Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Erdogan Suggests Reviving Croatia-Bosnia-Serbia Dialogue

ZAGREB, July 9, 2019 - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday suggested reviving dialogue between Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Serbia to improve the situation in the region and reinforce good neighbourly cooperation, according to a press release issued after his meeting with the members of the BiH Presidency.

Erdogan held talks with Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić in Sarajevo, where he arrived to attend a summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process.

The Presidency's press release said Erdogan expressed willingness to support the revival of cooperation between Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.

He also confirmed Turkey's support for BiH's Euro-Atlantic journey, which he sees as a guarantee of stability and peace.

Džaferović said it was important for BiH as well as the entire region to have in Turkey a partner which supported its stability.

He regretted on behalf of the state leadership the decision by Kosovo's representatives not to attend the summit. "I think they made a mistake. They either don't or won't understand the situation in BiH," he said, adding that BiH did not recognise Kosovo because there was no consensus within the country.

He said it was entirely unjustified that Kosovo-BiH cooperation was worse than Kosovo-Serbia cooperation.

More Western Balkans news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Plenković Announces “Realistic and Sober” Approach to EU Enlargement

ZAGREB, July 6, 2019 - During its chairmanship of the Council of the EU, Croatia will endeavour to reconcile the frustration of southeast European countries with the slow pace of integration processes and the great reservation of some member-states toward EU enlargement, and it will realistically assess what calendar of future events can be expected in the next decade, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Poznan on Friday.

"Southeast European countries have great ambitions but they all share the frustration with the slowness of the process. At the same time, some EU countries, and Croatia is not one of them, have deep reservations and advocate a much more gradual process," Plenković said after a summit meeting of the Berlin Process, an initiative designed to help maintain efforts on the integration of EU aspirants in southeast Europe amid enlargement fatigue.

"We have the political and leadership role to try to reconcile those two feelings that currently exist and to establish, in a realistic and sober way, what can be expected for our neighbours in the next decade," he added.

Plenković underscored that during its presidency of the Council of the EU, Croatia would organise an EU - Southeast Europe summit in May next year, which would be "an opportunity to realistically assess what can be done with regard to the pace of each of those countries in terms of their drawing closer to the EU in the next ten years, in the context of the new EU institutions, the new budget framework and the changed atmosphere and mood toward enlargement in some big EU member states."

He announced that Croatia would prepare very carefully for that summit and that he would visit all the countries in southeast neighbourhood and talk with key EU partners.

"I want the summit in Zagreb, to be held 20 years after the first summit of that nature, to be a reference summit and to be concrete so that European prospects do not end up being just a euphemism," said Plenković.

He believes that the Berlin Process, launched in 2014, is a worthwhile move designed to fill the void that occurred in the process of integration of southeast European countries with the EU and that should not have occurred.

Twenty years ago, in November 2000, at the first summit of EU leaders held outside the EU, in Zagreb, a dialogue was established with southeast European countries in an effort to integrate them as soon as possible. Three years later, in June 2003, the second EU-Western Balkans summit was held, and after that a full 15 years had to pass before the next such summit, which was held in Sofia in 2018.

The hope of faster integration of those countries with the EU was extinguished at the Sofia summit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said that there would be no new enlargement until the EU was reformed internally so that it could be more efficient. He reiterated that just a few days ago.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

President Attends Brdo-Brijuni Process Summit in Albania

ZAGREB, May 9, 2019 - Participants in the Brdo-Brijuni Process summit in Tirana on Thursday called on the European Union to take into account also geopolitical reasons in the process of its enlargement to Western Balkan countries, noting that the full integration of Western Balkan countries with the European system of values would be important for Europe's overall stability.

We call on the European Union to consider its enlargement to the Western Balkans as a matter of geopolitical importance, reads a joint declaration adopted at the summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process.

Full integration of Western Balkan countries with the European system of values is an important factor of overall European stability, the document says.

The meeting in Tirana was a regular annual summit of the leaders of countries involved in the Brdo-Brijuni initiative that was launched by Croatia and Slovenia in 2013.

