Drago Lovric, Ambassador of Croatia to Qatar, may have a strong military background but he is genuinely keen to serve his country on the diplomatic front as well. A well-educated and well-read person, Ambassador Drago is all out to boost friendly ties with Qatar.
Community recently interviewed the ambassador about his personal and professional life at length.
Please tell us about your journey so far.
I was born on December 2, 1961. My entire life has been dedicated to the military. After completion of elementary education, at the age of 15, I joined and graduated from a military high school. Following that, I graduated from the military academy. During my career, I graduated from the Joint Command and Staff College, and in June 2004, I graduated from the US National Defense University and I obtained a Master’s degree in National Resource Strategy. I got Master of Science in International Relations from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb. In July 2012, I earned a doctorate degree in the field of National Security with my dissertation on NATO Transformation and Crisis Management in New World Order. I carried out various command and staff duties throughout my military career. During the Homeland War, I was wounded by mortar fire, and acquired extensive experience in planning and execution of the most complex combat operations. Moreover, I was the Croatian Military Representative to Nato and EU and then I was appointed to be the Chief of General staff of Croatian Armed Forces. By serving at these very important duties, I gained extensive experience at the highest Nato level since I participated in the Nato Military Committee meetings for almost 10 years. During my term as the Croatian Chief of General staff, Croatian Armed Forces underwent major capabilities transformation; in personnel, organisation, and major military equipment, as well as the fastest integration in Nato. I have maintained close relationships with Croatian universities and I often was the special lecturer or guest speaker on the topics concerning national and Nato security, strategy, defence reforms, and force transformation. In 2016, I retired from my military career as a four-star general. After my retirement, I was named to be the extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Croatia in Qatar and Oman. I came to Doha in November 2017.
How do you see the realm of diplomacy? What are its basic tenets?
If I can paraphrase a professor from Harvard University, Joseph Nye, I would say that diplomacy is the art, skill, and practice to affect others to obtain the best outcomes for your country through negotiation and attraction. Diplomacy is, by its nature, the employment of communication. There are many tenets that shape good diplomacy. I would like to stress that the purpose of a diplomatic effort is to advance the national interests and maintain good relationships amongst countries and enshrined commitments and values. Integrity, credibility, efficiency, clarity, comprehensiveness, and confidence-building are some of its basic tenets.
What has been your most challenging career assignment?
Homeland War was a very challenging time for Croatia and for me as well. During the war, I was wounded as an infantry brigade commander, and all my duties during the war were very challenging. During peacetime, the most challenging career assignment was Chief of General Staff of Croatian Armed Forces. Lastly, during my ambassadorship, Croatia’s year-long local EU presidency in Qatar was a unique and enriching experience.
What are the other highlights of your career?
I would like to point out that my work and achievements were appreciated both by the authorities in Croatia and other countries as well. I have been decorated with numerous high Croatian decorations such as the Grand Order of King Petar Krešimir IV with sash and Morning Star. I was inducted into the NDU (USA) Hall of Fame. I was decorated with the Legion of Merit of the USA for my achievements, special efforts, and supreme performance of my duties. In 2016, I was decorated with one of the French highest decorations “Légion d’honneur” at the level of Commander. In 2016, I was decorated by the President of Austria with the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for services to Austria. Moreover, I was decorated by Polish Gendarmerie and Minnesota National Guard as well.
What is your take on Qatar-Croatia relations? How many expats from your country are living here and what professions are they in?
Bilateral relations can be described as very friendly and cordial. Good political relations between Croatia and Qatar, which are constantly on the rise, should also contribute to the development of bilateral economic cooperation. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, around 500 Croatian expats worked in different positions in Qatar. The Croatian community in Qatar has been very successful, influential, and greatly appreciated due to their skills and knowledge. Many Croatian expats in Qatar work as medical doctors, engineers, pilots, cultural workers, athletes, and sports workers as well as other highly educated personnel. I would like to mention that the most famous of them is Mario Mandzukic who plays football for Duhail.
Where does the bilateral trade currently stand and what are the potential areas for investment? In which areas Qatar can benefit from your country and vice versa?
