Monday, 16 September 2019

Changes to President's Constitutional Powers Unlikely

ZAGREB, September 16, 2019 - It is unlikely that the necessary parliamentary two-thirds majority will in the near future change the way the President of the Republic is elected and his/her constitutional powers, legal experts and experts on constitutional law said at a round table organised by the GONG election-monitoring non-governmental organisation in Zagreb on Monday, ahead of presidential elections.

Asked if the way the President is elected and the extent of his/her constitutional powers should be changed, the experts took different positions but were unanimous in the assessment that currently it would be very difficult to gather the parliamentary majority needed to change the way the President is elected and their constitutional powers, an idea advocated by conservative presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro.

Announcing recently that he would run for President, Škoro said that if elected, he would seek greater powers for himself, such as the possibility to call a referendum without the consent of the prime minister, call and chair government sessions, and nominate candidates for Constitutional Court judges.

Disagreement among participants in the round table was the greatest on the issue of electing the President in direct elections, with political scientist Goran Čular saying that the President of the Republic should be elected by the parliament.

Explaining his position, he cited the unnecessary tension caused by electoral support expressed in a large number of votes and the role in the political system the President was entitled to under the Constitution.

Conversely, legal expert Mato Palić sad that electing the President directly was a much better option than electing them by parliament, notably given the current ruling majority with members who, he said, had nonchalantly tricked their voters.

Palić said that a directly elected head of state should have more powers and have the right to veto laws as well as represent Croatia at sessions of the European Council.

As for the right to call referendums, Palić said that the numerous existing outstanding issues concerning referendums should be resolved, after which one could see if the President of the Republic should be given the right to call referendums.

Davor Boban of the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science, too, underlined the need to clearly define conditions for calling a referendum but warned that Croatia would set a precedent in Europe if it allowed its president to call a referendum on their own.

Political scientist Berto Šalaj responded to those views, warning that today's round table was only an academic debate as there was no will in the parliament to vote in such constitutional changes.

Šalaj nonetheless agreed that the current model of electing the President directly is poor. "The disproportion between the President's great democratic legitimacy and their small powers results in their political frustration, which jeopardises the efficiency of the political system," Šalaj said.

Attending the round table were also members of parliament Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Robert Podolnjak of MOST, who agreed that it would be very difficult to muster the two-thirds majority support in the parliament to change the President's constitutional powers as well as the way they are elected.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Presidential Hopeful Škoro Says He Wouldn't Raise Issue of Ban on SDSS Now

ZAGREB, September 15, 2019 - Presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro has told the HTV broadcaster that if he were now the head of state, he would not have launch the procedure for possible ban on the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS).

Škoro said in a political show of the national television on Sunday that he felt disturbed by claims made by the SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac that "all of us are living in a state that resembles or will end up like a Fascist statelet in 1945".

"This makes me concerned. If this is really true, I do not want to live in such country. On the other hand, if it is not true, what is the purpose of it (those claims). Can you find this to be destabilisation or an attempt of destablisation," Škoro said in response to the show host's question about his earlier statement that after becoming the president he would launch procedures for ban on certain political parties if conditions were met for that move.

Škoro today criticised Pupovac's political activities, however, he made it clear that under the present circumstances he would not raise the issue of the ban of that political party, if he were now the president.

He criticised Pupovac for going to Serbia to hear their advice how to shape his opinions while Croatia "celebrates the anniversaries of Operation Storm and Victory Day."

In this context, Škoro also dismissed the attempts by Pupovac and Belgrade to depict "the planned exodus" and "that unfortunate departure of Serbs from Croatia" in the wake of Operation Storm as something to be blamed on Croatia and the Croats in their attempt "to brand all of us as some kind of Fascists".

This is awful for me, said Škoro adding that he considers Pupovac's policy also bad for the Serb community in Croatia.

Škoro said that he was now focused on the campaigning for the presidential elections and did not rule out his political activities also after the presidential election in the event that he did not win the polls.

More news about Miroslav Škoro can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 13 September 2019

MOST Party to Support Miroslav Škoro's Presidency Bid

ZAGREB, September 13, 2019 - The main committee of the opposition MOST party decided on Friday to support conservative independent candidate Miroslav Škoro at the forthcoming presidential election.

"We want the next President of Croatia to be a person who will protect the interests of all citizens, and not just the interests of a party or his own interests. We think that this cannot happen under the wings of the existing large political parties, but that it can happen with a person who at this moment has a realistic chance of changing things and the rules of the game. That's why the main committee has decided to support Miroslav Škoro's candidacy at the forthcoming election," the party's leader Božo Petrov told the press after the committee's meeting.

Petrov said that moves announced by Škoro corresponded to MOST's demands, such as calls for a fairer election system, the free expression of popular will at referendums, environmental protection, the fight for Croatian interests and resources, combating corruption and clientelism, and declaration of an exclusive economic zone. He added that they had agreed with Škoro joint activities on individual programme points.

