Monday, 31 May 2021

President Talks Election Results, Statehood Day

ZAGREB, 31 May 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Monday, commenting on the results of yesterday's local elections, that the biggest change had occurred in Zagreb.

"There is a change in Split, too, but a little different. The biggest change is in Zagreb. 65% of people voted for one group which is very liberal (...). Some of their ideas are experimental even for Copenhagen. That's a whole spectrum of green-left ideas which have found an audience and communicators in someone else, and once that was solely the SDP," he told the press.

Asked about the Zagreb mayoral campaign of the Homeland Movement, the president commented on the party's name and its president Miroslav Škoro.

"There is no homeland movement. A homeland movement can't be led by someone who fled from Osijek to America, drifting among various ex-pat clubs, but not Croatian ones (...) That's not a homeland movement, I don't recognize that. It's usurpation. That (term) should be protected, like the Croatian name."

Enforcing public holidays isn't good

Milanović also commented on the marking of Statehood Day on 30 May, saying that such "enforcing of public holidays" and of collective consciousness and emotions was not good.

He said that the date was imposed in 1991 as a holiday of the HDZ party and was later changed by politician Vlado Gotovac.

"Then comes Plenković, who has the need to prove that he has always been in the HDZ, despite hitching a ride at the last minute, and enforces, with a simple majority, a public holiday which is really a party holiday."

Milanović said he could accept 30 May as Croatian Parliament memorial day, which it had been for 20 years, but not as Statehood Day. In Croatia, one can only talk about Independence Day, which all European states have, he added.

"What kind of statehood are we talking about if it was created one Sunday in 1990 because one party won, by one election law, the majority in the parliament of a socialist republic within one multinational federation?"

Milanović said young people should be told the truth which, he added, was not bad for Croatia at all.

"Our path was just, fair, and eventually successful. As long as Croatian boys, based on decisions of Croatian bodies in Croatian people's defense secretariats, were conscripted by the JNA (Yugoslav People's Army) for their military service, it's pointless to talk about independence or statehood as the HDZ sees it."

Only when that stopped, which it did after the lining up of the Croatian National Guard (in Zagreb in 1990), not one more young Croatian boy served in the JNA, Milanović said. "That's the divide."

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

President and Government Condemn Borovo Incident

ZAGREB, 2 May 2021 - President Zoran Milanović has condemned an incident that occurred in the eastern town of Borovo on Sunday morning when a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans, calling it shameful and heinous hate speech.

"In Borovo today a group of men tried to incite violence using heinous hate speech against our fellow citizens Serbs. That is a disgrace and deserves absolute condemnation," Milanović wrote on Facebook. 

He criticized the police, whom he called the police of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Serb leader Milorad Pupovac, for not taking pre-emptive action to prevent the incident.

The Vukovar-Srijem County Police Department has confirmed that around 6.30 am on Sunday, after laying wreaths at the monument to 12 police officers killed by Serb paramilitaries 30 years ago, a group of about 20 young men went into the town chanting anti-Serb slogans, including "Kill the Serbs". The police responded promptly, identifying the perpetrators. Footage of the incident was posted on the town's Facebook account.

Government strongly condemns the incident

The government also strongly condemned the incident, calling it a scandalous act of provocation and hate speech by a group of football fans. It said that it would always oppose and condemn hate speech against any fellow citizens.

"In Croatian society, there is no room for such outrageous behavior and intolerance towards members of the Serb ethnic minority, who celebrate Orthodox Easter today, or any other minority," the government said in a statement. 

"We will always strongly oppose and clearly condemn the stirring up of hatred against any of our fellow citizens. The Croatian police responded promptly and are investigating to bring those responsible to justice," the government.

For more about politics in Croatia, visit our dedicated section.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

President Milanović Greets Honorary Protection Battalion on 26th Anniversary

ZAGREB, February 25, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović on Tuesday attended a ceremony marking the 26th anniversary of the formation of the Honorary Protection Battalion and Military Chaplaincy Day, where he promoted members of the battalion and awarded them with red berets.

The Honorary Protection Battalion is part of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces and is responsible for honorary-ceremonial tasks for the purposes of the state and military leadership as well as for the protection and security of the President of the Republic as Commander in Chief.

President Milanović greeted the 300-strong battalion at a special ceremony in the Tuškanac barracks in Zagreb and said that the troops were selected according to very clear and measurable criteria, which makes them a cut above the rest.

