Friday, 5 March 2021

Parliament Elects 7 Members of Public Broadcaster's Programming Council

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Parliament on Friday elected by secret ballot seven members of the Croatian Radio-Television (HRT) Programming Council.

They are Nikola Baketa (99 votes), Vlaho Bogišić (101), Đemal Bratić (89), Ivica Lučić (89), Zorislav Lukić (83), Robert Markt (85) and Ozana Ramljak (92).

They were on a list of ten candidates recommended by the parliamentary information and media committee.

Which two will have a shortened term will be decided by the Programming Council, the committee decided. The committee's public call for applications stated that five Progamming Council members would be appointed to a term of four years and two until 12 July 2023.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

MPs Debate Candidates For Croatian Radio-Television's (HRT) Programming Council

ZAGREB, 3 March, 2021 - Parliament on Wednesday debated a draft list of candidates for Croatian Radio-Television's (HRT) Programming Council but opposition MPs, disgruntled that the HRT was not broadcasting the debate live, walked out of the chamber.

Parliament is expected to vote on the candidates who meet the requirements set by the parliamentary media committee on Friday.

During the debate before the walkout, Nino Raspudić of the opposition Bridge (Most) said the Programming Council "has no powers and serves nothing because no one listens to it, it has no role at all nor influence on the selection of anyone or anything."

"The HRT is in the service of the great leader and his clique on a caricature level," he said, adding that the reputation and relevance of the public broadcaster was being constantly degraded and that the HRT avoided covering serious topics.

Raspudić said the Programming Council was disempowered by amendments to the HRT Act adopted by the former SDP-led government, adding that the power was concentrated in the hands of the HRT director general and the HRT put under direct political control.

Željko Sačić of the opposition Croatian Sovereignists said the HRT did not have enough programmes for war veterans and criticised the Programming Council for failing to affirm the values in the Homeland War Declaration.

Marijana Puljak of opposition Centre suggested abolishing the licence fee and the Programming Council, saying that Croatia had high taxes which could be used to finance the HRT's work instead of additionally collecting HRK 1.3 billion annually from citizens. She added that there was no investigating journalism on the HRT.

Vesna Bedeković of the ruling HDZ denied that the Programming Council had no role or powers, saying it followed the implementation of programming principles and the HRT-government agreement.

She recalled that nine of the Council's 11 members were elected in parliament and two from the HRT staff, and dismissed complaints that there were no sufficient programmes for war veterans.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

HRT Must Reinstate Reporter, HND President Hrvoje Zovko

ZAGREB, Aug 25, 2020 - Croatian Journalists Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko said on Tuesday that the Rijeka County Court had rejected an appeal by the HRT public broadcaster, confirming that the HRT's having fired him in September 2018 was an unlawful decision and that he had to be reinstated. 

Zovko must be reinstated as editor-coordinator within eight days and the HRT must compensate him for the income lost, plus interest.

Zovko thanked the HND, the Croatian Journalists Union, international journalists' associations, and numerous colleagues for support.

He was fired in September 2018 after the HRT management made a decision on an instant dismissal of its reporter and HND president.

The dismissal was initiated based on a complaint by the editor-in-chief of Croatian Television's (HTV) news service, Katarina Perisa Cakarun.

Some ten days before that, Zovko tendered his resignation as the editor-in-chief of the HTV Channel 4, saying in a letter that his decision was due to pressure, censorship, an unprofessional choice of topics, lack of organisation and serious technical problems on Channel 4.

This was followed by a meeting with Perisa Cakarun, at which she accepted his resignation. However, only two hours later, Zovko was invited to a second meeting at which an argument erupted between him and Perisa Cakarun.

HRT said Zovko had been dismissed due to a grave breach of rules of office and conduct, a number of insults he said, inappropriate conduct and inappropriate and unprofessional statements, adding that the incident happened during working hours in HRT offices.

The HRT Staff Council voted against Zovko's dismissal but its opinion was not binding on the HRT management.

With its ruling, the Rijeka County Court has upheld a 2019 ruling which said that Zovko had been fired unlawfully.

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Monday, 4 May 2020

HND: Ban on Appearance of SNH Leader Proves Censorship at HRT

ZAGREB, May 4, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) said on Sunday that the decision by the public television broadcaster to ban the leader of the Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) from appearing in its popular Sunday talk show was confirmation of censorship at the HRT.

"The Croatian Journalists' Association strongly condemns the censorship move by the management of Croatian Radio and Television to ban the editor of 'Nedjeljom u 2' (Sundays at 2 o'Clock), Aleksandar Stanković, from hosting Maja Sever, an HRT journalist and president of the Croatian Journalists' Union, on his show on the World Press Freedom Day," the HND said in a statement,

The guest of Sunday's show was an independent member of Parliament, Marko Vučetić, who said that he had been invited instead of SNH leader Maja Sever, to which the show's host Aleksandar Stanković remarked that this was his own professional defeat and the defeat of the HRT.

