Q and A with Ana Hrnić, Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board

Questions by Brian Gallagher

The Dubrovnik Winter Festival began on the 27th November. We asked Arna Hrnić about and Dubrovnik tourism in general.

Ana has been Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board since February 2020. Prior to this she worked for over ten years ast Gulliver Travel, in a number of senior roles. She holds a degree in Management Economics from the American College of Management and Technology.

Arna Hrnić

How has Dubrovnik tourism fared over the last year in light of Covid-19?

Dubrovnik is a destination highly dependent on international air traffic, which in this situation of a global pandemic makes us much more vulnerable than car destinations. Although the fact that last year, and to some extent this year, we struggled with the lack of tourist traffic and an insufficient number of guests, we remain consistent and oriented towards the development of Dubrovnik as a destination of sustainable tourism.

Your website has a page with tips for digital nomads. How successful has Dubrovnik been in attracting them?

Dubrovnik was one of the first cities to start with this initiative in Croatia. ‘Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads’ is the name of the event within the European Freelance Week 2020, which was held in the Lazareti complex from October 16 to 25, and after we hosted digital nomads in Dubrovnik from all around the world. In every respect, the City of Dubrovnik has the potential to become a prestigious and desirable location for this revolution. To attract digital nomads, it is necessary, in addition to an attractive destination, to offer better long-term rental opportunities, greater involvement of the local community and global promotion, on which the city administration work strategically together with its partners. Very soon we will also start a special website for digital nomads, where we will provide all the information necessary for their stay in Dubrovnik, we will run some campaigns to attract them.

Dubrovnik Winter Festival
Photo courtesy Dubrovnik Tourist Board

What can you tell us about this year’s Dubrovnik Winter festival? What are the highlights?

This year’s Dubrovnik Winter Festival opens this weekend on the 27th of November with the traditional lighting of the first advent candle in front of the cathedral and then the big switch on of the Christmas lights in the historic Old City. The program of events is out and it might be a little modest compared to pre-pandemic years but we still think it is very rich and  there is something for everyone, from festive workshops for children to free guided tours of the Old City and plenty of concerts. The Christmas atmosphere will be complemented by holiday lighting. The City is decorated with more than 1,200 lighting streams, 30 larger and smaller Christmas trees and more than a thousand meters of decorative laurels.

February sees the St. Blaise Feast. Can you tell us about that, and what plans there are for this celebration?

St.Blaise Feast is a very special day for everyone in Dubrovnik, Saint Blaise is at the same time the patron of the city and 3 February is also the Day of the City of Dubrovnik. Every year we have traditional events such as Kandelora and doves that are set free, an inspirational anthem to St Blaise, a procession of flags and folk costumes, prelates, the secular city leaders, diplomats and politicians as well as throat blessing, in the Church of St. Blaise.

Dubrovnik Winter Festival
Photo courtesy Dubrovnik Tourist Board

It would seem to me that Dubrovnik in winter is an excellent time to visit. Is it as easy to get to by air as during the summer?

Dubrovnik was very well connected in years before the Covid-19 pandemic, but at the moment we have direct flights with Barcelona, Istanbul and Zagreb, so yes, it is much easier to visit us during the summer season. But Dubrovnik is beautiful to visit during the winter months, the climate is mild, most days it is sunny and temperatures are not so low. All the major attractions are open and it is possible to experience the city. Especially during the Winter Festival.

Is New Year’s Eve a good time to be in Dubrovnik? What can visitors expect?

Dubrovnik Winter Festival started on November 27th and it will last until January 6th, and it is a truly magical time of the year to visit Dubrovnik. There is a rich programme for everyone, guided walking tours, concerts, plays, rich gastronomy offer etc so it is really great time to visit Dubrovnik.

What are the Covid-19 restrictions visitors must be aware of whilst visiting Dubrovnik and attending events?

For most of the events, it is necessary to have a covid passport and wear a mask indoors.

Dubrovnik Winter Festival
Photo courtesy Dubrovnik Tourist Board

Dubrovnik will have had millions of visitors over the years, but there are always those for whom it will be a magnificent new experience. What do you recommend they must see on their first visit?

