Friday, 14 April 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Ukraine, NATO and Franjo Tudjman

April the 14th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had to entertain the idea of Plenkovic potentially heading off for a very high position within NATO, calls to tackle the issues with the judiciary (again), leaked US documents have mentioned Croatia, and Franjo Tudjman took a tumble.

Foreign policy analyst Denis Avgadic talks Plenkovic, NATO, and issues with the Croatian judiciary

As Index writes, Croatian foreign policy analyst Denis Avdagic recently commented on the problems in the Croatian judiciary, the potential departure of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to NATO, the ongoing war in Ukraine, protests raging in France, and the migrant crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy on N1 television.

The Croatian judiciary

"I think it's clear to everyone that the Croatian judiciary is the key cancer wound of this society and until we solve it, we'll continue to be forced to deal with problems that are far beyond our ability to solve them. Let's solve the issues with the Croatian judiciary first of all, and many things will become easier, more comfortable, and more efficiently as a result,'' he said.

"I believe that the Croatian judiciary needs a reform of a wider scale. The judiciary as it is now is simply ineffective," he added, noting that some cases are still being dealt with from the former state (Yugoslavia) and that this is utterly tragic.

Plenkovic could be heading off to NATO?

"The fact is that in European circles and a little more widely, Andrej Plenkovic is seen as a high quality member of staff, as a person who has certain diplomatic skills, quite extensive political experience, and as such he's acceptable for a whole range of supranational functions. First of all, we in Croatia have been talking for a long time about whether Plenkovic is simply sitting and waiting for a higher position at the level of the European Union," he pointed out.

"Looking at it from that aspect, it's clear that there is speculation as to who could be an adequate replacement at the head of NATO," he continued. He indicated the method of election of the head of NATO and that the bloc of new NATO members believes that the head of that alliance should be a person from that area who understands what Central and Eastern Europe has gone through what Ukraine is going through.

"Is Plenkovic a template person who would be responsible for that? Absolutely, yes, he is. Is Plenkovic a person who is acceptable to the whole bloc? Yes. Is he acceptable to the others? Absolutely. Is he acceptable to the Americans? Yes. Then we see why it occurred to someone to talk about him," claimed Avdagic. He noted that Plenkovic is one of the leaders of the EPP.

"Plenkovic is a good candidate for the head of NATO"

He believes that Plenkovic could become the head of the European Commission, but pointed out that Plenkovic is a relatively young politician and therefore there's no need for him to suddenly leave Croatian politics. Avdagic also emphasised that polls show that he could win another election right here in Croatia. "He's one of those politicians who is a good candidate for the post of NATO chief," he said.

A huge picture of Dr. Franjo Tudjman fell while Plenkovic was speaking

This was symbolism in motion in the eyes of many across the spectrum of Croatian politics as the first president of the independent Croatian nation almost cut Plenkovic's speech short. 

''Oh God, surely not?'' Plenkovic said while turning to see the huge image of Tudjman falling from its place, seemingly also aware of the symbolism behind such an amusing event. Tudjman's fall from grace as it were occurred precisely when a group of gathered journalists were asking him about Swedish media articles that had been circulating about him being among the candidates for the head of NATO, as I talked about above. Then the cameras turned to the wall where Tudjman is as the image fell down.

Politico claims that leaked secret US documents mention Croatia and Croatian helicopters

Europe has special forces on the ground in Ukraine, with Poland and Slovenia having provided almost half of the tanks delivered to Kiev. Neighbouring Hungary may also be releasing weapons through its airspace. These are just some of the striking details about European participation in the Russian-Ukrainian war from the 53-page document, based on leaked information from US military intelligence.

From precisely these leaked US documents, one can also learn something about the European war effort in Ukraine as a whole. The leaked files offer insight into everything from a British-dominated special forces group in Ukraine to how and when France and Spain will send a key missile system out into the battlefield. The documents also contain claims that Turkey is a potential source of arms for Russian mercenaries.

It's important to note that Politico hasn't independently verified the documents, and there are indications that some of the leaked pages are actually forged. That said, the USA has  acknowledged the intelligence breach and arrested the suspect on Thursday. Here are some of Politico's analyses after studying the dossier:

Europe allegedly has troops on the ground

According to the US documents, a European special forces group has been operating in Ukraine - at least since March the 23rd. The United Kingdom dominates the "US/NATO" contingent of 97 people with 50 members of its special forces. The group includes 17 people from Latvia, 15 from France and one from the Netherlands. There are also 14 American nationals.

As expected, national governments have been largely silent on the subject. The British declined to comment, while the White House admitted there was a "small US military presence" at the US embassy in Ukraine stressing that the troops were "not fighting on the battlefield". The other countries listed did not respond to a request for comment.

Europe is providing most of the tanks to Ukraine

Tanks are one area in which Europe collectively outdoes America. One page gives an overview of the 200 tanks that US allies have promised to send to Ukraine - 53 less than what the document says Ukraine needs for its spring offensive. Poland and Slovenia appear to be the biggest contributors, accounting for almost half of the total number of tanks, according to an estimate as of February the 23rd. France and the United Kingdom are also key players, each with 14 tanks.

