Croatians in London Newsletter,
for the Croatian community and its friends in London and the UK:
Interview with Josip Paro
Josip Paro was born on the island of Pag in 1955 and educated at the University of Zagreb. He joined the Croatian Ministry of Foreign affairs in 1992, and has held a number of posts including a spell as political advisor in the Croatian embassy in Spain. He is also the author of a novel Uspon mirna covjeka (The Rise of a Peaceful Man). He has been Croatia's ambassador to the United Kingdom since October 2002.
Croatians in London: What do you like about living in London?
Josip Paro: Many things. The reason I am in London is of course the work. London is probably one of the most important postings for any country in Europe. In terms of importance, London is probably second to Washington. The influence of Great Britain is still very high in the EU, NATO, and within the UN system so the challenges of my position are great. Personally I like challenges but also like the responsibility. The government has sent me here to represent the interests of Croatia, and whenever needed to explain and defend the interests of Croatia.
Also we have a regard to the importance of London as capital of the financial market. Its very important to attract investors. That also poses an interesting challenge.
The only thing I dislike about London is the day in London takes only 24 hours. London eats our time.
I'm really happy to be here and to be exposed to such challenges London produces.
What are the priorities of the embassy?
The priority of the embassy of course is to display and to create a positive image of Croatia which in the final analysis has the goal of attracting British investors towards Croatia. I think we should not - as it was the case a few years ago - work so much in correcting distorted images of Croatia. In the meantime, British public opinion has changed about Croatia. Only a few years ago mentioning Croatia would create associations of war and ethnic conflict. Now when you mention Croatia it is mainly linked to holidays, vacations, beauty. That helps enormously. Now we can concentrate on concrete tasks which makes Croatian diplomacy not much different from any other European diplomacy.
Now we are faced with the challenges of normalcy and these are great. We have now in terms of our relations with the British political and administrative establishment relations that are just normal.
How would you assess Anglo-Croatian relations as they stand? Some people would say it has been very bumpy, especially in relation to Croatia being allowed forward as an EU candidate. Do you assess relations as pretty good?
I assess relations now as pretty good. It is not unknown that Britain is a staunch supporter of EU enlargement. It is also not unknown that Britain is among European countries one which is most engaged in the peace process in the Balkans, in its normalisation, both by its security and political presence.
With Croatia's EU candidacy, Croatia's success also is a British and European success. As you have said there have been bumpy moments in our recent relationship, this is obviously due to certain hesitations in Croatia, which has its historic reasons and justifications which caused a tough response in Britain. It is also well known that these thing are behind us, not due to sudden changes in British policy but due to sudden changes in Croatian policy.
At this moment, Britain is supportive of Croatian candidate status and its accession to the EU, both in terms of financial and political support.
We have a successful working relationship with Great Britain.
There are no open issues, except the visa regime. (Croats have needed a visa to visit Britain since 2000) We expect the British government to re-assess the reasons which in 2000 led to the dropping of the visa-less regime. We are firmly of the position that the reasons which may have been justified, are not existent anymore. Croatia is not a country which produces immigration.
On the contrary, Croatia has firm control of its borders and co-operates and participates in all international efforts in curbing human trafficking and terrorism. Croatia is at the regional forefront and we equal most of the European countries in our efforts.
We expect that maybe this year the British government will re-assess their reasons.
Do you have in your own mind a timeframe when the visa requirement will be dropped?
It is hard to say. We firmly believe that there are no reasons for maintaining the visa regime. It is up to the political will of the British government when they will start the re-assessment. I am firmly convinced that it won't take long for the Home Office to realise there are no reasons for the visa regime.
When do you think Croatia will join the EU?
I would say soon rather than saying a date. My firm personal belief is that for Croatia its more important to travel than to arrive. Its more important when Europe will come to Croatia than when Croatia joins the EU. I don't think it will take too long for Croatia to adopt all European legislation. I'm sure that within this decade we shall join the EU.
What are you personal recommendations/favourites of the upcoming Closer Croatia Film Festival?
Tko pjeva zlo ne misli (He Who Sings Means no Harm). I believe that is the best film ever made in Croatia by Croatians. I would recommend that. Moreover, its very likely we will have one or two of its actors in London for the festival.
One of the reasons I like this extremely charming movie is that it was one of the few Croatian films, which although lightweight, discloses the real popular culture and spirit of Croatian society, the Central Europe sprit of it - a great sense of humour which has rarely been reflected in Croatian art pieces. Sometimes it seems when we are watching our films or reading our books, that we are a gloomy nation, that is not true.
This is a film about the vanishing sprit of the middle class world which was endangered by years of communism but survived beneath the surface of the regime.