"The others are good, but based on all the criteria, which are clear, transparent and known to everyone, you are better and remain elite," he said.

"In your case, elitism is not gained by birth or origin but through work and learning and that is what I was referring to in my inauguration speech, that I will advocate, stimulate and promote professionalism and patriotism," he added.

Milanović said he was pleased that the battalion is equipped with helmets and rifles made in Croatia. "I would like us to produce airplanes...we will be producing ships, I will advocate that, so that we are as visible as possible. Here, we will conduct our own policies and those of NATO and our allies, but our policies too," he said.

He thanked all Homeland War veterans who had defended Croatia in 1991. "I don't know any case in recent history in which so many people owed so much to such a small number of people, Croatia's defenders in 1991...who came from a relatively poor, disarmed and plundered country. We are referring to a few thousand people who held Croatia during those times. Everlasting glory and gratitude to them, particularly those who were killed, who were wounded, their families, everlasting thanks," Milanović said.

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

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Croatia National Anthem Fail? Criminal Charges Filed Against Josipa Lisac

Attorney Boško Županović has submitted a criminal complaint against Croatian diva Josipa Lisac for performing and intoning the national anthem of Croatia in a derogatory way during the inauguration of President Zoran Milanovic on February 18, 2020.

Criminal Complaint Filed at Zagreb State Attorney’s Office

Yesterday Županović submitted his complaint against the beloved diva and gay icon to the Criminal Division of the Zagreb County State's Attorney's Office for the criminal offense referred to in Article 349 of the Criminal Code, which pertains to the reputation of Croatia.

His criminal complaint against Josipa Lisac is translated below in its entirety:

Pursuant to Article 204, Page 1 of the Criminal Procedure Code, I submit a:

Criminal Complaint

Against: Josipa Lisac from Zagreb, born 02/14/1950, residing in Zagreb.

It is requested that the suspect's other personal information be accessed through research within the operational records of Croatia MUP.

For: Committing a criminal offense referred to in Article 349 of the Criminal Code.

On the date of February 18, 2020; during the inauguration of the President of the Republic of Croatia, she (Josipa Lisac) publicly performed and intoned the national anthem of the Republic of Croatia, in a mocking and derogatory manner, thereby fulfilling all the essential components of the criminal section pertaining to the violation of the reputation of the Republic of Croatia, which is described in more detail in Article 349 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia.


In performing her intonation of the national anthem, the suspect used mocking articulations and tonalities which, despite her peculiar musical oeuvre and expression, were not socially acceptable. And as a person whose native language is Croatian, she had to know that this form of intonation in the Croatian language and culture is always used in forms of public mockery or disparaging imitation of someone’s statement, recitation or musical or compositional expression.

I believe that no citizen, whether it is a music artist or anyone else, has the right, tonally, vocally, or through gestures; to manifestly diminish the gravity, seriousness and significance of the intonation of the national anthem or the textual and musical structure of the national anthem. I maintain that any artistic penetration into the composition, text and musical structure of the national anthem is prohibited. Such a modification or personalization may be tolerated for other musical expressions, with the consent of the author but not with national anthems. The way in which the suspect did so during her intonation is absolutely mocking and disparaging. Therefore, I believe that the suspicion of the alleged criminal offense arose from the same.

In terms of evidence, I propose a recording of the public intonation of the national anthem, which was performed in the office of the President of the Republic of Croatia, during the inauguration of the President on February 18, 2020.

For the above, I propose that you conduct the necessary inquiries against the indicted suspect in the indictment.

In Opatija, February 19, 2020

Boško Županović, Magister Juris


Županović Complaint Based on Opinion, Not Musical Background

Županović told Dragan Miljaš/Dalmatinski portal on February 19, 2020 that he is a law graduate and that does not have any specific musical background by which to evaluate Josipa Lisac’s performance from a professional standpoint.

“This is my opinion. Her performance was disgusting and disdainful. Our national anthem is particularly beautiful and patriotic and sends a wonderful and clear message. No one should be allowed to manipulate our national anthem. I have nothing against Josipa Lisac or against Zoran Milanović for that matter. Let him be President to all citizens, as he announced, and let her continue her singing, which will surely continue to garner varied reactions. However, I do not believe that anyone should intone and perform the national anthem of my country in that manner."