There is also the modern German Leopard 2 tank, which Ukraine has spent months convincing its allies it needs. This composition includes Germany, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Finland.

Croatia is also mentioned

Neighbouring Hungary appears several times in the leaked documents, which offers a lot of information about a country headed by Viktor Orban that regularly confuses its own allies. The most interesting tidbit of all in this sense is buried in a "Top Secret" CIA update dated March the 2nd, which says Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban worryingly labelled the US as "one of his party's three biggest adversaries'' during a strategic policy session held in February this year.

These concerning remarks, the document points out, represent Orban's "escalating level of anti-American rhetoric." Indeed, Orban's somewhat controversial government charted its own course during the war by pushing pro-Russian narratives, essentially calling on Ukraine to back down and strongly rejecting allied efforts to isolate the Russian economy and impose harsh sanctions on the Russian Federation.

However, the US documents also show that Hungary - which shares a small border with Ukraine - may be secretly allowing allies to use its airspace to move weapons towards the battlefield despite promises to ban such transfers. One of the leaked documents describes the plan of Ukrainian pilots to fly donated helicopters from Croatia to Ukraine in detail, and it also claims that will be done "through Hungarian airspace". If this is indeed correct, the information shows not only that Hungary is releasing weapons through its skies but also contradicts media reports that the helicopters will be transferred by land or flights over Poland.

Hungarian and Croatian officials did not respond to any requests for comment.

Plenkovic says Eurozone and Schengen accession pushed Croatian growth forecasts above government expectations

Since Croatia's official entry into the Eurozone and the Schengen area on the 1st of January this year, international institutions revised the growth expectations of the Croatian economy above the government's GDP growth forecast for this year by 0.7 percent, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said during the opening of a recently held government session.

He recalled the World Bank's January forecast of 0.8 percent growth this year, which this month raised that same forecast to 1.3 percent, the European Commission announced in February that it expects Croatian GDP to grow by 1.2 percent, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated this year's growth of the Croatian economy by 1.7 percent a few days ago.

"The impact of membership in the Eurozone and in Schengen will be felt in terms of growth"

"All of this means that they're somewhat more optimistic than the forecasts that we ourselves projected, and I believe that the impact of membership in the Eurozone and the Schengen area will really be felt when it comes to domestic economic growth, which will be better than expected, despite the slowdown of the global economy in 2023,'' said the Prime Minister.

He noted that according to Eurostat data, Croatia has reached 73 percent of the EU level of development, taking GDP per capita as a measure, which is the highest level so far, and in 2016, the country was at 62 percent. This means that Croatia is using its international position strongly and maximally, Plenkovic asserted. As for tourism, he predicts that this year's summer season will be a record one. He also announced further government activity in preparations for loans from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

So far, as he explained, 2.2 billion euros have been paid to Croatia free of charge out of the 5.5 billion that are available, and the country has another 3.6 billion euros of loans available, with the government wanting to invest this money in education, renovation, energy efficiency, the water supply, transport, energy, gasification, etc.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to follow our dedicated section. A Week in Croatian Politics providing an overview is published every Friday.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

How Many Russians and Ukrainians are Living in Croatia?

February 26, 2023 - It is just over a year since carnage was unleashed in Ukraine, leading to millions of Ukrainians forced to flee the country.  How many ended up in Croatia?

It has been 12 months of heartwarming stories of Croatians opening their arms to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Memories of their own Homeland War less than 30 years ago are very fresh in the memory, and the overall Croatian response has been outstanding. 

The influx of Ukrainians into Croatian society is plain to see, from the school and kindergartens to the labour market. But just how many Ukrainians came to Croatia? 

Russians opposed to Putin and/or looking to avoid conscription have also left Russia in their droves. 

I recently contacted the Ministry of the Interior to get statistics on how many foreigners were living in Croatia with temporary and permanent residence. When I did the same request in 2018, MUP's information showed that there were just 29,156 foreigners here with temporary and permanent residence. Of those, only 5 - BiH,  Slovenia, Serbia, Germany and Italy - had more than 1,000 nationals in the country.  

How times change - the data as of December 31, 2022 below - 129,227 in all, a big jump.


Although I had expected the larger numbers from Nepal, India and the Philippines, I was surprised that there were not more Ukrainians. MUP explain that these were foreigners with either 1-yea temporary or permanent residence permits only, and that there were considerably more Ukrainians here, to which they put a number from my next enquiry:

There are currently 244 international protection applicants from the Russian Federation in the Republic of Croatia.

As regards the number of Ukrainian citizens who have arrived in the Republic of Croatia since the beginning of the war in Ukraine (since 25 February 2022), please note that a total of 22,450 persons displaced from Ukraine came to the Republic of Croatia until 19 February 2023.

For more on the changing demographics in Croatia, click here.

Read more... Croats Leaving, Foreigners Arriving, How to Preserve Hrvatska?


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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

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Friday, 24 February 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Croatian-Ukrainian Solidarity, Sundays and Eggs

February the 24th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've seen the marking of one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, messages of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, a deeper look into what makes Plenkovic tick, discussions around working Sundays... Oh, and some eggs.

