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PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his Croatian counterpart, Andrej Plenkovic, sign a bilateral agreement in Jerusalem in January..(Photo by: REUTERS)
20 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Croatia
In the geopolitical context, Croatia and Israel share the same Mediterranean basin, where different challenges are becoming a more unifying, even indispensable, point of cooperation.
Today Croatia and Israel mark an important date. We are celebrating 20 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries. On this occasion, I have the privilege of sharing a few thoughts with Jerusalem Post readers, of taking the opportunity this important anniversary offers – a moment of celebration, but also a moment for reflection – to focus in particular on our aims and goals for the future.

Today our two countries are friends and partners engaged in an ongoing dialogue, exchanging support on all issues of mutual interest, bilaterally and multilaterally. The number of high-level visits in the past two years demonstrates in the best way the intensity of Croatian-Israeli dialogue. This year began with the visit of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in January, followed by the visit of then defense minister Damir Krsticevic in March, when the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was signed. Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic visited Israel in July 2015, endorsing the donation by Branko Lustig’s Oscar for the film Schindler’s List to Yad Vashem, and then-foreign minister Miro Kovac visited Israel in May 2016. All visits have been an opportunity to deepen the dialogue, but also to create personal chemistry between the leaders on both sides.

Yes, a lot is shared. Fundamental friendship potential is strong: shared democratic values, history lessons learned, shared European cultural heritage. Speaking of cultural heritage, it is worth knowing that the second oldest European synagogue is in Dubrovnik, a Croatian pearl of the Adriatic, today also a set for the globally popular television show Game of Thrones.

Today, we have reached a point where excellent political relations can (should) be easily transformed into a broad network of cooperation in economy, science, innovation – to name just a few. I am certain that that is the next direction our relations will take. Especially bearing in mind that Croatia and Israel have signed bilateral agreements in almost all areas, which creates a broad spectrum of legislative framework that offers a unique platform for the future enhancement and diversification of the relations.

In the geopolitical context, Croatia and Israel share the same Mediterranean basin, where different challenges are becoming a more unifying, even indispensable, point of cooperation – the Mediterranean dimension can also facilitate so many areas of cooperation: on security, energy, maritime safety etc. There is a saying: a friend in need, a friend indeed. When faced with terrible fires in November last year, Israel reached out to Croatia, asking for assistance. A Croatian firefighting squad was here within a day. This cooperation has been further developed since then, with joint exercises and best-practices exchange.

Another important bridge between our two countries are certainly Croatian citizens living in Israel and the Jewish community in Croatia. They bring the two societies even closer, sharing the identity of both countries and telling, through their personal experience, the unique story of our ties. I would like to invite and further encourage Croatian citizens in Israel to join the efforts of the Embassy of Croatia in Israel, to spread the story of Croatia, of its people, values, culture, tradition, natural beauty – of the country as it is today. Of modern Croatia, founded firmly on democratic values – protected and guaranteed to all citizens by the constitution, Croatia founded as well on a strong determination toward a tolerant, integrative society living in freedom and peace.

The Croatian determination towards a tolerant society is, inter alia, reflected in our cooperation with Yad Vashem on education about Holocaust. For many years now, numerous Croatian educators attend on-topic seminars in Yad Vashem, bringing back home best practices on how to teach the new generations about that tragic and sad chapter in human history, so that the memory of all victims remains in our hearts and minds. I am also proud to announce that in the very heart of our capital, Zagreb, a monument dedicated to all victims of Holocaust is about to be built.

In interaction with the Israeli society, one can get the impression that Croatia in Israel is a household name – many Israelis have visited the country as tourists. Later on, they gladly share feedback with words of admiration for Croatia’s natural beauty and richness in culture, history. We would like to see even more Israelis visiting Croatia; tourism renders the bridges between our countries even stronger.

In conclusion, if asked to describe the Croatian-Israeli relationship in a few lines, one might answer thus: a relationship between two friends remembering and learning from the past, sharing support when faced with challenges of the present, looking for opportunities to shape the future together. Israel has a genuine friend in Croatia – a friend ready to hear and help, a friend willing to support – both bilaterally and multilaterally. There are so many strong bridges between us, but also many more that could be built with joint creativity and innovation.

Happy anniversary Croatia and Israel, wishing to make it from 20 to 200 years and more!

The author is chargé d’affaires of the Croatian Embassy.
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