Croatia Attorney Expected Josipa Lisac to 'Howl'

"This is especially important since it happened at a public event, the inauguration of the President of Croatia, which was covered extensively by the media. I expected her to howl, but something like this…it was a form of ridicule in the worst possible way. I was deeply ashamed of being Croatian yesterday,” Županović insisted. He revealed that he does not expect anything to come of his complaint.

"This (complaint) will likely go to some music experts, and a crow doesn’t dig out its own eyes, so I don’t believe that anyone would dare say anything against her," Županović added.

Article 349 of the Criminal Code states that anyone who publicly scoffs, despises or grossly belittles the Republic of Croatia, its flag, coat of arms or anthem will be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.

Županović Not Seeking Media Attention, Faced Criminal Charges

"Look, I’m not seeking media attention. I did it as a lawyer and a proud citizen. I think it is just plain mockery and is not fitting of any event, let alone the inauguration of an elected Croatian president. I used my own time to write this application because I consider it to be my civic duty. I sent this criminal complaint to the institutions in charge, so they can do their job," Županović elaborated in a separate interview with Davor Tomšić/Index on February 19, 2020.

Index also reviewed Boško Županović’s background and discovered that he has faced criminal charges of his own.

In 2016, he sued an activist in Rijeka, who accused him of collecting 66 criminal charges by the age of 25. In 2009, Županović was tried for two frauds and payment of counterfeit money.

"I wouldn’t be indulging in this kind of speculation if I were you. I am not a convicted person. You know what criminal charges are. I have filed charges against Josipa Lisac so we will see. I am a non-convicted person, and these are just insinuations," he pointed out to Index.

Županović’s name is mentioned in association with ten companies, five of which are active. He claims to own the portal Liburnija.

"I have been in the real estate investment business for two decades. For the past two years I have been the sports director of a club in Koper, Slovenia,” he added.


Boško Županović and Friends | Facebook

Pictures with Brothers Mamić and Grabar-Kitarović

According to his Facebook profile, Županović doesn't always run in the company of law-abiding citizens either. He has welcomed pictures with Croatian justice fugitive Zdravko Mamić, his brother Zoran, and former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

Diva Lisac After Performance: "I had to get up early. Normally, I sleep until 11:00!"

Lisac's performance gets mixed reviews from Croatian citizens.

Follow our Politics page for updates on Županović’s criminal complaint against the Croatian diva Josipa Lisac.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

A Foreign Eye Behind the Scenes at Croatian President Milanovic Inauguration

February 20 - A look behind the scenes at the Zoran Milanovic inauguration of the office of the Croatian Presidency through the eyes of one of the few foreigners to attend. 

As I had never been to the Presidential compound on Pantovcak, I thought I would try and take advantage of the Zoran Milanovic inauguration to see the place, as well as to observe the swearing in ceremony up close. It was bound to be a rather curious affair, given the tension between the SDP man and the HDZ government, who would be in attendance. And the fact that Milanovic decided against a big event with just 39 guests reportedly invited, as well as a rather unusual choice of singer for the National Anthem meant that it could be quite an event. I am very grateful to official spokesman Nikola Jelic for arranging two press passes for myself and colleague Forrest - everything was swiftly and smoothly arranged.  

We were instructed to report to Pantovcak 281 between 09:00 and 11:00 to process the press accreditation, with the ceremony due to start at midday. My faithful Varazdin chauffeur dropped me in plenty of time, and I switched vehicles to be transported to the location of the ceremony. 


Initially I thought that the reason for the transfer was due to the rain, but then I got to understand the size of the presidential grounds. It is HUGE. Not the greatest filming in history, but here is the drive from the gate to where the ceremony took place. Incredibly beautiful and peaceful, although the chap in charge of picking up leaves has his work cut out. 

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It was WET. 


Although it was going to be a low-key affair (apparently it cost six times less than Kolinda's inauguration), I had been expecting a little more life than this - the video above was taken 30 minutes before kick off. 


I had no idea what to expect in terms of media access, and I was a bit surprised to learn that for the ceremony itself, we would all be in the room next door watching events on television screens. Having enjoyed the fabulous hospitality for the press at the opening night of Rijeka 2020 recently, it was also a surprise to see the contrast at the inauguration. When I rocked up in the press room at about 11:30, I saw evidence of a few coffees, but there were no refreshments whatsoever. Not a problem for me, but a little surprising. Although we could not go into the room for the ceremony, we were allowed in a little before - see video above.  


