September 16, 2008
As part of the Ambassador Roundtable Series on International Collaboration to Combat Terrorism and Insurgencies, The Homeland Security Policy Institute hosted Ambassador Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia on September 16 th, 2008.
Croatia has made tremendous progress since war ravaged it and its neighbors approximately 15 years ago. Since that time, Croatia has transitioned from a recipient of security assistance to active provider of security forces as part of United Nations and other peacekeeping operations. Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović noted Croatia’s refugee population, which numbered approximately one quarter of its total population as a result of conflict in the 1990s, is now non-existent. Since the end of hostilities, Croatia has worked to solve a myriad of problems such as clearing active landmine fields, securing its borders, reforming its armed forces, caring for refugees, building and strengthening democratic institutions such as the judiciary.
Croatia seeks to further its integration with the West by joining the European Union and NATO. Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović noted Croatia believes it will join the EU within 3-5 years, while gaining membership in NATO within a year.
Today Croatia is a worldwide security provider. Its armed forces are currently active in approximately 50 missions led by the UN, NATO and the EU. Croatia’s total troop contribution throughout these missions is approximately 450 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
As part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Croatian troops are stationed in three regions and participate in activities such as intelligence, medical response and Afghan police and armed forces training. Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović placed a particular emphasis on training Afghan security forces and building up Afghanistan’s civil society and administration, noting Croatia will increase its troop contribution as it seeks to demonstrate that it is a responsible ally outside of its geographic region. As an example, the ambassador noted Croatian forces will likely take over as lead nation of a Provisional Reconstruction Team.
In addition to its support of NATO-led efforts in Afghanistan, Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović noted that Croatia’s armed forces plan to participate in the Atlantic council’s ongoing Operation Active Endeavor mission on the Mediterranean Sea, as well as raise its troop contribution to NATO’s Kosovo Force.
Croatia is also active in UN deliberative bodies. Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović explained how Zagreb’s election last year as a non-permanent Security Council member is the ultimate demonstration of Croatia’s transition from security recipient to provider. Croatia also holds the chair of the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, where it supports the UN’s counter-terrorism implementation task force, and pays particular attention to respecting human, religious and other civil rights. The Committee was by organized by UNSC Resolution 1377 in 2001, and acts on implementation of the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Regarding the U.S.-Croatia relationship, Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović declared that it has reached “the level of true partnership.” President Bush’s recent visit to Croatia where he declared that the U.S. will stand behind Zagreb was the most reassuring message Croatians could hear, she noted. Croatian and American officials often discuss Southeast European “neighborhood issues” where Croatian officials seek continued U.S. engagement in the region. She also noted Croatia would like to join the U.S. visa waver program.
When asked by moderator and HSPI Director Frank Cilluffo what Croatia’s priorities will be with the next U.S. Administration, Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović noted five important messages Croatia hopes to receive:
As Croatia works toward hopeful integration with the EU and NATO, it must also grapple with regional terrorism and transnational crime threats. Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović called Croatia a “transit country” for trafficking in people and illicit items such as drugs and weapons, while stating her country has “been working very hard on border security in our region.” While acknowledging the importance of working with Interpol on these issues, she noted that bi-lateral cooperation with Croatia’s European neighbors is perhaps more important in combating terrorism and other crime.
Finally, Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović addressed Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia’s most contentious neighbor. She characterized the relationship as “friendly,” and noted the two countries share a 1000 kilometer border, “so ensuring integrity of the border is very important.” She also insisted Croatia is in favor of Bosnia joining NATO and the EU, and “for it to better develop its economy and social services.” She reminded the participants that while there are some unspecified “minor issues” of disagreement between the two neighbors, the bulk of relations are positive.
As part of the September 16, 2008 Roundtable with Croatian Ambassador Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the Homeland Security Policy Institute prepared a resource page where you will find some useful links to recent reports, government agencies and other relevant information.
Reports & Remarks:
“The United States and the Republic of Croatia Proliferation Security Initiative Shipboarding Agreement,” U.S. Department of State (June 1, 2005)
Croatia became U.S. Department of State (June 1, 2005) the fourth state to sign a shipboarding agreement with the U.S. under the Proliferation Security Initiative. The agreement is designed to “facilitate cooperation between the two countries to prevent the maritime transfer of proliferation-related shipments.”
“Relations between Croatia and the United States,” HINA Croatian News Agency, Interview with Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State (October 13, 2006)
Daniel Fried answers a series of questions covering a variety of topics including NATO, the EU, and improved Croatia-U.S. relations.
"Strategic Defense Review," Ministry of Defence, Republic of Croatia (2005)
This is a strategic level document translated and published by the Croatian Ministry of Defence.
“Croatian Armed Forces Long-Term Development Plan 2006-2015,” Ministry of Defence, Republic of Croatia (2006)
This document outlines the four basic missions of the Croatian Armed Forces—including “participation in crisis response operations abroad” and “participation in confidence and security building measures”—as they relate to the interests and strategies outlined in the Strategic Defense Review. It states that “the threat assessment for the Republic of Croatia indicates a low probability of a classical military threat” and indicates a “need to participate in a wide spectrum of military tasks.”
“Why We are in Afghanistan,” Public Relations and Information Department, Ministry of Defence, Republic of Croatia
This document provides an overview of the national, political, and legal frameworks that form the basis for Croatian Armed Forces participation in the International Security Assistance Force.
News and Resource Links:
The Economist: Croatia
New York Times: Croatia
BBC Country Profile: Croatia
CIA World Factbook: Croatia
Library of Congress: Croatia
State Department: Croatia
Ambassador Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
The Ambassadors Roundtable Series is designed to provide Ambassadors to the United States and their key diplomatic staff with a forum to discuss current and future counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts on a regional or country-specific basis. In an effort to draw upon various insights and experiences, the Ambassadors Roundtable Series builds upon and institutionalizes efforts over the past two years to engage in a dialogue with members of the international community, policy makers, and practitioners.