Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (pronounced [ɡrǎbar kitǎːroʋitɕ];
born 29 April 1968) is a Croatian politician and diplomat who has been
President of Croatia
President of Croatia since 2015. She is the first woman to be
elected president after the first multi-party elections in 1990. At 46
years of age, she became the youngest person to enter the
Before her election as president, Grabar-Kitarović held a number of
governmental and diplomatic positions. She was Minister of European
Affairs from 2003 to 2005, the first female Minister of Foreign
Affairs and European Integration from 2005 to 2008 in both the first
and second cabinets of Ivo Sanader, Croatian Ambassador to the United
States from 2008 to 2011 and Assistant Secretary General for Public
NATO under Secretaries-General
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Anders Fogh Rasmussen and
Jens Stoltenberg from 2011 to 2014.
Grabar-Kitarović contested the presidential election held in December
2014 and January 2015 as the only female candidate (out of four in
total), finishing as the runner-up in the first round and thereafter
proceeding to narrowly defeat incumbent President
Ivo Josipović in
the second round. Her strong performance in the first round was widely
viewed as unexpected, as most opinion polls had given incumbent
president Josipović a strong lead and some even showed it was
possible that he would win outright by acquiring more than 50% of the
vote. In the second round, Grabar-Kitarović defeated Josipović by
the closest percentage margin of any presidential election to date
(1,48%) and received the smallest number of votes of any elected
Croatia (1.114 million votes). Furthermore, as Croatia
had previously also had a female Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, from
2009 until 2011, Grabar-Kitarović's election as president also
included the country into a small group of parliamentary republics
which have had both a female head of state and head of government.
Grabar-Kitarović was a member of the conservative Croatian Democratic
Union party from 1993 to 2015 and was also one of three Croatian
members of the Trilateral Commission, but she was required to
resign both positions upon taking office as president in 2015, as
Croatian Presidents are not permitted to hold other political
positions or party membership while in office.
Forbes magazine listed Grabar-Kitarović as the world's 39th
most powerful woman.
1 Early life and education
3 Presidential candidacy
4 Presidency (2015–present)
5 Social policy
5.1 LGBT issues
5.3 Climate change
6 Personal life
7 See also
10 External links
Early life and education
From left to right: Grabar-Kitarović, Sallabanda, Scheffer with
George W. Bush
George W. Bush who signs the protocols in support of
Albanian and Croatian accession to the NATO, 2008
Kolinda Grabar was born on 29 April 1968 in Rijeka, Croatia, then part
of Yugoslavia, to Dubravka and Branko Grabar. She was raised
mainly in her parents' village of Lopača, just north of Rijeka, where
the family owned a butcher shop and a ranch.
As a high school student, she entered a student exchange program and
at 17 moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, subsequently graduating from
Los Alamos High School
Los Alamos High School in 1986.
Upon her return to Yugoslavia, she enrolled at the Faculty of
Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, graduating in
1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish languages and
literature. From 1995 to 1996, she attended the Diploma Course at
the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. In 2000 she obtained a master's
degree in international relations from the Faculty of Political
Science at the University of Zagreb.
In 2002–2003 she attended
George Washington University
George Washington University as a
Fulbright scholar. She also received a Luksic Fellowship for
Kennedy School of Government
Kennedy School of Government at
Harvard University and was a
visiting scholar at the
School of Advanced International Studies
School of Advanced International Studies at
Johns Hopkins University.
In December 2015, Grabar-Kitarović began her doctoral studies in
international relations on the Zagreb Faculty of Political
President Grabar-Kitarović with the US Secretary of State John Kerry
at the Equal Futures Partnership meeting, 2016
President Grabar-Kitarović with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin
In 1992, Grabar-Kitarović became an advisor to the international
cooperation department of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
In 1993 she joined the
Croatian Democratic Union
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). In the
same year she transferred to the Foreign ministry, becoming an
advisor. She became the head of the North American department of
the Foreign ministry in 1995 and held that post until 1997. That
year she began to work at the Croatian embassy in Canada as a
diplomatic councilor until October 1998, and then as a
Social Democratic Party of Croatia
Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) came to power after 2000
Tonino Picula became Minister of Foreign Affairs. After
taking office he immediately started to remove politically appointed
staff that was appointed by the
Croatian Democratic Union
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) to
high-ranking diplomatic positions. Grabar-Kitarović was ordered to
Croatia from Canada within next six weeks, which she at
first refused to do because she was pregnant and had already made
plans to give birth in Canada, however, she eventually decided to
return after being strongly pressured by the ministry to do so. During
her stay in the hospital, she applied for Fulbright scholarship for
studying international relations and security policy. She eventually
moved to the United States and enrolled at the George Washington
University. After graduating, she returned to
Croatia and continued to
live in Rijeka.