An anti-war protest is held in Zagreb as the one year anniversary since Russia's horrific invasion of Ukraine is marked

An anti-war protest has been being held today here in the heart of Zagreb on the occasion of the anniversary of the shocking Russian invasion of Ukraine.

''Expressing solidarity with the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine, we, feminists and peacekeepers from Croatia, alongside the rally "Stop the War Now" want to encourage those responsible to stop the suffering of the Ukrainian people as soon as possible. We'll send our requests to the addresses of the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic of Croatia, reminding them that Croatia, which itself survived the Homeland War with many scars, is morally and humanly obliged to make the maximum effort for peace.

On this day, demonstrations for peace are being held all over Europe and around the world. We're joining all the people who demand an end to the war in Ukraine, the arms race and the start of peace talks! Negotiating does not mean surrendering, arming yourself does not mean winning. As peacemakers and feminists, we especially support related peace initiatives and efforts in Ukraine, in Russia and around the rest of the world. We demand the following from the Croatian Government and the President of the Republic of Croatia, the competent bodies of the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), as well as international bodies in charge of security and cooperation:

- The immediate cessation of the war, killing and war-related destruction;
- Demilitarisation and serious diplomatic efforts to initiate negotiations and the peace process;
- The launching of a new security and peace agreement that would include all countries on the territory of Europe;
- The launching of a new global agreement on arms control, especially in regard to nuclear weapons;
- Systemic support for women in war zones because militarism and warrior machismo reinforce gender-based violence including rape, prostitution and trafficking in women;
- The ensuring of the rights of civilian victims, including victims of sexual violence in war, in accordance with international criminal law;
- Full respect for the rights and protection of all displaced persons and exiles, including conscientious objectors who refuse to participate in this or any other war.

We know that peace isn't just about stopping war. Peace is a long-term process in which women are the supporting actors of social healing and the normalisation of life and care for the most vulnerable groups in our society. Therefore, as feminists and activists, we oppose:

- The imperial division of the world, the global escalation of conflicts, any new arms race and the maximisation of the profits of the military-industrial complex;
- The current atmosphere that generates preparations for further wars on a global scale;
- Hate speech and warmongering media coverage;
- Increasing the budget for further armaments because this means less funds for education, healthcare and social services and the fight against natural disasters and climate change;
- We'd like invite the media to report responsibly and impartially, including reporting on peace activities while respecting the majority commitment of European citizens to peace.

Peace building processes take decades and must take place at all social levels. Therefore, we're asking all responsible political actors to act in accordance with international conventions on human security and peace and to prevent further destruction, human suffering, killing and forced displacement by starting peace negotiations," reads the call to protest signed by the Ad Hoc Feminist Anti-War Coalition, which is supported by the following organisations:

The Centre for female victims of war - ROSA
The Centre for Women's Studies in Zagreb
The Centre for Peace Studies
Documenta – The Centre for dealing with the past
Women's room - The Centre for victims of sexual violence
The Croatian Women's Network

Parliament speaker Goran Jandrokovic assures Ukrainians that they can count on Croatia's unwavering support until the very end

As we mark the solemn anniversary of the launch of the full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Croatian politics turned to the topic of solidarity. Parliament speaker Goran Jandrokovic has made sure to assure Ukrainian nationals, be they displaced and living in Croatia and the rest of the EU or at home fighting in Ukraine, that they can count on Croatia's support until the end. A minute of silence in the Croatian Parliament then followed.

"I'd very much like to begin today's session by recalling the events which took place back on February the 24th, 2022, as this marked the beginning of the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine. We followed the news that reached us that morning in total and utter disbelief, deep concern and palpable anxiety. That day, war returned to our European continent, dragging the Ukrainian people into a bloody fight for their own bare existence. The defenders of Ukraine, despite many expectations, surprised their aggressors, they met the Russians with strong resistance, they showed and continue to show how to love their homeland even in the most difficult circumstances," said Jandrokovic at the beginning of the session.

"We in Croatia can very much identify with that, and memories of the sacrifices made in the Homeland War are the reason for our special form of empathy towards the Ukrainian people. The Croatian Parliament reacted extremely quickly and just one day after the Russian aggression we almost unanimously adopted the Declaration on Ukraine, which sent a timely and strong political message of condemnation of Russia's aggression and confirmed our support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine," said Jandrokovic.

"The Ukrainian people can count on Croatia's undying solidarity and continued support in their righteous struggle for freedom. We will remain at Ukraine's side until their victory, because Croatia really does deeply understand the Ukrainian struggle. That's why Croats are obliged to stand by Ukrainians, and we must make sure we're on the same, correct side of history," said Jandrokovic.

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Goran Grlic-Radman also stated at the UN that Ukraine must not be forced to wait for years before it wins its freedom like Croatia had to.

In lighter news, a man has been arrested and fined for throwing eggs at HDZ's official building

One Zagreb resident decided to take out his frustrations with Croatian politics and the way HDZ does things by launching eggs at their Zagreb building. The Zagreb resident, known to the public solely as Boris B (44), now has to pay a fine after having been found guilty at the Zagreb Magistrate's Court for throwing the aforementioned eggs at the HDZ building during a protest back in September 2022.

