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Central European Time Zone UTC+01:00

 Capital City Zagreb

 Currency Croatian kuna

National Day 30 May

His Excellency Mr. Igor Pokaz
Embassy of the Republic of Croatia
21 Conway Street
London W1T 6NB
T: 020 7387 2022
F: 020 7387 0310
E: vrhlon@mvep.hr
twitter: @CROinUK

Croatia’s new Ambassador His Excellency Igor Pokaz explains that he and his family have been living “a truly European lifestyle” since their arrival in the UK last year. While His Excellency and their 16-year-old son are based in the capital full-time, his wife works for the European Commission in Brussels. “She lives in London, but works in Brussels. It works well.” While here, they have been indulging their passion for theatre.

Mr Pokaz joined the foreign service in 1994 after graduating from university. “At the time, we were still in the process of establishing our diplomacy and diplomatic service,” he recalls. He considers himself to be “privileged” to have moved quickly through the ranks: working in the UN department, then the offices of the deputy Minister and cabinet of the minister. After a posting to New York, he was seconded to the Ministry of Defence becoming Assistant Minister (Under Secretary) for Defence Policy. The work involved “focusing on the Nato accession programme, which was demanding and required a lot of energy.”

Preparing for this job in London, Mr Pokaz realised that “the areas in which the UK and Croatia have advanced most in terms of bilateral relations are security and defence. So, my expertise could be an added value. Also,” he continues, “in this complex and unpredictable world we are faced with all sorts of security challenges. My background will help better understand the complexities of the issues that we come across today.”

A role as head of the office of the CEO of Atlantic Grupa Plc (2007-08) “was good experience to work for one of the largest companies in Croatia and the region,” providing him with an insight into the private sector. He continues: “I now understand how private companies operate, and what’s involved in their decision-making process.”

Mr Pokaz was one of a few individuals at Croatia’s MFA who were named Ambassador at the tender age of 40. The role as his country’s Ambassador to Nato (2008-12) was a natural follow-up to his work in the Ministry of Defence. “The principal challenge was to integrate Croatia as quickly as possible into Nato’s structures and master how the organisation operates. Of course, Croatia’s participation in operations abroad (in Afghanistan and elsewhere) was essential at the time to prove that we were a reliable ally and partner that contributes to global security.”

Following the conclusion of his mandate in Brussels, Mr Pokaz’s first bilateral role was as his country’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-15). Referring to the crisis in Ukraine, he says “I went there in one set of circumstances and left in quite another. We did our best to keep the doors open for dialogue and tried to pursue economic promotion in sectors that were not affected by sanctions.”

During this post in Moscow came one of the most memorable days of his career, when Croatia joined the European Union. “Throughout history, Croatia was part of the group of nations in Europe. 1 July 2013 was the end of a very long road for us and we finally arrived where we belong.”

As Ambassador in the UK, one of his major challenges is to “rebrand Croatia. There is so much more to our country than just Dubrovnik. We must present Croatia as a place that is open for investment, and that welcomes tourists to all parts of the country.” He’s been surprised to observe that there are so few British investments in Croatia and very few Croatian companies exporting to the UK market. “My principal challenge is to address this.” Mr Pokaz says, “with so many British tourists coming to Croatia, the obvious sector to invest in would be tourism. We have a number of hotels and resorts that could be privatised or built as green field investments. Also, the food processing industry and manufacturing could be interesting.”

Is he hopeful that Brexit might provide some opportunities? “It’s difficult to say, as it’s hard to anticipate what will happen next and what the consequences will be. But Brexit was the legitimate choice of the British people, and we have to respect this. There will be the UK beyond Brexit, and there will be Croatia beyond Brexit, so we simply must establish the best options for working together and moving forward.”


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