ZAGREB, March 29, 2019 – Croatia attaches importance to its relations with Russia, especially as a trading partner, and Russia’s role in Southeastern Europe cannot be ignored, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday.
“Russia is an important trading partner to us, that is what many of our companies say, and its role in our neighbourhood in Southeastern Europe cannot be ignored, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the president said at a press conference devoted to her foreign-policy activities.
She said it was important that Russia supported the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as President Vladimir Putin had confirmed several times.
During a discussion after the presentation of the latest report on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the UN Security Council, Russia, along with the United States, was the only country to mention the Dayton peace accords and the need to honour them, and was the only country to speak about the equal rights of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Grabar-Kitarović said. “This, of course, is the result of our dialogue and we want to continue this dialogue with Russia, on regional issues, the issues of stability, peace and the future,” she added.
The Croatian president said that Putin’s visit to Croatia had been agreed and that she wanted it to be a well-prepared, meaningful visit. “There have been plans for the visit to take place before the end of June, but since we are in an election year, I’m afraid that President Putin’s visit would be put too much in the context of the elections. I want to avoid that, so we are proposing the next year regardless of who the head of state may be,” Grabar-Kitarović said.
She said she was pursuing a two-track policy in relations with Russia: absolute respect for international law when it comes to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of states, and dialogue with Russia.
The president stressed that between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and her there were no disputes over the conduct of foreign policy. “There are no disputes between the prime minister and me. There may be different interests. He is perhaps more focused on the EU and European issues, and I on the Transatlantic area and other continents,” she said.
Asked what she thought of Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić becoming Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the president said that it would be “great for Croatia to have the leader of the Council of Europe.”
Speaking about relations with Serbia and President Aleksandar Vučić’s visit to Croatia slightly more than a year ago, Grabar-Kitarović said that “it takes two to succeed.” She said that any dialogue, regardless of its results, was good and that it was necessary to talk.
She said it was Croatia’s success that the EU enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans included a requirement that all membership candidates should settle any open issues with their neighbours before joining the bloc. “We don’t want to blackmail anyone, but realistically speaking, we have to take advantage of the rights that we have, which will ultimately benefit citizens on both sides,” the president said.
As for the issue of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war, Grabar-Kitarović said she was disappointed by the lack of progress. “I see it as my own promise to mothers, parents, sisters and others. I won’t say that I’m frustrated, but I am really disappointed that so far we have failed to take concrete steps in resolving and closing this issue,” she said.
Grabar-Kitarović once again appealed to all those involved to make maximum effort so that families who have suffered so much can finally learn what happened to their loved ones and that give them a decent burial.
More news about relations between Croatia and Russia can be found in the Politics section.