And we were free to roam around some parts of the building - busts of some prominent Croats on display.  

Both Milanovic and Prime Minister Plenkovic were dropped directly by the entrance, and it was only outgoing President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic who walked the red carpet past the ceremonial guards. Her arrival is in the video above. 

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I have never met Kolinda (her office rejected a request for a TCN interview a couple of years ago), but she has now smiled at me twice in my life. The first time was at Spancirfest in Varazdin in 2016 when I ran along a hill to get in position to take her photo, slipped, fell and rolled down to land almost at her feet. It was one of the highlights of my less than distinguished journalistic career. And she was probably not smiling at me when she walked past, but it felt like it. Although I am not a fan personally, she conducted herself with dignity on what must have been a very difficult and emotional day for her.  

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The press room, with the Milanovic inauguration taking place behind us. 

There is not much point me commenting on the inauguration itself, as I saw it the same as everyone else - on television - albeit with the added bonus of a sea of cynical comments from the assembled national media. 

And there was one major talking point. My views on the rendition of the national anthem by Croatian icon Josipa Lisac are unimportant, and the subject has been covered at length in the Croatian media already. But check it out in full above. 


There was another female star at the ceremony, First Lady Sanja Milanovic, and it was great to see her promoting Croatian fashion and excellence with her outfit from Varteks. 

milanovic-inauguration (5).jpg

And after the ceremony, we waited in the hallway for a chance of a photograph, an interview. I was very impressed with how civil and polite members of the media were towards each other. No pushing, checking that views were not obstructed. Much more civilised than I had been expecting. A liaison lady took requests from journalists as to who they would like to interview, and then she went into the ceremony room and brought those who agreed to appear for the cameras. 

milanovic-inauguration (9).jpg

Former President Ivo Josipovic (who unlike Kolinda, did agree to my interview request) was one of the first out. 

milanovic-inauguration (8).jpg

And then they were there. Like an estranged couple who had been married for years but no longer had anything in common, the doors opened and the two presidents emerged and climbed the stairs for a short meeting. The campaign was brutal, and there is clearly no love lost between them, but protocol was adhered to. Thinking about it, the room was filled with key members of the HDZ government who are opposed to Milanovic in general - I wonder how many friends and allies were among the 39 guests.

milanovic-inauguration (10).jpg

I was a little surprised not to receive a programme of the day's schedule with the press accreditation, but I soon learned why. There simply was no progamme. There was less of an inauguration and more of a bureaucratic procedure. The black cars started to appear and the prominent guests took their leave. PM Plenkovic was one of the last to leave, at precisely 12:59, less than an hour from the start of the ceremony. Astonishing that such an event could be over so quickly, but I liked it in a way. My last editorial was called Would Croatia Be Better If Its Politicians Were Not Treated As Rock Stars? The Milanovic dour approach is certainly in stark contrast to the previous regime, and perhaps we can now focus on real issues. 

Milanovic seems to have decided to downplay the role of the presidency, perhaps more in line with the reality of the importance of the office, after five years of Kolinda's style over substance. Whatever I think of his politics, I for one welcome that. 

milanovic-inauguration (11).jpg

Being a first timer at such an event, I wasn't quite sure where to stand, and it was an education to watch the professionals set up shop for the best angles. This is how it looks behind the scenes. 

milanovic-inauguration (2).jpg

And of course I was standing in the wrong place, as I soon learned after my phone started beeping incessantly, with screenshots of live national television coverage such as the one above. 

milanovic-inauguration (3).jpg

I could be wrong, but I think we might actually have been the only two foreigners at the Milanovic inauguration - great material for my faithful trolls who think I am the MI6 chief in the Balkans. It took some effort, but we managed to secure the building.  

And then, perhaps the most poignant moment of all - the Kolinda farewell. President Milanovic walked former President Grabar-Kitarovic to her car, give her flowers, a kiss and a wave goodbye. Then he turned round and went back into his new home. 

And that was the end of the party - time 13:15. 

For a different TCN account of the Milanovic Inauguration, check out Forrest Stilin's Croatia President Inauguration: Gay Icon Eclipses Modest Event

 For the latest news about President Zoran Milanovic, follow the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Plenković Discusses Inauguration, New Military Chief of Staff

ZAGREB, February 19, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the nomination of Vice Admiral Robert Hranj as new military chief of staff would be on the government's agenda on Thursday and that there were no problems with President Zoran Milanović in agreeing on the nomination.

