A Week in Croatian Politics – Milanovic Shocks Again

Lauren Simmonds

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croatian politics
31.05.2023., Zagreb - Konferencija za medije Predsjednik Republike Hrvatske Zoran Milanovic dao je izjavu medijima nakon svecane sjednice skupstine Grada Zagreba i dodjele priznanja Grada Zagreba u Staroj gradskoj vjecnici. Photo: Luka Stanzl/PIXSELL

June the 2nd, 2023 – This week in Croatian politics, we’ve had meetings in Moldova, Milanovic and Plenkovic have been at each other’s throats again, Ukrainian slogans have been linked with less popular ones from WWII and Zagreb’s grass has been causing a bit of a scandal.

Plenkovic airs concerns that Russia might see meeting of European leaders in Moldova as a threat

PM Andrej Plenkovic participated in the second meeting at the summit of the European Political Community in Moldova recently. The objectives of the Community are to encourage political dialogue and cooperation in order to solve issues of common interest and to strengthen the security, stability and well-being of the European continent. This platform for political coordination does not replace any existing organisation, structure or process and does not aim to create new ones at this stage.

The first meeting at the top of the European Political Community was held in October 2022 in Prague. In addition to the leaders of the 27 EU member states, the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Council, the following nations were invited to the meeting: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and ex EU member state, the United Kingdom.

Plenkovic made a statement upon arriving in Moldova

“I think the symbolic message being sent out is that Moldova is the first non-EU country to host this forum. Moldova received its EU candidate status a year ago, and so we’re sending messages of reform in terms of Moldova gradually getting closer to the EU.

The topic, in accordance with the idea of this broader format of all European countries, with the exception of Belarus and Russia, was to talk about security issues, it’s good that Ukrainian President Zelenski came as well. Second on the agenda are talks about issues regarding energy and interconnection, i.e. critical infrastructure. All those topics that have come to the fore with regard to the consequences of Russian aggression against Ukraine,” he pointed out, reports HRT.

As for Ukraine, Prime Minister Plenkovic says that he has been advocating for years the model of peaceful reintegration of the Danube region following the Croatian War of Independence as a possible framework for Ukraine going forward.

“That didn’t happen, instead, the second phase of aggression happened. We as Croatia respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We support Ukraine in its political and all other activities,” he added, seemingly once again putting a plaster over the somewhat concerning comments made by some in Croatian politics about Ukraine, such as the President.

This meeting taking place in Moldova sends a very important message

Plenkovic also commented on the announcements coming out of Russia, which is that it isn’t pleased that the meeting of European leaders is being held in Moldova of all nations, and perceives it as bringing that country closer to the EU and NATO as opposed to closer alignment with Russian ideals.

“Holding this meeting in Moldova sends out a very important political message, but it isn’t being sent out as a message of confrontation, but as a message of inclusiveness towards Moldova. If Russia wants to perceive every rally or meeting that takes place in its immediate neighbourhood as a threat, then that’s a big problem. It’s precisely from those feelings that these sorts of problems arise,” he added, noting that Putin is entirely isolated in his stances.

As far as Croatian-Moldovan bilateral meetings are concerned as we go forward, he said that he had every intention to meet with the Prime Minister of Moldova, the President of Kosovo, and with the President of Montenegro.

Plenkovic takes a swipe at Zoran Milanovic

Harsh words and sometimes very witty insults being fired back and forth between the Prime Minister (HDZ) and the President (SDP) have become commonplace in the weird world of Croatian politics. As amusing as they sometimes are, one can’t help but wonder why so much energy is being given to schoolboy antics as opposed to the real issues being faced by the people of this country, but I digress. Plenkovic has now stated that Milanovic is at the point in life where he should be speaking to “specialists”. I wouldn’t want to speculate about what that might mean, you can probably guess.

After participating in a recent security conference in Bratislava, Plenkovic made sure to comment on the statements made by the President of the State, Zoran Milanovic.

Plenkovic said that in his recent statements, President Zoran Milanovic is yet again attacking and lying about Plenkovic’s family and “getting” an apartment in Ksaver, stressing that Milanovic’s envy and complexes are “worthy of the attention of specialists” at this point.

After President Milanovic mentioned the Plenkovic family once again, that is, his parents, and Plenkovic’s harsh reactions to what was said, Milanovic told reporters that he intends to continue to talk about the Prime Minister’s family, asserting that the Plenkovic clan was a “regime family”.

“This is the family that got an apartment in Ksaver… respectable under socialism in 1985? (…) The people of the regime were respectable in Croatia at that time,” said Milanovic, who was participating in a ceremonial session on the occasion of Zagreb’s City Day.

“Once again he attacks, he lies, he lies continuously, this man is a pathological liar. Let’s talk about my family, who, unlike his who he got a social apartment, bought their apartment themselves. They got a loan, no one gave it to them in that system. Everything he’d like to wash away about himself, he attributes to me. That complex of jealousy of his, which is becoming unbelievable, is now something that needs the attention of specialists, it’s getting to the point where you can’t put anything past him,” said Plenkovic according to N1, adding:

“Unfortunately, he’s been banging on about these types of things for years, he went on about them back in 2016 in the campaign where I defeated him, obviously his complex can’t let him get rid of the feelings he had because of that defeat. After that, we defeated his successor, and we’ll defeat others in 2024, and whether or not he will respect Statehood Day that was passed by Parliament is no longer a question for us, but for the people of Croatia,” Plenkovic stated.