"The fact that Maja Sever is not the guest on today's show is my professional defeat and I would also say the defeat of the organisation I work for. She was invited at the president of the Croatian Journalists' Union who last week discussed with the President of Croatia and the Minister of Culture the problem of freelance journalists in the present time of crisis and how to save them. I wasn't given the green light to host her. She was also invited as the recent recipient of the Pride of Croatia Award. The explanation was that she works here, with this show, and that it is not possible. I will persist in inviting her to this show because I believe that she should be a guest," Stankovic said.

The HND said that this showed what the situation was like at the HRT where "freedom of speech has been restricted for a while now."

"The fact that Sever is also an HRT employee would be an honour to any well-regulated and free system, let alone one that is mostly funded by taxpayers' money, rather than an excuse for censorship," the HND said, recalling that Sever's popular programme "Croatia Live" was taken off the air without any explanation a few years ago.

The HND called on the "free-thinking public and everyone concerned to join us in efforts to free the HRT of the shackles of politics and interest groups so that it becomes an independent public service. The fee-paying citizens are entitled to that."

The HND said it continued to support the demand made at a large protest rally by journalists last year that the current HRT management should be replaced.

More news about the status of journalists can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

HUP Appeals to HRT to Expand Decision on Suspension of Subscription Fee

ZAGREB, April 9, 2020 - The Croatian Employers' Association (HUP) on Thursday welcomed the decision by the public broadcaster HRT to temporarily suspend subscription fees for all businesses ordered by the national civil protection authority to cease operating, calling for the decision to apply to all other entities affected by the present crisis.

"We welcome the decision by the HRT director-general on the temporary suspension of the monthly subscription fee for all entities that ceased operating by order of the national civil protection authority. However, we have to point out that this decision does not apply to activities and businesses whose operation has not been officially suspended, but which have no work or revenue," the HUP said in a statement.

The decision, made on April 7, will be in force from April 1 until the cessation of the coronavirus emergency, as decided by the national civil protection authority.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Bored at Home? Missing Sports? Relive Croatia's Greatest Successes on HRT 2

March 24, 2020 - HRT has prepared footage of Croatia’s most memorable sports moments, which will be broadcast daily on the Second Program in the afternoons.

Many of us have been self-isolating for a few weeks now, though we’ve been without our favorite sports to watch for what feels like an eternity. With no NBA, Champions League, La Liga or Croatian sports to follow this month (and indefinitely), our weekends have been pretty dull - especially since we’ve been told not to leave the couch. 

Since you’ve probably run through everything on Netflix by now, HRT has prepared a treat for fans of Croatian sport - and we think you’ll be pretty pleased. 

“From tomorrow, we will remember the unforgettable matches from the World Cup and the performances of the Vatreni in Russia. We will again take you chronologically on the adventure of Dalic’s knights. We are broadcasting the match against Nigeria on Tuesday, and the historic match against Argentina is scheduled for Wednesday. On Thursday, March 26, we will broadcast the last group stage game between Croatia and Iceland, then the dramatic World Cup round of 16 duel against Denmark. The weekend is reserved for the quarterfinal and semi-final, against the host nation Russia and the heart attack against England.

You will be reminded of the greatest successes of Croatian sport - winning medals at the Olympic Games, Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon, performances of Janica and Ivica Kostelic, winning the European Handball Championship title in Zagreb, the legendary performance of Croatian basketball players against the ‘Dream Team’, Ciro Blažević and the road to the bronze medal in France, world and European titles of the water polo team, as well as numerous other moments that have written the pages of Croatia's sports success,” published HRT Communications.

Relive Croatia’s most celebrated sporting successes on HRT 2 from 17:10 today, with Croatia’s 2018 World Cup opener against Nigeria.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Croatian Peruvian Returns to Homeland Starts Design Business

Dragitza is a brilliant young Croatian Peruvian who decided to seek a better life in her homeland. She started her own business, has a stand-up comedy act and is a finalist on a popular TV cooking show.

Founder of Puro Amor Design in Zagreb

You may not have heard of Dragitza Rastegorac yet, but you have probably heard of the brand Puro Amor Design, which has been selling cups with wacky and personalized labels for a while. This 29-year-old was born and raised in Peru, but her Croatian roots brought her back to the region her family came from. She recently spoke to Veronika Švob/SUPER1/Telegram about life in Zagreb, her first job, stand-up comedy and her current business over coffee at Cogito Café on Deželićeva Ulica.

Dragitza was born and spent 26 years of her life in Lima, the capital of Peru. Her father is originally from Kupres and her mother is from Bugojno, so when she turned nine, she had the opportunity to spend two years in Croatia before returning to Peru again. After graduating from high school and college in Lima, Dragitza decided that she no longer wanted to live Peru and decided to come to Croatia.


Puro Amor Design | Facebook

Left Corruption and Poverty in Peru for Better Croatian Life

"After graduation, I didn't even look for a job there, but came to Zagreb. The people of Lima most often go to Argentina to look for work or further education, but I did not want to go that route. Something drew me to Croatia.”

She claims that it was not because of the people and adds that the Peruvians are very warm and know how to socialize with others, but Lima is a very unsafe place to live.

"There is so much poverty, and corruption which does not benefit people at all, and I simply felt that I did not belong there. While I was growing up, we often spent time in Croatian emigrant social circles. Most of those Croats had arrived in Peru after the Second World War and were already third generation. I am second generation, for example.”