Looking at the bilateral trade, we can see that the average trade exchange in the last three years was $45 million per year. This exchange rate was primarily reflected in Croatia’s exports to Qatar. Economic trade has bright prospects because of the complementary relationship of our economies and significant mutual interests. Croatia can offer various products and services but needs foreign investments. Meanwhile, Qatar has investment capital and needs certain products and services. The goal of the Croatian economic policy is to strengthen and accelerate economic growth in three areas: improving conditions for doing business, strengthening institutional efficiency, and boosting investment potential. Croatia has introduced numerous incentive measures and privileges for investments such as non-refundable grants, tax incentives, direct employment incentives, free lease of state-owned assets for investment projects, and other measures.
A major Croatian energy project — the construction of the LNG terminal on the island of Krk — will have full operational capability next year. This LNG terminal can be beneficial for both the countries. This project is vital for the energy security of Croatia and the EU. LNG Krk is a contribution to the further diversification of energy sources, supplies and routes, and could be of interest to Qatar as an entry point for supplying natural gas to the Central and South-East European energy market. Bearing in mind that Qatar plans to increase annual LNG production from 77 million tonnes to 126 million tonnes, the LNG terminal in Krk provides opportunities for both Croatia and Qatar. Qatar›s interest in supplying the LNG — with competitive prices — would certainly be welcomed by gas suppliers in Croatia.
There is huge potential for economic co-operation in tourism of all types, maritime affairs and mariculture, ICT, electronics and electrical engineering, construction, and the health industry. Croatia has great potential and with the help of investments from Qatar, it can develop production capacities that would fulfil the needs of Qatar (and Croatia) for first-rate food products.
What do you do in your leisure? What kind of books do you read?
In my leisure, I like participating in sports such as walking, running, and table tennis. Also, I love reading books related to geopolitics and leadership such as The Future of Power, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era, Soft Power, and Do Morals Matter? written by Joseph Nye. From Qatari authors, I suggest Jassim - The Leader: Founder of Qatar written by Sheikh Mohamed AJ al-Thani and Global Majlis written by Dr Hamad al-Kawari.
How would you describe your experience of living in Qatar? What places do you venture out the most?
In Qatar, I have learned many new things about the Arab culture, customs, and traditions. I have made many friends and I have enjoyed spending time with them in their family majlises. There are many beautiful places in Qatar that I love to visit. I am especially impressed with the Katara Cultural Village. Katara is a unique cultural destination that spreads awareness about the importance of every culture and civilisation through its beautiful architecture as well as various festivals, workshops, performances and exhibitions. Moreover, I enjoy visiting the National Museum, MIA, Education City, Qatar Science and Technology Park, Qatar National Library, and various sports facilities.
What is that one lesson in life that has always held you in good stead?
If you do good deeds, it will always come back to you. And we always need to keep in mind that it is all about people. Without people, everything would be worthless.
What are your future plans, especially after retirement?
I will never, ever stop serving my lovely country, Croatia. I will find the best possible way how to serve its best interests until the end.
Qatar doing all it can to fend off Covid-19: Envoy
It is evident that all Gulf countries have large numbers of people infected with the coronavirus per capita. However, it is outstanding that Qatar has the lowest number of deaths per person suffering from Covid-19. In my personal opinion, the Government of Qatar is doing everything in its power to protect all citizens and residents. I would like to highlight that all the institutions of Qatar are engaged to stop the pandemic.
I can confirm that Qatar has shown a special responsibility towards repatriation. Qatar Airways kept the airlines open and enabled a large number of people to return to their homes from different parts of the world.
My message for the expats from Croatia in Qatar is to continue to do their jobs with the highest responsibility and integrity for the wellbeing of Qatar and their own. I am sure that this pandemic will pass and I am convinced that the expats from Croatia in Qatar will be able to travel to Croatia even this summer. They can travel now, but the issue concerns their return to Qatar. I am sure after Eid al-Adha they will be able to travel and spend vacation in Croatia and come back to Qatar without any obstacles.
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