by Farah Hashem
Wearing her national team’s chequered football shirt, cheering her country’s players from the VIP box, and embracing each and every player from both teams under the pouring rain, Croatia’s president won the most hearts during the World Cup final. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, with all her modesty and enthusiasm, emerged as her country’s star of the tournament.
Besides her love for her country and passion for football, the Croatian President, 50, has had a series of successes and achievements. Here is a look at Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s life:
Childhood, Early Life, and Education
- Born on April 29, 1968 in Rijeka, Croatia, Grabar-Kitarović was raised in her family’s village where they owned a butcher shop and a ranch and grew up to be a bright and ambitious girl.
- In 1993, Grabar-Kitarović graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish languages and literature from the University of Zagreb.
- She later pursued her master’s degree in 2000 in International Relations from the University of Zagreb.
- In 2002-2003, she was Fulbright scholar at George Washington University.
- She received a fellowship at Harvard University and was a visiting scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
- Her educational journey was not over as she began her doctoral studies in International Relations at the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science in 2015.
- Kitarović initially became an advisor under the international cooperation department of the Ministry of Science and Technology. She later joined the Croatian Democratic Union in 1993.
- 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 worked at the Croatian embassy in Canada as a diplomatic counselor.
- 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 2005 she was nominated to become the head of the new ministry as Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
- On March 8th 2008, she became the Croatian Ambassador to the United States.
- She left the post in 2011 and became Assistant Secretary General of NATO for Public Diplomacy on 4 June 2011.
- In mid-2014 it was announced that Grabar-Kitarović will be the Croatian Democratic Union party’s official presidential candidate 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.
- At age 46, she became the youngest person to assume the presidency.
- She is the first woman to hold the position of the president of Croatia, serving as the fourth and current president.
- She married Jakov Kitarović in 1996 and has two children, Katarina, and Luka. Katarina is a professional figure skater and Croatia’s national junior champion.
- 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.