Mato Škrabalo, a 40-year-old diplomat, has taken over as Croatia’s ambassador to the European Union.
Škrabalo served as Prime Minister Zoran Milanović’s foreign-policy adviser until 1 August.
The post in Brussels is Škrabalo’s first as ambassador. Before joining Milanović’s office, he was first secretary in Croatia’s mission to the United Nations in New York.
A geographer by training, Škrabalo joined the foreign ministry in 2000. He spent most of the time since at Croatia’s mission in New York, where he was posted in 2002-06 and 2007-11.
Škrabalo takes over at a sensitive time following Croatia’s accession to the Union on 1 July. A dispute with the European Commission over Croatia’s implementing rules for the European Arrest Warrant has clouded relations with the Union and raised the threat of sanctions.
Škrabalo is married to Katja Modrić Škrabalo, a lawyer who has been working as a policy officer in the European Commission’s department for enterprise and industry since last December.
Škrabalo comes from a politically prominent family. His late father, Ivo, a film director and critic, was a two-term member of parliament and an opposition politician during the authoritarian presidency of Franjo Tudjman, who led Croatia into independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Ivo’s brother Zdenko was an adviser to Tudjman and served as foreign minister in 1992-93. He subsequently was Croatia’s ambassador to Switzerland and Hungary.
Škrabalo’s predecessor, Vladimir Drobnjak, is one of Croatia’s most experienced diplomats. Drobnjak was ambassador to the EU once before, in 2000-03, and had only been appointed to his second term in the post in March 2012. Earlier this month, he moved to New York to take over as ambassador to the UN – a post in which he had served in 2003-05. Drobnjak was Croatia’s chief negotiator for EU membership during the entire duration of the accession negotiations.
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