The City Walls are the symbol of Dubrovnik and “a must”, and for tourists who stay longer in Dubrovnik, we would suggest visiting the Elaphiti Islands.

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Q and A with Martina Bienenfeld, head of the Zagreb Tourist Board

Questions by Brian Gallagher

The wonderful Advent Zagreb is upon us, which is an excellent time to speak to Martina Bienenfeld, head of the Zagreb Tourist Board

Martina Bienenfeld
Photo: Dražen Lapić

Martina has been head of the Zagreb Tourist Board since 2014. Previously she had been the head of the Tourism department at the City of Zagreb Office for Economy, Labour and Enterprises. In 2019 she completed her the postgraduate doctoral studies at the Faculty of Economics in Osijek, earning a Ph.D.

How has Zagreb tourism fared over the last year in light of Covid-19?

I would say last year has been the most challenging for everyone, especially in the travel industry. At times, for all of us living in Zagreb with Covid-19 and, unfortunately, two earthquakes, it seemed like we were in the middle of an American blockbuster movie, one I certainly wouldn’t like to watch again. But we have not surrendered, so the challenges resulted in new projects, in adapting to the situation and creating a new quality. I am especially glad to see that most of our tourism service providers adjusted to the new circumstances as much as possible, and that they came up with various innovations and services that followed the “new normal” routine very closely. The focus was put on sustainable tourism through an adequate strategy for the development of safe and health aspects of the stay in the destination, and more than ever, on cooperation, support and mutual trust of all tourism stakeholders.

The 26th International Cartoon Exhibition is took place in Zagreb. Are such popular culture events something you’d like Zagreb do more of?

Of course, actually Zagreb Tourist Board already supports various projects that include popular culture, street art, affirmation of young artists, etc. For example, this year we’ve organized events called Street Triptych and Little Zagreb which are all about popular culture. The first one deals with graffiti in a way that it shows that they can beautify city views, and the latter reflects the living space of our big world in miniature proportions. Also, there’s a project called Pimp my pump which has decorated old water pumps that can be seen throughout the city. It’s an original Zagreb Street art project which adds to the uniqueness of the city. Zagreb Tourist Board will continue to support such projects because they create new outdoor content with emphasis on sustainable, green and non-invasive offer.

I was interested to see that you’ve promoted the Flashback ’91 exhibition, which has opened at the Meštrović Pavilion to commemorate 30 years of the Homeland War. I’ve always thought visitors are interested in knowing more about the war. Are we likely to see more such exhibitions promoted to tourists, which of course has a very serious information purpose?

The Homeland War brought to us our independence and freedom, so it’s an integral part of our history and national heritage. Exhibitions like the one you’ve mentioned are a channel of information for visitors that are interested in knowing more about the war, and we also promote the two museums that are specialized in that subject – Image of War – Museum of War Photography and Memorial center of the Shelling Attack on Zagreb 1991-1995.

Advent Zagreb courtesy of Zagreb Tourist Board
Photo: J. Duval

Digital Nomads is a popular subject at the moment. According to the Nomad List platform, Zagreb is in the top five desirable cities for digital nomads. How do you encourage them to come to Zagreb?

At the beginning of this year, the new Law on Foreigners came into force in Croatia, according to which digital nomads can be granted temporary residence for up to a year. Zagreb as the Croatian capital didn’t want to miss this growing opportunity and therefore, we organized, with our partners, Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Zagreb Nomad Ambassador Project. With the Ambassador Project, Zagreb Tourist Board invites digital nomads from all around the world to seize the unique opportunity and turn Zagreb into their temporary office and home for free. The project has started in July and ends in December and for each month we have elected the ambassadors from the US, South Africa, Israel and Singapore, along with their partners, family or pets. They get a month of free accommodation in Zagreb and become part of the program that includes free coworking, tourist activities and promotion of their digital nomad experience in Zagreb.

The Ambassador Project has been receiving numerous applications from all over the world, which shows just how fast the word about Zagreb being the ideal destination for digital nomads is spreading. To conclude the year, we also plan Zagreb Digital Nomad Jolly Wrap Up gathering which will provide a summary of what has been done and discuss future tasks and plans. Our projects were already recognized by the experts and they received at the International convention trade show Conventa two awards – one for its originality and the other for its ecological, economic and social sustainability aspect. 

