Croatia Will Not Expel Russian Diplomats

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The president and the prime minister appear to have come to an agreement on relations with Russia.

Croatia will not withdraw its ambassador from Moscow or expel Russian diplomats from Croatia, after the European Council adopted sharp conclusions about the attack on a former Russian spy in Salisbury, stating that the Russian Federation was very probably responsible for it, reports Jutarnji List on March 24, 2018.

That was decided after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković returned from Brussels late on Friday and immediately spoke with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, which has been confirmed by the government sources. Prime Minister Plenković believes that Croatia has demonstrated solidarity with the United Kingdom in a joint statement issued by the European Council and that there is no need for further sharp moves towards Russia.

The EU has temporarily withdrawn its ambassador from Moscow, and Croatia thinks that is enough. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković will meet on Monday when they will further discuss this issue. On the other hand, some EU member states have announced they will expel Russian diplomats from their countries or temporarily withdraw their ambassadors from Moscow.

After the meeting in Brussels, Plenković stated that the attack “is a serious problem that violates international law and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Chemical Weapons,” and that most states at this time share the position of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the Croatian President has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Croatia and seems to believe that Croatia should find a balance between what Brussels says and what Croatian national interests are, which are to maintain good contacts with Russia.

“This is not the right time for Russian president’s visit to Croatia, but the President has invited him long before these events. Croatia will respect Brussels’ decisions, but there are differing views on Russia within the EU, and there is no need to rush with the decisions until we see specific evidence about the attack. At this time, we have not considered the possibility of withdrawing our ambassador,” says a source from the president’s office.

The EU diplomats did not want to comment on the invitation sent by President Grabar-Kitarović to Putin to visit Croatia, but many of them privately said that it was unfortunate that the invitation occurred on the day when the EU heads of governments stated their firm support for the UK. European Council President Donald Tusk has announced that the EU members states would individually announce measures against Russia on Monday.

However, when it comes to Croatia’s foreign policy, the EU does not want to interfere. “This is a matter for Croatia, and we consider the Croatian position to be what the prime minister has agreed with at this summit,” said one EU diplomat.

Many EU countries have announced measures against Russia, but are quite cautious about it because they want to see more explicit signals from Russia in which direction will Moscow’s behaviour go. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose country is currently holding the rotating presidency of the EU, has described the situation as “worse than during the Cold War.”

It is obvious there is no unity about measures against Russia because some countries have in power those parties which are more inclined towards good relations with Putin. For example, the Austrian Chancellor has said that he agreed with Britain’s position, but that they will not expel Russian diplomats.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Goran Penić and Augustin Palokaj).


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