While parliamentary elections in autumn of 2016 did not bring about much new to Croatian politics, they did bring one new member of Parliament to the national political stage. Ivan Pernar rose to prominence in 2011 when he organized protests against HDZ’s government. He was also an activist who advocated against forced evictions of people who could not return their housing loans to banks. Now, as a member of Parliament, he is constantly in the focus of media attention, mainly due to his controversial statements on a range of subjects. Some consider him to be a conspiracy theorist, other say that he is a clown, while his supporters believe that he is just what Croatian politics needs at this moment.
On Sunday afternoon, Pernar spoke in an interview with Total Croatia News.
Your recent posts on Facebook about relationship between the Catholic Church and HDZ have drawn public attention. Can you tell us a bit more about how you see this relationship and what you think about the Church?
There is a major difference between Jesus Christ, his teachings and activities on the one hand, and what the Catholic Church is doing and how it is behaving on the other hand. Unlike Jesus, the Church is constantly looking to increase its earthly riches. Jesus lived a life of a pauper and did not try to grab secular power. He tried to change people from the inside. He knew that, if people are bad, then the government will be bad as well. He was the only reformer who wanted to change people from the inside, unlike the Catholic Church which has no intention of changing people from within. Lately, there has been a crisis of morality, disintegration of the society from within, but the Catholic Church is not interested in people’s spiritual state. It rather spends time praying for particular government to come to power, and the Catholic government that it wants is actually the HDZ government which is a government of thieves, of the 1% elite which exploits and destroys the whole Croatian people and leads it to oblivion.
One of the topics related to the Catholic Church in Croatia, which is often discussed, is the question of funding. Do you think that the Catholic Church and other religious communities should be financed by all citizens through the budget or is it something that should be left to the faithful?
The problem with those who emphasize their Catholicism is their hypocrisy. If you were to publicly propose that religious communities should be funded exclusively by the faithful and not by all citizens, then they would immediately rebel against such a proposal. They want all religious organizations, including their own, to be funded directly from the state budget. Such funding is contrary to the Biblical approach. In the New Testament, apostle Paul does not say that the state should finance their Christian Church, but that the faithful should do it, according to their means and wishes. I advocate for this Biblical approach, while HDZ advocates for something which I would call a forced approach, which means that the Church does not receive money from the faithful who would be willing to finance it. The money is being taken compulsory from everybody, and then the clergy receives hundreds of millions of kuna. Then it is only logical that the clergy supports HDZ in return.
You have criticized the role of the Catholic Church in Croatia and at the same time you have praised the behaviour of the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, the Serbian Orthodox Church played an important role in strengthening of Serbian nationalism in the late 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, but you have not publicly expressed any opinion about it?
All positive behaviour should be praised, while objectionable behaviour should be condemned. The Orthodox Church has realized its mistake from the time when it advocated for nationalism, and it is no longer advocating that in Croatia. Of course, with their nationalist behaviour, Orthodox priests took part in the insurgency, which ended catastrophically for Serb people. As a result of the insurgency, today there are almost no Serbs in the “Krajina” region, and there used to be 200,000 of them. It is not up to me to condemn it. Serbs themselves are the greatest victims of Greater Serbian policies. The goal to have all Serbs living in one state did not result in expansion of Serbia to Croatia, but in exodus of Croatian Serbs to Serbia and Bosnia. There were great migrations of people, which brought no benefit to ordinary people. It was a kind of a reshuffle on a higher level, whose goal was the creation of ethnically homogenous states. Such policy may sound beneficial for certain states or individuals, but for ordinary people it brought great suffering since they lost everything and left for the unknown, without any possessions.
In a few days, Donald Trump will become President of the United States. What do you expect from his policies and what consequences could they have for Croatia?
I expect that Trump will continue with current policies of his predecessor and that there will not be any radical changes in a geopolitical sense.
In recent days, the visit of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic to the United States has been in the media focus. What do you think about this visit, and if you were the President, which countries would you visit first?
