'Croats More Important Than Russian-Finnish Border': Milanovic Threatens to Block Nordics' NATO Bid

© AFP 2023 / ELVIS BARUKCICCroatian President Zoran Milanovic (R). File photo.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic (R). File photo. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.05.2022
The Croatian head of state has repeatedly warned that he wouldn’t support the Nordic nations’ applications until Croatia’s neighbour Bosnia, a US and EU client state, changes its electoral laws to make it easier for ethnic Croats to get elected to local office.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic has promised to instruct the country’s permanent representative to NATO Mario Nobilo to vote against Finland and Sweden’s admission into the North Atlantic Alliance until the election law dispute with Bosnia is resolved.
“If I am to be blamed, I am prepared. I have said before, Croats in Bosnia are more important to me than the entire Russian-Finnish border,” Milanovic said in a press conference on Wednesday, his remarks cited by the N1 TV.
The president pointed to Turkey’s recent actions in threatening to hold up admissions process for the Nordic countries over their perceived support for Kurdish “terrorists,” saying Ankara has shown “how to fight for national interests.”
“Turkey will certainly not budge before it gets what it wants,” Milanovic assured, adding that right now, Zagreb is doing the opposite. “The government does not have a monopoly on foreign policy. Ukraine is not a burning problem for us. This is,” he stressed.
Milanovic called on parliament, which “has the last word” on the matter, not to ratify any agreement on Finland and Sweden’s accession to the EU until the Bosnian Croat election issue is resolved. “If the parliament does not ratify, at that moment, unbelievable interest for Croatia’s problem will arise” he indicated.
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Croatia’s foreign ministry has dismissed Milanovic’s remarks, indicating last week that ambassador Nobilo would be required to follow its instructions, not those of the president. Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman also accused Milanovic of “ruining” Croatia’s reputation in the West, saying the president’s statements were tantamount to “blackmail.”
Milanovic began trying to tie the Nordic NATO issue to Bosnia’s election laws last month, stressing that while Finland and Sweden’s membership bids for NATO could be discussed, they also constituted a “very dangerous adventure.”
“As far as I’m concerned, let them join NATO…But until the issue of the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina is solved, until the Americans, the British, the Germans, if they can and want to, force [Bosnia] to change the election law in the next six months and give Croats their fundamental rights, the parliament must not ratify anyone’s accession to NATO,” he said in late April.
“For me, that’s a vital national interest of the Croatian state, nation and people – that Bosnia be a functioning state,” he added.
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Croatia has been a NATO member since 2009, and a member of the European Union since 2013. The country joined the Western bloc as part of the third post-Cold War expansion of the alliance – which has seen every former member of the defunct Warsaw Pact alliance, three former republics of the USSR, and four former republics of Yugoslavia, swallowed up by the anti-Russia alliance.
Authorities in Bosnia – which was bombed by NATO in 1995 during the Yugoslav Wars, have expressed interest in joining the alliance, although less than 10 percent of the country’s ethnic Serbs support the idea. NATO nevertheless agreed to launch a ‘Membership Action Plan’ for Sarajevo in 2010.
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