Christmas is nearly upon us, and that means Advent Zagreb. This is a fairly recent event in Zagreb, it has become not only popular, but has won awards for the best Christmas Market from European Best Destinations. I have certainly enjoyed it myself. What is the secret of its success, and what can we expect this year?

Thank you for saying that! Yes, Advent Zagreb is definitely our “crown jewel” and we’re very proud of it. The secret of its success is the cooperation of all the stakeholders in Zagreb’s tourism industry and the fact that we’ve managed to preserve that true Zagreb’s spirit. It’s simply the magic of Christmas that only Zagreb can offer during Advent.

This year, Advent Zagreb Christmas Market takes you back to your childhood with oversized toys scattered all over the city, warm lights, smiling faces and, hopefully, some snowflakes dancing with the notes of Christmas carols. For three years in a row, the best Christmas market in Europe, this festive season reveals to us the secret locations where our favorite childhood friends – toys are hidden. We have also prepared a rich cultural and musical program dotted all over the city and a lot of merry atmosphere awaits you in Zagreb’s hotels and restaurants which prepared Jingle Mingles program. More about Advent Zagreb you can find at the official Advent Zagreb website: www.adventzagreb.hr

Advent Zagreb courtesy of Zagreb Tourist Board
Photo: Boška i Krešo

What are the Covid-19 restrictions visitors must be aware of whilst visiting Zagreb and the above events?

All of the events will, of course, be held in accordance with the latest official advice and measures, so I suggest you keep an eye on the official Advent Zagreb website.

Finally, for anyone who intends to visit Zagreb for the first time in the next year, what do you recommend they absolutely must see?

Today, Zagreb, as a Central European tourist destination, due to its charm and beauty, a number of interesting tourist facilities, cultural events worldwide throughout the year, beautiful green oases and tidiness of the city, is recognized as a city of pleasant and intimate atmosphere, unique charm, open and cordial people. Our guests are especially pleased with this combination of multiculturalism, Mediterranean and Central European influence and their permeation, which is reflected in the urbanism, history and atmosphere of the youngest, and, again, one of the oldest European capitals.

I would definitely single out the beauties of the Upper Town, which has a special charm and preserves the spirit of old Zagreb. Then, the Lower Town with numerous events and the beautiful Lenuci’s horseshoe, and our two ‘Zagreb seas’ – Jarun and Bundek. You can start your sightseeing by walking through the lively streets and squares of the Lower Town, and on the central Ban Jelačić Square, be sure to stop at the Manduševac well and toss a coin to make your wish come true. In Bogovićeva Street, find the sculpture Grounded Sun and then take the funicular to the Upper Town to enter the world of old Zagreb. Climb to the top of the Lotrščak tower to admire the view and you can welcome the sunset in the Botanical Garden, a green oasis in the middle of the city bustle.

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Christmas 2021 edition of Most – The Magazine of the Croatian Chaplaincy in London.

The 15th issue of Most – The Bridge – the yearly magazine of the Croatian Chaplaincy in London, has just been published (Christmas 2021)

The magazine was established in 2008 to contribute to the growth of the Croatian Catholic community in the United Kingdom and to connect Croatian and British culture. The articles range from ecclesiastical, pastoral, cultural and historical topics to contemporary events of the Croatian community gathered around the Croatian Chaplaincy. Items are published in both the Croatian and English language. It is the only periodical of its kind in the UK.

This year’s edition has 122 pages with over 15 contributors.

The English language articles:

Christopher House, associate editor of The Daily Telegraph, contributes an article on the effects of Covid-19 on exhibitions in museums and galleries as well as on visiting ancient churches.

Most editor Fr Ljubomir Šimunović interviews Reverend Father John Scott of Westminster Cathedral. Amongst other things, the Reverend tells us a bit about the history of the Sacred Heart Church in Horseferry Road, which is used by the Croatian Chaplaincy for Sunday Mass.