“I studied communication science, and the course of study is quite different than that in Croatia. I learned a lot about advertising and graphic design. After I completed my degree, I applied for a scholarship in Croatia, which was not difficult to get, because there are plenty of openings. I think the goal is to encourage Croatians to eventually return from abroad. Not all of them stay, of course, and some only come for a year or two.”

She first came alone, lived in a dormitory on the Sava, and met a lot of people from Peru, Argentina and Canada at that time.

Studied Croatian As Scholarship Student in Croaticum

“I studied Croatian through the Croaticum program at the Filozofski Fakultet (Faculty of Philosophy) and it was quite challenging, but I believe it is currently the best program for learning Croatian. It was not my first contact with the Croatian language because I came here at the age of nine and went to school here for two years.”

She spoke Spanish all her life, but what she had learned as a child helped her a lot. "The Croatian language is very difficult, it is really demanding, especially when it comes to the cases. I can't compare it to Spanish at all.”

She speaks Croatian very well today, adding that she still messes up the cases sometimes. After her classes ended, she stayed in Croatia for another month before returning to Lima. But then she came back to after half a year and knew then that she wanted to stay Croatia. "I had a great roommate from Slavonski Brod and met a lot of foreigners, somehow it all fell into place."

First Job as Manager at Museum of Illusions

"My first job in Zagreb was at the Museum of Illusions. I saw an ad saying that they were looking for someone who spoke English and that Spanish was an advantage. I applied for this job thinking that I would be the guide in the museum, not run the whole museum. However, it turned out that I became manager of the museum and stayed there for about a year.”

She points out that it was no problem for her to get the job, and that she rejected as many as two offers in the meantime.

"Many thought I got the job through a relationship, but I really didn't. After a year at the museum I was working on another project for them, but it didn't work out very well and I was glad when I got fired. Everyone around me was amazed to see that I kept a smile on my face, but I just had to.”

She had her own business plan in mind by then, or rather she had just begun thinking about it, but hadn’t done anything yet.


Puro Amor Design | Facebook

Created Business Plan Out of Love for Collecting Cups

She first came up with the idea of making cups because she collected them. “I was constantly searching for cups with Croatian inscriptions and could not find them anywhere. Now there are several cups, but at that time I couldn't find anything interesting.” It occurred to her to start making them herself, so she began with drawings, and was somewhat inspired by the Spanish brand Mr. Wonderful, which does similar work in all languages. "So, I started and showed my friend some ideas and she really liked them.

"My dad lent me money to print the first 250 pieces, I opened a Paušalni obrt (or lump sum business – I still don't know exactly what that means, but I am a lump sum) and started the business.”

After she reached out to the Instagram profile @zagrebfacts as it offered her a lot of Zagreb slang expressions; people started inquiring. "That was two years ago, I remember that I had sold almost a hundred pieces in just a few days. That early success fueled my motivation to continue. "

After that, she bought her first printer, then a second and third. She started her business in a room in a rented apartment and eventually moved it into the living room. "My emphasis is on personalized mugs, and I offer customers five options to choose from. Then Mother's Day came, and the business simply swelled to such an extent that shops started contacting me with their orders.” Then the media became interested and there were competitions. She even tried to work with Croatian influencers, but that did not progress. However, she had the great fortune of opening a showroom in on Jurišićeva Ulica.

Opened Puro Amor Design Shop on Jurišićeva Ulica

"I am here alone most of the time. My best friend helps me, and everything goes from production to sale here." Although she started with cups, she began producing canvas bags and feathers last February, and next February she expects to continue with t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. Now she is making a decent living. "I do not expect to make a fortune, but I think something like this was needed in Croatia. At least that’s how it turned out for now.” You can follow Puro Amor Design on Facebook and Instagram.

Moonlighting as Stand-Up Comedienne at Studio Smijeha

She also took acting classes in Peru and was part of an acting ensemble, Dragitza has a few plays behind her. "This is one of the reasons why I wanted to go to America after college. I even auditioned for the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, which is quite demanding but too expensive, so I gave up. It was a good confirmation to me that I have talent, so when I came to Zagreb, I enrolled in Studio Kubus, but realized that it was quite difficult for me to act in Croatian.”

Shortly after, she found a stand-up workshop at Studio smijeha (Studio of Laughs) and decided to go there.

"Marina Orsag told me that I was very endearing, that I had a super accent, and advised me to write some text. She soon asked me when I was planning on performing on open mic, and although I was excited, I didn't tell anyone I was going to do it. The show turned out great, and the crowd was roaring with laughter. The topics revolved around my parents, life in Zagreb, about being told that I’d never find a job here, and about some of my observations as a foreigner."

She also draws his inspiration from her love life, which she says is totally chaotic. "Well, I borrow stories from girlfriends, funny down-to-earth stories but I'm pretty focused on women's topics. From PMS to the gynecologist.” She doesn't write as often as she would like but hopes to hold a new performance every month. "A lot of people come to listen to stand-up, it's brilliant to realize that you can make people laugh. I'm an optimistic person and see good things in everyone. I'm a positive person by nature."