He also touched on the topic of the ongoing Ukrainian struggle

Plenkovic also said that in both Croatian politics and among European leaders, nobody believes that support for Ukraine should be stopped.

“The solidarity from Europe towards Ukraine will not stop,” Plenkovic said at the aforementioned GLOBSEC security conference in Bratislava, adding that some European leaders had a different narrative a year ago, but that today they are all committed to supporting Ukraine, “with the exception of one or two who are reserved”.

He also said once again there is no longer a leader in Europe who is on friendly terms with the now very much “isolated” Russian President Vladimir Putin, as mentioned above.

He didn’t want to discuss Milanovic’s bizarre statements about Russia and Ukraine which have confused many in the political sphere

The prime minister didn’t directly respond to the inquiry of the leader of the panel discussion about Croatian President Zoran Milanovic’s differing views on Ukraine, saying that he avoids commenting on such matters at international forums. He simply stated that Croatia is officially on the right side of history, and that the topic is a very sore one for Croatia which went through something very similar 30 years ago in the face of Serbian aggression.

Milanovic controversially claims that there’s now “No difference between the slogan za dom spremni (Ready for the Homeland) and slava Ukraini (glory to Ukraine)

You’ve probably got the idea from the saga detailed above that Zoran Milanovic has confused not only those in Croatian politics but also those in the wider European and global political sphere with his odd comments about Russia and Ukraine. He has even prompted genuine questions about what Croatia’s official position actually is regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war, which Plenkovic has always been very quick to shut down with ongoing solid proof of Croatia’s absolute and total solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression.

Comparing a noble struggle with a divisive slogan

If you know anything about Croatia’s turbulent past, you’ll have heard of the Independent State of Croatia, a so-called Nazi puppet state which existed between 1941 and 1945, ceasing to exist after Hitler’s defeat by the Allies. Despite only being in existence for a short time, the Independent State of Croatia, headed by Dr. Ante Pavelic, still causes endless controversy and division to this very day. I won’t go to deeply into that topic, as it’s never a wise idea, but the slogan “Za dom spremni” (Ready for the Homeland) which was used both during WWII and Croatia’s fight for independence back in the 1990s, just keeps on coming up every few weeks in the media.

Some in Croatian politics deem Za dom spremni to have Ustasa connotations, while others argue that it predates the Ustasa regime from the 1940s. It was certainly used during Croatia’s heroic fight for independence in the 1990s, and it would be absolutely wrong to ever claim the brave soldiers who risked everything for their country were Nazis of any kind. So, you get the point – it’s a divisive phrase.

Milanovic, in his most recent weird comments about Russia and Ukraine, has likened Za dom spremni with the phrase “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine), throwing yet more fuel on a proverbial fire which really didn’t need any more stoking.

“I don’t want to hear the words Slava Ukraini in Croatia”

Yes, Milanovic really said that.

“If you haven’t understood [the likeness of Za dom spremni and Slava Ukraini], then I can’t re-educate you. But there’s no difference between the two” said Milanovic.

Zoran Milanovic recently participated in the City of Zagreb’s public awards ceremony, where Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic and the President of the City Assembly Josko Klisovic presented the City of Zagreb awards to various different deserving individuals and institutions.

After the award ceremony, Milanovic found the time (as he always does, regardless of what he’s doing) to comment on current events. He started out with discussing the issue of people who suffer from hayfever and the issue with Zagreb’s grass not being cut regularly enough. Of course, Ukraine and Russia had to come up as a topic (as it always does, regardless of the event in question) which is where he said the above statement which is shocking even by his standards.

He didn’t stop there with his Ukraine comments…

“This is the cry of the most radical chauvinists from Western Ukraine who worked with the Nazis and killed thousands of Jews, Poles… I don’t want to hear that [Slava Ukraini] here in Croatia. I’m not interested in the fact that some leaders have become hooked on it. Let them invent a different phrase. Let’s remove Russia and Ukraine from the equation. Kyiv is far away, Moscow is even further.”

Regarding the use of Za dom spremni here in Croatia, he said: “I’ve made my point about that phrase on several occasions. I can’t keep beating a dead horse. This phrase is harmful to us. The commemoration in Bleiburg… if it means something to some people in Croatia, if someone dear to someone died there, and if someone innocent died there, then there are plenty of ways to commemorate that. Anything else is just humiliating for Croatia.”

“If the Austrians hadn’t been provoked [by people turning up in black with Ustasa memorabilia] it could still be being held in Austria,” he said. This isn’t the first time that someone from the world of Croatian politics has criticised what the event had become before the Austrian authorities said “no more”.

The Day of the Croatian Army wasn’t spared either

He also commented on the Day of the Croatian Army: “It’s enough that we present these weapons in front of families, and on the other hand… children are looking at these weapons… Weapons and the army should remain where they belong”, Milanovic said, as reported by N1. Many in Croatian politics found his comments about the Croatian Army to be disrespectful, while some people quietly agreed, especially following recent tragic events involving horrific school shootings in Serbia.


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