Šuica's Call-In Show Comments Draw Attention of European Ombudsman

By 9 July 2020
Europe's Ombudsman is launching an inquiry into Vice President Dubravka Šuica's comments on a local call-in television show in Dubrovnik.
Europe's Ombudsman is launching an inquiry into Vice President Dubravka Šuica's comments on a local call-in television show in Dubrovnik. Press release

July 9, 2020 — The Europe’s Ombudsman will investigate Dubravka Šuica’s criticism of a Dubrovnik local television station’s call-in show, as well as the European Commission's subsequent response.

The European Ombudsman, the chief watchdog of the continent’s administrative body, will look into the European Commission’s handling of Vice President Dubravka Šuica’s response to criticism on a local call-in show in Dubrovnik.

The inquiry comes in response to an anonymous complaint filed by a Croatian, which took issue with Šuica’s call in to the show, as well as the Commission’s response.

"[The complainant] is concerned that, while it is welcome that the Vice-President stated her support for freedom of expression, the Commission should nonetheless have taken a position on her comments, which the complainant insists are at odds with support for freedom of expression,” the Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly wrote. “I have decided to open an inquiry into this complaint.”

Šuica, the Commission’s Vice President of Democracy and Demography, called into a local show in Dubrovnik this April, after a viewer questioned the sources of her wealth. “It's really amazing how people are dealing misinformation, and you haven't reprimanded it!” she said at the time chastising the host, Pasko Tomaš. “My wish would be to prevent any Croat, male, female, or citizen of this country from speaking in this way.”

The European Commission and Šuica gently sidestepped any implication her call tried to stifle debate, limit free speech, or threaten the free press.

“The European Commission and Vice-President Šuica attach utmost importance to the freedom of expression and to the freedom and pluralism of the media, which are fundamental European values enshrined in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights,” the Commission initially said in response to the hullabaloo cause by the TV exchange. “Since the programme was broadcast, Vice-President Šuica has already reiterated her unwavering support for those freedoms and clarified that it was not, and is not, her intention to impair the independence of the TV station in question, the independence of the journalist, Mr. Paško Tomaš, or the independence of his programme ‘The Voice of the People’ (‘Glas Naroda’). I hope this allays your concerns.”

During her call-in, Šuica told the journalist, “I’m the godmother of your Dubrovnik television! And I'm really happy that I was at the time.”

The Ombudsman O’Reilly said, after reviewing the show’s transcript, Šuica “appears to say that she believes that the media should not broadcast or publish statements criticizing public figures. She also seems to imply that the radio station allows such critical statements to be broadcast in order to increase its popularity.”

The European Ombudsman acts as an independent liaison between citizens and the administrative bodies overseeing the continent. The office can initiate inquiries and send reports to the European Parliament for review. While he or she cannot formally start any proceedings, the officeholder can investigate and pass long findings which may start disciplinary proceedings.

Šuica’s incident on “Glas Norada” or “The Voice of the People” show was a break from the show’s usual pattern. Croatia’s local television broadcasters often feature call-in shows giving citizens a chance to vent, air conspiracy theories or generally lambaste politicians.

But usually, it’s a one-way exchange. The politicos almost never respond.

The caller on Dubrovnik’s show followed the same format.

“We have individuals, these politicians, they stay for four to eight years in power,” the angry caller said. “They rob everyone wherever they can and in eight years they have to 10-15 million [kunas],” the caller said.

“Here, for example, Šuica. She was said to be worth seven million euros. Imagine that!” 

The caller was referring to Šuica’s wealth, a major bugaboo which arose when she was nominated to be an EC Vice President. The former mayor and school teacher has assets worth about €5 million, including multiple homes, two apartments, a cottage in Bosnia, as well as a yacht and three cars. The figure was first reported by

“She has a yacht worth 500,000 euros,” the caller said. “She would need HRK 250,000 a month just to maintain the yacht, to pay for anchoring. Where did her money come from? She can say this, that, but it's all the same in our country.”

Šuica’s response to the call included a castigation of the journalist and host Tomaš.

“I’m surprised you didn't react,” she told him during her call. “I know that you are an excellent journalist, that your show is watched. I heard it from the kitchen!”

O’Reilly requested the European Commission respond by July 27.