Plenković told reporters Hranj was one of the key people in the Main Staff who, together with the head of his office, was at the helm of a task force for the procurement of fighter jets.

Most important for the government and the defence minister is that the Croatian army functions well and that the highest commanders are reputable officials with the skills and knowledge necessary for the army, he said.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said Hranj was a good choice and that their cooperation so far had been very good.

Reporters asked both officials what they thought about Milanović's inauguration earlier today.

Plenković said he saw no problem in the fact that he did not comment on it earlier. "This was the inauguration of the president of the republic, it's his day. I was there, respecting Croatian institutions and the whole process. I congratulated him and think everything was okay."

Plenković said Milanović's speech was about how he saw society and his work ahead, adding that the government has its own programme and work.

Asked what their cohabitation would be like, he said they would cooperate there where the constitution and the law "connected" them, adding that today they talked informally and not about when they would meet.

Krstičević once again congratulated the new president. "What's key is that we focus on the further development and strengthening of the Croatian army and that's my task."

The prime minister also commented on announcements that gas prices would go down. "I think that's good," he said, adding that it was important that the goal was to raise living standards, which he said could be achieved by reducing expenses and raising salaries.

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

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Officials Comment on Milanović’s Inauguration

ZAGREB, February 18, 2020 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Tuesday President Zoran Milanović's inauguration speech was a good start to his term, highlighting the need to cooperate to Croatia's benefit.

"I can assess it as a fair speech in which he gave several essential messages, the most important being that we should cooperate and work to Croatia's benefit regardless of political differences and different world views," Jandroković said.

"I think it's a good start and hope President Milanović's term will pass in that spirit."

Jandroković said he did not find it contentious that Milanović opted for a minimalist inauguration and an unpretentious speech. "That's his decision, he's the president, he won the confidence of citizens and that needs to be respected."

Although he often argued with Milanović when the latter served as prime minister, Jandroković said he hoped the cooperation now would be fair and that both would keep their positions and views on life and politics.

"I hope for a fair cooperation, which is the task and obligation of all of us holding a senior office. Regardless of different political preferences, we have to cooperate. The people expect that of us and I hope we will abide by that."

Former President Ivo Josipović said on Tuesday that he expects President Zoran Milanović to lead the country in a pro-European way and help the Croatian society to end wars and become a peacetime civic society, as well as that the best values of antifascism and the Homeland War to be part of Milanovic's policy and a basis of Croatia's policy.

"I consider his statement that wars are over to be very important. I believe that Milanović has an ambition to help the Croatian society put an end to World War II and the Homeland War and to help it become a peacetime civic society, with the best values of both antifascism and the Homeland War being part of his policy as well as a basis of Croatia's policy," Josipović said in a comment on Milanovic's inauguration speech.

He described the inauguration as low-key, pleasant and dignified.

Commenting further on Milanović's speech, Josipović said that the new president had pointed out three important areas - judiciary, science and education, and the welfare component of society.

"That means that he sees the role of the president in a broader sense, as one surpassing their formal powers," he said, adding that he expected Milanović to promote European values.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković did not wish to comment on the inauguration of Croatia's fifth President Zoran Milanović on Tuesday and just waved off reporters who were waiting for him at the president's office.

Plenković was one of about only forty guests invited to Milanović's inauguration and oath-taking ceremony but was virtually the only person who did not wish to make a comment on the ceremony nor on what he expects from Milanović during his term in office.

It seems that Plenković is sticking to his announcement that he and Milanovic will have a "tough cohabitation."

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

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Zoran Milanović Inaugurated as President

ZAGREB, February 18, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović said in his inaugural address on Tuesday that elections are a way of reaching a peaceful compromise between the opposed wishes of different people, and that he will play a constructive role as President.

Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Milanović said that the truth and voters' desire should be kept apart and that elections are not the way to find the truth but to reach a peaceful compromise between the opposed wishes of different people.

"It seems to me that there is only one right way, and that is full and active support by the government to academic and scientific independence and independence of the judiciary and media. That's the strongest defence against tyranny, tyranny of any kind," he said.

The scientific community, judiciary and media must work incessantly on perfecting the anti-corruption mechanisms. Protection and promotion of the independence of the judiciary, media and science are the most important constitutional responsibilities of the President of the Republic in ensuring the stability of government, Milanović said.