I would visit all those countries which would express their respect to me. I would certainly not go to countries where I would have to stand in front of a fence and where they do not let me in a courtyard.
The most important topic these days in Croatia is partial privatization of Croatian Electric Company (HEP) in order to buy back MOL’s shares in the oil company INA. Do you support the government’s plan, and what would you do if you were Prime Minister?
HDZ’s idea has nothing to do with buying back the shares of INA. The government foresaw that in 2017 it would make 1.5 billion kuna from privatization of state-owned companies. If they were to publicly say that they are selling state-owned companies because they have included such plans in the budget, people would say they are against such plans. In this way, by telling stories about selling HEP in order to buy INA, they are trying to soften the public mood in order to continue with the sale of state-owned property. That is the whole story.
Results of the last two parliamentary elections demonstrated that two largest parties, HDZ and SDP, are in a slow decline, which opened up space for new political parties. For a while it was thought that this role could be taken over by Živi Zid, the party to which you belong, however, MOST proved more adept. They won more seats in Parliament and this is now second parliament in a row in which they are part of the ruling coalition. What is your opinion about MOST, its policies and, in particular, its president Božo Petrov?
MOST is a political option which advocates views of rightwing religiously-oriented people, and that is it. They have their own voters, and I wish them luck. As for Božo Petrov, I personally do not like the way he operates, since he is not flexible. He is quite stiff and formal, but voters will have the final word about everybody, including him and me.
Parliament recently passed tax reform which brought increases in salaries to almost everybody, except those with lowest incomes. Do you think that was a good decision, and what would you change in the tax system?
It is absurd to discuss any tax reform until a monetary reform is implemented, because the main reason for the problems in our country is not the distribution of the tax burden, but failed monetary policies, which have caused general lack of money and a credit crisis.
The government is working on changes to the law on the rights of Croatian war veterans, and one of the provisions which is being mentioned in the media is the one which would increase the rights of former members of HVO (Croatian forces during the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina), which would be financed from Croatia’s state budget. Do you agree with that, and what is your general opinion about the role of Croatia in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
The Croatian state represents Croatian people, and as such it had to take action in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to protect Croats, because otherwise they would vanish. In principle, I have nothing against the idea that HVO members, who also participated in the defence of Croatia, should get their rights. I have a real problem with the government regarding many other decisions, but I think that this decision should not be controversial.
A few days ago university students revolted after it was reported they would pay higher taxes. What do you think about the status of students in Croatia today?
The problem for the university students is not just their current status, but also their future in this country. Unfortunately, their future, due to monetary policies which are being almost equally followed by both HDZ and SDP, does not exist in this country. Many of them will leave our country and go to the unknown, and that is the greatest tragedy of Croatian people. There are hundreds of thousands of young, educated people who are leaving this country, and they are leaving those of us who will stay here to fight for a better future.
What would you do to keep young, highly educated professionals from emigrating?
I would keep university students in the country by changing monetary policies, I would stop credit crisis and general lack of money, and I would create conditions for the development of the economy where they could find jobs, raise a loan which they could return, own their own homes...
You often talk about various subjects and present positions which many people describe as conspiracy theories. How do you get information that you talk about? Do you think that you have enough knowledge to speak so authoritatively about so many different topics?
These are not conspiracy theories, these are realistic descriptions of real events. When we see that all countries of former Yugoslavia implement exactly the same policies, then it is clear that there is a hand above them all and that there is a common plan. That is not a conspiracy theory, that is something which is completely obvious.
You recently visited Belgrade, where you were photographed with Boško Obradović, leader of Dveri, a Serbian nationalist political party. Afterwards, you were seen in Zagreb taking part in a protest organized by Croatian nationalist party A-HSP. Due to numerous other contradictions in your public activities, is there any defined ideology behind them, or do you tend to do whatever you feel might bring you public attention?
I love all people, and I will always show love to everybody. I do not make any difference between people who are nationalist Croats or nationalist Serbs. My intention is to reconcile people and for hatred to disappear. That is my life motto.