Monday, 18 April 2022

Another General Withholds his Support to Letter Asking Pardon for Mustač, Perković

18 April 2022 - General Marinko Krešić stated on Sunday that he withheld his signature to the request to President Zoran Milanović to pardon Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač, former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence agents, sentenced by a German court to life for assisting in the murder of a Croatian dissident.

Perković and Mustač were sentenced by a German court in August 2016 to life for assisting in the murder of Croatian dissident Stjepan Đureković in Wolfratshausen in July 1983. Last Tuesday, attorney Anto Nobilo announced pardon motions for his two clients who are serving their sentences in Croatia.

In the meantime, media have reported that the letter with the request for their pardoning by President Milanović has been supported by retired generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak, Ljubo Ćesić Rojs, Pavao Miljavac, Davor Domazet Lošo and Marinko Krešić. General Krešimir Ćosić was originally mentioned as one of the supporters, however, he has withdrawn his signature.

Krešić followed Ćosić's suit, explaining that the divisions which the letter has caused among Homeland War veterans, prompted him to withhold his support.

Krešić, the president of the Croatian Generals Corps (HGZ), an association of retired Croatian Army generals and brigadiers from the Homeland War, said, among other things, that he he had never wanted to be a cause of any divisions or political confrontations.

I have always advocated the reconciliation and unity between Croatia and the Croatian expat communities, Krešić said, adding that he always followed the guiding principle of the first Croatian President, Franjo Tuđman: "Always and everything for Croatia, and our only and eternal Croatia – not for anything."

Explaining why he had initially accepted to participate in this campaign to support the request, Krešić said that he had been inspired by the idea of the all-Croatian reconciliation, the atmosphere of the Holy Week and that he had accepted the fact that brigadiers Perković and Mustač had given a certain contribution in the Homeland War and that he had also taken into consideration their old age and health condition.

The media have reported that the generals feel that Perković and Mustač deserve to be pardoned because of their contribution to the creation of the Croatian state and its defence.

On Monday, General Luka Džanko, a leader of the Association of Homeland War Veterans and Anti-Fascists (VeDRA), joined the initiative to ask President Milanović to pardon the two, due to their contribution in Croatia's war of independence, the association reported on its Facebook account.

Germany requested their extradition from Croatia as Zagreb was entering the EU, which took place in July 2013, whereby Croatia assumed the obligation to execute the European Arrest Warrant.

After the warrant for them was issued, the Croatian parliament passed a law on judicial cooperation in criminal matters with EU member states, under which the EAW would not apply to crimes committed prior to 7 August 2002. This prevented the extradition of Perković, so the law was dubbed Lex Perković. The legislation was passed during the premiership of then SDP leader Zoran Milanović. Due to Lex Perković, as the then prime minister, Milanović suffered major political damage.

Despite that, Croatian courts extradited Perković and Mustač to Germany.

Under the Pardons Act, the president pardons persons convicted by Croatian courts or serving sentences in Croatia. The presidential pardon is not conditioned by the length of the sentence served.

Minister says president would set precedent by pardoning Mustač, Perković

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said on Saturday that President Milanović would set a precedent if he pardoned Perković and Mustač because, since taking office, he had not responded to the 274 pardon applications sent him by the ministry.

Speaking to Hina, Malenica said that in a little over two years the ministry had sent 274 pardon applications to the President's Office, enclosing reports prepared by the ministry based on the Pardons Act.

Until now, the president has not exercised his constitutional power to pardon someone and if this happens now, it would be a precedent in Milanović's term, he added.

Malenica said that during his presidential campaign, Milanović said the pardon institute was a relict of the past which he would not use. "If this has happened now, it's up to President Milanović to explain his political decision to pardon someone."

Saturday, 27 November 2021

President Offers Best Wishes to Jewish Faithful for Hanukkah

ZAGREB, 27 Nov, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović on Saturday issued a message offering his best wishes to the Jewish faithful for the holiday of Hanukkah.

"I wish all the best to all the Jewish faithful for Hanukkah, may the holiday of dedication and lights bring you an abundance of strength, peace and well-being and fill your homes with the warmth and joy of coming together. Chag Hanukkah Sameach!" Milanović said in his message.

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

Milanović: Croatia Annually Richer by €267M From EU Funds

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday Croatia was richer by HRK 2 billion a year from EU funds but that it was too little.

