Visit of Andrej Plenković to Ukraine, the bilateral relations seem to gain a new boost, now that Croatia shares with Ukraine how it dealt with post-war situation, Russian MFA gets especially nervous.
Today the main activities of the Embassy of Ukraine in Croatia are to strengthen political and economic cooperation, share experiences, humanitarian projects and resistance to the Russian information war. This was stated by Oleksandr Levchenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in Croatia, via Skype, at Ukraine Crisis Media Center within UCMC & Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine project “Diplomacy without borders”.
New push for political cooperation
Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenković visited Ukraine on the anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity. “This is the first visit at the Prime Minister level,” noted Oleksandr Levchenko. Andrej Plenković met with Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groisman. The discussion centered on cooperation in energy sector. Andrej Plenković commemorated Heavenly Hundred Heroes, the Holodomor and the Word War II victims.
The Croatian Prime Minister also took part in the Ukrainian-Croatian Business Forum and gave lecture at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. He spoke about the Croatian war experience, post-war peaceful reintegration, joining NATO and the EU. According to Oleksandr Levchenko, he made half of all his speeches in Ukrainian.
In the course of his visit, Plenković said that the Croatian government is establishing a working group headed by the State Secretary of Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist Ukraine’s European integration, share experience of returning temporary occupied territories and rehabilitation of soldiers after they return from the frontline.
“Croatia was the last to join the EU, and its experience is very interesting and instructive to us, because it differs from how other countries did it. Moreover, Croatia has a unique positive experience of peaceful returning its territory through political agreements. In his speeches in Ukraine Andrej Plenković’s noted that these experiences can be applied to Ukraine’s situation. This made Russian Foreign Ministry nervous,” said Oleksandr Levchenko. To remind, Russian MFA expressed their concern over the creation of such a group and called it “interference in the Ukrainian issue”. In response, Plenković stated this is a surprisingly low-level reaction and he would not further comment on it.
Overcoming the military actions: lessons for Ukraine
Ambassador Levchenko noted that the Embassy of Ukraine in Croatia is preparing for the visit of Ukrainian delegation to participate in the first working meeting of the working group. This group will make it possible to deepen the existing cooperation.
For instance, in March, a group of experts from the Presidential Administration, Defense Ministry, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ukrainian journalists visited the once-occupied cities, learned about reintegration process and including organizing elections on those territories.
The two states have been continuously exchanging experience in rehabilitating war veterans. “Three groups of psychologists and psychiatrists from the National Guard, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Defense have already visited Croatia and have studied the advanced Croatian experience,” informed Oleksandr Levchenko. The fourth group will come to Croatia soon. Besides, Croatian psychologists come to Ukraine to give trainings.
Oleksandr Levchenko noted that more than 1,300 children of internally displaced persons and of killed and injured military visited Croatia for rest and recreation over the past two years. “Last year the Embassy together with the Honorary Consul Ivica Pirić organized a trip for 600 children. This year we have received 750 children and 150 military. This action will continue next year,” he informed.
Croatian culture for Ukrainians
The main area of cooperation is the study of language and culture. In Croatia, the Ukrainian language is taught at the University of Zagreb; in Ukraine, the Croatian language is taught at Kyiv and Lviv National Universities. Currently, 16 Ukrainian students stay in Croatia within an exchange program, and Croatian students often visit Lviv and Kyiv. There is also cooperation between the economics, political science, journalism and international relations departments. Besides, other many more universities have established bilateral ties.
Ukraine in the Croatian media space
The Ukrainian Ambassador says Ukraine is covered in the local news outlets, but it has moved to background, when the situation in Syria aggravated, terrorist attacks in Europe or other more high-profile events took place. There is an information impact of Russian media propaganda, but it is not critical. The Embassy, on its part, is trying to update the developments in Ukraine, in particular, the situation in the east. “We are reaching out to television, local newspapers and informing the Croats about the topics that they should know as citizens of the European country, which also managed to defend its independence,” informed Oleksandr Levchenko.