(VIDEO) Did Prime Minister Try to Assault Opposition MP?

By 17 January 2019

ZAGREB, January 17, 2019 - During a parliamentary debate on a report submitted by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about his attendance at European Council meetings in 2018, Nikola Grmoja of the opposition MOST party said that Plenković and Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić were working in the interests of Serbia, which caused an uproar in the parliament chamber, prompting Speaker Gordan Jandroković to order a 10-minute break in a bid to defuse the situation.

Grmoja said that although Serbia had failed to meet benchmarks from Chapter 23 in its accession talks with the European Union, it had nevertheless opened new chapters. He accused Pejčinović Burić and Plenković of doing nothing to prevent such developments. He then reiterated several times that the Croatian prime minister and foreign minister were working in Serbia's interests.

In his response, Plenković said: "Don't say that. Your look pathetic when you say that the foreign minister is working in the interests of Serbia. You can be creative, but don't be pathetic." The PM said that he would not allow the situation to turn into a spiral of recriminations that could end up in incidents.

After Plenković's response, Grmoja kept on saying that the prime minister was nervous, which caused clamour among lawmakers.

At that point, the parliament speaker said that a 10-minute break would ensue, urging MPs to stop trading insults. "You are making serious accusations against the prime minister, claiming that he works in the interests of another state. That is slander," Jandroković said addressing Grmoja.

During the break Grmoja told the commercial broadcaster N1 that Plenković had attempted to lunge at him, but was prevented by other MPs.

After the break, several MPs again proposed a new break, while Grmoja kept claiming that Plenković had tried to lunge at him during the previous break. "I do not know if he would have hit me but he wanted to come at me in his nervous state," Grmoja said.

Lawmakers Milorad Pupovac and Anka Mrak Taritaš called for an end to emotionally-charged debates in parliament.

The government press office on Wednesday dismissed Grmoja's claims about Plenković and FM Pejčinović Burić working in the interests of Serbia as unacceptable allegations. The government also denied the MOST MP's claim that Plenković wanted to lunge at him but was stopped by other MPs during a break in the parliament session.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković commented on his conflict with Nikola Grmoja. Plenković said that Grmoja's tirade against Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić and him, virtually accusing them of high treason, constituted hate speech and slander.

"If a person tells you in parliament that you have systematically been working in the interests of another country, in this specific case Serbia, then that is unacceptable. This crossed the line of what is normal in the Croatian parliament," the prime minister said.

He said he was going to ask Grmoja to explain who he meant was a traitor, but the MOST MP had left the chamber.

"We have witnessed a lot of insults, defamatory and slanderous statements, especially by several MOST MPs. But when a member of the Croatian parliament accuses the government of working in the interests of another country, of high treason, then we can say that the line of what can be called a political view or opinion has been crossed. That's too much and that's why I told him that his comments were pathetic," the prime minister said.

More news on the MOST party can be found in the Politics section.