Anđelko Mihanović writes about the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrović and Cardinal Stepinac, focusing on their persecution by totalitarian regimes.

Jadranka Beresford-Peirse, founder and trustee of the International Trust for Croatian Monuments, gives a report on cultural exhibitions in Croatia during 2020, including on  the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt in Rijeka and The Art of the Slavonian Nobility: Masterpieces of European Heritage in Zagreb.

Croatian Language School Head Linda Rabuzin presents a report on her activities, including an item from Julia Molden on the School’s visit to Rijeka, Kvarner and Gorski Kotar.

Flora Turner-Vučetić writes on the Thomas Beckett exhibition which was held in the British Museum in 2020. The article focuses on intriguing Croatian links with Thomas Beckett.

In ‘The Man Who Saved Croatia’, Brian Gallagher reviews the book Field Marshal Svetozar Borojević by Daniel Tatić. The review positively appraises this work on this Croatian World War I Field Marshal, whose military accomplishments were largely forgotten after that conflict.

Croatian Tourist Board London director Daria Reić gives an overview of organistation’s work during the year, including the impact of Covid-19. Activities included a virtual press conference for the UK media and a strong presence at the World Travel Market in London during November.

Croatia’s ambassador to the UK, Igor Pokaz, wrote about UK-Croatia relations. He refers to the message of support and financial assistance HRH The Prince of Wales sent on behalf of himself and the Duchess of Cornwall after the Zagreb earthquake. Amongst many other things, he reveals that the embassy coordinated with British authorities the evacuation of six Croatian nationals from Afghanistan.

Peter Elborn gives a report on the British-Croatian Society’s activities, which included online talks by Helen Maling on her RAF father’s adventures from Klanjec to Vocin during World War 2, Aurelia Young on her time as the wife of prominent MP George Young and Bojan Bujic on Rudjer Boskovic.

Well-known members of the Croatian church community, Mišo Marlais and Dubravka Bakija-Marlais are profiled by Marin Milanov, looking at their life in London.

Article in Croatian inlcude items by Dr.don Ivica Žižić, Vladimir Pavlinić and the late prim.dr Robert Torre.

The founder and chief editor of Most is Fr Ljubomir Šimunović, OFM, Chaplain of the Croatian Chaplaincy in London.

To get a copy of Most, contact the Croatian Chaplaincy in London either on their website here   or at their Facebook page here.

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Why Croatia commemorates Vukovar

Today is the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar in 1991. Here is the 2015 talk CBR Editor Brian Gallagher gave at the Croatian Church in London.

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Croatia, Britain, and the Three Seas Initiative

By Brian Gallagher

By CBR Editor Brian Gallagher

First published in Hrvatski Vjesnik (Australia) 20 October 2021

A recent report has suggested that the UK should be more involved in the Three Seas Initiative (3SI), of which Croatia is a member. Such a move would certainly be in the UK’s interests. It’s worth taking a look the Initiative, and the possibility of British strengthening UK – Croatia relations.

The 3SI was established as a result of a 2014 report by the US think-tank the Atlantic Council, which pointed to the economic and infrastructure disparities, caused by communism, between Western Europe and Central and Eastern European counties. Consequently, Croatia and Poland’s then Presidents Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Andrzej Duda launched the Three Seas Initiative in order to help rectify the situation, with the first meeting in 2016 in Dubrovnik. The 3SI looks to intensify cooperation between its members, on energy infrastructure and digital projects. It is not meant to supersede or rival other organisations such as the European Union.  Currently there are 12 members located between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas, primarily ex-Communist states, with Croatia and Slovenia being the only members from the former Yugoslavia. Austria is also a member – which is unsurprising given its investment in these states, and the historic Habsburg links with a number of them, including Croatia.

The members have established the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund which is managed by the Amber Infrastructure Group based in London, with a view to attracting investment in projects to make a profit. In 2020 the United States announced a $1bn investment into the fund. The United States greatly promotes the 3SI, which has bipartisan support. The National Federation of Croatian Americans has also firmly supports US policymaker’s 3SI involvement.