In her free time, she goes to Praćka for karaoke, while she chooses Katran for dancing. "Well, that was a bit of a shock to me. In Peru, you dance wherever you go but there’s nothing here. It's so hard to get people to move around here. And at first, I went to Latin American dance events, because I missed them so much.”


Dragitza Rastegorac | Facebook

Made it to Semi Finals on Popular Cooking TV Show

She loves to cook, mostly Peruvian cuisine, and her mom sends her spices regularly to make those dishes work. "We eat very spicy foods, and prepare meat for a long time, and coriander and yellow chili are my favorite spices." She admits he does not excel in preparing fish. In Peru, raw fish, known as ceviche, is one of the most famous dishes. "From Croatian cuisine, I love pate, beans and greens and Istrian specialties which my roommate’s mom sends." Dragitza also recently made it to the semi-finals on the TV show Kuhan i pečen (Cooked and Baked).

"She likes the pace of life here. Zagreb is not that big of a city and I can get everything done in one day. The only sad thing for me is that Croatians want to leave the country and they often tell me that I won’t stay here for very long. I don't think they appreciate what they have, but I don't know. And it wasn't that easy for me to start this adventure. There were days when I only sold one or two cups, but if you are persistent and if you work hard, there is no door that won’t open. Croatians do not consider the option of starting their own business after graduation, while that is common practice in Peru. If you don't find a job, you can figure out one out for yourself. I have a dozen more ideas, but don't have time for everything.”

Well, Dragitza is a good example of commitment all the way to the finish line, and nothing can stop her. She's truly inspirational.

Follow our Made in Croatia page and Diaspora page to keep updated on Croatia returnees, their business ventures and successes.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Croatian Filmmakers Vrdoljak: Debts for Failed 'General' Film

Goran Navojec and Mustafa Nadarević are among the most famous names on a list of people and companies to whom the producers, Antun and Andrija Vrdoljak, of the failed Croatian film and TV series ‘General’ are indebted.

Navojec agreed to speak publicly in a written statement to Vladimir Matijanić/Index on January 10, 2020; and Mustafa Nadarević confirmed his claims.

Unpaid production debts are dragging on for ‘General’ even though producers had a massive budget compared to other Croatian productions. Croatian Radio Television (HRT) alone gave them 9.6 million HRK (1.3 million EUR), the Croatian Audiovisual Center provided 4.2 million HRK (565,000 EUR), and Index wouldn't dare assume how much the Ministry of Defense and numerous local government units, which are credited in the series, paid them or how they provided assistance. Index also contacted the Ministry of Defense regarding the cost of filming ‘General’ and will provide their response if and when they receive it.

It’s worth pointing out that that Vrdoljak was credited as a screenwriter, director and co-producer. Second in line is Goran Višnjić, who enjoyed considerable success in the United States and played Ante Gotovina in the film and series. The executive producer is Antun's son, Andrija Vrdoljak, and the series and film were credited to Kiklop film, along with Croatian Radio and Television. According to court records, the owners of Kiklop film are also Antun and Andrija Vrdoljak, the latter of whom is credited as director.

Navojec: My Relationship with Producers Will End in Court

Here's what Navojec wrote to Index about Vrdoljak's debts.

"My relationship with the producers of the movie and TV series ‘General', or Kiklop film, will unfortunately finish in court because two-and-a-half years after filming ended, and an equally long payment deadline, I still have not been paid a portion of my fees. I was paid a part of my fee after a two year wait. My esteemed colleague and friend, Mr. Mustafa Nadarević, veteran of Croatian cinema and theater, is still waiting for his payment. There are also others waiting too and they are not actors: Gripfilm company, in charge of stage effects; Mario Knezović, co-producer in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Ivan Maloča of Interfilm, whose cameras filmed ‘General,’” Navojec wrote to us.


"It's About Croatian Taxpayer Money"

"It is incomprehensible to me that those in charge of the HRT and HAVC publicly funded joint project, which at one time had received a designation of project of state importance, treat their associates this way by not paying them. Because taxpayer money is involved, I think it is time to speak up regarding this topic. Neither HRT nor HAVC are legally responsible for this situation because we all signed a contract with Kiklop film, but the responsibility of the producer is in question as well as the mechanism for monitoring the spending of public funds.

“If they release my work into the public domain at home and abroad without fulfilling my financial obligations, or the obligations of those without whom there would have been no final product, then we are all in serious trouble. After two years, and in good faith, I communicated regularly with the producer and patiently considered their reasons for the late payment, which were mainly directed towards HRT and HAVC. The producers were supposedly expecting a payment of settlement funds from them, but I eventually decided to resolve the issue through legal means and filed a motion for payment enforcement based on a credible document. An enforcement order was issued and then the producer lodged an unfounded complaint on the same grounds, solely because of the reason for payment delay," Navojec writes in a statement.

Index contacted everyone mentioned in Navojac's statement and they have confirmed his allegations. Nadarević agreed to allow Index to mention his name, while Knezović, Maloča and Siladi from Gripfilm provided more specific details. Knezović received 20,000 EUR from the Bosnian Cinematography Foundation and spent 48,000 EUR which the producers were aware of. He eventually had to cover the excess costs himself. Gripfilm claims an unpaid bill of 420,000 HRK (56,500 EUR) and has initiated foreclosure proceedings, but Maloča refused to say how much the Vrdoljaks owe him, "certainly more than 100,000 HRK (13,400 EUR)," he claims.