Asked if MOST agreed with Škoro's view on outlawing the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Petrov said that Škoro had explained his position on the matter by saying that such a decision would rest with the Constitutional Court. Asked if he supported the restoration of the semi-presidential system, Petrov said that the President of the Republic cannot be "a mere wallflower" and should be given appropriate powers.

The presidential election is expected to be held in late December.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Presidential Candidate Škoro on Serb Minority Leader's Statement

ZAGREB, September 8, 2019 - Presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro said on Saturday that the President of the Republic should have the right to launch a procedure to have a political party outlawed and that in such cases a final decision should be rendered by the Constitutional Court.

Škoro made the statement while speaking to the press during a visit to the agricultural fair in Gudovac near Bjelovar, about 90 kilometres northeast of Zagreb. He was commenting on the statement by the leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, in which he compared Croatia to a fascist creation.

"If a member of the ruling coalition says that, then I as a concerned citizen have two options. If he is right, then I am living in a fascist state, which I don't want to and nor do the Croatian citizens. And if this gentleman was not telling the truth, then certain steps should be taken to see why he was not telling the truth and why he is undermining Croatia's constitutional and legal order," Škoro said.

He added that anyone who undermines the country's constitutional and legal order should be aware that "words must have consequences."

Škoro pointed out that he had never said he would ban the party representing the Serb minority.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Not Every Incident Can Be Qualified as Ethnically Motivated, Says President

ZAGREB, August 31, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday she condemned any violence but added that "not every incident which occurs between Croatian citizens of different ethnicity can be qualified a priori as an ethnic incident, i.e. ethnically motivated violence."

"I won't allow that in Croatia because it's very unpleasant and irresponsible when politicians start commenting on and labelling those incidents, either by ignoring actual facts that are established in an official investigation or by not caring about those facts at all. That's very dangerous because it causes a new spiral of violence, intolerance and disorderly conduct. I won't allow such political irresponsibility," the president said on national television, commenting on last week's attacks on Serbs in the Knin area.

The president's role, she said, is to be a factor of stability, to see that state institutions function. "In this case the institutions responded immediately, very efficiently and very quickly. If institutions didn't respond, it would be my duty to call for that, to call for a thorough investigation. This was an incident that is still being investigated. The police have done all that is necessary, they went to the scene, did an investigation, persons have been arrested, charges have been pressed against those persons. However, the investigation is still under way."

Grabar-Kitarović said she was in contact with the relevant authorities, that she was receiving reports, but that she would not comment on the details of the incidents as the investigation was still under way.

She went on to say that her role "is least of all to deepen divisions in Croatian society."

Commenting on Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac's statement that Croatia was a factor of instability in the region, the president said it was "rude at the very least" and very irresponsible. "Unfortunately, Mr Pupovac said a series of untruths about his own country. He must understand that he is a member of the Croatian parliament, that he represents the Serb community in Croatia, Croatian citizens whose capital is Zagreb and not Belgrade."

She went on to say that she would announce her re-election campaign in time, thanking the HDZ party for its support.

She would not say who was her most dangerous opponent. "Croatian citizens must consider what they want in the next five years. Do they want work for a better Croatia, someone with experience who will work on that or do they want experiments?"

The president went on to say that she was honoured by the US Fullbright Association's decision to give her a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award as their alumnus. "I'm working on the promotion of the Fullbright programme... What's good about the programme is that once you've participated in it, you have the obligation to return to your home country and transfer the knowledge you acquired."

Grabar-Kitarović also said that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić not only asked but begged that the expression "Great Serbia aggression" not be used, but that his appeal was not heeded.

Vučić said on August 21 that he had asked Grabar-Kitarović that said expression not be used all the time as it no longer made sense.

She told the public broadcaster that it was "very inappropriate and unacceptable" in diplomatic relations to go public with what was said in private.

She said "the Great Serbia aggression, unfortunately, is written in blood in Croatian history. It was just another totalitarian regime and should be treated as such. It failed, it was defeated. However, I want to say very clearly to all those who are threatening Croatia today that not one Serbian tank will ever enter Vukovar again."

She said Croatia would not be lectured by a country that had not dealt with its own past. "A state which not only hasn't admitted to the Great Serbia aggression and the crimes and the genocide committed in its name, but a state which is still hiding information on missing Croatian defenders and civilians which, for me, is a crucial issue of bilateral relations," she said, adding that "Croatia won't be lectured by a state which has rehabilitated the Chetnik ideology and Serbia's fascist regime from WWII."

However, Grabar-Kitarović added, Croatia wants stable relations with Serbia as that is, first and foremost, in the interest of the Serbian minority in Croatia and the Croatian minority in Serbia. "We must be responsible. I won't let us fall for provocation, I won't allow let us be dragged into a verbal war, but we will fiercely defend Croatia's national interests."

More news about Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Presidential Candidate Škoro against Divisions in Society along Lines of Victims

ZAGREB, August 23, 2019 - Presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro said on Friday that the Croatian society was already deeply divided and therefore it would not be good for it to be divided when it came to the topic of victims.

