Prime Minister Tells Total Croatia News: I Won't Sue You, Don't Worry

By 15 August 2018

August 14, 2018 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was in Jelsa on Hvar last night, taking part in the annual Jelsa Municipal Day celebrations. A meeting with local HDZ chiefs on the main square before the main event gave a window for TCN to see if perhaps he had had a moment to read the open letter we sent him last week. It turns out that he had... 

A few months after I started TCN three happy years ago, I wrote an article about the locations of Croatia's diaspora in the world, using the latest available data. The data wasn't that current, as you can see here, but there was some useful info. I received a comment from a Croatian reader from Ireland saying that the growing Croatian diaspora there was not included in the statistics (the stats were compiled before the latest wave of emigration). One thing led to another and my commentator agreed to contribute some articles about life as a Croat in Ireland. The articles have been very insightful and also very real, and I recommend them to people thinking of taking the next plane to Dublin expecting to find the land of milk and honey. 

I mention my colleague in Ireland, because her latest piece centred on one of the differences she has encountered between the two countries - elected officials interacting with the people. As Lidija explains in her piece, Dream Small, the Myth is True, getting a response from Croatian officials to letters of complaints from voters is usually wishful thinking, but in Ireland, Lidija had some spectacular success contacting the local senator, even though she is not even a voter. 

I read Lidija's article wistfully yesterday morning and remembered a previous life of living in countries where there was at least a little transparency from administrations. I was a little jealous of that responsiveness Lidija had found from her elected official, as the only communication I seemed to get from officials were publicly announced lawsuits against me. 

Here is Jelsa Mayor Niksa Peronja announcing his decision to sue me at a public meeting in Vrboska two weeks ago. 

As followers of TCN will know, the last two weeks of my life have not been the most pleasant after we wrote about the situation concerning the concession for the Gradska Kavana in Jelsa and the rezoning of the land on the island of Zecevo. Lots of private support by message, but people deciding not to acknowledge me in public or sit with me on the main square (but sending me private messages of support). It is something I understand, as to be seen with me would be a sign of support, which would be a sign of opposition to the man now suing me. As he is the most powerful person in the town and I a fat foreign temporary resident, it does not take the brain of Einstein to see where people would put their allegiances. In public at least. 

The media coverage of the issue was also very revealing, perhaps even more so than the local reaction. Almost non-existent, apart from one nice piece in the regional media which included a sentence about me claiming to say/write something I never did. I emailed the newspaper asking for a correction, but received no reply. I saw one of the two journalists who co-wrote the article in the street, but he could not help me. I called the journalist who wrote the factually incorrect sentence requesting the change. The sentence remains today. Such is life in The Beautiful Croatia.

I realised that Prime Minister Plenkovic was due to visit Jelsa in a few days. While I would not, of course, expect him to have ever heard of me or my little portal, I knew that a lot of international media, EU institutions, embassies and members of his government do, including one deputy minister who verbally abused one of my writers at the British Embassy Royal Wedding reception in Split in May. I have only written one open letter before - to William Wenkel, CEO of The Yacht Week four years ago - but I thought it would be worth a try. I invited the Prime Minister to come and sit with me for 15 minutes at The Office on the main square. You can read the open letter here.


Of course, I was not expecting such a busy man to read the ramblings of a foreign blogger, much less to sit with me when he had all the local party chiefs to chat to, but I was curious if perhaps - just perhaps - one of his team would come over and have a quiet word. 

They didn't, but what happened next was rather unexpected and very gracious of the PM.

I love Jelsa's Municipal Day on August 14. Along with the Za Krizen procession in Holy Week, it is a time when you see the everyday characters in the town transformed. People who you would swear had never seen a suit or tie in their lives dressed up as though they were going to a royal wedding. Fabulous material for my forthcoming book, Trumptonic: Life in a Mythical Dalmatian Town. By a stroke of luck, I found out that the PM and his local HDZ crew had a table reserved at the cafe next to The Office. I asked Captain Nijaz if he could reserve the one closest at The Office, so that I could get the best place for photos. I actually got more acknowledgments from people than I had in the whole previous week, including Mayor of Hvar, Riki Novak (centre, above) sitting with his deputy mayor.


The Prime Minister took his seat with local party officials, and they began their internal discussions. 

And then something rather unusual happened.


The Prime Minister looked directly at me and then motioned with his hand for me to join him. I motioned with my hand that he come to The Office - after all, there were a lot more free chairs where I was - but he motioned once more and so off I went, an apolitical foreigner joining a HDZ party. 

He was extremely polite and gracious, thanking me for my letter and my advice on how to fix Croatia. He has a very good press monitoring team, he said. I am sure he did not have time to read the article in full but was well briefed, but he did say that he would follow TCN a little closer and finished with words you don't hear from every politician these days:

"I will not sue you, don't worry." 

Perhaps he had read the article after all, as he seemingly knew of the impending lawsuit promised by his host for the next part of the evening. 


And soon he was gone, but not before a few photos with local fans. 

Thank you Prime Minister, I truly appreciate the small gesture, and I think back to Lidija's article in Ireland at the beginning of this article. I don't honestly expect anything to change, but it was decent of you not just to acknowledge me, but also to call me over to chat. 

Tagged under: hvar jelsa