Vrdoljak Team and HAVC Won’t Talk, HRT Saying Little

Index sent Andrija Vrdoljak an email which he did not respond to. They also called him, but he didn’t answer, just like his father, Antun Vrdoljak. So far, the Croatian Audiovisual Center (HAVC) has not responded to Index's emails, and Index has asked whether the producer of ‘General’ has provided them with a final financial report. HRT, however, decided to provide a short reply:

"HRT has nothing to do with the relationship between the producer of Kiklop film and HAVC. HRT fulfilled its obligations to an independent producer and acquired the right to use the work and broadcast the work in accordance with the acquired rights. The independent producer provided a spending statement," which indicates that they are the only party who doesn’t have an objection to ‘General’.

HRT Claimed that ‘General’ Would be ‘Very Well Received by Audience’

Just over three years ago, people from HRT were much more talkative. Their website also contains information on signing the contract with Kiklop film for filming the movie and television series ‘The General’, based on the screenplay by Antun Vrdoljak, which is based on the book by Nenad Ivankovic ‘Warrior, Adventurer and General’. The contract was signed by Andrija Vrdoljak and Siniša Kovačić, then acting director-general of HRT.

Kovačić remarked that, upon his arrival at the helm of HRT, "for some reason this project was not among the most important, but during our initial meetings we decided to change that. This is an extremely important project for us," Kovačić emphasized, and the visionary predicted that ‘General’ would "be very well received by the audience because of the strong writing team behind the script and direction team, which have already produced numerous blockbuster films and TV series."

Kovačić left HRT, in the meantime, and ‘General’ has proven to be a total artistic and financial failure. And HRT, regardless of that failure, is still broadcasting it during prime-time hours.

“This is Croatia,” Index concludes.

Check out our Lifestyle page to follow the releases, successes, failures and unpaid debts of films made in Croatia.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Croatia Presidential Debate: Hopefuls on Corruption, Taxes, Foreign Policy

On Thursday evening January 2, 2020; HRT (Croatia Radio Television) moderated the second of three debates between presidential candidates Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.

During the two-hour debate, the candidates answered 40 questions – which were divided into several groups including the economy and demographics, foreign policy and presidential powers, national security and the fight against corruption. Of course, there was a set of questions pertaining to worldviews and personal questions, as reported by Index on January 2, 2020. Here are a few highlights from last night’s debate:

Candidates’ Opening Statements:

Milanović: I am aware that I need to reach out to people who don’t intend to vote for me in the second round. I will defend the constitution and fight for the rights of all citizens. I will fight corruption, the monster which has consumed Croatia. The present government and president do not understand the difference between the public and private. Nor do they understand what it means to fight corruption. Those who break the law will not get any preferential treatment from me.

Kolinda: As a woman, I broke through the glass ceilings in the world. I was the first woman foreign minister, have important world connections and was one of the first presidents to meet Trump. I will move away from ideological issues.


Entrepreneurs are complaining about high taxes. Are they too high?

Kolinda: The tax burden is too great. I do not want to please everyone, otherwise I would say what everyone wants to hear, and I am already too controversial. Zoran Milanović's government raised the VAT from 23 to 25 percent, which was a big blow. I am in favor of reducing taxes because that is the only way to secure higher salaries, create new jobs, investments and encourage people to stay. I will advocate for higher take-home wages and higher wages for employees.

Milanović: You are saying this to please everyone. Life is not like that, and it’s easy for someone who has never earned anything on their own. It is expensive to finance state obligations; including education and care for the elderly. Increasing the VAT rate during the recession was not a blow. Prices did not rise, so that thesis that does not hold water.

Kolinda: I’ve been working for a living since my third year of college. You addressed the deficit by increasing the VAT. I won’t allow you to downplay this failure because it was the VAT that impoverished our citizens. You had a budget deficit with a higher VAT. You can’t rely only on taxes to finance the state budget.

Milanović: How else would the budget be financed? From exports? This shows complete ignorance of fiscal policy.

How do we bring young people back to Croatia?

Milanović: The exodus began in 2016. Poland, Romania, Lithuania had the same problems after joining the EU. Did it destroy those states? As far as I know it did not. We are having moral panics in the Republic of Croatia. We are here, we will fight, we will survive, and they will return. I cannot blame either Milanović or Kolinda for the exodus.

Kolinda: The exodus began during the Milanović government due to pre-bankruptcy settlements and enforcement law. I'm not having a moral panic.

Milanović: Thousands of jobs were saved by pre-bankruptcy settlements, it's ridiculous to say that this is the reason for the exodus. Please don't embarrass yourself.

Kolinda: The fact is that pre-bankruptcy settlements benefitted your friends.

Who is Croatia's biggest ally?

Kolinda: It's the US and we are currently working on concrete proposals.

Milanović: Ms. Kitarović accomplished nothing when she was Croatian ambassador to the United States. You must be totally lost if you are claiming that the United States is our greatest ally. If the US is our closest ally; we are certainly not theirs. The current administration is what it is, and I don't want to fault them, but the EU is our biggest ally and the largest agent of peace in the world.