Two years later, she was elected to the
Croatian Parliament from the
seventh electoral district as a member of the Croatian Democratic
Union in the 2003 parliamentary elections. With the formation of
the new government led by HDZ chairman
Ivo Sanader she became Minister
of European integration, which entailed the commencement of
negotiations regarding Croatia's ascension to the European Union.
After the separate Ministries of Foreign Affairs and European
Integration were merged in 2005 Grabar-Kitarović was nominated to
become the head of the new ministry as Minister of Foreign Affairs and
European Integration. She was confirmed by the Parliament and sworn in
on 17 February 2005. Her main task as foreign minister was to
Croatia into the
European Union and NATO. On 18 January 2005,
she became Head of the State Delegation for Negotiations on the
Croatian accession to the European Union. Furthermore, on 28
November 2005 she was elected by the international community to
preside over the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention's Sixth Meeting of
the States Parties, or Ottawa Treaty, held that year in Zagreb.
Grabar-Kitarović was the first woman to be named President of the
Following the HDZ's victory in the 2007 parliamentary election and the
subsequent formation of the Second Sanader Cabinet, she was
reappointed as Foreign Minister, but was suddenly removed from the
position on 12 January 2008. The exact reason for her removal is not
known, but it is believed that she often got into conflicts with the
Prime Minister and HDZ chairman, Ivo
Gordan Jandroković succeeded her.
On 8 March 2008, with President Stjepan Mesić's help, she became the
Croatian Ambassador to the United States, where she replaced Neven
Jurica. She served as Ambassador until 4 July 2011. In 2010 a scandal
broke out at the Croatian Embassy in
Washington, DC when it was
revealed that Grabar-Kitarović's husband, Jakov, had been using an
official embassy car for private purposes. Namely, a member of the
embassy's security staff had followed and filmed Mr. Kitarović for
days and footage of the events was posted on YouTube, but were later
removed. As a result, Foreign minister
Gordan Jandroković launched an
internal investigation because of Jakov Kitarović's unauthorized
usage of the official car, as the unauthorized filming of members of
the diplomatic staff and their families by a member of the embassy's
security staff. The investigation concluded that Grabar-Kitarović
herself was, despite having an embassy-owned
Cadillac DTS with a
driver available to her 24 hours a day, using another embassy car, a
Toyota Sienna, for private purposes. Grabar-Kitarović claimed that
her duties continue for 24 hours a day and that she cannot separate
her working life from her private life. She later paid for all
expenses that occurred due to her husband's unauthorized using of the
car, while the member of embassy's security staff who had filmed her
family was fired.
In 2011 Grabar-Kitarović submitted her resignation as ambassador and
on 4 June 2011 became Assistant Secretary General of
NATO for Public
Diplomacy. She was criticized because of the way she left her position
in Washington, DC. Namely, Grabar-Kitarović had failed to inform
Jadranka Kosor in advance of her plans to resign as
ambassador, so Kosor was not prepared to appoint a replacement on
time. As a result, the position of Croatian Ambassador to the United
States was vacant for almost nine months after Grabar-Kitarović's
departure. Grabar-Kitarović, however, said that she did in fact
inform the newly elected President of Croatia, Social Democrat Ivo
Josipović, of her plans and Josipović subsequently confirmed these
claims in December 2014, stating that he even gave his personal
contribution to her appointment to
NATO by writing Grabar-Kitarović a
written opinion that she needed from someone reputable.
Grabar-Kitarović also said that she had on two occasions offered
Prime Minister Kosor and also to return to Croatia, so as
to make herself available to the HDZ for the 2011 parliamentary
elections. Furthermore, stating that Kosor had just ignored her offers
and that it is for this reason that Grabar-Kitarović decided not to
communicate with the
Prime Minister any further.
When Grabar-Kitarović saw an ad for a job at
NATO in The Economist
magazine, she thought that the job was well-suited for her, but in the
end decided not apply for it. It was only when
NATO failed to choose a
candidate for the job in two rounds that she finally applied, and in
the third round she received the position. During her term at
Afghanistan and the Croatian soldiers that are deployed
there as part of a peacekeeping mission. Her task was to take care of
the "communication strategy" and to "bring
NATO closer to the common
people". Her colleagues at
NATO often referred to her as SWAMBO (She
Who Must Be Obeyed). Grabar-Kitarović was the first
woman ever to be appointed to the position. She served as Assistant
Secretary General in
NATO until 2 October 2014.
