Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is the current President of Croatia, in office since 19 February 2015. The first woman to be elected as the president of the republic, she also became the youngest president in Croatian history when she assumed office at the age of 46. Prior to becoming the president she served as Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO under, secretaries Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Jens Stoltenberg. Born in a small village in Croatia, she grew up to be a bright and ambitious girl. She excelled in her studies and attended the Diploma Course at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna before earning her master's degree in international relations from the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb. Having already embarked on a diplomatic career, she was elected to the Croatian Parliament and later on became the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Over the ensuing years she steadily rose through the political ranks and held various prestigious governmental positions. With the support of President Stjepan Mesić, she became the Croatian Ambassador to the United States by replacing Neven Mimica, in 2008. After becoming the Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO, she set her ambitions even higher and successfully ran for presidency.
Childhood & Early Life
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was born on 29 April 1968 in Rijeka, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia (now Croatia), to Dubravka and Branko Grabar. Her family owned a butcher shop and a ranch.
She was a bright student and was selected for a student exchange program when she was 17. She moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, subsequently graduating from Los Alamos High School in 1986.
After high school she enrolled at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb from where she graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish languages and literature.
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Grabar-Kitarović became an advisor to the international cooperation department of the Ministry of Science and Technology in 1992 and she joined the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) the following year.
In 1995, she became the head of the North American department of the foreign ministry, a post she held until 1997. During this time she also attended the Diploma Course at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna from 1995 to 1996.
In 1997, she was appointed a diplomatic councilor at the Croatian embassy in Canada, and became a minister-councilor, in October 1998. The Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) came to power after the 2000 elections and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tonino Picula, began to remove all members of HDZ from high positions in diplomacy.
Grabar-Kitarović was ordered to return to Croatia from Canada. Pregnant at that time, she initially refused but had to return due to the mounting pressure from the Ministry. Shortly after giving birth she applied for Fulbright scholarship for studying international relations and security policy.
After acquiring the scholarship, she moved to the U.S.A. and studied at the George Washington University during 2002-03. Following graduation she returned to Croatia.
In the 2003 elections, she was elected to the Croatian Parliament from the seventh electoral district, as a member of the Croatian Democratic Union. Under the administration of new Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, Grabar-Kitarović became Minister of European Integration.
In 2004-05, she served as the Chairperson of the Interim Committee, established under the Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related matters, between the European Community and the Republic of Croatia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of European Integration were merged in 2005 following which she was selected to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this position she played a significant role in guiding Croatia into the European Union and NATO.
From 2005 to 2008, she also served as the Head of the Croatian Delegation to the Stabilization and Association Council for the Implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement between the Republic of Croatia and the European Communities.
In 2008, she solicited President Stjepan Mesić's help to become Croatian Ambassador to the United States, a position she held until July 2011. Then she joined as the Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO and served till October 2014.
In mid-2014 it was announced that Grabar-Kitarović will be the HDZ party’s official presidential candidate. She faced incumbent Ivo Josipović and newcomers Ivan Vilibor Sinčić and Milan Kujundžić in the elections and emerged successful to become Croatia's first female president-elect. She was sworn into office on 15 February and assumed office officially on 19 February 2015.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is best known for becoming the first female president of Croatia. A highly ambitious lady, she has several years of experience as a politician and diplomat, having served as Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO from 2011 to 2014. She is also the first woman ever to be appointed to that position.
Personal Life & Legacy
She married Jakov Kitarović in 1996 and has two children.
In 2010, a scandal involving her husband occurred when it was discovered that he was using an official embassy car for private purposes. Minister Jandroković launched an internal investigation because of Jakov Kitarović's unauthorized usage of the official car. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović then paid for all costs that occurred due to her husband's unauthorized using of the car.
She is proficient in many languages including Croatian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.