The spirit of good humour which has survived all the upheavals of Croatian history makes that film so enjoyable.
As a counterweight, there is Lisice (Handcuffs) which is about the oppression of the communist dictatorship. It is about the absurdity of the unquestioned power of the dictatorship.
Finally, do you have a message for the Croatian community in London?
Do remain a community. I think that is the most important thing. As long as there is a community we are going to have a good sum of ideas that bring results. I am particularly happy with the existence and work of the Croatian Students and Young Professionals Network (CSYPN) - I'd like to express my gratitude to the work leading to the Croatian Film Festival.
CIL thanks HE Josip Paro for his time.
Only events run by known and reputable bodies will be listed here.
Closer Croatia - Croatian Film Festival Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, W6 9RL London. www.riverside.co.uk
All screenings are double bills except Breza on 7 October.
£5.50/£4.50 concs per double bills
Vanessa Redgrave is to be the patron of the Closer Croatia film festival. She will open the festival on 7 October at 7.30pm.
Director Antun Vrdoljak will be attending the screening of his film 'The Pine Tree in the Mountain' on Saturday 9 October.
Director Dalibor Matanic will attend the screening of his film 'Fine Dead Girls' on 8 October.
Both directors will participate in Q&A sessions at the screenings.
Actor Relja Basic will attend the screening of two of his films, 'Rondo' and 'He Who Sings Means No Harm'on 10 October
Reception 7.30pm followed by
8.30pm Breza (The Birch Tree) 12
Thursday 7 October
(Ante Babaja, Croatia 1967) 100m sub-titles
Lisice (Handcuffs) 15
Friday 8 October 7.00pm
(Krsto Papic, Croatia, 1969) 75m sub-titles
Fine mrtve djevojke 15 (Fine Dead Girls)
Friday 8 October 8.35pm
(Dalibor Matanic, Croatia, 2002) 77m sub-titles
Zagreb School of Animation: Programme 1 PG
Saturday 9 October 2.30pm approx. 74m
The first Animation programme includes: Alone/Samac; La Peau De Chagrin/Sagrenska koza; The Play/Igra; The Fifth One/Peti; The Wall/Zid; The Fly/Muha; Diary/Dnevnik; Learning to Walk/Skola hodanja; Fish Eye/Riblje Oko and Album/Album.
Tri muskarca Melite Sganjer (Three Men of Melita Zganjer) 12
Saturday 9 October 4.05pm
(Snjezana Tribuson, Croatia, 1998) 97m sub-titles
Ritam zlocina (The Crime Rhythm) 15
Saturday 9 October 6.45pm
(Zoran Tadic, Croatia, 1981) 88m sub-titles
U gori raste zelen bor (The Pine Tree in the Mountain) 15
Saturday 9 October 8.35pm
(Antun Vrdoljak, Croatia, 1971) 82m sub-titles
Zagreb School of Animation: Programme 2 PG
Sunday 10 October 2.30pm approx. 74m
The second Animation programme is a selection by renowned film critic and specialist in animation, Giannalberto Bendazzi: The Inspector Returned Home/Inspektor se vratio kuci; Ersatz/Surogat; Wow - Wow/Vau - Vau; Curiosity/Znatizelja; Diogenes Perhaps/Mozda Diogen; The Cat/Macka; Satiemania/Satiemania and I Love You Too!/I Love You Too!
Nebo sateliti (Celestial Body) 15
Sunday 10 October 4.05pm
(Lukas Nola, Croatia, 2001) 85m sub-titles
Sunday 10 October 6.30pm
(Zvonimir Berkovic, Croatia, 1966) 90m sub-titles
He Who Sings Means No Harm (Tko pjeva zlo ne misli) PG Sunday 10 October 8.20pm
(Kreso Golik, Croatia, 1970) 85m sub-titles
Also at the Riverside Studios:
Croatian Cinema Art: Retrospective of original, award winning Croatian film posters from the 1950's to the present day.
7-10 October 12 Noon - 10.30 Free entry
Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Ambassador: Josip Paro
Address: 21 Conway Street, London W1T 6BN
Tel No: 020 7387 2022
Fax No: 020 7387 0310
Tel No: 020 7387 1144
Fax No: 020 7387 0936
Working hours: Monday - Friday 9.00-17.00
Working hours (with clients): Monday - Thursday 11.00-14.00 Fridays 10.00-12.00
Croatian Students and Young Professionals Network
Address: PO Box 36126, London SW7 2RH
Croatian Catholic Mission
Father Drago Berisic, 17 Boutflower Road, SW11
Tel: 020 7223 3530
Sunday service at 4 pm:
Church of Sacred Heart, Horseferry Road, SW1P 2EF