Currently there are 16 3SI Croatian priority projects, according to the 3SI website, including constructing the A5 Motorway and the infrastructure upgrading at the Port of Rijeka.

A recent report, ‘Three Seas Initiative and the Opportunities for Global Britain commissioned by Daniel Kawczynski MP, chairman of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland, looked at Britain and the 3SI. Amongst its research, the authors spoke to all the 3SI ambassadors to the UK, including Croatia’s Igor Pokaz.

The report concluded that given, as its title suggests, that Brexit and the UK policy of establishing a ‘Global Britain’ would mean a role with the organisation, perhaps even with the Initiative’s investment fund.

This makes sense. As the report points out, there is a geopolitical aspect to the organisation. The US sees it as a counter to both Russia and China, hence its backing.  3SI energy projects allow for liquified natural gas to be provided from the US – a clear commercial interest of course – which also helps balance against the increasing role of Russia in energy provision in Europe. It also balances China’s 17+1 project, established to promote business and investment between that state and countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Croatia is a member of 17+1 – its 2019 summit was held in Dubrovnik.

These geopolitical points do accord with UK foreign policy outlook. The UK has issues with Russia of course, and the recent AUKUS agreement, which will see the US and UK providing Australia with the technology to build nuclear submarines, was aimed at China.  As an aside, Australia might also look at a relationship with 3SI. Fellow Pacific democracy Japan is mentioned in the report as being interested in working with the Initiative. Why not Australia? The country has historic links with Europe including of course its own Croatian community.

The UK historically has a good role in much of Central and Eastern Europe, and an involvement in the 3SI would be very appropriate. During the Cold War, the British stood up to communism and the Soviet Union, being the clear European leader in doing so, helping to facilitate their eventual freedom. However, this was not the case with former Yugoslav members Slovenia and Croatia. The UK – with others – indulged the Yugoslav regime to try and make sure Tito would not tilt towards the Soviet Union. To make matters worse, the UK then played a shameful role in the wars in former Yugoslavia, in particular effectively assisting the Belgrade’s Greater Serbia ambitions by its support for an international arms embargo – which helped the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army commit many crimes such as the destruction of Vukovar. There were other problems since, relating to EU accession. Indeed, Daniel Kawczynski himself was the primary sponsor of a 2005 Early Day Motion in Parliament claiming the then UK foreign secretary was not standing up to Austrian threats to veto Turkish EU accession and allowing Austria to ‘promote Croatia’s accession prematurely’. However, the motion only received five signatures.

UK-Croatia relations are far better now, but the UK’s antics in the past have left a legacy in which is it is not as respected or influential in Croatia and other ex-Yugoslav states as it could be. Ironically, in Belgrade, it seems Moscow has more clout than London.

The UK participating in the 3SI could also be used to strengthen relations between Croatia and the UK. It could help dismiss any lingering Yugo-nostalgia amongst policymakers, the UK media, and others by participating in an organisation that has nothing to do with the dismal Yugoslav past, and which has a positive mission. It’s always possible the UK could create mischief for Croatia within 3SI, but given its past failures, and the current Global Britain policy, a much better possibility for the UK exists. A stronger diplomatic, economic and security relationship presents itself, to both countries benefit. Zagreb is no doubt open to this. London should seize the opportunity.

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26 June – Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Croatian Independence with the NFCACF and CFU

Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Croatian Independence
(Dan državnosti)
National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation (NFCACF) & Croatian Fraternal Union (CFU) will host a Zoom Webinar on Saturday June 26th at 11 a.m. EST.

-Click here to register

Keynote speakers include Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

100% of the proceeds from this benefit will go to Special Olympics in Croatia.

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Bosnia-Herzegovina’s War of the Non-Papers

By CBR Editor Brian Gallagher

First published in Hrvatski Vjesnik (Australia) 19 May 2021

A mysterious ‘non-paper’ has caused a great deal of comment recently. This document, claimed to have originated from Slovenian officials, suggested that that the dissolution of Yugoslavia had yet to end, making suggestions including border changes relating to Kosovo and the partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina (B&H). Much outrage has been generated by this non-paper, with items appearing in the Financial Times and Newsweek amongst others. However, the document’s suggestions have been rejected by many parties such as the Croatian government. The fury about this document has served to obscure a number of developments, stemming from a non-paper jointly put forward by Croatia and other European Union (EU) states. These developments could see a resolution to the Croat electoral issue in B&H and throws light upon the reaction to the alleged Slovenian non-paper.