Kolinda: Of course, we are working with all EU countries. Let’s allow Milanović to highlight some of his achievements with Germany. Croatia is thinking about Croatia today, but is acting globally.

Milanović: I’m not out camping, I’ve worked, traveled, and hung out with the Scandinavian elite. Kolinda was an ambassador to the US and fled to NATO.

Kolinda: I've never turned my back on Croatia. Seventy percent of our foreign trade is with the EU. It is very important for us to work with Serbia and Bosnia and I want them to join the EU. But Milanović quarreled with all our neighbors. Where I build, you destroy.

Milanović: I'm glad to hear these phrases. Relations with neighbors have been the most corrupted by Kolinda. Now we only have a good relationship with Orban (Hungary). As for migrants (backed up at the border with Serbia in 2015); if we hadn't arranged for them to be transferred to Germany, those people would still be here with us now.

Kolinda: You caused that incident, you closed them off in Serbia. 


Do Jihadists in Bosnia pose a threat to Croatia?

Milanović: I believe SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency) is doing its job. Jihadists in Bosnia are a reality. Standard law enforcement measures will not help the situation there. Kolinda has damaged relations with a country with a Muslim majority due to her reckless stories.

Kolinda: I have don’t have any problems with Muslims. I didn't ruin the SOA; I don't interfere with their work. 

Milanović: Kolinda hangs out with people who steal. I'm not saying she's stealing, but she's a serious problem for the system of national security.

How would you detect and prevent corruption?

Milanović: Saucha (former assistant to Milanović) has been indicted, and he now supports Kolinda and the HDZ. Kolinda arrived (to the debate) today from a celebration held by (Milan) Bandić - these messages are dangerous and toxic.

Kolinda: I did not come from a celebration. I was at an event held by a party which supports me comprised of individuals who support me.

Bandić has been indicted in several court cases. Why would offer to bring him cookies?

Kolinda: Bandić is innocent until proven guilty and I will fight for that. Let's not put people on a pillar of shame. Let's not forget Lovrić-Merzel (SDP), and you defended Bandić when he was your friend. Would you pardon Perković and Mustač (Yugoslav Secret Police)?

Milanović: I would not pardon anyone. You are talking to me about corruption. I have a letter here that you sent to the Washington Times praising Sanader before he fled justice. 

Kolinda: I had no idea about Ivo Sanader's corruption. After all, he had dismissed me from the government.

Should the Croatian army withdraw from Afghanistan?

Milanović: Yes, immediately. It's been 16 years and it’s obvious that the Americans are not even clear on what to do there.

Kolinda: There has been one (Croatian) death since 2003. We will act as a responsible ally with NATO. My guess is that this process will begin sooner rather than later, and we will discuss it with our allies. Then, we will shift most of our forces to Eastern Europe.

Milanović: We are open to discussion, but we’ll make the decision. The soldier who died had his picture taken with me and asked me not to post the photo because he was still a specialist. A few days later, Kolinda posted a photo with that soldier. I would never manipulate people like that. 

Kolinda: That’s false. The soldier waited for an hour at Ovčara to have his picture taken with me. He never asked me not to post that photo.

What do you think about the adoption of children by same-sex partners?

Kolinda: The adoption and foster care application process is very difficult in general, and we need to make it easier. Children need both a mother and father; I do not know if we are ready for the adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Milanović: That is a process which is unstoppable. We need to talk about it, accept it and understand that these trends are unstoppable. And there is a human element to this topic.

How much have your personal assets grown during your five-year term?

Kolinda: I don't know exactly. I’ve put everything in my asset statement. This year, I received a severance from NATO of around one hundred thousand euros. My husband and I live off our wages.

Milanović: That's nice when you get such a large severance pay. At the beginning of your term you had a loan of more than one million HRK. And that was paid off with what money?

Kolinda: I obtained a loan in 1995 with a 4.5 percent interest rate. I had to take out another loan in at a full (interest rate), but that loan was paid off in two years by selling some smaller apartments. How did you get the 180,000 EUR loan at a preferential interest rate?

Milanović: You are making things up again and everything you say is wrong again. This is public information. I was not the prime minister at the time. And, it was a loan for 300,000 EUR with a 6 percent interest rate. I paid back the first portion by selling our first apartment. Not only is this defamation, it is nonsense. At the time of Operation Storm, you got a loan with a 4 percent interest rate when everyone else’s loans were at 14 percent.

Kolinda: Yes, I got that loan as a Foreign Office employee. It was the minimal amount of credit, because I could not afford to borrow more. I paid it off. I’ve worked for all the money I have.

Milanović: That was credit available HDZ guys. You worked for that? It's unfair, dishonest and immoral…


What did Kolinda mean when she talked about the coup?

Milanović: In 2015, Kitarović formed her government, after only 40 days of consultations with (Tomislav) Karamarko which went on behind my back. She was doing her best to undermine the center-left government.

Kolinda: In the first two years of my term, two rounds of parliamentary elections were held. I absolutely stand behind my claim that I maintained the stability of the state and did everything according to the constitution. There was a possibility of having a transitional government if one did not form within a reasonable time period. 