She was invited to join the
Trilateral Commission and became an
official member in April 2013.
Main article: Croatian presidential election, 2014–15
Croatian daily newspaper
Jutarnji List published an article in
September 2012 stating that Grabar-Kitarović was being considered as
a possible candidate for the 2014–15 Croatian presidential election
Croatian Democratic Union
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). It was confirmed in
mid-2014 that she was to become the party's official candidate, going
up against incumbent
Ivo Josipović and newcomers Ivan Vilibor
Sinčić and Milan Kujundžić. In the first round of election in
December 2014 Grabar-Kitarovic won 37.2% of the vote, second to
Josipović who received 38.5%, while Sinčić and Kujundžić won
16.4% and 6.3% of the vote respectively. Since no candidate
received more than 50% of the vote, a run-off election was scheduled
between the top two candidates, Josipović and Grabar-Kitarović, in
two weeks time.
The run-off took place on 11 January 2015, with Grabar-Kitarović
winning 50.7% of the vote. She thereby became Croatia's first
female post-independence head of state and the country's first
conservative president in 15 years.[Note 1] She was ceremonially
sworn into office on 15 February, and assumed office officially at
midnight on 19 February 2015.
Upon election, Grabar-Kitarović became the first woman in Europe to
defeat an incumbent president running for reelection, as well as the
second woman in the world to do so, after
Violetta Chamorro of
Nicaragua in 1990. She is also the first candidate of any gender
to defeat an incumbent Croatian president. In addition,
Grabar-Kitarović is the only presidential candidate to date to have
won a Croatian presidential election without having won the most votes
in the first round of elections, as she lost it by 1.24% or 21.000
votes. Furthermore, the 1.114 million votes she received in the second
round is the lowest number of votes for any winning candidate in a
presidential election in
Croatia and the 1.48% victory margin against
Josipović is the smallest in any such election to date.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March
President Grabar-Kitarović with Polish
Prime Minister Beata Szydło
President Grabar-Kitarović with Russian President
Vladimir Putin in
Less than nine months into Grabar-Kitarović's term the European
migrant crisis began to escalate with large numbers of migrants
Greece and Macedonia and crossing from
Serbia into Hungary,
with the latter beginning the construction of a fence on its southern
border as a result. In September 2015, after
Hungary constructed a
fence and closed its border with Serbia, the flow of migrants was
redirected towards Croatia, causing over 21,000 migrants to enter the
country  by 19 September, with the number rising to 39,000
immigrants, while 32,000 migrants exited Croatia, leaving through
Slovenia and Hungary. She appointed Andrija Hebrang her
commissioner for the refugee crisis.
With the parliament expected to dissolve by 25 September,
Grabar-Kitarović called parliamentary elections for 8 November
2015. They proved inconclusive and negotiations on forming a
government lasted for 76 days. Grabar-Kitarović had previously
announced on 22 December 2015, if there were no agreement on a
possible Prime Minister-designate in the next 24 hours, she would call
for an early election and name a non-partisan transitional government
(which would have reportedly been headed by Damir Vanđelić), thereby
putting intense pressure on the political parties involved in the
negotiations regarding the formation of the new government, to find a
solution. The crisis finally ended on 23 December 2015 when
Grabar-Kitarović gave the 30-day mandate to form a government to the
Croatian-Canadian businessman Tihomir Orešković, who
had been selected by HDZ and MOST only hours before the expiration of
the President's delegated time frame for the naming of a
On August 24, 2015, Grabar-Kitarović was, as Armed Forces
Commander-in-Chief, presented with a petition for the introduction of
a Croatian fascist
Ustaše movement salute
Za dom spremni
Za dom spremni to the
official use in the Croatian Armed Forces. She immediately rejected
petition calling it "frivolous, unacceptable and provocative".
On September 29, 2015, at the initiative of Grabar-Kitarović the
Atlantic Council co-hosted an informal high-level
Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Leaders' Meeting in New York City which
would later grow to Three Seas Initiative. The Initiative was
officially formed in 2016 and held its first summit in Dubrovnik,
Croatia, on 25–26 August 2016.