"When you pay everything, when you absorb everything, when you remove the money for agriculture, which is actually a social fund for the preservation of agriculture which will last as long as France wants it to, that's HRK 2 billion a year, that's one-fifth of Zagreb's budget... that's too little," he said in Trogir at a meeting of the Town Council organised on the occasion of the day of the coastal town.

Milanović said the Recovery and Resilience Facility was something "where the funds are intended for us and we are yet to absorb them, or not."

"That's a huge test, for the administration first of all," he said, calling on the people of Trogir to "fight for that money."

In a dozen years, Trogir will not have fewer people than now, unlike some parts of Croatia which will, just like Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he said did not have just fewer Croats, but Serbs and Bosniaks as well.

"Those are trends which are almost impossible to stop," he said, but added that it was wrong "to give in to a moral panic and create the impression and pressure as if we were disappearing. That's very far from the truth."

He said that demographically, "we will revolve around the level we have reached for another hundred years."

"It's up to us to make life good today and to plan clearly like in the army, which is not being done, what will be in five or ten years. That includes money."

Milanović said the absorption of EU funds was a measure of success. We entered the EU and surrendered some of our natural and state rights and we did that consciously because nobody forced us, he added.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Thursday, 28 October 2021

President: Euro Adoption Will Have More Pluses Than Minuses for Croatia

ZAGREB, 28 Oct 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that Croatia would have more benefits than disadvantages from the euro adoption and that Malta could help Zagreb with its experience in the euro area.

Malta has been in the euro area since 1 January 2008, and today when Milanović met with his Maltese counterpart George Vella, he said that he believes that country can help Croatia with its experience.

"This is a country which has been inside for a long time, it has the experience and that experience is good," said Milanović and added that the Maltese economy is "exposed to the services sector and in particular to tourism," and has several common points with Croatia's economy.

"Our economy, unfortunately, or luckily, or just as a point - is not exceptionally export-orientated. We are a service-based economy and that is one of the reasons why I think the euro would be better for Croatia than it would be worse," said Milanović.

The president underscored that introducing the euro "isn't pittance" and that "it seems we will relinquish our national currency forever."

"That is not done with an excited heart, but with a sober head."

Milanović asked Malta to support Croatia, as the youngest EU member state, and its accession to the Schengen Area and criticized the Union for "procrastination and delay."

Romania and Bulgaria have been members of the EU since 2007 and are still waiting for a green light to access that area.

The time has already ripened for them to join the Schengen Area, however, political mainstream in the largest countries simply have a problem, which I understand, and that is the problem of right-wing voters hence they need "to tread on eggs cautiously," as the saying goes, he said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Milanović Says Plenković Should Rein Defence Minister In

ZAGREB, 21 Oct 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Thursday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković should "rein his pal in", a reference to Defence Minister Mario Banožić and his decision to send into retirement the commander of the Honor Guard Battalion, Brigadier Elvis Burčul.

Speaking to reporters in Baćin, where he attended the 30th anniversary of the plight of local residents in the 1991-95 war, Milanović said that PM Plenković was the minister's "political guardian" and that he was not in conflict with Banožić over Burčul's retirement but that he would guarantee the army protection against "bullying and harassment."

"The minister is not relevant here. This is an immoral, serious abuse of legal authority to which I can respond with much bigger power. But where does that lead? The guardian should rein in his pal, who is a man without political autonomy. This has to do with the Prime Minister... and that can be proven easily," Milanović said.

In that context, he mentioned a state secretary in the government who was an active general, noting that he should have already sent him into retirement but did not do it because he felt sorry for him and waited for Plenković's decision.

"I want it done right away, otherwise I will have to do it. I warned Plenković of that because Banožić does not make any decisions anyway."

Milanović noted that an active serviceman cannot be a member of a political government.

Asked about the motive for Burčul's retirement, Milanović said: "A personal vendetta."

I want Burčul back and for him to retire in a dignified way

He noted that the Honor Guard Battalion was in charge of his security.

"And the minister dares harass such a person (Burčul). I want him back at work and I want him to retire in a dignified way," he said.

He noted that the extension of Burčul's term had been requested due to the requirements of the post, for the sake of transfer of duties and appointment of a new, younger commander as well as to enable Burčul to retire in a year and a half in a dignified way, instead of "being harassed by a person who until yesterday was a political nobody."

"That cannot pass, otherwise I will start acting the same way, but not towards the army," he said.