According to the verdict, on September the 10th, 2022 at around 13:30 on Victims of Fascism Square, during a protest, he violated public order and peace as a protest participant.

"Arriving in front of the central office of the HDZ party, he took out the eggs, which he threw at the door of the aforementioned building, causing it to hit the front door and break, therefore, in a public place (the street), he disturbed public order and peace, thereby committing the crime misdemeanor from Article 13 of the Law on Offenses against Public Order and Peace, punishable under the same article of the same Law," reads the explanation of the verdict.

The egg-thrower apparently arrived on a bicycle, pulled out a Cedevita box, and the eggs were taken out of it.

A police officer identified as Marko S testified at the trial, and according to him, he says he saw a man who left his bike on the pavement and came to the protective fence in front of the front door of HDZ's headquarters.

"He took a Cedevita box out from his backpack, grabbed something from it and threw it at the front door, and then I saw that it was an egg that broke and spilled down onto the door, after which he walked away back to the bike," the policeman testified. He added that approached the man and asked him for his ID, which he provided without any problem. After that, he was taken to the police station for further questioning.

Boris B. was sentenced in absentia, considering that he didn't bother to respond to the summons of the court. He was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of 53 euros (which could buy a whole lot of eggs), and he must also pay 40 euros for the costs of the misdemeanor procedure, the judge decided. The verdict is final and can be appealed.

Political scientist Berto Salaj says it's important for PM Andrej Plenkovic to be the longest serving Croatian Prime Minister

''Say what you like about him, but he gets things done'' is one of the main messages taken from political scientist Bero Salaj's opinions on Plenkovic published by Index.

Berto Salaj, a political scientist and professor from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, commented on Croatian politics for N1, more precisely on the opposition's initiative to impeach Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic due to the latest scandals revealed in the media. Answering the question of whether anything could shake the prime minister, Salaj said that this initiative to impeach the prime minister will certainly not succeed. 

"If we look at public opinion surveys, HDZ is still between 25 and 30 percent. Not a single opposition party exceeds 15 percent. It's questionable whether this way of pointing out corruption is a good way to fight against Plenkovic at all. It seems to me that we've already learned that when it comes to Croatian politics, this just isn't a good way of going about things. Now there would have to be an affair where the clues would lead to the prime minister himself, for the prime minister to be caught on the spot with his fingers in the till, as it were," Salaj stated.

"Neither Grbin, nor Bencic, nor Grmoja enjoy the trust of citizens like Plenkovic does"

The political scientist advised the opposition to start thinking about how to increase the turnout of citizens in the elections. He believes that this and this alone would be the key to their victory.

"It's simply illusory to expect that HDZ's rating could erode dramatically in the coming period. In the perception of the citizens, none of the current leaders enjoy the trust Andrej Plenkovic does from people. Say what you like about him, he is how he is, but he gets things done. On the other hand, we have all these corruption scandals and an attempt to control independent institutions," says Salaj.

"I think it's important for Plenkovic to be the longest-serving prime minister"

Salaj also believes that some changes could happen within Croatian politics only if Plenkovic fails to stop spiralling inflation, something that is affecting everyone and everything. He believes that it is important for Plenkovic to be the longesr serving prime minister of Croatia.

The Croatian Government has remained fixated on the topic of working on Sundays, and a document to reduce the amount of working Sundays has now been published

Remember when everyone in Croatian politics and beyond was going on about banning or severely limiting working Sundays? Well they still are. You can read much more about it here.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to follow our dedicated section. Keep an eye out for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Croatian DOK-ING Attracts Attention in Warsaw Combat Engineer Conference

February the 14th, 2023 - The Croatian DOK-ING company more than succeeded in attracting significant attention at the recently held Combat Engineering conference in the Polish city of Warsaw, marking yet another important move for the company.

Croatian companies are being thrust into the limelight across Europe and indeed the rest of the world, for the Croatian DOK-ING company, a recent event in Warsaw is likely to pay off.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the recently Combat Engineer conference in the Polish city of Warsaw managed to successfully gather together an impressive number of niche experts (800 of them in total), in both the industrial and military fields. They then had the opportunity to network, discuss, learn and shape the future of military engineering, and the very successful Croatian DOK-ING company saw it as an excellent opportunity to present its winning innovations.

The focus was primarily placed on advances in technology development and service-based solutions, as well as on understanding future threats and their various solutions.

Dino Isasegi, the sales manager of the Croatian DOK-ING company, gave a presentation on how robotics can improve solutions for the advanced implementation of the above.

After the presentation, military experts showed great interest in the Croatian DOK-ING company's set of impressive products and their experience in post-conflict zones, which proved that their MV-10 machines are an excellent solution for anti-tank mines.

With the war still raging in Ukraine following the shock Russian invasion this time last year, more and more in the military field are looking at the Republic of Croatia as an expert in dealing with post-conflict situations as it has had the unfortunate experience of war itself a mere thirty years ago. While the geopolitical situation is dire, current events are likely to prove important for numerous domestic companies.