He stressed that he is not going to be a corrective, but a constructive factor in areas of direct competence or co-competence of the President of the Republic, adding that this arises from the spirit of the Constitution.

In foreign policy, he said he will focus on promoting cooperation and prosperity. There is no doubt that there are incomparably more points on which we can build cooperation and prosperity than those that distance us from our neighbours and from the world, even when it comes to countries with which we have the largest number of unresolved issues, he added.

In his speech, Milanović asked beforehand for "a seed of understanding" for possible mistakes on his part, stressing that they will never be intentional or made to hurt or degrade somebody. "I will do my best to make sure that this seed produces a presidential term to the benefit of Croatia and its citizens."

He said it would be a mistake to doubt a person's motivation or patriotism because of differences in opinion, noting that patriotism, unlike raw nationalism, is a critical commitment and negation of exclusiveness.

Patriotism implies an indelible memory and an eternal gratitude to men, women and children who were killed and who suffered for our freedom both in the 1991-1995 Homeland War and during the antifascist struggle in the Second World War. "Patriotism is also awareness of the failures of triumphalism that unfortunately sometimes accompanied our victories in the wars, but we should not compare or equate those failures," he said.

Milanović said that the wars are over and that it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that no citizen of Croatia feels intimidated, discriminated against or in any way excluded just because they are different.

"When I say different, I also mean weaker or smaller in number, and that according to several criteria: gender, ethnic, social, religious, work and age. Such patriotism is based on the highest values of our constitution and our sheer humanity, if you will, and not on myths, past traumas and prejudice," he said.

Our future depends, first and foremost, on the quality of education and the belief in the fact that knowledge is key to a more fulfilled and successful life, as well as on our treatment of our own culture, Milanović said.

He said that Croatia is the home of an unskilled worker and a respectable academic alike, stressing that promoting solidarity in society, a fairer division of national wealth, and the fight against clientelism, a culture of lies and greed is the most effective instrument in combating inequality and the growing gap between rich and poor.

"Our republic needs every person and every person in Croatia must be given a chance to find their way and their place, to live in dignity from decent work. This is a home to us all, to us who live here and to the generations to come, as well as to those who are yet to return," Milanović said in conclusion of his speech.

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

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Grabar-Kitarović to Ask for Official Office as Former President?

ZAGREB, January 25, 2020 - Outgoing President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović plans to ask the government to provide her with office space after her term expires on 19 February, Večernji List newspaper writes on Saturday.

Her plan, as she herself has revealed, is to continue working on branding Croatia, promoting national interests, dealing with social issues such as domestic violence and promoting environmental protection. She has no intention to criticise or praise her successor, Zoran Milanović, or comment on his work, the newspaper said.

"I didn't think I was going to take an office, but now I'm thinking that one should have a base if one is to do one's work seriously, and I can't just sit somewhere and do nothing," Grabar-Kitarović was quoted as saying.

The outgoing president may exercise her right under the law to have an office. Before her, only Stjepan Mesić exercised this right, while Ivo Josipović returned to his duties at the University of Zagreb School of Law.

In 2016, on the initiative of the MOST party, the law was amended and the rights of former presidents were considerably reduced, as a result of which a former president is no longer entitled to an office for a lifetime but only for five years.

Once Grabar-Kitarović formally requests an office, the government will have to set aside budget funds for that purpose. She will also be entitled to two office clerks, a car, a driver and a bodyguard, Večernji List said.

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

Friday, 17 January 2020

Croatian President Elect Zoran Milanović Gives First TV Interview

Croatian President-Elect Zoran Milanović gave his first interview to Mislav Bago of Nova TV on January 16, 2020. When asked what people should expect from him as president, Milanović indicated that he would defend the constitution, fight against thieves and do everything which he promised during his campaign. He also spoke about the murder which occurred in Split last weekend, as Slobodna Dalmacija reported. Here are some highlights from that interview.

What can people expect from you as Croatian president?

To defend the constitution, I will fight against thieves and all that I have said in the campaign. I haven’t promise miracles. I’ll do what I promised.

Croatia has recently been shocked by the triple murder (in Split), and there are those who have organized and want to take justice into their own hands.

