By Umer Nangiana
INTERVIEW: Vesna Pusi?, Croatian Deputy Speaker
Besides the existing business and trade co-operation, Croatia and Qatar have multiple other such opportunities to explore particularly in the energy and tourism sectors. The two countries can also collaborate on humanitarian and development projects in the world’s post-conflict areas.
The United Nations can be made more effective in preventing or resolving conflicts in the world through more integration between its different agencies working on peace and security, development, human rights issues.
Skillful negotiators rather than troops on ground (peacekeeping missions) can be more effective in preventing, de-escalating or resolving a conflict and the UN needs to immediately address the issue of non-state actors’ involvement in conflicts.
These views were expressed by Vesna Pusic, Deputy Speaker of Croatian parliament and former foreign minister and the first deputy prime minister, in an interview with Community on the sidelines of the recently concluded Doha Forum.
Pusic participated in the forum as Croatian candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General. Ban Ki-moon, the current UNSG, is retiring at the end of this year.
“Business people from both countries have been sizing up each other for a very long time. There is recognition that there are many attractive possibilities, however a number of possibilities have not yet materialised,” Pusic says.
There has been co-operation between Qatar and Croatia in the area of building and construction industry, information technology, especially software, food processing industry and pharmaceuticals.
The areas under discussion are tourism and energy. “The biggest of all areas which we kept discussing is the energy sector, specifically the building of LNG terminal in Croatia,” she says.
“We first started discussing that in the early 2000 and because there were some internal problems in Croatia regarding the terminal, Qatar eventually built it in Italy, which is geographically not that far from where it would have been in Croatia,” she notes.
But now, she says, they are hopefully approaching the realisation of that project which would mean formal co-operation between Croatia and Qatar in energy sectors. Croatia itself has a significant number of household LNG consumers; but, the whole of South Eastern Europe is potentially a big market and is interested in getting gas as energy, says Pusic.
And the deputy speaker says politicians and business people who come from Qatar to Croatia always fall in love with nature and tourist resorts there.
“We have a lot of investment in tourism in Croatia, for instance, from Turkey, and considering how good the tourism and services industry is developed in Croatia, that is one area I think where we can co-operate,” she says.
The foundations for such collaboration are already present. There is a direct flight from Qatar to Zagreb, Croatia and Croatia has an embassy in Doha which facilitates many things.
“We are very close to actually abolishing visas for diplomatic and special passports. A number of such categories in Qatar will be excluded from having to get visas. Also, anybody having a Schengen visa can automatically come to Croatia,” says Pusic.
One area where Croatia can attract Qatari investment is the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Croatia which have grown tremendously in the past few years since the country joined European Union.
However, the one most crucial area where the two countries can potentially co-operate and make a difference is the humanitarian and development projects in post-conflict areas. Croatia started one such project in Afghanistan on its own by building a maternity training centre near Mazar Sharif.
“It is my deep belief that development co-operation is something that any country can get involved in. It is good not only for the countries on the receiving end but also good for the donor countries,” says Pusic.
“Until recently, to some extent the understanding was that only the rich countries who can provide billions of dollars in aid can be donor countries. I think we should push a project that I call a ‘defence of small donors’ where almost any country can provide the donor assistance,” she explains.
Croatia, she says, started building a small maternity hospital in Afghanistan close to Mazar-e-Sharif, which is actually running now. It is supposed to be a training center for midwives in the community. These women would not have university degrees, they would be women from villages who will have 6-8 months training and they would probably not be able to handle very complicated births.
But very complicated births, Pusic says, account may be for between 3-5 percent of mother and baby deaths. Some 95 percent of such deaths are preventable through very simple knowledge and skills.
“These women would receive this training and then go back to the village to help people. One such hospital is a good idea, but it does not make a really big difference. And Croatia being a small country does not have enough funds to provide a whole network of these hospitals,” says the candidate for the top UN seat.
By drawing in countries like Qatar in such projects can help establish a network of such hospitals. At the moment, they are observing the pilot project in Afghanistan and based on its success would think about replicating it in other areas.
Vying to become the UN Secretary General, Pusic believes there are certain core issues that anybody wanting to become (the UNSG) would want to address besides management.
“These issues have always been there since my school days and these are peace, security, development, human rights, etc. and in a way these are all so closely intertwined especially, if you go through a conflict or a war as we did in Croatia, it becomes very clear to you that it is almost impossible to build sustainable peace without development,” says Pusic.
“There is a big debate now in the UN about the Silos effect. It is about these areas being so divided that they don’t co-operate and many agencies repeat the same type of work that some other UN agency is doing,” she adds.
In some way, Pusic emphasises, the entire peace building architecture, as it is called in the UN, is a little out of date. Very often the peace-building missions get the mandate that they cannot fulfil or the circumstances are so above and beyond their mandate that they find themselves trapped in a war situation.
This is very counterproductive not just horrible because it cannot prevent killings and compromises the organisations and the peacekeeping missions as such.
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