For more on Croatian companies, entrepreneurs and innovation, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Monday, 5 December 2022

Could Croatian Companies Solve Energy Problems of Nations Like Moldova?

December the 5th, 2022 - Moldova recently spent two hours without electricity owing to the horrendous actions of the Russians in Ukraine. Could Croatian companies easily solve such issues?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jerko Zlatar writes, Croatia is very much focused on Ukraine's ongoing strife. We only need to look at the debate being had in the Croatian Parliament on the training of Ukrainians, the commendable attempts made by numerous sectors in this country to help with the integration of refugees, and the excellent work of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs at the Crimea Platform and political support for Ukraine. That said, the Republic of Croatia continues to employ a chronically lacking approach when it comes to proactivity with sending humanitarian aid abroad.

The current situation in Ukraine and recently in neighbouring Moldova illustrates the passivity and disorganisation of the process of sending aid, and the involvement of Croatian companies in that process turned out to be minimal and somewhat spontaneous. This has consequences for future exports.

Moldova is currently facing an energy crisis due to the fact that Gazprom has significantly reduced its gas supplies. To make matters worse, the lifeblood of Moldova's electricity supply from the EU is the 400 KV transmission line, which runs from Romania, through Ukraine and the separatist enclave of Transnistria.

Due to the overloading of the system in Odesa Oblast, as a result of Russian missile attacks on the Ukrainian electricity supply system, Moldova was left without electricity for two hours. According to Bloomberg last month, advisory and professional help was sent to by Lithuania and Poland, because the local Energocom employs only seventeen employees.

As for Croatian companies, which could quickly build a new transmission line with appropriate transformer stations, and whose institutes (including HEP) could help a lot in the procurement of electricity - there were no such moves to speak of. The agreement for the new transmission line was signed back in 2017, the value of the project stands at 270 million US dollars. It was also planned to be co-financed by the European Investment Bank with 80 million dollars.

Another example is France, which, in the wake of Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure last week, sent 100 generators with a power of 50 and 100 KVA. In total, 500 generators have been sent to Ukraine through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

However, among the sevetneen EU member states that have sent aid to Ukraine's electric power system, Croatia isn't among them - which produces almost everything needed in this situation, such as transformers, generators and transmission lines, and whose electricity industry has experience in staying up and running during a war.

In an interview with the Ukrainian channel Freedom TV, the head of the regional military-civilian administration of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, said that the area primarily needs water purifiers and help with demining, areas in which Croatian companies also have something to offer.

Regarding demining, help from Croatian companies has already been offered, but in the Luhansk region, literally everything is lacking, from electricity to windows and building materials. Regarding private initiatives, DOK-ING has already demonstrated its innovative demining and firefighting robots to the President of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ruslan Stefancuk, during a visit to the meeting of the Crimea Platform in Zagreb.

Above all, it is necessary to create the most effective framework for bringing together businesses and the Croatian Government, which would be able to respond in a timely manner to crisis situations across the world, and which could become one of the main promoters of Croatian exports.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce would have to be included in that body, as would other stakeholders like the Croatian Employers' Association, in order not to need to wait for EC decisions, but to react immediately and raise Croatia's reputation across the world and actively promote domestic production. 

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

Friday, 2 December 2022

Ukrainian Embassy in Zagreb Receives Gory Package

December 2, 2022 - Croatian media report and the Ukrainian embassy in Zagreb has confirmed on their social media that they are among the embassies which have received extremely gory packages today.

The first report of the threat came from Oleg Nikolenko, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign affairs. In it, he mentions that one of the packages was sent to the Ukrainian embassy in Zagreb.

The packages supposedly contained animal eyes and were soaked in a liquid of "characteristic colour" (not too difficult to determine which colour it is from the context clues, although not explicitly stated).

In addition to the embassy in Zagreb, similar packages were sent to embassies in Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, and Austria, as well as to consulates in Naples and Krakow. Additional threats to the embassy in Vatican, Kazakhstan and the USA are also being reported and are investigated.

When asked to comment, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković briefly stated that the Croatian police is in charge of keeping embassies safe.

We will update this story when further information about the events in the Zagreb Ukrainian embassy becomes available.

Friday, 18 November 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Taxes on Taxes, Drones and Spanish Royalty

This week in Croatian politics, we've had everything from Spanish royalty visiting the country for the very first time to Milanovic insulting the foreign minister, missiles hitting Poland, complaints about taxes being put on taxes and still not actually knowing who dropped a drone on Zagreb back in March.

PM Andrej Plenkovic meets the Spanish king

Andrej Plenkovic met with the Spanish king during the very first visit of the Spanish royals to the Republic of Croatia this week. King Felipe VI of Spain and Plenkovic sat down to discuss economic cooperation, the ongoing energy crisis, migrant policies and Croatia's imminent entry into the Schengen area.

As stated, this was the Spanish royal couple's very first official visit to Croatia, and Plenkovic pointed out that the visit is "a pledge to further strengthen bilateral relations with Spain at all levels, with a special emphasis placed on on cultural, educational and scientific exchange".

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation on cooperation in the creation of the DONES Programme, which envisages a partnership between Croatia and Spain in fusion research.

