Europe's urban areas and cultural heritage, Picula stressed that, according to publicly available data, sinking threatens as many as 37 places across the Mediterranean, including listed Croatian cities, and there are 42 sites at risk of erosion.

''It's high time we declare the climate crisis for what it is and urgently adopt and implement measures to reverse global warming trends,'' he said.

Specifically, according to international climate modelling results, the Mediterranean basin is designated as a climate “hot spot” with particularly pronounced effects of climate change.

According to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), Croatia is among the three European Union countries with the highest cumulative share of damage from extreme weather and climate events in relation to gross national product, which is a huge threat to the Croatian economy, which is unfortunately in a high percentage dependent on tourism and agriculture revenues, which account for up to a quarter of GDP. According to the EEA, damage from extreme climatic events which happened to/in Croatia amounted to about 2.25 billion euros from 1980 to 2013, or about 68 million euros annually.

The transition of European islands to renewable energy sources, whose pilot projects are funded by the European Commission's Secretariat for the Islands, which includes ten Croatian islands, is a good example of what to do to slow global warming trends down and reverse them in the long term, Tonino Picula pointed out.

For Europe as a whole, but especially for Croatia, it is of utmost importance to reduce the acute vulnerability of the agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy and tourism sectors, since their success depends significantly on climatic conditions.

In order to facilitate and compensate for the transition to renewable energies for those most affected by the transition, the European Parliament proposed in its interim report on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 that a special fund of 4.8 billion euros be introduced. The aim of the fund would be to address the social, socio-economic and environmental impacts on workers and communities during the transition.

''In addition to cultural heritage, our citizens will be directly endangered, as up to a third of EU residents live along the coast, up to 50 kilometres from the coast. Priceless cultural heritage has resisted the historical challenges of hundreds and thousands of years, let's not allow it to be destroyed by the climate change we ourselves have caused,'' Tonino Picula concluded.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle and politics pages for much more.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

MEP Picula: Two Million Euros for Energy Transition on Croatian Islands

As Morski writes on the 20th of November, 2019, at a recent Clean Energy Forum for EU islands, which was held in Croatia for the first time, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula presented the priorities and long-term initiatives of the European Parliament to finance the EU's energy transition.

''An agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament on the budget for 2020 secured through the action plan a new two million euros for technical assistance to the islands for applications for European renewable energy projects in the next two years,'' the Croatian MEP confirmed, who then delivered a speech in Split at the fourth Clean Energy Forum for EU Islands, which is being held in the presence of senior Croatian officials, as well as officials from other EU member states.

However, this is not the only piece of good news about European and Croatian islands to come to light, as representatives of the Cres-Lošinj archipelago announced their strategy and transition plan for clean energy within the Forum, with the aim to switch exclusively to renewable energy by 2040, which will be achieved in part by local community-owned solar power plants.

The Cres-Lošinj archipelago is among the six European islands to have recently announced their strategies and transition plans, the others being the Aran Islands (Ireland), Culatra (Portugal), La Palma (Spain), Salina (Italy) and Sifnos (Greece). The Forum will showcase a number of examples of good practice and foster dialogue between the various actors involved in the energy transition process of European islands, and participants will have the opportunity to see different technological solutions.

Picula welcomed the initiative by the Croatian islanders, who from the ten islands involved in the previous call for funding energy transition projects are now the leaders on a European scale.

However, he stressed that the sustainability of the European islands' energy transition requires both long-term and appropriate funding for complex, comprehensive projects and adequate investment in research and innovation to devise workable solutions to facilitate this energy transition, adding that he hoped that talks on the long-term financing of the energy transition of Croatian islands will begin during the Croatian Presidency of the Union in 2020.

''In its interim report on the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021 - 2027, the European Parliament proposed the introduction of a special fund of 4.8 billion euros for a new European Union energy transition. These funds would facilitate and offset the transition to renewable energy for those most affected by the transition. The aim of the Fund would be to address social, socio-economic and environmental impacts on workers and communities during the transition, which also implies many EU islands,'' Picula emphasised in his speech.

Picula has been a focus of action since the start of his first term in the European Parliament. Back in 2016, he and his colleague A. Sant presented an Action Plan and submitted an amendment worth 2 million euros to the European budget, with the aim of securing funding for the energy transition of Croatian (and EU) islands.

The lengthy negotiations within the Parliament itself, as well as discussions with the Commission and the Council, led to the inauguration of the Islands Secretariat - the first working body dedicated solely to the islands. The Secretariat was set up within the European Commission in June 2018 and presented in Brussels. It is the first working body in EU history exclusively available to islanders.

MEP Picula has been working to preserve and improve life on the islands since the beginning of his term.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Croatian MEP: Western Balkans Cannot Be Left Out of EU Foreign Policy

ZAGREB, October 15, 2019 - The European Parliament rapporteur on Montenegro and Croatian MEP, Tonino Picula, said on Monday that the Western Balkans must not be left aside in planning the future EU foreign policy.

"What is encouraging and what should be shared with the Montenegrin public is that the new European Commission, aware of many problems it is inheriting from the previous Commission, has chosen as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy a person who made it clear during a hearing before the European Parliament that the Western Balkans cannot be left aside in planning the future European foreign policy," Picula said in an interview with Montenegrin television.

Picula said he had visited Montenegro many times and was acquainted with the political reality in the country. He said it was not easy to predict Brussels' plans at a time when the EU was facing a lot of internal problems, but he encouraged Montenegro to continue on its EU path.

"Montenegro has made great progress. This is, first of all, some sort of not just a technical process but also a political process so that things in Montenegro would be better," Picula said.

Picula was appointed rapporteur on Montenegro on October 10.

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

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Picula: Stronger European Union Support for Control of Croatian Borders

Strasbourg, 18 April 2019 - Croatian MEP Tonino Picula supported the report on the proposal of the regulation on the European [Union] border and coast guard during the last plenary session in Strasbourg.

"I'm glad that we'll have stronger support from the European Union in the control of our borders and European [Union] borders,'' he concluded during yesterday's debate on the report on the proposal of the European Parliament.

Croatia's MEP Picula was the initiator of the successful extension of the European Coastal and Border Guard for the Schengen area along the external borders of the European Union, including the Republic of Croatia, and he stressed how the new agency will help to better protect the borders in order to preserve free movement inside the European Union.

Thus, today the Croatian foreign border is protected a part of Schengen, and the Republic of Croatia has the funds of the European border and coast guard available to it, which greatly eases the job of border officials.

The European Border and Coast Guard consists of the border police and coastal police of member states and the agency for the European border and coastguard, more specifically Frontex, and was established in the autumn of 2016. 

"Since I come from Croatia, the country with the longest foreign land border in the EU, I especially support the work of the agency along the external borders of the Union, not just the Schengen area, from which we are still closed off with barbed wire,'' he pointed out.

Only four months after Croatia's accession to the Schengen Information System, it was done 75 million controls and identified over 4000 offenses. This proves the importance of Croatia as a partner in securing the external borders of the European Union and justifies its quicker connection Schengen area.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

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