What is a non-paper? A non-paper is document usually without any letterhead that is produced as a basis for discussion, without having an official status. These can be produced by governments and are used within EU institutions.

In March, the Croatian government along with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia, presented a non-paper on B&H to the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council. The paper spoke of the B&H’s future within the EU, saying no effort should be spared helping the country achieve the fourteen key priorities set down by the European Commission to join the EU. It made clear that Issues related the economy, migration, rule of law and so are mentioned. However, what did upset people  were the references to electoral reform. It pointed out that only by “firmly anchoring civil and political rights of all three constituent peoples and all other citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina to European values and EU standards, can the country strengthen its stability and move forward.” It then called for key reforms, including on electoral law reforms in advance of the 2022 general elections – which it considered to be essential to ensure the country’s future political stability.

What the paper is essentially referring to here is election law as it applies to the Croats, in particular  that of the vote for the Croat member of the Presidency. Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks (Muslims) are all supposed to vote for their own representative. However, due to an electoral rule, Bosniaks are able to use their numerical superiority to not only vote for their representative, but to vote for a candidate of their choosing for the Croat position. The Croats are effectively disenfranchised, causing considerable distrust in the country.

There is also the issue of minorities – a 2009 European Court of Human Rights judgment has directed that those not of the three main groups should receive full electoral rights, yet this ruling has not been implemented. Consequently, the non-paper’s reference to electoral reform is rational and fair – it is not asking for special rights for Croats, but simply that they are permitted to have the rights the Bosniaks and Serbs do. It comes in the context of the Croat electoral issue gaining traction in the European Union and focused on in a number of conferences on B&H, including one co-organised by the Croatian government. However, those who would prefer to see B&H fully centralised – effectively allowing the Bosniaks to dominate – are less that pleased with such developments.

Željko Komšić is the nominal Croat whom the Bosniaks vote in to take the Croat part of the Presidency. He has much to lose from electoral reform – the overwhelming majority of Croats do not vote for him, and he would be out if they had their rights given to them. No doubt rattled by the way things were going, he rather grandly issued his own non-paper in response. Amongst other things, he said that the EU is under the ‘significant influence’ of Croatia and projecting its influence over B&H, claimed that state institutions were being destroyed by Croat and Serb parties and said there was an absence of the Rule of Law. He fails to mention the Croat electoral grievance with him, and he also fails to mention what he has been doing about problems such as Rule of Law – he is, after all, a member of the B&H presidency. He also made severe criticism of the international community, claiming a “lack of leadership from both EU and USA” and in particular the EU Mission in B&H referring to them as ‘dishonest’ in regard to election reforms.

Komšić could not have expected what happend next. The embassies of Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States and the EU Delegation in B&H promptly issued a letter. Without naming Komšić, it was reported that it said “Transparency and inclusiveness are critical for broad success, but frequent attempts to misrepresent or distort the role and intent of some international actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the EU and United States, are counterproductive to the important reform processes necessary…”  Komšić’s non-paper had backfired spectacularly.

More bad news was to come for Komšić and the centralisers. On 31 March, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent a letter to the three members of the B&H presidency. He wrote of changes that were needed for BiH to move to EU membership and a deeper NATO partnership. He said that the United States supported updates to election law address constitutional court decision and the implementation of election integrity measures. This again helps the Croats resolve their issues, given a 2016 constitutional court finding unfairness towards the Croats regarding elections to B&H’s House of Peoples.

The major development amongst all these non-papers and letters took place in April. The Slovenian website Necenzuririano published a non-paper titled ‘Western Balkans – a way forward’, which was claimed to be from the office of Prime Minister Janez Janša – who has not confirmed it. Aside from it being unclear who precisely was responsible for it, it is not known when it was written – quite possibly months previous to its public appearance. The paper suggested that the B&H entity Republika Srpska be absorbed into Serbia, Croat cantons absorbed into Croatia  – or given a special status – and that Albania would merge with majority Albanian areas in Kosovo and North Macedonia. This caused a reaction, with many politicians and commentators making statements both in the countries concerned and outside them condemning it.  EU and US diplomats also repudiated it, including Croatian officials and politicians.

