kolinda grabar kitarović.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ/ lsd

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has been named Person of the Year 2015 by the Vecernji List daily, and in an interview she gave on that occasion for the daily's issue of Sunday, she said that her most important result in her first year in office were numerous changes on the foreign policy front.

"In some areas more was done - as for foreign policy results in the past year, they are really impressive. Along with the relocation of my office, which happened several times last year, those are the key achievements of my administration," she said in the interview.

"I want Croatia's foreign policy to be much more self-confident and when it comes to the EU and NATO, I want us to be more policy-makers than to follow others."

She added to her results "the moving of the vertical, the refusal to shut ourselves away in Southeast Europe", establishing connections, "establishing the vertical between the Adriatic and the Baltic, the Black Sea, the linking of north and south, of the authentic central Europe to which we have always belonged," which, she said, "our people have welcomed very positively."

Grabar-Kitarovic said this did not mean neglecting other Croatian interests, such as the protection of the Croat people, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina, good neighbourly relations, and the solving of outstanding issues, as well as the development of economic and other relations.

Even though in terms of economic development and investment Croatia continues to rely the most on Germany and trade has been increasing with the countries of the Visegrad Group - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, plus Austria and Slovenia, emphasis should be put on strengthening economic relations beyond the EU, primarily with central Asian countries and China, Grabar-Kitarovic said.

As one of the main tasks Grabar-Kitarovic underlined common efforts in dealing with the migrant crisis through talks and cooperation. "I believe that one of our first tasks is to move the wire fence from the border with Hungary and Slovenia," she said, adding that the migrant crisis was a long-term issue that had still not been defined well in the EU.

Asked if she expected to cooperate better with new Foreign Minister Miro Kovac than with the Zoran Milanovic government, Grabar-Kitarovic said that she believed and expected the overall cooperation to be better and more harmonised, underlining that this had nothing to do with their similar ideological views.

By becoming President, I accepted to be the president of all Croatian citizens regardless of their political preferences, she said, adding that her primary task was to "point out problems in society and encourage their solution", "within my constitutional powers", which, she said, she had no wish to expand.

"This is not about expanding my powers and at this moment that is not on the agenda at all," she said. The current presidential powers are sufficient, on the condition there is good will for cooperation on the government's part, she said, adding that she and Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic "think and work similarly."

Grabar-Kitarovic is the first woman politician to win the Vecernji List's Person of the Year award and she was among 11 prominent public figures competing for the title.

The daily has been awarding the title since 2011 as a sign of acknowledgement for Croatians who with their work contribute to the country's progress and image.

The award jury decided on Grabar-Kitarovic because she is the first woman president in Croatia's history, because she changed the country's foreign policy course in the very first year of her term in office, and because of her firm position after the November 2015 parliamentary election that she would give the mandate to form the new government to those political stakeholders who prove that they enjoy the support of a majority of members of Parliament.

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