The constitution provides for a 60-day window, so I consulted with constitutional lawyers and the Constitutional Court. I was told that this lengthy procedure would have to be completed because the Parliament would find themselves in constitutional crisis if their mandate expired. I never appointed any government and please don’t slander me. Find the evidence!

Milanović: Of course, you didn't leave any tracks, but people are talking. Sue them if they slander you. Personally, I will respect the constitution. And, (Vladimir) Šeks is a constitutional expert?

Kolinda: Šeks had nothing to do with it, and there weren’t any secret negotiations. You wanted a coup, so you barricaded yourself. Furthermore, you sent me a text message which read: “today you can be a stateswoman and appoint a government or you can give Karamarko control and be his puppet.”

Milanović: That’s defamation, I would never send that kind of message.

Closing Statements:

Milanović: In a few days you will elect a Croatian president. I am here to serve you, not to divide you, to fight against what antagonizes our people, for which they are losing the will to live and stay (in Croatia). Demographics are most successful if a country has fair leadership. For years, we have been led by people who are not fair leaders, but who have networked by formal and informal means. We have a president who hangs out with unworthy people, and a government which has fallen apart because of corruption. This is sending a terrible message. Nothing revolutionary will happen (if I become president), but we believe in making small shifts.

Grabar-Kitarović: When I took office five years ago, Croatia was on its knees because of the disastrous policies of Zoran Milanović, the worst Croatian Prime Minister in history. We have achieved growth which is not yet adequate. I want the GDP to be above five percent, and that positive factors impact your lives and financial obligations. We must stop young people from leaving and complete the process of education reform. We need to encourage entrepreneurship, create jobs, increase wages and pensions, and raise the standard of living. I am interested in our country, not party politics. I unite, rather than divide. My Croatia is a Croatia for everyone.

The presidential candidates will meet for one more debate before the election. Tonight (Friday January 3, 2020) at 20:20h, they will face off on Nova TV.

Follow our Politics page for news on the upcoming presidential election in Croatia, which will take place on Sunday January 5, 2020. We will be providing by-the-minute exit poll results and final election results after the polls close at 19h Central European Time (CET).

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Croatian Presidential Debate: Candidates on Abortion, Religion, Gay Pride

Yesterday evening HRT (Croatian Radio Television) moderated a debate between all eleven presidential candidates. It lasted over two and a half hours.

Here is a summary of the top three candidates’ (Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Zoran Milanović, Miroslav Škoro) positions on abortion, religious education, “Za dom spremi” and gay pride – according to Index on December 18, 2019.

Croatian Candidates’ Opening Remarks

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović: I have been your president for 5 years and have been among our people and listened to your problems. I have also repositioned Croatia from a region in Central Europe to a place on the Mediterranean, where it belongs. I’ve raised the issue of demography and I was the first Croatian diplomat.

Zoran Milanović: I have something to offer and want to make our country happier and freer. I have extensive experience and consider politics an honorable job. It is up to our citizens to decide.

Miroslav Škoro: Given that this game has begun, I would like to say that I am sorry that there wasn’t a debate on commercial television. I apologize for that. Kolinda is responsible for this and she must apologize.

Corruption in Croatian Society: How would you fight against it?

Kolinda: Constitutional obligations allow a president to be involved in secret service operations. I would build a collaborative relationship with secret services to address this problem. I've been fighting corruption for years, and it's time to recruit young talent for jobs in secret services.

Milanović: I’m aware of the limitations of a president in this area. The president may nominate the President of the Croatian Constitutional Court and can set an example by whom he chooses to associate with. He sends a signal to the public by paying attention to whom he hangs out with.

Škoro: When it comes to corruption, it is an obstacle to doing business in the Republic of Croatia. I am the only entrepreneur here who deals with business and encounters real problems.


Should the Croatian army be sent to the borders?

Kolinda: The military should come to the aid of the police in border control. Presently, the police are saying they don't need help. The border situation in 2015 was chaos.

Milanović: It’s mindless statement to call the 2015 situation chaos. We did a fine job of transporting people. The police need help now.

Škoro: The border of every country is sacred. There are laws regarding the residence and movement of foreigners. The border absolutely must be protected. There are three types of migrants - refugees, people seeking political asylum and people who want to get from point A to point B. If necessary, the military should be sent to the border.

Should Croatia block Serbia's entry into the EU?

Milanović: Vučić is one topic. Serbia is another.

Škoro: The destruction of Vukovar, Škabrnja ... We all know who’s responsible. We need to address the issue of missing persons, borders and reparations for people who were held (by Serbs) in detention camps. Serbia needs to join the EU only after it meets the highest democratic standards. I will not raise my hand for Serbia's EU accession until that happens.

Kolinda: We need to talk about how to ensure a livelihood for our citizens. We will insist that Serbia meets all the conditions for accession, and they must come to terms with their past. I will absolutely insist that Serbia accounts for the people who are still missing (from the Homeland War in the 1990s) before they join the EU.

What kind of foreign policy should Croatia engage in with Bosnia?

Milanović: After 30 years of missteps, answering this question in one minute would be an insult to Bosnia. No one deserves to have their country summarized in one minute. I support a united Bosnia; half a million Croatians live there.