This year's summit was organised by Albanian President Ilir Meta and attending it, as co-chairs of the Brdo-Brijuni Process, were Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Slovenian President Borut Pahor, as well as the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo, countries that are at different stages of integration with the EU.

Attending was also the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and, as a guest of honour, Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Participants in the summit underlined in the closing declaration that candidate countries must meet all EU membership standards and called for a more flexible and faster negotiating process.

They also welcomed the Prespa agreement between Skopje and Athens on the change of Macedonia's name to North Macedonia, which has created the possibility for North Macedonia to continue with its Euro-Atlantic integration process.

We conclude that such examples show the way towards stronger European and Euro-Atlantic ties within the Western Balkans, says the declaration.

The Tirana summit was held several weeks ahead of a summit of EU leaders scheduled for early June, at which a decision could be made on the possible formal start of accession talks between the EU and Albania and North Macedonia, which have the status of candidate countries.

President Grabar-Kitarović said in her address at the summit that she supported the launching of accession talks with the two countries, but underlined that all EU candidates and potential candidates had to implement the necessary reforms and align their foreign and security policies with the EU's.

The EU must not leave the countries of Southeast Europe alone and Croatia will continue to be their advocate in the EU, she said.

Grabar-Kitarović also said that during its presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020, Croatia would put the issue of enlargement to Southeast Europe high on its agenda, and that it would organise a summit on that topic.

Addressing a news conference, however, Grabar-Kitarović stressed that she was worried by the lack of progress in the region and Brussels' lack of interest in the region. She noted in that context that the Brdo-Brijuni Process was important for keeping the EU's attention on the region.

Discussions in the EU focusing on internal topics have helped create a dangerous vacuum in Southeast Europe, with people in the region beginning to doubt more and more that progress is possible, she said.

She added that the vacuum she was talking about was being filled by third parties, which were not necessarily good for the region.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor warned that after the coming European elections, the issue of enlargement to the Western Balkans would probably not be high on the agenda of the next European Commission. "That is why leaders in the region must do their best to make the topic of enlargement more attractive to the rest of the EU," Pahor said.

Participants in the Tirana summit also supported the EU's position that one of the membership criteria should be the settlement of outstanding bilateral issues.

We will actively seek to enable dialogue to continue and trust to become deeper in the region that we represent. All outstanding issues will be solved peacefully, in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, reads the closing declaration.

In that context, the summit also discussed relations between Serbia and Kosovo after a recent summit on that topic, organised in Berlin by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, failed.

President Meta said that the atmosphere at the summit was constructive and expressed a wish for the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade to continue.

A decision was made that the next summit should be held in Slovenia.

Pahor said that together with President Grabar-Kitarović he had sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inviting him to be a special guest at the next summit. If Guterres agrees, the next summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process will most probably be held in mid-November this year in Brdo pri Kranju, said Pahor.

More news about the Western Balkans can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Croatian National Bank to Provide Assistance to Western Balkans Central Banks

ZAGREB, May 8, 2019 - Croatian National Bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujčić said on Wednesday the HNB would continue to provide expert assistance and technical support to central banks in the Western Balkans so as to help them adjust to standards on which the European Union insists.

Vujčić is part of Croatia's delegation attending the annual assembly of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) held in Sarajevo. The meeting is focused on the situation in the Western Balkans, namely its political and economic prospects.

Commenting on the event, Vujčić told Hina that from the point of view of Croatia's interest it was good that the EBRD concentrated on the Western Balkans, as this region was Croatia's immediate neighbourhood.

"Croatia is today and will be in the future one of the man links between the European Union and the Western Balkans," Vujčić said.

He added that Croatia was prepared to share its experience from absorbing money from EBRD funds with its neighbours. The HNB, within the frameworks of EU assistance programmes, is supporting the central banks of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and soon, probably, North Macedonia.

"Our involvement in the region in that regard is very, very great," Vujčić said.

