ZAGREB, December 4, 2018 – Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković condemned on Tuesday Russian action in Kerch Strait, saying that it was an unacceptable violation of international law.
Tension between Russia and Ukraine has escalated after Russia captured three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews a week ago as they tried to pass through the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Russia has ignored international calls to release 24 crew members, of whom three have been wounded, claiming that they crossed the Russian border illegally.
“We are concerned about the situation in Ukraine. … That is unacceptable and contrary to international law,” Plenković said in his opening remarks at a Central European Initiative (CEI) summit in Zagreb. “We support all international initiatives to ease tensions, fully supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he added.
Security and migration are among the topics to be discussed at the summit, with which Croatia wraps up its year-long presidency of the 18-country regional initiative.
Plenković said that the problem of migration could be tackled effectively only if approached comprehensively, by regulating legal migration and preventing illegal migration.
“We are not a country that has decided to put up physical barriers at the border. Instead, we have deployed 6,500 border police to guard the border, preparing to enter the Schengen system,” the Croatian prime minister said.
He said that cooperation with other EU members and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, known as Frontex, was crucial. “I believe that such an approach can deliver results.”
Plenković emphasised the importance of the CEI for the transfer of experience to countries aspiring to join the EU and NATO. “As the youngest member state, we will unselfishly offer all our experience, knowledge and political support,” he concluded.
The CEI summit is taking place at the end of Croatia’s year-long presidency of the organisation. The main topics discussed are security and economic issues.
Five CEI prime ministers arrived in Zagreb on Monday, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Romanian Prime Minister Vasilia Victoria Dancila have left before the summit ended. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was not present, although he had announced his attendance.
The CEI was established in Budapest in 1989 with a view to assisting countries in the region in joining the European Union. Of the 18 CEI member states, 10 have joined the EU, five are on track to becoming members of the bloc, while three are members of the Eastern Partnership. The CEI members are: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
The next CEI president is Italy.
For more on the relations between Croatia and Russia, click here.