"Projects like this are an opportunity for further cooperation between Croatian and Spanish companies in the high-tech and scientific sphere, they also represent the improvement of economic relations," the press release on the matter stated. Plenkovic was quick to thank King Felipe for Spain's ongoing support in Croatia's entry into Schengen, which is set to occur on the 1st of January, 2023, the same date on which Croatia will officially adopt the euro as its currency.

The pair also discussed current challenges such as the energy crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine and the bloc's migrant policy, which requires a unique European response, as well as the role of the EU in Latin America and in the Western Balkans.

The Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) claims the new tax which was proposed recently will further discriminate against certain companies and work to punish the most successful

''We're shocked by the government's proposal for a new profit tax because it's discriminatory and puts the most successful companies in Croatia at a disadvantage. This is actually the dishing out of a punishment to the most successful companies in this country, the companies that fill the state budget the most, employ the most people, pay the highest salaries and invest the most," said the Croatian Association of Employers, reacting to the introduction of the new profit tax.

"Companies operating here in Croatia don't have extra earnings, this year's profit barely covers losses from previous years, and it's completely unclear as to why the government is doing this. Ahead of us lies a crisis and recession, the depth of which we don't yet know. What we know is that Croatian companies are cancelling orders left, right and centre and that now we need the strength to survive the recession and let people keep their jobs," they warned from HUP.

"This is a proposal to introduce a tax on taxes, which will certainly stop investment in development, which means that there will be no new jobs or salary growth, and we're once again becoming an unsafe country for business and looking unattractive to investors. Along with Hungary, we're the only country that spreads the tax across the entire economy instead of, as prescribed by the European Commission Regulation, keeping it exclusively to the energy sector, which made an unexpected profit thanks to market disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine," announced HUP.

"HUP cannot support the unjustified discrimination of large companies that this proposal brings. On top of that, this tax cannot be introduced retroactively for the year 2022, when investment and employment plans have already been implemented. This proposal will unjustifiably penalise the most successful Croatian companies, the best employers and the largest investors who and they pay the most into the state budget," said Irena Weber, CEO of HUP.

Instead of introducing yet more new taxes, HUP very concretely advocates a full tax reform and stronger work relief through an increase in the personal tax deduction and a reduction in income tax rates. This is the way to strengthen the economy, attract new investments, increase wages and create new jobs, according to them.

Milanovic and King Felipe talk politics while their wives talk healthcare and the prevention of obesity in children

King Felipe VI of Spain and Croatian President Zoran Milanovic are both satisfied with the bilateral relations between the two European countries, while their wives emphasised the importance of preventing obesity in children for preserving the health of the entire population, according to the press releases published after their meetings in Pantovcak.

The Spanish king was on a two-day official visit to the Republic of Croatia together with Queen Letizia, and after the ceremonial reception at Pantovcak, President Milanovic and his wife Sanja Music Milanovic spoke with the royal pair. The Spanish king and the Croatian president both stated that they are satisfied with the bilateral relations between Croatia and Spain, which are two friendly and allied countries, members of the European Union and NATO.

King Felipe and Milanovic also referred to the close scientific cooperation between the two countries, which is particularly marked by the joint partnership in the aforementioned DONES programme, which the Spanish king also discussed at length with Plenkovic.

The meeting also discussed current European and global topics, including the security crisis in Eastern Europe caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine, while their wives discussed the importance of preventing obesity in children.

Sanja Music Milanovic and Queen Letizia of Spain separately discussed innovative approaches to obesity prevention in children in Croatia, Spain and the entire continent. The importance of obesity prevention in children for preserving the health of the entire population was emphasised and the importance of a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention through a multisectoral set of interventions aimed at all periods of life was emphasised, the press release on the topic stated.

Music Milanovic presented the professional and scientific activities she carries out in this area in Croatia and Europe and announced the upcoming inaugural summit of the spouses of European leaders on the topic of childhood obesity prevention across Europe, which she will jointly organise with the European Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The King and Queen of Spain were, as stated, on their very first official visit to Croatia during the year which marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Croatia and Spain, all with the aim of confirming exceptionally good bilateral relations and providing incentives for their further development.

Croatian authorities still don't know who launched the six-tonne drone which hit Zagreb eight months ago

As news broke about an alleged Russian missile having crossed over into Polish territory, killing two people, our memories return to the drone which struck Zagreb eight months ago. It turns out that the powers that be still have no idea who launched the mysterious drone which crash landed and ended up in pieces. 

The Russians are still claiming that the drone which struck Poland had nothing to do with them, saying all those who are claiming it to be Russian are just trying to provoke. Still, we were all shocked and we went from speculating about a Russian attack on Poland, a NATO country, to thinking about the possibility of a third world war to, what is now increasingly likely, finding out that the missile was in fact Ukrainian.

As a reminder, two people were killed after, as Polish authorities then said, a "Russian-made projectile" fell near the village of Przewodow, about 6.4 kilometres west of the Polish-Ukrainian border, around the same time that Moscow forces launched their largest wave of missile attacks on multiple Ukrainian cities in more than a month.