According to him, the participants in the EBRD annual assembly will also discuss a strategy of the EBRD's future activities. One of the important tasks of the EBRD is to finance infrastructure projects and thus create prerequisites for economic development. This was the case in Croatia as well.

Owing to the level of its development, Croatia is no longer in the focus of the EBRD, which over the past years spread its operations to Mongolia and Africa.

More news about the Croatian National Bank can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Plenković Participates in Balkan Summit in Berlin

ZAGREB, April 30, 2019 - A Balkan summit in Berlin has ended without a concrete agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding blocked negotiations, but it has been agreed to continue dialogue in order to diffuse existing tensions.

Western Balkan leaders gathered in Berlin on Monday, with the goal of defusing the worsening feud between Serbia and its former province, Kosovo.

The summit was jointly organised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. In attendance were heads of state and government from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also travelled to Berlin for the talks.

"The key messages from tonight's meeting was a 'yes' to efforts aimed at restarting negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. In any case, the efforts Germany, France and broad European diplomatic community have made will most probably require more talks in order to unblock the situation," said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who attended the summit.

Plenković said there was no agreement because the positions of the two sides were too far apart.

He added that the so-called Berlin process on stability would continue in early July with a meeting in Poznan, Poland.

Plenković said that at a meeting in Berlin he had underscored Croatia’s ambitions for next year when Zagreb will take over the presidency of the European Council. "We will try to combine outstanding political topics that exist between Southeast European countries and the institutional part of drawing closer to the European Union," Plenković said.

The next meeting in this form will take place in Paris in early July.

Serbia and Kosovo's relationship has been fraught for years, with Belgrade refusing to recognise its neighbour's move to declare independence from Serbia in 2008. Some 100 countries have recognised Kosovo as a sovereign country.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Monday evening he was disappointed with the outcome of a Balkan summit in Berlin which ended with no agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding blocked negotiations, stressing that most participants were criticising Serbia but that the exceptions were Croatia and Slovenia.

"I have to admit that representatives of Slovenia and Croatia were fair and we have nothing to hold against them," Vučić said after the Berlin summit.

Vučić particularly criticised the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić who, according to Vučić, was extremely unfair when talking about the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska.

Vučić also said that Serbia's representatives at the summit were put in an awkward position, as they were surrounded by countries that have already recognised Kosovo. He said it was good that dialogue will resume, adding however that "Serbia had no serious partner for dialogue."

Vučić also thanked the hosts of the summit German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for the enormous effort they have invested so as to make progress in the Western Balkans.

More news about Croatia and the Balkans can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Croatia Wants EU to Keep Focus on Southeast Europe

ZAGREB, April 8, 2019 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said in Vienna on Monday Croatia would continue to insist that the European Union keeps focus on Southeast Europe, so that it too could be integrated with the EU system once aspirants meet the membership conditions.

Jandroković is taking part in a conference of European Union parliament speakers which is being held in Vienna on Monday and Tuesday.

Th conference will bring together parliament speakers of the EU member states, the European Parliament, EU candidate countries, as well as parliament presidents from Western Balkan countries -- candidates for EU membership -- as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina which does not have candidate status but was invited as a special guest.

The heads of parliament will over two session, organised as part of Austria's EU presidency, talk about the enlargement policy and challenges of the May EP election.

Jandroković told the press before the conference that it was exceptionally important to Croatia for the EU to realise how important its neighbourhood was.

"We want to see security, stability and economic prosperity in our neighbourhood. I will explain Croatia's position and underscore that we are prepared to support European prospects and future membership for all our neighbouring countries, after they meet the necessary criteria of course," Jandroković said.

Jandroković also said that Croatia wanted all potential members to be assessed according to their own merits, adding that Zagreb was prepared to assist them with its experience and knowledge.

Later today, the Croatian Parliament Speaker is expected to meet the President of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka. Apart from parliamentary cooperation, their talks are also expected to focus on the commemoration at Bleiburg.

