Russian foreign minister to visit Croatia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will travel to Croatia today for an official visit. Moscow and Zagreb have signed 11

Russian foreign minister

Photo: Maxim Zmeyev/ Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will travel to Croatia today for an official visit.

Moscow and Zagreb have signed 11 agreements over the past four years. In the upcoming visit, two more documents are expected to be signed, the first on an intergovernmental program for cultural cooperation and the second on consultations between the two countries’ foreign ministries.

Russia and Croatia have not always shared close bilateral relations because of Croatia’s alignment with NATO and accession to the EU. Relations stagnated in 2014 when Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea drew EU ire, and during this time, Croatia had no ambassador in Moscow. However, Croatia restarted bilateral relations in 2017 with an official visit by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s visit to Russia. The move was driven part because Agrokor, Croatia’s largest private company, faced a debt crisis and 30% of its total debt was owed to Russia.

Croatia has since become a significant importer of Russian natural gas. There are growing concerns that Russia wants to leverage economic relations with Croatia and West Balkans states to gain influence in the EU. Thus, if Croatia continues to prioritise strong relations with Russia, countries like France are likely to advocate for halting the EU membership processes for the West Balkans.

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