The circumstances of the incident, including information about who fired the missile and from where it was fired, were unknown, which caused possible speculation about Russian involvement in the event and expectations of NATO's next step following the apparent striking of Poland, a NATO member state. But according to US officials, initial findings suggest that the missile that hit Poland was actually fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile.

Three officials told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that the Ukrainians were trying to defend themselves against Russian fire aimed at their electrical infrastructure. This is the event that reminded us of the incident that happened on March the 10th right here in Zagreb, just two weeks after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Then, a strange Soviet-made Tu-141 unmanned aircraft crashed in Zagreb near the "Stjepan Radic" student dormitory. During the fall, the unmanned aircraft crashed into the ground, leaving a crater behind it.

The circumstances behind it all are still unclear, so Index asked DORH recently if it had ever actually been established who had sent that drone into Croatian territory.

"On April the 13th, 2022, the County State Attorney's Office (DORH) in Zagreb, in the presence of experts, held a press conference where they reported on the results of the investigation related to the crash of the drone.

''At the aforementioned press conference, it was stated that the answers to the questions about where the [unmanned] aircraft came from and whose aircraft it was are under the jurisdiction of other bodies, and not under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney's Office," the answer reads. As for the press conference that DORH mentions in the answer, it was said that the drone had Ukrainian colours on it, but also that it was carrying a bomb. "It was undoubtedly established that it was fragments of an OFAB 100-120 aerial bomb," Major Mile Tomic said in a DORH press release back in April, adding that a lighter was also found.

"During the impact, an explosive device did explode, as was evidenced by the creation of a large crater, the scattering of earth and stones, the ejection of fragments from the crater, as well as traces of tearing and hardening of the metal parts of the bomb," said Ivana Bacic, a chief fire and explosion expert.

"The original aerial bomb should contain 40 to 46 kilos of TNT military explosive, which would be characterised by blackening," Bacic noted.

The Zagreb drone incident could therefore have had horrendous consequences, and yet it seems we're none the wiser. By sheer luck, a real tragedy was avoided. When people say the word 'drone', to many people it sounds like a plastic toy or indeed a type of worker bee, but in this case we're dealing with something that weighs six tonnes and was carrying an explosive on it. It fell in the immediate vicinity of the student dormitory and what could have happened doesn't bear thinking about. In spite of all of that, it is still not known who the drone belonged to, how it was launched, or and why.

Back at that time, the drone event stimulated two debates. First, the question arose as to how much protection NATO provides to Croatia in general.

Before entering Croatian territory, the drone flew over two NATO member states, Hungary and Romania, only to crash in the third NATO member state, Croatia, after seven minutes of flight. In those seven minutes, no one reacted, neither the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia nor the Directorate of Civil Protection. NATO did nothing either, and all that lack of action in the then very fresh situation of the shocking Russian invasion of Ukraine and the outbreak of war here in Europe once again.

"NATO's integrated air and anti-missile defense followed the flight path of the object that subsequently crashed in Zagreb. The Croatian authorities have announced that they are investigating this incident," said a NATO official at the time.

Second, in parallel with the investigation, there was a debate about whether the drone really had a bomb on it or not. Defense Minister Mario Banozic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic claimed that there was an explosive device in the drone, while a number of experts disputed this. President Zoran Milanovic was also skeptical about the presence of a bomb in the drone, and he was quick to reproach Plenkovic and Banozic for stoking fears.

Even NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg entered the discussion about the explosive device on the drone, and he stated at a press conference that the drone was unarmed. After that, another press conference was called by Prime Minister Plenkovic, who denied his claim, along the way showing photos of parts of the drone that he said belonged to the bomb.

As stated, despite the severity of this incident and all of the potential reasons behind it which are extremely concerning to think about given Russia's actions and the ongoing war over in Ukraine, nobody seems much more in the know then they were back on March the 10th.

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman says that we will not be training Ukrainian soldiers on Croatian territory

If you recall, Zoran Milanovic was among the loudest in his opposition to this idea, and it seems he is far from alone in his thoughts that supporting Ukraine should be as far as Croatia goes, as we don't want to bring the war to our doorstep. 

"I'm absolutely not going to give my consent. Grlic Radman went to Brussels without my prior consent. There are enough of Plenkovic's mini ministers going up to Brussels without the prior consent of the commander-in-chief, and it isn't going to carry on that way. Grlic Radman is nobody and nothing, Plenkovic is actually important here, but he went and pushed himself to the front row like a dumb nerd,"  Milanovic said about the Minister of Foreign Affairs, once again using another opportunity to sling mud and throw insults around.

Grlic Radman also said later today that there will be no training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, and he remained polite and professional in his wording.

"What Croatia can offer, it will offer. Is it the training of Ukrainian soldiers on our territory? No, no it isn't, it will be on the territory of some other EU member states that have offered. However, the countries in which that might take place still haven't been determined,'' Grlic Radman said in an interview with RTL Danas/Today.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and keep your eyes peeled for our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Croatian Cannons Used in Homeland War Now Defending Ukraine

September the 21st, 2022 - Croatian cannons and other weaponry which were used to defend the likes of Zadar, Sukosan and Sibenik from Serbian onslaught are now being used once again to help defend Ukraine from Russian aggression.

