Balkan Insider interviewed Croatian Member of Parliament Domagoj Ivan Milosevic (HDZ/European People’s Party). In the Croatian Parliament (Sabor), MP Milosevic is the Chair of the EU Affairs Committee.
Balkan Insider: Tell our readers about your visit to Washington DC. What prompted the visit and what have you learned after several days here?
I visited Washington D.C. to attend International Democratic Union (IDU) Forum. I highly appreciate the founders, Mr. Bush, Madam Thatcher, Mr. Kohl, and every other leader who has been building the IDU family ever since. I strongly believe we need this joint effort of the center right and conservative parties working together more than ever before. We need a joint effort to protect our values of democracy, free market economy, human rights, and rule of law in the 21st century. In addition, former prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is doing great and important work. I will do my best to contribute as the newly appointed president of Small and Medium Enterprises Global to help develop a business-political platform for businessmen and politicians to work close together and exchange ideas. I have also used my time in D.C. to visit the the U.S. State Department and the EU ambassador, Stavros Lambrinidis, to speak about Croatia taking presiding over presidency of the European Council in the first half of 2020. Finally, our German friends from the Hanns Seidel Foundation hosted an excellent round table with business representatives from large American and German corporations.
Balkan Insider: You visited during the NATO Summit in London. What has NATO membership meant for Croatia? For the region?
My country has aspired to become a member (of NATO) ever since the fall of Berlin Wall, and when we broke away from communist Yugoslavia. Our path was long and hard as we had to fight off the aggression from Serbia, and later to free occupied territories. NATO membership is an important because we belong to the family of the Western world of democracy, freedom and human rights. I am very glad to see our neighbors are joining in and hope most countries of the former Yugoslavia will soon become full members. I especially wish that Bosnia and Herzegovina will join soon the NATO alliance as it would be the best guarantor for peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well the whole Western Balkans region. It would be great to have Serbia on board as well, but their leadership seems to see a different future for their country.
Balkan Insider: You Chair the European Affairs Committee in the Sabor. As winter sets in and the migrant crisis on the border with Bosnia shows no signs of easing, what does the Sabor have planned? What are you hearing from fellow Parliamentarians in allied European capitals?
We have entrusted our government with task to control our borders and I think our Ministry of Interior is doing a very good job. Migrants have arrived to Bosnia through NATO and EU member states and we need to find the way to control the outer borders of the EU much better. Of course, we discuss the issue of migrations in the Sabor quite often as we see long term challenges coming in from Africa with an unprecedented increase of its population. Around the EU, when we are not discussing the asylum issues or distribution of the migrants, we discuss how to go to the roots of the problem. One thing is – refugees come from war zones in the Middle East and Africa, but there are also economic migrants. Sending money to Africa will not solve the issue, rather we need to have people on the ground helping develop the social and economic climate in many African countries.These are already some very good examples. I believe the EU has a special responsibility to Africa because of the colonial history, but can’t do this without the U.S.
Balkan Insider: The American Chamber of Commerce considers issues of digitalization and Artificial Intelligence as important areas on which the Croatian EU Presidency should focus. What are you hopes for the Presidency?
Digitization and AI are indeed huge and pressing issues, not only for U.S. and EU, but the whole democratic world. Unfortunately, politicians missed the opportunity to smartly regulate the digital and virtual world. I hope we won’t make same mistake with AI because the consequences for for our kids might be enormous. As an entrepreneur, I am always against new or higher taxes but big digital corporations also need to understand they have to contribute to tax revenues in every country they operate. I am strongly against taxes on revenues, but with talks, I am sure we can find acceptable agreements. I personally believe we need much more law and order in the virtual world than there is today. It is important that our kids understand the real world. And, for example, if I cannot be Peter Pan in the real world, I don’t see any reason why I should be in the digital one!
I have high hopes for our EU presidency – starting by finishing the Brexit saga and then move on together with U.K. Such a long process hurts the credibility of both of us. Also, to find compromise on Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the balance between net paying and net receiving countries. I am absolutely sure that cohesion money contributes directly and indirectly to all our member states economies, no matter their economic development is needed.
Last but not least, I hope the E.U. Western Balkan Summit would really make a difference in the region, primarily for Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo. In addition, the Zagreb – Belgrade relationship could benefit the region. There is a very clear list of issues which Mr. Vucic needs to address and deliver sooner rather than later. I am glad the U.S. is back in Western Balkans and I’m sure that, with excellent cooperation, we can solve many issues burdening the region, especially the youth.
Balkan Insider: For years, there has been talk of a Double Taxation Treaty with Washington. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate moved on similar agreements with Spain, Switzerland, Japan, and Luxembourg. In your opinion, what has been the delay with Croatia?
Yes indeed, I have been supporting it ever since I joined politics at the end of 2010. We probably haven’t been active enough on our side, but American businesses and politicians haven’t seen a promising opportunity. This has changed since Croatia became a full NATO and EU member. More and more American companies are coming to Croatia and I’m thankful for the American Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb for its leadership and enhancing cooperation, especially U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst who is focused on these issues. I hope that the HPS refinancing of one of Croatia’s biggest corporations, Agrokor, which is now under Fortenova, might be a turning point. I hope that the $800 million investment might bring more American, and others, to invest in the food and beverage, and agricultural business. There are huge opportunities in these sectors throughout Southeastern Europe, especially with tourism. But, apart from the Taxation Treaty, we need to improve the business culture by making it more open, improving our business climate, and cutting the red tape in my country, and others. I think this is the only way to encourage our youth and educated people to stop emigrating to other countries and build a better future for their families in Croatia.