After Tensions in Parliament, Government and MOST Trade Accusations

By 17 January 2019

ZAGREB, January 17, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he would not tolerate accusations about high treason, saying that deputies of the MOST party were continuously contributing to growing hate speech and that there was no scenario in which he would cooperate with them.

"Yesterday's debate in parliament resulted in a salvo of insults, lies, defamation and this time even slander, even accusations against the deputy prime minister and myself about high treason. This is a new formulation coined by a MOST MP. I believe this is absolutely unacceptable, this is the line that defines that we as politicians involved in a political struggle, in dialogue, can tolerate insults, lies and slander, but we cannot tolerate accusations of high treason," Plenković said at his cabinet meeting.

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.

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

Plenković said at the cabinet meeting on Thursday that this was MOST's constant contribution to the spreading of hate speech, "a spiral of hatred that keeps spinning." "In my response I have clearly said that neither I as prime minister, nor this government or the ruling Croatian democratic Union (HDZ) party will tolerate the spreading of the kind of hatred that this party is spreading. We draw a line here. Under no circumstances will we cooperate with such political actors," Plenković said.

The political secretary of the MOST party, Nikola Grmoja, on Thursday commented on Wednesday's incident, saying that he would not take back a single word, on the contrary, he would further emphasise certain things.

MOST leader Božo Petrov said the prime minster had shown that he had a glass chin, while MP Miro Bulj said the prime minister acted like a bully. "Yesterday's incident in parliament during which the prime minister attempted to lunge at Grmoja and things almost became physical between the prime minister and an MP, tells us that all masks are off. The person who claims that it is his objective to 'de-dramatise' the events has made a drama like we haven't seen since 1990," Petrov told a news conference.

Petrov said he could understand if the prime minister was angry or nervous because "it is very difficult to explain why he and his government have enabled the opening of new negotiating chapters for Serbia, despite the fact that Serbia has not met benchmarks from Chapter 23."

"From all of this we can conclude that this government is working in the interests of Serbia and not in the interests of Croatia. Working in Croatia's interests would mean that former prison camp detainees would receive legal protection in Croatia and a possibility would be created for Serbia to pay out damages to Croatian detainees. This hasn't happened to this day," Petrov said, adding that yesterday's incident showed that the prime minister had a glass chin.

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.

"The truth is that the entire debate and questions were appropriate and I didn't get the answers to my questions," Grmoja told the press, adding he was standing by all his claims. "I will not back down an inch because this is high treason!" Grmoja said.

MP Bulj said that it was not true that Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), who was present during Wednesday's incident in parliament, had tried to calm the situation down. On the contrary, the entire time he was saying 'You are provocateurs and you are spreading hatred,' Bulj said.

More news on the incident in the parliament can be found in the Politics section.