More news about Western Balkans can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Croatia to Strongly Advocate EU Integration of Western Balkans

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Tuesday that during its chairmanship of the European Union Croatia would strongly advocate the EU integration of Western Balkans based on individual merit and fulfilment of membership criteria.

"In less than a year Croatia will for the first time chair the Council of the European Union, and enlargement will be one of our four priorities, along with economic growth and employment, connectivity and security," Jandroković said at a conference of parliament speakers of Adriatic-Ionian Initiative member states in the Montenegrin coastal town of Budva.

The Adriatic-Ionian Initiative was launched in Ancona in 2000, bringing together nine countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. It serves as a forum for exchanging political views and promoting multilateral cooperation in areas such as transport, maritime affairs, tourism, education, protection of the environment and cultural heritage, and combating all forms of organised crime.

"Croatia is particularly interested in cooperation in the Adriatic region. The Adriatic is a major resource for us and its potential for tourism is treated as a national priority, so we will emphasise the importance of cooperation through this forum and bilateral meetings," Jandroković told Croatian reporters covering the conference.

On the margins of the conference, Jandroković met with Albanian Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci, expressing support for Albania's EU membership bid and reform efforts. He said that Croatia was willing to continue to provide Albania with professional and technical assistance, especially through parliamentary cooperation, inviting Ruci to visit Croatia.

The two officials agreed that the initiative was a good framework for cooperation in the Adriatic-Ionian region.

"Albania is important to us because we share the Adriatic region and we have a problem with refuse coming from Albania. This forum is a chance for us to discuss environmental protection in the Adriatic because the Adriatic is a very important resource that ensures tourism development and it won't remain this way unless we look after it ecologically," Jandroković said.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Duško Marković said in his opening remarks that dialogue was a necessary precondition for strengthening the partnership and promoting cooperation in tourism, culture, sustainable fisheries and clean energy in the Adriatic-Ionian region.

More news about Croatia and the Western Balkans region can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Croatia Supports Security Cooperation between SE European Countries

ZAGREB, February 26, 2019 - Croatia strongly supports security cooperation within all three internal security pillars of the Brdo Process - fighting terrorism, preventing organised crime and protecting the borders, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said at a Southeastern European ministerial conference in Skopje on Tuesday.

Božinović said in his address that Croatia was aware that by developing and strengthening security structures in neighbouring countries it was helping to create a secure environment on the external borders of the European Union.

That's why Croatia is ready at all times to assist and support the countries of Southeastern Europe in making further progress on their path to EU membership and will continue sharing its experience and knowledge, he added.

Speaking to Hina, Božinović said that it was in Croatia's interest "to fill the gap in security cooperation between Southeastern European countries, and between the EU and this part of Europe."

"Our interest is for the EU to focus on this region as much as possible, given that many challenges to the security of the European Union, and hence Croatia as well, lie here. That's why we are making, as one of the pillars of our security policy, strong diplomatic efforts not just within the EU but also outside of it," Božinović said.

He recalled a recent summit of leaders of the EU and the Arab League which was dominated by the issue of illegal migration as a consequence of economic and political developments in certain parts of the world.

"We need to cooperate in the joint search for solutions in confronting this major challenge to Europe's security. At each stage of the migration route, from sources to transit countries, we look for partners to try and find the best solutions through dialogue. The countries of Southeast Europe are our immediate neighbours from where migrants are coming and we have to find solutions together with these countries, but as EU members we also have to ensure that the administration in Brussels pays more attention to this part of our continent," Božinović concluded.

During the conference, Božinović held a bilateral meeting with Kosovo Interior Minister Ekrem Mustafa, who said that his country was using the good experience of the Croatian police in modernising its police force.

The conference was also addressed by Interior Ministers Oliver Spasovski of North Macedonia and Boštjan Poklukar of Slovenia, as well as by EU Deputy Director General for Migration and Home Affairs Olivier Onidi.