On April 11, 2016, after meeting with Nicolas Dean, the special envoy
for Holocaust of the US State Department, Grabar-Kitarović stated
that the "Independent State of
Croatia (NDH) was least independent and
was least protecting the interests of the Croatian people". Adding
that the "
Ustaše regime was criminal regime", that "anti-fascism is
in the foundation of the Croatian Constitution" and that the "modern
Croatian state has grown on the foundations of the Croatian War of
In May 2016, Grabar-Kitarović visited
Tehran on the invitation of
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani called on
Croatia to be the
gateway to Iran’s ties with Europe. The two presidents
reaffirmed the traditionally good relations between their countries
and signed an agreement on economic cooperation.
According to poll conducted in May 2016 for Nova TV, 47% of people do
not approve her work, while 45% do. In March 2016, her work was
approved by 52% of people. Nevertheless, she is still the most
popular politician with 57%, while the
Prime Minister Tihomir
Orešković is the second with 55%.
In October 2016, Grabar-Kitarović made an official visit to Baku,
Azerbaijan where she expressed her support for the territorial
integrity of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stating that
the solution to this conflict "must be peaceful and political".
In a speech held at the ceremony at which Grabar-Kitarović was named
honorary citizen of
Buenos Aires in March 2018, she stated that "after
World War II, many Croats found a space of freedom in Argentina where
they could testify to their patriotism and express their justified
demands for the freedom of the Croatian people and homeland." Since a
Ustasha officials fled to Argentina after WWII, her
statement was interpreted by some as support for them. In a press
realise, Grabar-Kitarović rejected "malicious interpretations" of her
statement stating among other: "It's sad that even today the sacrifice
of many emigrants is not recognized, who were not allowed to express
their patriotism in their own country, their desire for freedom and
Croatia's independence and who, during the era of the former
Yugoslavia, were imprisoned, prosecuted and even murdered." Croats
emigrated to Argentina in three waves of emigration starting in 1848,
continuing between 1918 and 1939, and culminating between 1945 and
1956, when around 20,000 people, mostly political emigrants,
While against same-sex marriage, Grabar-Kitarović expressed her clear
support for the Life Partnership Act, which enabled same-sex couples
to enjoy rights equal to heterosexual married couples, praising it as
good compromise. She also included sexual orientation in her inaugural
speech, and said she would support her son if he was gay.
Grabar-Kitarović is in favor of abortion rights. She considers
that the prohibition of abortion would not solve anything, and
stresses that attention should be paid to education in order to
prevent unwanted pregnancies. Grabar-Kitarović criticized the hard
process of adoption and stated that "the whole system has to be
reformed so that through education and social measures it enables
every woman to give birth to a child, and that mother and the child
can eventually be taken care of in an appropriate manner."
Grabar-Kitarović has spoken in support of green initiatives along
with the dangers of climate change for the environment and global
security. In 2016, she signed the
Paris Agreement at UN
Headquarters in New York City. During another speech at the UN,
she stated that climate change was a “powerful weapon of mass
Grabar-Kitarović has been married to
Jakov Kitarović since 1996 and
they have two children: Katarina (born on 23 April 2001) who is a
professional figure skater and Croatia's national junior champion and
Luka (born c. 2003).
Grabar-Kitarović is a Roman Catholic and declares her adherence to
traditional Christian values.
In an interview for
Narodni radio Grabar-Kitarović stated that her
favorite singer was Croatian nationalist singer Marko Perković.
She speaks Croatian, English, Spanish and Portuguese fluently and has
basic understanding of German, French and Italian.
Three Seas Initiative
List of state visits made by Kolinda Grabar Kitarović
List of elected and appointed female heads of state
Ema Derossi-Bjelajac served as President of the Presidency of the
Socialist Republic of Croatia, a constituent republic of the Socialist
Federative Republic of
Yugoslavia and thus held a position equivalent
to a head of state
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^ "KOLINDA ODUŠEVLJAVA: 'U Međugorju osjećam duboku spiritualnost i
nazočnost onoga u što vjerujem!'". Dnevno.hr. 13 August 2016.
^ "Kolinda sa prijateljima u privatnoj posjeti Međugorju". Haber.ba.
11 August 2016.
^ "Kolinda otkrila: Djeca su me naučila Thompsonove pjesme". 24
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Mate Granić (1993–2000)
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Miomir Žužul (2003–05)
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (2005–08)
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Miro Kovač (2016)
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Ivo Sanader I
23 December 2003 – 12 January 2008