Croatia’s Confused Foreign Policy

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With the president and the prime minister seemingly leading their personal foreign policies, it is unclear what is the official position.

The invitation of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to the Russian President Putin to visit Croatia has again put the focus on the issue of disharmony in the Croatian foreign policy, but also on the relationship between the two foreign policy co-leaders, the president and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, reports Novi List on March 25, 2018.

Plenković participated this week at the meeting of the European Council which discussed the relations between the EU and Russia. On the other hand, before his departure to Brussels, the President phoned Putin and invited him again to visit Croatia. Afterwards, Plenković announced in Brussels that the state leadership would meet on Monday in Zagreb with the president to discuss the new European policy towards Russia and how Croatia would demonstrate solidarity with the United Kingdom. Asked whether the meeting would include the president, Plenković said they would together agree on the timing of the meeting.

When it comes to the topic which should be on the agenda, Plenković was quite gentle towards the president. Although she has invited Putin without consulting with him first, the prime minister did not turn it into a significant issue. At this moment, for Plenković it is more important that the ratification of the Istanbul Convention proceeds and the president has not voiced her opposition. The prime minister even said that it seemed the president supported the parliamentary confirmation of the document and this is probably one of the reasons why he carefully chose his words in assessing the president’s controversial move. He interpreted her invitation to Putin as part of her ongoing dialogue with the Russian leader.

Asked by journalists whether it was a similar pattern to the one which happened with regards to Serbia, when the government exchanged harsh diplomatic messages with Serbia, while at the same time the president invited her Serbian counterpart to visit Croatia, Plenković replied there was “no pattern.”

The opposition used the president’s invitation to Putin to put the focus on the absence of coherent foreign policy. There is little doubt that in this duel they support Plenković. “The prime minister gave a rather dramatic statement in Brussels informing the Croatian public that Croatia was considering diplomatic measures against the Russian Federation. On the same day, the president invited Putin to visit Croatia. This is another embarrassment for the president, but this time she has also jeopardised the position of Croatia,” said SDP’s vice president Peđa Grbin in parliament. He said that SDP insisted on “a meeting of the state leadership as soon as possible in order to finally harmonise Croatia’s foreign policy.” “I think the time has come to think whether Croatia needs such dualism in authority,” said Grbin.

HDZ’s parliamentary group leader Branko Bačić asked him what SDP’s real position was: “this or when you frantically applauded Russian Ambassador Anvar Azimov at your party convention.”

On the other hand, Plenković claims there is no duality in Croatian foreign policy and disagrees with claims that Croatia does not have a common strategy. “We are here in a multilateral body, the European Union. The attack which took place in Salisbury is extremely unusual and unacceptable on the territory of the EU, a member of NATO and a permanent member of the Security Council. In a security sense, none of the partners or allies can ignore this. That is why this political message is the position of all EU members and Croatia’s position is very clear,” said Plenković.

Translated from Novi List (reported by Dražen Ciglenečki and Irena Frlan Gašparović).


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