Milanović noted that the legal regulation under which the minister made the decision about Burčul's retirement was unconstitutional.

"The President of the Republic is the Commander-in-Chief, the minister is not, there is no mention about the minister in the Constitution. The minister has very extensive powers which in my opinion by far exceed the spirit and message of the Constitution - they decide about people's destinies during their term... If you rub them the wrong way, you can end up paying for it dearly," he said.

Milanović said that given that the budget was being adopted, he would on Friday request a meeting of the Defence Council due to the worrying financial situation in the army, noting that he believed Plenković would "delay the meeting, too, just as he makes an ordeal of everything, including the appointment of the Supreme Court president."

Asked if Burčul's retirement could be Plenković's revenge for the Supreme Court president, he said that it was possible.

"But that's futile, I can always respond in kind or worse in some cases," he said, mentioning in that context the appointment of new diplomats.

If you have not got vaccinated, you only have yourselves to blame

Commenting on the vaccination campaign and the potential expansion of the use of COVID-19 certificates, Milanović said that people in charge of making those decisions did not have a way to motivate people to get vaccinated "apart from using repression and nagging them."

"This is October 2021, those who have not got vaccinated have only themselves to blame," he said.

Milanović noted that it was possible he would receive a third shot but would have to check the level of antibodies first.

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

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Milanović Meets Representatives of Croat Expatriate Community in New York

ZAGREB, 23 Sept 2021 - During his stay in New York, where he is attending the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Croatian President Zoran Milanović has met with representatives of the Croat expatriate business and scientific communities in New York, his office said on Thursday.

Representatives of the Croat community in New York informed Milanović of their activities in establishing connections between Croat expatriates in New York and strengthening their ties with Croatia.

They also presented proposals on how to improve that cooperation and offered their help in promoting Croatia in New York and elsewhere in the United States, expressing satisfaction with the meeting with Milanović and the respect shown them by Croatian state institutions.

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

Monday, 20 September 2021

Milanović: Croatia Very Safe Country, Has Never Been Stabler

ZAGREB, 20 Sept 2021 - In an address to members of the Croat expatriate community in New York on Sunday, Croatian President Zoran Milanović said that Croatia "is a very safe country" and that it had never been stabler as well as that it was responsible for its neighborhood staying safe as well. 

Milanović arrived in New York on Sunday to attend the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, during which he is expected to hold several bilateral meetings, including with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On the first day of his visit, Milanović met with representatives of the Croat community at the St. Nikola Tavelić Centre, which is part of the Parish of Saints Cyril and Methodius and St. Raphael, and in his address to them, he said that he was more interested in developments in Croatia and its neighborhood than in topics to be discussed by the UN General Assembly.

"I cannot do a lot, but being President, my voice in the region is heard, analyzed, and criticized, and I will go on," Milanović said as quoted by a statement from his office.

He said that he was dissatisfied with developments in the region, describing Croatia as the most rational stakeholder.

"Fortunately, this is no longer 1990, there is no danger of a serious conflict erupting. But we must follow what is happening in our neighborhood, and people there have been behaving as if war did not happen and no lessons were learned from what happened in the 1990s."

"In all of that, Croatia and the incumbent government, I as President, and my predecessor are the calmest, most conciliatory, and most rational. We are responsible for keeping the region peaceful, safe, and for life in Croatia to stay normal and safe. Croatia is a very safe country," he said.

Despite disagreements on a daily basis, Croatia has never been stabler, Milanović said in his address.

He also again underlined the importance of Croatia making the most of the benefits of its EU membership and fighting for its own interests and repeated his position on COVID-19, calling for lifting epidemiological restrictions.

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Thursday, 16 September 2021

Croatian President Expresses Support to Modern, Civic and Open Montenegro

ZAGREB, 16 Sept 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Thursday received his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Đukanović and after the meeting, Milanović told the press that he supported the modern, civic and open Montenegro.

Commenting on the rising political and ethnic tensions triggered off by the recent inauguration of a Serbian Orthodox Church bishop in the Montenegrin city of Cetinje, Milanović said that the Montenegrin head of state was expected to pay a reciprocal visit to Zagreb anyway, however, "the latest developments in Montenegro have accelerated it to happen." 

Đukanović's visit ensued the day after the opposition parties, led by Đukanović's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) demanded that a transitional government should be set up which would be tasked with calling early parliamentary elections.