On the occasion of European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, which is in Croatia observed in memory of the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, Škoro attended the Requiem mass and funeral of 294 people killed in the aftermath of WWII, whose remains were unearthed in the recent years in Zagreb's suburb of Gračani.

Škoro said that he hoped that people would realise that each victim has the right to a dignified funeral and grave.

During the observance of today's Memorial Day, Škoro extended condolences to the families of all victims in the Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes.

Asked by the press about the Knin incidents, Škoro said that he condemned all attacks and violence.

I think that in Knin, it was actually the attack against Croatian citizens, this is the priority thing. The assailants were reportedly masked. We should wait for the police report and all other conclusions are premature, including comments on the ethnicity, which we do not need at all, said Škoro.

In the 21 August incidents, bar-goers, including a 9-year-old child, were injured and exposed to insults in the two cafes in Knin while they were watching a TV broadcast of the football match of the Belgrade-based Crvena Zvezda club.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Milanović Criticises President for Not Speaking up About Knin Incident

ZAGREB, August 22, 2019 - Presidential hopeful Zoran Milanović on Thursday called out President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović for not speaking up about an attack on several ethnic Serbs that occurred in Knin on Wednesday evening.

He said that the election is drawing closer and incidents of this nature could occur "at the expense of the weaker and fewer ethnic Serbs in Knin, who it seems will be paying 'interest in arrears' for the mistakes of their fathers, for the next one thousand years."

Milanović posted on his Facebook profile that the "expression 'Great Serbia aggression' in fact serves to isolate Great Serbia megalomaniacs who have been bullying (us) and neighbouring peoples for more than a hundred years."

"If we were to say just 'Serb aggression,' that would refer to all Serbs," he added.

Aggression as such need not be contentious for anyone unless Vučić becomes flustered, so dear HDZ candidate (for the presidency) I hope I was of some help," Milanović posted.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Ante Simonić Announces Candidacy for Presidency

ZAGREB, August 22, 2019 - Ante Simonić professor-turned-diplomat and a former member of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), who was a deputy prime minister in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led government under Ivica Račan on Wednesday announced his presidential bid.

Simonić underlined that the concept of his bid is that the Constitution should not be changed but respected as should all laws. "The problem in Croatia is not the quality of the Constitution and laws but rather their non-respect," he said.

He announced that as the president he intended to act in accordance with the Constitution and would not make promises that he could not keep and that he would cooperate with the government and parliament.

Simonić warned that Croatia is faced with a huge problem and that it needs to open up to the future without unnecessary divisions in the people.

He welcomes the support of any party and announced that he would conduct a personalised campaign.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Milanović: Croatia Doesn't Have Precedent System for Ruling to Become Standard

ZAGREB, August 16, 2019 - A former prime minister Zoran Milanović, who is the Social Democratic Party's presidential candidate, on Thursday welcomed a ruling of the High Magistrates' Court in connection with the salute "For the homeland ready", explaining that he does not expect the ruling to become a standard as Croatia does not have the stare decisis doctrine.

"We do not have the precedent system. It is possible for every panel of judges, that is independent, to make different decisions," Milanović said during his visit to the town of Nova Gradiška.

"' 'For the homeland ready' is the Ustasha salute of Ante Pavelić," Milanović said adding that he would welcome any next court ruling whereby chanting this salute is fined. "I will regard other rulings to be human and political cowardice."

As for the court practice, Milanović said that the political trends are followed too much.

He criticised the current president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović for announcing her decision to run for a second term in the newspaper "Hrvatski Tjednik" which is perceived as a media outlet that downplays the crimes committed during the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

He said that Grabar-Kitarović's move was wrong.

You simply do not talk with such newspapers, he said answering questions from the press.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Plenković: President Might Have Announced Re-Election Bid Somewhere Else

ZAGREB, August 15, 2019 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović might have announced her decision to run for a second term somewhere else and not in the Hrvatski Tjednik (HT) newspaper, and reiterated that the HDZ would support her candidature.

When it comes to the choice of the weekly newspaper in which that interview (with the announcement) was given, I think that it might have been given also somewhere else. However, the president must move forward and must be prepared for the campaigning and care about her programme and about how to ensure the support of a majority of Croatian voters," Plenković said in the town of Sinj where he attended ceremonies in the local Marian shrined on the Feast of the Assumption.

He reiterated that the support of the HDZ to Grabar-Kitarović's bid for a second term was unquestionable.

"We talk and we want the whole party to be strongly engaged, we should go on with our job," the premier said.

The press asked the premier about the ruling of the High Magistrates' Court to fine a local singer for chanting the salute "For the homeland ready" while singing the song "Bojna Čavoglave" by singer Marko Perković Thompson in Makarska in 2015.

"The police must act whenever they establish that a misdemeanour offence is committed. I told that to Interior Minister Davor Božinović when we discussed the matter some time ago."

"We as the government and the party absolutely condemn crimes committed during the (1941-1945) Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and the Ustasha regime. We are always unequivocal and clear about that. It is up to the courts to develop a uniform court practice," he said when asked by the press whether all courts should now follow the example of the High Magistrates' Court in this case.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

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