It shocked me, as it did you, and all of us. Split thrives on the idea of safety although it's not a very safe city. But it's not the worst city in the world either. Croatia is a reasonably safe country and the degree of public security is very good. More work is required on prevention. I could understand the approach of people on Facebook at first, but now I can't.

That needs to stop, and the government has my support. Split is a very segmented and unique city. It is large by Croatian standards; the second largest. And it is a large diverse urban entity when Solin and Kaštela are included. Unlike Zagreb, Rijeka and Zadar, Split is very diverse on the political level. In some parts of Split I received 78 percent of the vote and in other city districts I got 20 percent. This city was built on muscle, big growth and rapid urbanization, which it has not been able to reconcile. It is a big sociological and security challenge.

These people have organized themselves (on Facebook) because they believe that the system is wrong, so they have decided to take matters into their own hands.

I haven’t seen them do anything, but the idea itself is bad.


The system has also been exposed by the tragedy in Andraševac, particularly as it relates to the elderly. We are a nation of elderly people, and the government has announced changes to the law, but they probably want to hear what the President thinks.

The existing Croatian law was adequate, and now the government has become the most convenient scapegoat. Something horrible occurred in Andraševac and it is awful. We are an aging nation and need to invest in the right types of care for people. The city of Zagreb does not even have 4,000 beds in public homes and an average bed is 4,000 HRK (538 EUR) a month. In private homes this amount reaches as much as 1,000 EUR. This is a serious political problem and anyone who seeks a government position in our country will have to address citizens’ needs, which are realistic and justified.

You are expected to assume the presidency on February 18, 2020; and you have said you want to have a normal inauguration, what would that look like?

First, this does not mean that the others weren’t normal. This is one action, you assume the office, and the only thing the constitution says is that you are required take the oath of office before the President of the Constitutional Court. This can be organized in a hundred different ways. That day will take place at Pantovčak, in the President's office, and I will invite those who I think should be present. That includes the current President, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Presidency of the Parliament, the President of the Supreme Court, the Chief of Staff, the people who ran my campaign and my wife.

Our diplomacy has already informed us about the inauguration. What if some of the presidents of neighboring states want to attend?

That won't be possible, and they won't want to attend. The inauguration will be organized the way I’ve described. In Slovenia, a directly elected president takes the oath of office in parliament. This is probably possible in Croatia as well, and it seems more appropriate to me.

Rumor has it that you and the Turkish president will initiate changes to the Dayton agreement?

This is impossible, this contract is like a border agreement and cannot be canceled by standard procedure. You would have to reunite all the stakeholders, which is impossible.


Putin congratulated you and invited you to celebrate May Day in Moscow. Have you decided whether you’ll go?

It's a legendary Russian parade. I think I'm going to attend, and I don't know what would happen if I didn’t go. I do not support the annexation of Crimea, but that does not mean that I won’t work on good relations with Russia.

In terms of cooperation with the currrent Croatian President, how is this transition period going?

It’s going OK; I'm pleased.

Were you surprised by the Prime Minister's statement regarding difficult cohabitation or were you expecting a different reaction?

He has had enough turmoil in his own party, which has been going on now for years, so I won’t comment.

What should we expect in this difficult cohabitation?

You can expect constructive cooperation, and not destructive behavior. When I gather people, who are worthy and who I consider to be the best, it won’t be to lock horns with the government. It is easy to be resourceful in the position of the presidency every day. My big advantage is that I know what it looks like on the other side. It’s a lot more difficult.

The Croatian air force planes could be a topic for disagreement?

I can’t challenge that because it’s a government decision.

But they will listen to your position. You have said publicly that this should be done directly with the Americans, without an invitation or tender, yet the government informed seven countries about the purchase, why do you think it is better to automatically work with the Americans?

Because we are not buying cars for the Croatian parliament like we did recently. You call a public tender, specify those cars and know in advance that Audis are being purchased. But if you call a public tender through the General Affairs Office of the Government, Parliament and Procurement Office: they’ll end up spending too much, rather than just buying cars directly, which is twice as cheap.

Let's say a one-year-old vehicle is purchased, however. And we are not buying cars, but deadly machines, which are essential for national security. If that decision has already been made, I won’t oppose it. There are a several factors to consider. The main one, apart from quality, is reliability. Therefore, the long-term reliability of our partners is important, as is the availability of training and spare parts for rebuilding the system. The safest route is to work with the Americans.