Croatia's more recent experience with war than any other European country puts it in a better position to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia than most other nations, and to know that the weapons used during the Homeland War which saw Croatia become an independent state and fend off Serbian aggression are now aiding Ukraine in its mission to send the Russians packing is one of those full circle stories.

As Morski/Jurica Gaspar writes, the recently delivered Croatian cannons (M-46, 130 mm caliber) are already being used on the front lines in Ukraine, and these weapons are precisely those cannons which once defended Sukosan, Zadar and Sibenik, and were also an important factor in the Maslenica liberation operation.

''The Ukrainian Army is already using them on the front lines in the Donetsk region. In addition to the M-46 cannons, the Ukrainian Army received a significant amount of ammunition,'' it was announced on the Ukraine Weapons Tracker Twitter page.

''Those Croatian cannons were also with us in Zadar. More precisely in Sukosan,'' explained Zadar Weekly journalist Sinisa Klarica, who himself participated in the Homeland War in the 112th brigade of the ZNG and the 159th brigade of the Croatian Army.

''I saw them when I went to intervene in Debeljak in the 159th brigade. They were right next to the cemetery in Sukosan. At that time, we camouflaged the cannons well, so I'm not sure how many of them there were.

The Croatian cannons that defended Sibenik and were also key in the Maslenica liberation operation, and they're now doing the same job over in Ukraine in some of the areas of the country where the fighting is most intense.

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

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Young Croatian Humanitarian Andro Fabijanic Dies in Ukraine

September the 17th, 2022 - Young Croatian Andro Fabijanic, a selfless 29-year-old from Zagreb, who actively helped Ukrainian families and veterans with humanitarian work, died in Ukraine in an anti-tank mine explosion on Tuesday while delivering aid.

Ukrainian suffering caused by the Russian invasion which shockingly took place back in February of this year has been horrendous, but it has shown us just how many selfless individuals from across Europe have been ready to step in and help in any way possible.

The Republic of Croatia, with its relatively recent experience of invasion and bloody war has been praiseworthy in its efforts to help Ukrainian refugees, with the government quickly amending laws to allow refugees to stay and work here, and individuals offering up their homes to displaced Ukrainian families free of charge all over the country. Croatian humanitarian Andro Fabijanic is one such person who left the comfort of his peaceful country to head over to Ukraine to help directly.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the tragic news that Andro had lost his life quickly spread on social media and was later also confirmed by friends of the bereaved Fabijanic family. This altruistic young man from Zagreb, known to local athletes and recreationists as a personal fitness trainer, died in a delivery vehicle transporting sanitary materials to Ukrainian fighters.

The vehicle ran into a mine on the road and several of his Ukrainian colleagues were wounded. Unfortunately, there was no escape for Andro Fabijanic, who was supposed to leave for the safety of Croatia just one day later, writes Novi list.

He had bought a ticket home and otherwise worked for an association from Dnipropetrovsk that delivered bandages and other medical aid to Ukrainian veterans fighting against Russian aggression in their war-torn homeland.

For more on Croatian efforts during the ongoing Ukraine war, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 5 September 2022

Art Camp, Workshops for Ukrainian Teachers and Artists Held on Mali Brijun

September the 5th, 2022 - The gorgeous Mali Brijun has been playing host to Ukrainian artists and teachers who will use what they learned here in helping Ukrainian children cope with the terrible trauma of war upon return to their ravaged homeland.

As Morski writes, about thirty Ukrainians, mostly artists, teachers and pedagogues, arrived at Mali Brijun recently. By attending various music and movement workshops, they learned how to deal with war trauma of their own, and they will also apply their newly acquired skills when working with Ukrainian children when they return home to their country.

Everyday alarms were replaced by music, and art in general has become a refuge for Ukrainian children and their parents.

''This was an incredible experience for us, we had the opportunity to learn not only from a mentor but also from each other, to be here on Mali Brijun together, we'll take the energy from this place back home with us,'' said Svetlana Bazanova, a Ukrainian drama teacher.

''It's nice that we could come and be here, it's also important to me professionally as this experience will connect me with the whole community,'' emphasised Jana Zelenska, another drama pedagogue. Most of the Ukrainian families who have arrived in Istria are from war-torn Kharkiv. In a few days, they will return to their homeland and pass on the knowledge they have learned while spending time on beautiful Mali Brijun to their colleagues.

''Through art therapy, we learn how to deal with emotions, how to help ourselves to deal with fear and trauma, and how to help others, especially children,'' emphasised Veronika Skolarova, the project manager.

''It took us some time to build trust, a safe circle inside, but as the days progressed, people relaxed more and more and we all did more and more,'' said Irena Magas, a music therapist. This praiseworthy project was conceived by Lenka Udovicki and Nigel Osbourne from the Ulysses Theatre.

''We can do some simple things through art. Music and movement can regulate breathing, singing and emotions,'' pointed out Nigel Osbourne, who is a composer and a music therapist. After the workshops held on Mali Brijun, art therapy education is set to continue back home in Ukraine, HRT Magazin reports.

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

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