Croatia Trying to Improve Relations with Russia

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After almost two years, Croatia will finally appoint a new ambassador to Moscow.

According to diplomatic sources, Tonči Staničić will be the new Croatian Ambassador to Russia. However, the appointment procedure for the Croatian representative in Moscow has not yet been fully completed, because he still waiting for Russian consent. Staničić is a professional diplomat and was previously ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Bulgaria, reports Večernji List on January 18, 2017.

He will fill a vacancy left almost two years ago when former ambassador to Moscow Igor Pokaz left his post. Although Pokaz informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about his plans to leave the post for personal reasons six months in advance, the appointment of his replacement has been delayed multiple times.

The agreement was not reached during the governments of prime ministers Zoran Milanović and Tomislav Orešković, although it was generally accepted that Jakov Despot, director of the Croatian Chamber of Economy’s office in Moscow should be appointed as the ambassador. The appointment of the ambassador was reportedly also delayed because each proposal had to be accepted by Moscow, which eliminated a number of candidates.

The appointment of a new ambassador, which has been agreed by two key persons for the process, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, should relax relations between Croatia and Russia

The latest escalation of tensions took place in November last year, after the Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to the visit of Prime Minister Plenković to Kiev on the anniversary of the Maidan. At the time, the Prime Minister said that both Croatia and Ukraine were victims of brutal military aggression and that their territorial integrity was undermined by military force, adding that Croatian experience of reintegration of Eastern Slavonia from the 1990s could be useful to Ukraine. Russia started asking questions why Croatia did not have an ambassador and wondering whether the vacancy actually sent a political message.

The appointment of the new ambassador has been accompanied by much more conciliatory statements from President Grabar-Kitarović toward Russia. In a recent interview, she wondered why we are arguing with Russia when we should be discussing how to stop the war in Syria. She also said some positive words about US President-elect Donald Trump, who is much more conciliatory towards Russia than the current US foreign policy.

“It seems to me that this is a reasonable and realistic position. She has accepted the fact that there will be a dramatic decline of the influence of NATO”, said political analyst Davor Gjenero, who also sees in such statements distancing from Hillary Clinton, whom the President supported. Before becoming President, Grabar-Kitarović was Assistant Secretary General of NATO.

Political analyst Žarko Puhovski agrees and points out that the President “ has lost a political stronghold”, since her project Three Seas “is not interesting to Trump” and the isolation of Russia is now history.

In addition to Russia, it is expected that a number of other ambassadors will be appointed in the near future, including in Washington.


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