According to a statement released by RTL this morning, an adviser to the Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović campaign demanded that RTL end yesterday’s debate due to the Croatia President’s fatigue. However, both campaigns had already agreed in advance that they would permit the debate, which began at 20h yesterday, December 30, 2019; to last longer than 90 minutes.
In addition, both candidates publicly agreed to continue the debate when asked by RTL moderators during the broadcast, according to Vijesti/RTL on December 31, 2019. The debate, which attracted over 1 million viewers, lasted almost two and a half hours and ended around 22:30h.
RTL Releases Statement About Ending Debate
“The end of the debate was requested by Advisor to the President of the Republic, Ms. Renata Margaretić Urlić, who arrived at RTL studios with members of Croatia President’s campaign headquarters. During the debate, she entered the television control room and demanded that ‘due to the prolonged duration of the debate and fatigue of the president, it must end immediately.’ When asked by the debate’s editor if that was the official position of the campaign headquarters, Ms. Margaretić Urlić replied that she had ‘entered on behalf of the headquarters.'”
The RTL debate moderators conveyed the request (without mentioning who it came from) to presidential candidates Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Zoran Milanović, but also offered them the opportunity to continue the debate, to which they both publicly agreed.
Former Croatia Prime Minister Responds
Upon learning of his opponent’s campaign demand to end the debate; Milanović wrote on Facebook:
“I came to a television debate last night with a severe cold and fever, but at no point did it occur to me to put my mild health problems ahead of the rights of our citizens to see and hear what the presidential candidates have to say. Getting tired of the debate in front of Croatian citizens whose trust you are seeking; what does that mean? If you are not able to talk for two hours about topics that are plaguing Croatia, then you are not capable of leading Croatia. Unless the reasons and motives for interrupting the debate have to do with something else…”
Indeed, the former Prime Minister appeared to have a runny nose and his sniffling was audible, if not distracting, during the entire debate.
Highlights from Monday’s Presidential Debate
Here are a few highlights from the debate according to Index on December 30, 2019:
Ms. Grabar-Kitarović, why are you the best choice?
Kolinda: “What I am offering is a program. Our country was in crisis five years ago. The exodus of young people had already begun, and Croatia is in a better position today. I believe that our citizens should take those preexisting macroeconomic factors into account. Every citizen lives better now. I was the change that was needed in 2014, and now I’m looking for continuity.”
Milanović got the same question: Why is he a better choice than Kolinda?
Milanović: “I have experience. I will behave in a positive predictable way. I left government while (Croatia) was in a period of growth.”
Kolinda: “Croatia was devastated at the time of my arrival and the flames of pessimism were burning.”
Milanović: “The year of 2015 ended with growth in the fourth quarter. Interest rates were at their lowest and there was growth in the GDP.”
Kolinda: “In terms of experience, apart from experience in Croatia, I have international experience.”
Milanović then pointed out that the Sanader government, in which Kolinda had an appointed seat, still owed Croatia 135 billion HRK (18.1 billion EUR). Note: Former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was just convicted of corruption and sentenced to 6 years in prison.
Mr. Milanović, is there anything about Kolinda’s leadership worth commending? Is there anything you would continue to do?
Milanović: “I would not continue.”
Mr. Milanović, Vučić attended Kolinda’s inauguration, would you have invited him?
Milanović: “I was a career diplomat. Sanader brought Kolinda on board. I did not invite Vučić to Croatia. I do not think that this should be taken out on Serbia. I would not have invited Vučić. But its necessary to work with these people (Serbian citizens). And I mean work with them, not hug them, then create diplomatic chaos and fan flames.”
Kolinda: “I’m fanning flames…I said that until he fulfills his promise to find the missing (from the Homeland War), there wouldn’t be another in-person meeting.”
Milanović: “You were the right hand of political commissioner Ivo Sanader. Vučić create a circus here, and that’s your contribution. I can talk to Vučić about missing people, but time goes on, and business goes on too. I will deal with the missing as well as business matters.”
Should Croatia block Serbia on its way to the EU?
Milanović: “No. That country has the misfortune of being led by a junkyard war guy. This man is working on behalf of the Belgrade bazaar, but he is not leading the Serbian state and people. But I see a partner (in Serbia) and Croatian companies are working there.”
Kolinda: “I decided to stay in Croatia, I am the daughter of a butcher who advanced in position.”
Milanović: “You are from a wealthy family and a very slippery person. My father left the (Communist) party.”
Kolinda: “For as much as my father had worked in Yugoslavia, he could have been a billionaire in another country.”
In Bosnia, most of the voters support HDZ. How can you convince them that you are a better choice?
Milanović: “It doesn’t appear that I have their support. But I don’t blame them. I’m here to help. When it was necessary to give them millions in funding, we were there. We invested in a series of targeted projects, including building Catholic schools. My conscience is at ease.”
Kolinda: “Congratulations. But it would be a good idea to listen to them a little more. You consider them to be second-class citizens and want to deprive them of suffrage.”
Milanović: “When did I say that?”
Kolinda: “I am fighting for Bosnia and their voters. For years I have been advocating for Bosnia to enter into a concrete plan for NATO membership.”
What do you think about Trump?
Kolinda: “Trump is the President of the United States, and there is currently a court process against him. I did not choose the President of the United States. The way I treat him is governed by my goal of taking care of Croatia’s interests. At this stage, we are in the process of signing a double taxation treaty. We are also in the process of abolishing the visa (compulsory for Croatian citizens wishing to visit the US). Of course, I would meet with him in person.”
Milanović: “I would not comment on Trump, that was not my choice.”
The Euro could be introduced to Croatia in 2023. Are we prepared?
Kolinda: “I think we were ready during the first Sanader government. We moved away from that during your government.”
Milanović: “Again, Sanader. A little more and the man will become a demigod. We were not members (of the EU) at the time. While you were hunting for generals (Croatian generals who were indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal and in hiding) around the world, we didn’t have any chance of entering.”
Milanović: “Croatia could soon become eligible if it cuts its public debt. Look at the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, they are not entering the eurozone, but they could. These are older countries, and they are calculating. The claim that loans will be cheaper does not hold water. That correlation simply doesn’t exist. But I’m not against it and am interested in discussing the options. These are complex topics…”
What is your relationship with (Milan) Bandić? What does he have to offer?
Kolinda: “He is the mayor of Zagreb. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We cannot find someone guilty and then prove that they are innocent. How many people have been imprisoned and then it turned out that they were imprisoned without cause? This is a principle I will always fight for.”
Milanović: “In Croatia, fools are making a living from work, and members of the HDZ are making a living from missing evidence. I defeated him (Bandić) in SDP, and then expelled him from the party. He became your friend when he got out of detention.”
Kolinda: “The presumption of innocence exists for everyone.”
Milanović: “It is a disaster; this man came into my life when I defeated him in the party elections. These are friends of Ms. Kitarović. Bandić is dangerous and it’s a disgrace for the city I live in. Not because he’s Herzegovinian, that’s my origin too, but it’s a shady crowd.”
Kolinda: “That’s a man you once called your friend. I’m working with him to open kindergartens, build stadiums, deal with graffiti.”
Let’s say you are in Herzegovina and you run into (Zdravko) Mamić, what would you do?
Kolinda: “I would say come back to Croatia and face justice.”
Milanović: “I would probably shake hands. I wouldn’t say anything to him. He already knows what people think. He is a phenomenal manager, but I don’t know why he became a thief.”
A video of the debate can be accessed here.
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