Those Opposition parties brand the cabinet led by Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić marionettes who promote anti-Montenegro interests.  They also describe the recent enthronement of Serb orthodox bishop Joanikije as "a Great Serbian offensive".

Milanović told the press conference in Zagreb that Đukanović's visit was an opportunity to extend support to "the modern, civic and open Montenegro".

He went on to say that Croatia's relations with Montenegro are good and commented that the relations had oscillations, however all that has been settled.

Milanović went on to say that Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia deserved preferential treatment on their journey towards the European Union.

My duty is to attract the attention of those in the EU who cannot see that to this fact, he added.

The Montenegrin president arrived in Zagreb on his first official visit abroad since the situation in his country has worsened with the 5 September enthronement of Joanikije in Cetinje.

Montenegrins perceive the ceremony held in the Montenegrin historical capital city as yet another attempt of Great Serbia advocates to exert their influence in Montenegro and negate the Montenegrin identity.

The current PM Krivokapić is believed to have risen to prominence during a series of protests in reaction to a law on religion in late 2019. Those protests were led by senior members of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The original law proposed by Đukanović's DPS passed in late December 2019 — dubbed the 'Law on Religious Freedoms' — pledged to return all property granted to the Serb Orthodox Church after 1918, unless they had proof of ownership prior to that year. However, in the last elections, Krivokapić, supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church, managed to defeat Đukanović's party that was in power for 30 years.

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

Thursday, 26 August 2021

President Says Reciprocity Important for Reconciliation and Forgiveness

ZAGREB, 26 Aug 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said at a ceremony commemorating civilian victims of the war who died 30 years ago in Kijevo, outside Knin, that reconciliation and forgiveness required reciprocity and not arrogance and haughtiness.

Speaking of Karst areas where residents of Kijevo live and where the early medieval Croatian state hails from, Milanović said "our first churches were built here, our identity is here, our roots are here, this is stone."

"Hardly anything grows in stone, and those who survive, who are strong, who resist, those have a worth and those cannot be rooted out. Those are the people of the Dalmatian hinterland, the people of Herzegovina. They suffered during the war but I don't see them as victims or those who need charity, I see them as winners. Winners who are dignified and at the same time those who forgive and have mercy," Milanović said.

The European Union is founded on the culture of forgiveness, self-reflection, faith into a better future and the right to a new beginning, the president said adding that reconciliation and forgiveness require reciprocity and not arrogance and haughtiness. He recalled that brave soldiers had died in Kijevo, but that defenceless civilians had also been killed there.

"When I visit Grubori, the place where atrocities were committed, I come as president, as a Croat, as a citizen of this country and as a common human being. I have no ultimate expectations, but as a human being it would make me happy if the other side, and I say 'the other side' with caution because I am not a fan of such divisions, would be reciprocal. This is the only way the European civilization, good neighborly relations, and unity survive," the president said.

Milanović took part in ceremonies, marking the suffering of civilian victims from Kijevo during the Homeland War.

At the beginning of the Homeland War, the Croat-populated village of Kijevo was besieged by the local Serb rebels supported by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) units under the command of Ratko Mladić.

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

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Milanović Says Current Anti-Epidemic Rules Have No Sense Any More

ZAGREB, 26 Aug 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Thursday that the current anti-epidemic rules had no sense any more, and that Croatia should follow the example of Sweden rather than France and Germany considering measures taken to combat the COVID pandemic.

Milanović said this did not mean that Croatia should not copy others, however, he admitted that the country was also a part of a wider community and "it cannot always be the way we believe is the smartest."

"I think now that it would be more prudent to do something different than France and Germany or some other countries are doing," Milanović told the press in the Dalmatian town of Kijevo near Knin where he attended ceremonies commemorating civilian victims of the war who died 30 years ago. "I would follow the suit of Sweden. Sweden can afford it for itself, however it pays a political price, we obviously cannot do that," the president said.

The president explained that many people had got vaccinated against coronavirus which now made the anti-epidemic rules unnecessary unless the healthcare system and intensive care wards were exposed to strain.

 He again called on the Croatians to get vaccinated.

 "Get vaccinated. Trust science, be pragmatic, take care of yourselves," Milanović said.

Commenting on the forthcoming population census, Milanović said that the findings of the census would probably show that the population in Croatia alone was downsized by 10% compared to the situation 10 years ago, and he ascribed that to the emigration of Croatians to Ireland, Great Britain, and other western countries.

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