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Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

Special Advisor to the Chairman and CEO

NATO/EU Plans, Policy, and Strategy

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is the 4th and 1st female President of the Republic of Croatia (2015- 2020). She had pushed many a glass ceiling, having served, among others, as the first female Assistant Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as Croatia’s first female Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United States of America.

Parallel to her diplomatic and political careers, she has vigorously pursued an academic career in government, international relations, and security studies at Vienna Diplomatic Academy, George Washington University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Zagreb. She is a recipient of the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Award and several national and international awards, decorations, honorary doctorates, and honorary citizenships.


She has initiated and organized, as well as participated in, as a keynote speaker and/or panelist in countless security, academic, specialized, and other public events around the world and has written several articles and other pieces on national and international issues. She is an experienced politician and national and international diplomat, with expertise in geopolitical studies, the Trans-Atlantic relationship, inter-faith and inter-cultural relations, European and Eurasian studies, relations with Russia, post-conflict building and reconciliation, gender issues, and global security issues.


Professional Career Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović began her professional career in 1992 at the Croatian Ministry of Science and Technology and in 1993 transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she moved up through several positions – from an adviser and consequently head of the office of the Deputy Minister (1993-1995) to Director of Department for North America (1995-1997). In 1997 she was posted to the Croatian Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, as a Counselor, subsequently promoted to Minister-Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission. From 2001 to 2003 she served as Minister-Counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (on Fulbright scholarship during the 2002/2003 academic year.)


Dissatisfied with the overall political and economic situation in Croatia and what she perceived were lost opportunities for her country, in particular in the international domain, she decided to run in the 2003 Parliamentary elections in Croatia and was elected to Parliament in November 2003.


In December of 2003 she was sworn in as Minister of European Integration, and in 2005 as Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, managing the merger of the two ministries.


The major objective of her term was to lead Croatia on its path to the European Union and NATO. Having obtained a positive opinion of the European Commission and candidature status for Croatia, as Head of the State Delegation for Negotiations on the Accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union, she played an instrumental role in opening and leading Croatia’s negotiation process until the end of her term-in-office in 2008. During her tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović led a successful campaign for Croatia’s non-permanent UN Security Council membership for the 2008/2009 term.


With the OSCE Ambassador to Croatia, she co-presided over the platform of co-operation between the Croatian line ministries and the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), leading to a successful closing of the OSCE mission in Croatia by the end of 2007.  As the person in charge of the absorption of foreign funds, coordinator of the EU pre-accession funding to Croatia, and coordinator of overall bilateral assistance to Croatia, she introduced innovative platforms for interactive project presentation and direct communication between the entities seeking funding and donors, which increased the transparency, speed, and efficiency of the process. Among others, she was also the chairperson-in-office of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (2006/2007), presided over the Ottawa Convention (2005), and acted as Vice-President of the UN General Assembly on behalf of Croatia (September 2006).


In 2008 Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was posted as Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the United States of America, during which period Croatia concluded negotiations and Ambassador Grabar-Kitarović deposited Croatia’s instrument of ratification, bringing the country into NATO membership.


In 2011, following a NATO-wide competition, she was selected for the position of NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy, as the first woman Assistant Secretary-General ever in the history of NATO and the highest-ranking woman in NATO up to that point. She was part of NATO Senior Leadership and was in charge of transforming NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division in times of austerity and rising public skepticism, managing NATO Channel TV, as well as other media. She was a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the NATO Defense College in Rome, where she also held lectures periodically. She played an active role in organizing, promoting, and managing public opinion concerning NATO’s summits in Chicago (2012) and Wales (2014).


She spent considerable time on the ground in Afghanistan with the ISAF and Resolute Support missions and working with Afghan leaders and the NGO sector in promoting transparency, gender equality, education, and equal opportunities, and managed the Virtual Silk Afghanistan program, bringing broadband Internet to several Afghan universities and schools, investing special effort in providing opportunities for women students and entrepreneurs.


On 11th January 2015, she was elected President of Croatia. As a champion of positive change, during her presidency, she continued her work not only for the benefit of Croatia and Croatia’s position in the world but also on many issues of global importance. She was a frequent guest at the United Nations, promoting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular concerning peace and security, reducing inequality and increasing opportunities, gender equality and education, energy, and environmental protection. She actively pursued solutions to her country’s challenges, such as demographics, the accountability of the public sector, and decentralization.


She participated in the work of the Arraiolos Group of European presidents. Among her numerous international initiatives, in 2015 she launched the Three Seas Initiative with the President of Poland, a platform for stronger cooperation of 12 European Union Member States from Central Europe, intending to increase cohesion, competitiveness, and convergence of their economies through enhancing their infrastructure in the fields of energy, transportation and digitization, and thus strengthening European resilience overall. The United States and Germany joined the Initiative as partners.


She also co-presided over the Brdo-Brijuni process with her Slovenian colleague, aimed at further reconciliation, resolution of open issues, and future membership of the countries of the Western Balkans in the EU. In 2019 she was appointed the Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, a network of 75 current and former Presidents and Prime Ministers. It is the only organization in the world dedicated to directly elected women heads of state and government. She forged strong relationships with her colleagues and world leaders. She is an ardent Trans-Atlanticist and has recently become a member of the International Advisory Board of the US Atlantic Council. She 2020 - 2021 also serves on the Olympic Committee in Japan.


Education: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović  In 1993 she earned a Bachelor's degree in English and Spanish languages and literature from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb, and Portuguese language and literature. In 1996 she completed a specialized annual program in diplomacy, international law, and economics, as well as courses in the German and French languages, at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Austria.


2000 Master's degree in International Relations from the University of Zagreb.

2002 to 2003 she was a Fulbright scholar on pre-doctoral research in international relations and security policy at George Washington University.

She was awarded the President’s Medal for academic, social, and political work. She was also a Luksic Fellow in the Senior Managers in Government Executive Program at the JFK School of Government at Harvard in 2009 and a scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC in 2011.

She has completed doctoral studies at the University of Zagreb, a Ph.D. thesis in international security studies. Awards and Recognition President Grabar-Kitarović is a recipient of numerous awards and decorations, among which is the 2019 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement award for her "remarkable contributions as a leader, diplomat, and public servant." She was awarded honorary doctorates from the Slovak Matej Bel University for International Relations and Economics, University of Economics, Hungarian Corvinus University of Budapest, and Argentinean San Pablo University.


In 2017 she was awarded the Collar of Mubarak the Great of the state of Kuwait and the National Star of the Republic of Romania. In 2018 she received the Portuguese Order of Prince Henry and the National Flag Medal of the Republic of Albania.


During her presidency, she was named honorary citizen and received the keys to several cities around the world. She also received numerous other awards, among others, the “Isa beg Ishaković” international award (2015) and the “Evening News Award” (2018) for promoting European values and the EU accession process in the neighboring state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is also a recipient of the 2016 EBAN “Visionary Leadership Award.

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