The condemnation is correct: the non-paper is not helpful with its ideas which are not needed and can only cause more problems. It certainly has nothing in common with the non-paper on Bosnia and Hercegovina, which strongly emphasises B&H as being a ‘single, united and sovereign state.’

However, it would seem that Bosniaks and their allies are using it as a way to try to discredit the moves toward electoral reform, of which Croatia is promoting, by suggesting that it’s all part of process that might lead to extremism and so on.

The website Balkan Insight published an article by Bosniak political scientist Jasmin Mujanović which informed us that Zagreb was a ‘likely co-conspirator’ with Prime Minister Jansa along with Budapest, Belgrade and Moscow. Nowhere in the article does he present evidence for this claim.

Some have gone very far indeed with their views. An utterly bizarre comment appeared in an article on the EUobserver website, co-written by Vesna Pusić, former Croatian foreign secretary and Sonia Biserko, President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. They see the matter in terms of populism in Europe. At one point we are informed: “One should make no mistake: The non-paper is not a proposal for the last step in dissolution of Yugoslavia, but the first step in a plan for the dissolution of the EU.” Perhaps they think Nigel Farage helped draft the non-paper?

The Bosniak-leaning Democratisation Policy Council (DPC) wrote an open letter to the EU, US and NATO governments diplomatically titled ‘This is Your Deterrence Failure: Confront It’  and signed by over 250 individuals from the countries concerned and outside of it. In this letter, they say that electoral reforms are a way of “granting HDZ leader Dragan Čović his long-articulated dream of a de facto or de jure Croat third entity – the ethno-territorial holy grail of divisive nationalists.” They do not mention that that the Croats are disenfranchised by having the Bosniaks use their numbers to impose a candidate on them – that is unsurprising as it would not, as they say, be a good look. In reality, the current situation means the Muslim-Croat entity is effectively becoming Bosniak controlled – something far closer to the ‘ethno-territorial holy grail of divisive nationalists’ the DPC mention.

However, it would appear that all this has not diverted international actors from pressing ahead with calling for electoral reform. EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Josep Borrell said after an EU ministers meeting, “We recalled continued and strong support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, I have to repeat it once again. The Ministers agreed on the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to use this year to advance constitutional and electoral reform.”

This suggests that electoral reform, which can bring stability and progress,  has not moved off the international agenda due to the non-paper furore. This is very good news for the Croats, minorities and indeed the whole of B&H.

Posted in Croatia and the EU, Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croats Overseas/Disaspora | Leave a comment

Meštrović Chicago Statues Controversy: Webex Event organised by the Croatian Embassy in Washington D.C

There is an appalling idea that the Meštrović statues in Chicago should be taken down because they may be offensive. Fortunately, the Croatian embassy in Washington is on the case and have organised this webinar on the issue on 11 May (11AM CDT, 6PM Croatia) – everyone is invited to attend! Full details, and how to register, can be found on the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota’s Facebook page here.

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NFCA Webinars – Former US Ambassador to Croatia, Bob Kohorst and Owning Property in Croatia

The National Federation of Croatian Americans are holding two webinars, in association with partners – one an interview with former US Ambassador to Croatia, Bob Kohorst (29 April) and the other on Owning Property in Croatia (24 April). Both these events will be of great interest. Full details from the NFCA below – why not sign up for their newsletter too?

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Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović Seminar Series

The fourth president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, is presenting a seminar series titled Building Policy Consensus on the World Stage: The Pitfalls, Progress, and Possibilities for the Sine Institute of Policy & Politics. Guest speakers will include Robin Harris, biographer, advisor and confidant to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, author of books on Dubrovnik and Cardinal Stepinać and Tanya Golesic, currently President of Jimmy Choo.  It starts today (22 March) and you can register for it here

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