Škoro: Bosnia is a state of the Croatian people. Currently, Croatians in Bosnia are not autonomous. And Croatians did not elect the government led by Komšić.

Kolinda: Croatians in Bosnia are not the part of the diaspora. Rather, they are indigenous people there. We would support a good neighbor policy but are also fighting for the rights of the Croatian population there, without compromise. Bosnia has a strategic component for us. And to everyone who refers to Croatians in Bosnia as part of the voting machinery – that’s a grave insult.


Should official signs in Vukovar include the Cyrillic alphabet – Yes or No?

Milanović: This is a matter of law; the rule of law. I would deal with this issue the same manner again. No one is offended by the co-existence of the Cyrillic and Latin alphabet in Vukovar cemeteries. I’ve acknowledged that perhaps I moved a little too quickly (as Prime Minister), and I could apologize for that. The HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), the party of Kolinda and Škoro, is the one who created the legal framework in Vukovar. That's the truth and the whole truth. I enforced the law which HDZ put in place.

Škoro: I haven’t heard so much hate speech in one place for a very long time.

Kolinda: I've been going to Vukovar for years, for the (commemorative) days year after year. Their concerns are existential concerns, but war wounds still fester. Justice has still not been served. Why push for the Cyrillic alphabet before justice has been served? This issue needs to be addressed first, and then it will be right time to address the Cyrillic (signage).


Milanović: It's a matter of choice. It's a difficult situation, but it's first and foremost a woman's choice.

Škoro: I am against abortion and for protecting life from conception to death.

Kolinda: Life begins from conception to natural death. A ban on abortion would solve nothing and cause even more health problems. I am more for education, especially for young people, women and men, and for facilitating adoption and other measures which will reduce the number of abortions in the Republic of Croatia.

Religion in Croatian schools?

Škoro: The church is deeply rooted in the Croatian identity. I don't see why having religious education in schools should be a problem. I spent my entire childhood and youth in religious education and didn’t learn anything harmful there.

Kolinda: Religious education is an elective subject. I don't see what the problem is. Croatia offers religious instruction, which is a topic of culture in general. And children who do not go to church have an opportunity to learn something about other faiths.

Milanović: Religious education can be offered, but only as an elective course. But not in the third hour of school – that’s not an elective class. It must be at the end of the school day, during the last hour.

Would you participate in a gay pride or a pro-life march?

Škoro: We are discussing peripheral matters. Sexual orientation is a private matter for every person and should not be flaunted publicly, and I would gladly attend a pro-life march.

Kolinda: I do not know why these two demonstrations must be in opposition to one another. I only participate in the commemoration march (in Vukovar). I am responsible for all our citizens.

Milanović: Three days ago the Germans announced that homosexuality is normal. What else can I say?


What does Franjo Tuđman mean to you? Tito?

Kolinda: For me, Tuđman is of the same caliber of Dr. Ante Starčević. I also established the Velered (highest honor in Croatia) for Dr. Tuđman. Tito played a positive role in anti-fascism, but he committed crimes after that.

Milanović: Broz, Radić, Tuđman and Krleža - these are people who defined the Republic of Croatia in the 20th century.

Škoro: Milanović is responsible for Lex Perković (Josip Perković is the former director of Yugoslav-era Croatian secret police).

Milanović: Perković was a HDZ guy who ate out of Tuđman’s hand.

What are your views on the slogan “Za dom spremi” (Ready for the homeland)?

Škoro: It's a salute that was used to say goodbye during the time of the NDH (Independent State of Croatia), but it was also on the sleeves of HOS members (among the first organized Croatian military defense forces in the Homeland War in the 1990s) and I don’t have a problem with that.

Kolinda: We need to stop discussing ideological issues. “Za dom spremni” was an Ustasha salute, but it was also on the insignia of the HOS forces and it had an entirely different meaning then.

Milanović: The Croatian Constitutional Court delivered two judgments which determined it to be hate speech.

Candidates’ Closing Remarks

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović: I invite you to go to the polls on December 22nd. As your president, I have traversed every inch of this country and have developed my policies and program based on your problems, hopes and dreams. We must improve our situation. All I have heard tonight is a wish list, and rarely from anyone who really has a program. I am offering you action and diligence. Instead of inaction, I am committed to growth, sincerity and progress among our people and not arrogance. I am offering a message of unity: Croatia is for everyone.

Zoran Milanović: As your president, I will restore fundamental dignity and decency. As a politician I have worked hard and have made mistakes: abolished parliamentary pensions and opposed banks. Times change, I do not seek greater powers (within the Croatian presidency) because I consider those to be a path to tyranny. The president must maintain an objective distance and not be involved in money-related matters and staff decisions. I am here to serve and to seek your trust and vote.

Miroslav Škoro: This time (the presidential debate) was useful for viewers to see how futile this process is. I am a man who fights against the system. I am proposing radical changes and am seeking increased powers (within the Croatian presidency). On December 22, we will change the Constitution. I worry about one thing: my election observers have not yet received SEC (State Electoral Commission) accreditation and it all smells like election fraud.

Follow our Politics page for more information on the presidential candidates and the upcoming elections.

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