Croatia's Foreign Minister, Gordan Grlic-Radman, said on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have Croatia's unreserved support for their NATO membership bids, adding that he has instructed Croatia's Ambassador to NATO to endorse the two countries' NATO applications.
“During an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin last weekend I said on behalf of the Croatian government that we give our unequivocal and unreserved support to those countries,” Grlic-Radman told state radio.
He recalled that because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the consequent reconfiguration in the global order, two traditionally neutral countries have decided to seek security in NATO which guarantees that security for its member states.
“They feel threatened and are welcome in the Alliance, considering their potential, they will strengthen NATO’s democratic standards and overall potential (…). Croatia’s Ambassador to NATO in Brussels, Mario Nobilo, has my instructions to approve Finland and Sweden’s membership application and he will be given power of attorney to sign a protocol that will follow in the next few days,” Grlic-Radman said, adding that “some consultations with Turkey are still under way.”
Turkey has threatened to block Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO unless they fulfil Ankara’s demands. Ankara wants the two countries to stop supporting terrorist groups, primarily the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and provide clear security guarantees as well as abolish restrictions on arms exports to Turkey.
Grlic-Radman said that after their application is approved, the parliaments of NATO member states are required to ratify the relevant agreement.
“I am absolutely certain that the Croatian Parliament will ratify the agreement when it arrives from Brussels in Zagreb,” he said.
Commenting on statements by President Zoran Milanovic that Croatia should block the two countries’ accession until such time that the election law in Bosnia is amended, Grlic-Radman said that was “blackmail” and “un-European.”
He added that the Andrej Plenkovic government is “fighting the most” for “the status of the Bosnian Croats in that country.”
“The rights of the Croat people are achieved through legal mechanisms, political and diplomatic efforts and not blackmail (…). The President is ruining our international reputation with his statements and causing political damage that can jeopardize our national interests,” Grlic-Radman added.
He reiterated that a stable Bosnia is a strategic interest for Croatia, underscoring that if the election law is not changed, a security problem could emerge in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the election.
“Being the smallest in size, Bosnian Croats are trapped between Bosnian Serb separatism and the hyper-unitarism of high-ranking Bosniaks,” Grlic-Radman said.
He believes that the visit by European Council President Charles Michel to Sarajevo on 21 and 22 May, who will “try to intercede,” will be important.
Speaking about the sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia, Grlic-Radman said that there are several countries who are opposed to an embargo on Russian oil imports due to their dependence on Russian energy products.
“The sanctions need to be felt in Russia itself and we are trying to eliminate all the negative effects that the sanctions could have on Europe’s economy,” he explained.
Commenting on Slovenia’s possible blockade of Croatia’s accession to the Schengen passport-free area, he said that he doesn’t expect Slovenia “to spoil the plans.”
“I hope there won’t be a step backwards. We have had very good cooperation over the past two years with the Jansa government. Croatia’s accession to the Schengen Area is for the most part in the interest of Slovenian citizens. I am certain that we will find a common solution with our Slovenian friends,” he underscored.
Asked about the fate of a Croatian citizen who joined the Ukrainian forces and has been captured by Russian troops, Grlic-Radman said briefly, “It is our duty to return him home,” and that the procedure requires “discretion.”