More news about the relations between Croatia and the countries of the region can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Foreign Minister Attends Meeting of US-Adriatic Charter Allies

ZAGREB, December 18, 2018 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić attended in Podgorica on Monday and Tuesday a meeting of the US-Adriatic Charter (A5), an initiative for Euro-Atlantic cooperation in Southeast Europe, which discussed security challenges and future cooperation in the region, the ministry said in a press release on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by ministers from the A5 member states (Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and the US) and observers (Kosovo, Slovenia, and Serbia).

Participants confirmed the significance of the US-Adriatic Charter as a framework for dialogue and cooperation which results in long term political stabilisation and stronger security in the region, the ministry said.

The ministers discussed cooperation between the A5 member states in NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and ways to enhance cooperation in the period ahead.

In her address, Pejčinović Burić underlined the importance of NATO's open door policy, saying Croatia supports the Euro-Atlantic integration of Southeast European countries as a way to achieve long-term stability and security. She said EU enlargement would be one of Croatia's priorities during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

Speaking of current global and regional security challenges such as terrorism, hybrid threats and irregular migration, she said A5 represented an added value to NATO and EU efforts to respond to those challenges.

Participants adopted a joint declaration on this year's achievements and goals for the period ahead. The conference marked the end of Montenegro's A5 presidency this year. Albania will preside in 2019.

While in Montenegro, Pejčinović Burić met with representatives of local Croats. The meeting underlined the importance of their presence in the political and public spheres as well as of nurturing the Croatian identity, the ministry said, adding that the minister underlined that support to Croats outside Croatia was an important government priority.

More news on the regional cooperation can be found in our Politics section.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Six Prime Ministers Gather for Central European Initiative Summit

ZAGREB, December 3, 2018 - The summit of the Central European Initiative (CEI), to be held in Zagreb on December 3-4, is the culmination of Croatia's diplomatic efforts this year, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said on Sunday, ahead of a meeting of six prime ministers and other high-ranking officials focusing on security and economy.

The summit, which is the final event of Croatia's Central European Initiative presidency, will start with a dinner on Monday and last throughout Tuesday, when a business forum will be held.

Pejčinović Burić told the public broadcaster HRT that six prime ministers and other high-ranking officials had confirmed their attendance.

The Central European Initiative was formed some 30 years ago with the aim of helping countries in the region draw closer to the EU, and of CEI's 18 current members, ten are in the EU, five are on the path to become EU members and three are members of the Eastern Partnership.

The prime ministers of two attending countries – Albania and Hungary – will conduct working visits during the summit. Croatia and Albania will sign a strategic partnership statement, Pejčinović Burić said.

In the focus of the summit is the visit of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, a country with which Croatia has several outstanding issues, including Budapest's refusal to hand over MOL oil company CEO Zsolt Hernadi, for whose arrest Croatia has issued a warrant on the charges that he gave former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) a bribe in exchange for Croatia ceding management rights in the Croatian oil company INA to MOL.

Pejčinović Burić said that Croatia and Hungary had excellent relations in a number of areas and cooperated well in the implementation of the Schengen regime as well as that "it is time we sat down at the summit and agreed on how to proceed."

Progress in relations between the two countries has already happened, she said, recalling that Hungary had lifted its blockade of Croatia's OECD membership bid. "We believe that that is an important step and an indicator of good will," she said.

There are some outstanding issues in relations with Hungary, which is a foreign trade partner to Croatia, but Prime Ministers Andrej Plenković and Viktor Orban will have an opportunity to discuss them on Monday, said Pejčinović Burić.

Even though the central topics of the summit are security, economy and progress, other topics will be discussed as well, including EU membership aspirations, she said.

As for the business forum to be held on Tuesday, the minister said that it had become a usual event, "introduced by Croatia, during its first presidency 20 years ago." "This year's summit focuses on economy," she said.

The minister also spoke of Croatia's preparations for the chairmanship of the EU in 2020.

At the Zagreb summit, Italy takes over the presidency of the CEI from Croatia.

The CEI was established in Budapest in 1989, and its current members are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

The CEI secretariat is located in Trieste.

For more on relations between Croatia and Hungary, click here.

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