Could we survive without investing in aviation and invest in the Croatian Navy instead? We have a lot more sea to defend. I don't want to downplay the Air Force, but nowadays, Americans are killing and disabling targets with drones.

I agree with you. I am also the Commander-in-Chief now. The President of the Croatian Republic is only nominally the Commander-in-Chief in the event of a war or declaration of war. We have not declared war and didn’t even do so during the actual war in Croatia in the 1990s. This is what the government does during peacetime, and the President is always present. He is a kind of symbolic figure. I know a little about these things and dealt with this issue 20 years ago. However, this system is managed by the Government and I will be their partner, and what I am saying is that this is Croatia’s best interests. I can say this because I do not decide on allocating state funds. I do not decide on procurement and do not have any personal preferences. I do not know about present-day companies or factories. I used to know about all the fighter jet manufacturers as a kid, now I don't know anything about them.


I ask this because some people say that in the long run it will be more important for us to protect the sea, and we are not investing money in this area, and the question is when and under what conditions will we get the planes?

I have been saying this for five years or more. As Croatian Prime Minister, I left the mandate with an outstanding order for one, or four more – so a total of five Coast Guard patrol vessels, which are part of the Navy today. This is what we need as a minimum, but it is not enough. I consider the Navy a priority, so our 12 or so planes mean nothing in the global arena. It's purely a badge pride to have those and have that ability. It is expensive, but we are a country, not just NATO members, and the Navy and sea are our most precious resources besides humans.

You have said publicly that we do not belong in Afghanistan. Will you formally initiate the withdrawal of our troops when you take office?

I will constantly bring this up because it is a completely senseless mission. There is no solution for that situation, and the question is when the US will withdraw. It's often said, ‘We went in together, we will leave together,’ but it's not a real combat action to refer to warriors’ honor. It is a mission that our people cannot defend.

We entered there a year after the Americans, a year after the Taliban were defeated. We entered there on the initiative of Ivica Račan, but that does not oblige us. We can withdraw when we decide to without consulting anyone. It cannot be on the principle that several soldiers there earn a slightly higher salary. I'm glad about that, but I'm not glad when they come back wounded or die. The situation is stagnant, and I wonder why. The key question is why.

We also have soldiers in India and Pakistan. One wonders what our interest is there.

There is a much smaller number there, but we need to constantly check and review the ratio, not jump in blindly for our partners and their interests.

You said that Slovenia needs Croatia to be a strategic partner, but how can this be achieved with all the obstacles we have; like the arbitration issue, for example?

We’ll proceed patiently, as we did in the campaign. Slovenia is naturally our closest partner. Our challenges with them are nothing compared to the problems we have with other countries.

Do you think Bernardić could be Prime Minister?

He is the president of a strong political party, if the SDP achieves solid results in the upcoming elections and win more than 76 seats, they will have the mandate. And I cannot foresee what kind of prime minister he will be.

Europe has proposed a comprehensive green plan – and as a continent we would like to return to sustainable energy. Do you think that citizens are aware of what lies ahead and what we must do to save planet earth?

They are not currently aware but will become more so over time. We, as a small country and a small economy, contribute little or nothing to climate change and global warming. However, we also do not have the wealth and sometimes pretentious moral guard of Denmark or Sweden. This needs to be clear - it concerns us, it concerns our coast. If the sea level begins to rise, it affects our environment and where our people live. These are things that need to be talked about constantly. There are also several moral issues, such as how shamelessly rich countries are exploiting natural resources, and currently have the right to set the pace for those who are being exploited.

We know what to expect from your inauguration, but what will be among be your first decisions?

I will gather people whom I consider important. I do not mean an advisory team which bypasses the government and copies it. The team will be smaller, but for practical reasons. I can't gather everyone I’d like to have on board. There will be a smaller number of professional advisors, but don't consider it a savings. This is not because I am frugal, but that’s how it is coming together this point. Those I nominate will represent my priorities and those are: defense, national security, foreign policy and practically nothing else. I cannot reveal any names right now. I will certainly not have a social services advisor because appointing someone for that position would be pretentious and wrong. I'm not the government. I have no right to mentor the government if I cannot offer a solution. I will make a few of the social fields a priority including education and curricular reform…

What role will your wife play? She said she would like to promote the field she is working in.

She is primarily a university professor and works at the state institute on various projects. She will be doing what she would like to do. She'll probably be more present than when I was Prime Minister, but not much more. It is, after all, her decision.

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