|Select magazine number|
Interview of Zeljko Kirincic, the Ambassador of Croatia to Ukraine
Mr Zeljko Kirincic represented his country, Croatia, as ambassador to Indonesia, China and some other Asian countries. Now he is the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Ukraine.
Mr Kirincic was interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO, senior editor of Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine.
Excellency, you served as ambassador in Asia, but now you have come to Ukraine which is a European country. Any particular reason for this change?
We, diplomats, say that we are always the last to learn which country we will be sent to (the ambassador says it with a chuckle).
How long have you been in the diplomatic service? And did you visit Ukraine earlier?
I graduated from the Department of Foreign Trade at University of Zagreb, worked for some time as an export manager at a publishing house, then worked as an advisor to the minister of trade of Croatia, and rising through the ranks I was promoted to deputy minister of the international economic relations. Since 1995, I’ve been working in the diplomatic service. After my country gained independence, we did need our own diplomats — and fast.
Before I came to Kyiv as ambassador of Croatia to Ukraine, I had been director general of the State Investment and Export Promotion Agency of Croatia. In the capacity of director I had the pleasure of meeting deputy head of the Invest Ukraine agency and we reached an agreement for cooperation… I visited Ukraine for the first time in 1994 in the capacity of assistant minister of economics.
Thirteen years is a long time — have you noticed any changes in this country since then?
I’ve seen a lot of changes! Kyiv has changed beyond recognition — and much for the better. And I’ve seen considerable economic changes too. I am very much impressed with the potential of Ukraine, the size of its market, its transit capacity… The indices of the economic growth of Ukraine have been very good in the past eight or nine months. I think only now Ukraine begins to realize what it can achieve. In addition to everything else, Ukraine, with a population of almost fifty million people, has a market that can generate much more interest on the part of foreign investors’ attention and to a much greater extent than Croatia can, with its four and a half million people. Since I came to Ukraine as ambassador, a powerful Croatian investment company has expressed its wish to enter Ukraine’s market and even open its representation in Ukraine. Another Croatian company is planning to open two large store chains in Ukraine. One of the best cardiovascular hospitals in Croatia is conducting talks with the Ukrainian side as to the setting-up of a hospital in Kyiv Oblast through a joint effort. As far as I know, there are many multinational companies which show a growing interest in Ukraine.
And if I may express some of my personal observations, I can say that I have been delighted to find a great respect and mutual understanding, which exist between our two Slavic nations, and which are almost palpable. There are so many things in our past, in our culture and mentality that bind us together. It is a great honour for me and a great responsibility too to represent my country in Ukraine.
What is your assessment of the state of relations between Croatia and Ukraine?
In the economic sphere, the trade turnover between our countries reached 130 million dollars last year. We can hardly be satisfied with such a figure, but the rate of growth of the commodity turnover is inspiring.
The political relations between Croatia and Ukraine are excellent, we have no unresolved problems to deal with. We should continue to develop our contacts in the economic, educational, cultural and other spheres. At present, talks are conducted as to the tour across Ukraine of the Croatian most famous folk ensemble Lado within the framework of the Days of Europe to be held in Ukraine.
Since Croatia gained independence it lived through a politically troubled and painful period of time. Now Ukraine is living through a period of political instability. What are the best ways of dealing with political crises?
The country that wants to be a progressive one must be developing under the conditions of absolute political consensus in society. When you reach that state, you’ll be surprised to see how fast your life will change. The people should realize that no reliable economy is possible without the general stability in the country.
In recent decades, my country has lived through hard but not peaceful times. I am happy to say that all these troubles are in the past and that Croatia is a bulwark of stability in South-Eastern Europe. Croatia is conducting negotiations as to its entry to the European Union. The life of my country must be adjusted to the EU standards. The monetary, fiscal and juridical systems must be in good order. Besides, we have to be fully predictable and understandable for the world community.
Croatia is always prepared to share its experience, and I am highly pleased to say this. Incidentally, quite recently, three Ukrainian experts studied the processes of Euro integration in Croatia.
In general, Ukraine should be quite satisfied with the way it went through the period that followed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was no military violence — unfortunately, you cannot say the same about Croatia. But Ukraine had many more problems to deal with than Croatia because the soviet political system was much tougher than that of former Yugoslavia. You can’t overcome such a legacy in one day. The main thing for Ukraine is to be sure of itself — and everything else you have, be it all kind of resources.
Changing the subject, can I ask where you spend your vacations?
I’ve been out of Croatia for the past nine years, and I did not have any vacations in the last four years. I feel the best when I am in Zagreb, the city where I was born and where I grew up. I like it in winter, when there are many people there and when the atmosphere is so cheerful, and I like it in summer, when the city is almost empty. Zagreb is an ancient city. Since 1242, it was under the royal jurisdiction and in the past nine hundred years it has had its own bishops. Zagreb is a city of unique culture.
I don’t think I can provide here an objective judgment but I do think that Zagreb is a nice place to live in. They say that its cultural atmosphere reminds that of Lviv — it’s colourful, sober-minded, and judicious with its own “coffee culture.” Thanks to its small size, it is a city which is commensurable with man.
What kind of family did you grow up in?
My father worked at the railroad all his life, and my mother was a housewife. I was the only child. I was born at a place in Zagreb, which is situated within a ten-minute walk from the central square. Incidentally, now I have an apartment in the building next door to the place where I was born and where my wife grew up too.
My mother died in 1997, and my father, after his retirement, has always been with us, no matter where I was posted as diplomat. Here, in Kyiv, my father is also with us — that is with me and my wife. Our daughter is a student in Beijing.
My pet dog Alf is also a member of my family. When we lived in China, he had a special ID card with a photograph on it. He got quickly adjusted to Kyiv and found good friends in the park where we go for walks (the ambassador laughs quietly).
Does life in Ukraine feel like a big contrast compared to what you experienced in the East?
It is not better, neither it is worse — it’s just different. I find no problems in coming to understanding with Ukrainians. The only thing that upsets me a little is the length of time I will stay here — I feel it’s too short!