Croatian President Confident in NATO Unity

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, July 11, 2018 – Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Thursday she was confident that NATO leaders at their summit in Brussels would reach a consensus on common objectives, despite the negative atmosphere created over the past several days and expressed satisfaction that the Alliance would pay attention to NATO’s southern flank.

“Unfortunately, the atmosphere created over the past several days is not as constructive, but I believe that through our common values, notably solidarity, we will achieve the necessary level of consent regarding NATO’s common objectives,” Grabar-Kitarović said before the NATO summit, held in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, amidst tensions between the two sides of the Atlantic.

“What is important for Croatia is that we have managed to attract attention of NATO members which have for years been focusing on other areas, notably on Europe’s east, and have them focus on NATO’s southern flank and dangers coming from that area – potential terrorist activities, illegal migrations, arms and people smuggling and all other problems we are seeing in the Mediterranean – and have the focus of the summit shift to the southern dimension and in that sense, Croatia is one of the countries that is particularly active,” Grabar-Kitarović said.

The president said that NATO enlargement was particularly important to Croatia and welcomed the announcement that a positive message would be sent to Macedonia from the summit. “To us it is particularly important to stabilise Europe’s southeast. I am glad that positive messages would be sent today to Macedonia, following an agreement with Greece. I believe and I hope that the agreement, which I believe is historic, would be confirmed at a referendum. I understand the feelings that some Macedonians have, however, I believe this compromise solution is good as the name Republic of Northern Macedonia has the word “Macedonia” in it. I hope that all of us in NATO will help Macedonia wrap up this process. The admission into the Alliance can be expected only in a year, a year and a half, and it is important that in the meantime Macedonia can attend meetings without the right to vote,” the Croatian President said.

Greece and Macedonia recently reached a historic accord to resolve a dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name that has troubled relations between the two neighbors for decades. Under the deal, the former Yugoslav republic would officially be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia. Until now, it has been known formally at the United Nations under the interim name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Grabar-Kitarović expressed her disappointment with the fact that Bosnia’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) had not been activated. “Croatia is in a group of countries that advocated the activation of MAP for Bosnia. The activation of MAP is far from membership, as we can see on Macedonia’s example which has gone through 18 annual MAP cycles, however it would strongly help Bosnia implement reforms and provide it with the framework necessary for dialogue,” the president said.

Commenting on increasing defence budgets, Grabar-Kitarović said she saw that as an investment and not as an expense.

One of the main topics of the NATO summit will be expanding military budgets. The meeting is expected to see more pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump who has already sent letters to some NATO member countries in an attempt to make them expand their military budgets.

Ahead of his trip to Europe, Trump tweeted “The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more.” By current standards, Washington funds about 70% of NATO spending.

During the 2014 Wales summit, the leaders of the Allies pledged to aim to move towards spending to 2% of their gross domestic products on defence and 20% of that on new equipment by 2024. For countries which spend less than 2% they agreed that these countries “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade.”

Eight member-states already fulfill this requirement of spending 2% of their GDP on the defence: USA, Great Britain, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Furthermore, 9 countries are expected to meet that requirement by 2024, and one of them is Croatia. However, Germany and Spain are among the countries not expected to meet the target.

Grabar-Kitarović declined to comment on accusations exchanged by Trump and European Council President Donald Tusk.

Ahead of the summit, the Croatian president held a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and announced a number of bilateral meetings with foreign officials on the fringes of the summit, including one with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


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