This Week in Croatian Politics – Hooligans, Putin & Liberland

Lauren Simmonds

croatian politics

September the 29th, 2023 – This week in Croatian politics, we’ve had everything from Ursula von der Leyen being greeted by anti-EU signage in Split, to Milanovic showing surprising levels of diplomacy in regard to Plenkovic and the topic of Kosovo’s recognition. On top of that, we’ve had updates on the Dinamo Zagreb hooligans detained in Greece and Slovenia has introduced checkpoints along the border with Croatia in attempt to curb illegal migration.

Plenkovic and Ursula von der Leyen are met with anti-EU signs in Split

CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP

As Index vijesti/news reports, Andrej Plenkovic participated in the ceremonial session of the Split-Dalmatia County Assembly on the occasion of the marking of the county’s day recently. When he arrived in the company of County Prefect Blazenko Boban and Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Korzinek, he was met in front of the Croatian National Theatre by protesters with banners which read “I demand the rule of law” and “Croatia died in 2013 when it entered the EU”.

While there are numbers of people across Croatia (and indeed in Croatian politics) who feel that EU accession was a wrong move from Croatia, being greeted with signs like this has another rather awkward aspect to it for the Prime Minister. This is because a two-day meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) was being held in Split during the time of this mini protest of sorts. The grouping of European centre-right parties is currently the largest in the European Parliament with 177 representatives in total. Among the guests are EPP President Manfred Weber and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

During her time spent in Croatia’s second largest city, Ursula von der Leyen visited Split’s brand new firefighting centre. She was quick to comment on how projects like that are the best possible use of European Union funds.

Despite Schengen, Slovenia re-introduces checkpoints near the Slovenian-Croatian border

Croatia may well have entered Schengen on the first day of this year, but that hasn’t stopped neighbouring Slovenia introducing checkpoints near the border again. In fact, being a Schengen member state doesn’t prevent any country even from re-introducing border controls at its own will, as long as it is done temporarily.

These checkpoints in Slovenia are about to be introduced on the country’s territory near border crossings, including at the border with Croatia. The Schengen regime remains in force, and it will still be possible to cross the former border crossings without any control, but there will be police checkpoints on the territory of Slovenia where the police will stop and check individual vehicles. The primary reason for the introduction of these checkpoints is the ongoing issue of illegal migration in this part of Europe.

You can read more details by clicking here.

More details emerge on the subject of the detained Dinamo Zagreb hooligans in Greece

To briefly recall, the topic of the arrested and detained Bad Blue Boys (Dinamo Zagreb hooligans) in nearby Greece has been a hot one in the Croatian media space for weeks now. The mass arrest of Dinamo hooligans occurred after a clash before a scheduled AEK Athens and Dinamo Zagreb match in the Greek capital resulted in the fatal stabbing of a Greek AEK fan. It was alleged that the assault which later saw the individual succumb to his injuries was carried out by a Dinamo Zagreb ”fan”. As a result, a huge number of Dinamo fans present at the time were arrested by the Greek police and have since been kept in custody, reportedly dispersed around different Greek prisons.

Multiple individuals from the world of Croatian politics and diplomacy have spoken on the issue, with President Zoran Milanovic reportedly making things more difficult for those in Croatian politics trying to repair ties with Greece and have the hooligans who aren’t responsible for the fatal stabbing deported back to Croatia to face their punishments. Precisely why the Greek authorities have insisted in holding such a large number of Croats in Greece and within the Greek prison system has been rather unclear, given that it doesn’t take 100 people to stab and kill a man.

Greek Lawyer Athanasios Kaymenakis, who is currently representing most of the arrested members of the Bad Blue Boys in Greece, stated that the investigation isn’t likely to end quickly due to the amount of evidence involved. He also noted that none of the arrested Croatian hooligans would be released from custody or allowed to leave Greek territory until after the trial. He does believe however that most of the charges will be dismissed in court and is pleased with the development of the case so far.

You can read more by clicking here.

Milanovic discusses Kosovo, Serbia and comparisons between Plenkovic and Putin

Croatian politics is colourful to say the least, and the war of words between Plenkovic and Milanovic has become the stuff of legends at this point. It leaves many wondering how the pair have so much time to spend spewing vitriol at each other considering the stress levels of their respective jobs. After Plenkovic was rather strangely compared with Russia’s disgraced leader Vladimir Putin however, Milanovic was much more diplomatic than usual.

Zoran Milanovic made a recent referral to the speech made by BiH Presidency member Zeljko Komsic at the UN. He also touched on the statement of his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, who mocked him.

Milanovic showed a lot of diplomacy when addressing comments comparing Plenkovic with Putin…

To recap, Vucic recently mocked Milanovic because, during his speech at the UN General Assembly, he called on member states to recognise Kosovo’s independence. Milanovic first commented on Komsic’s speech in which the member of the BiH Presidency oddly compared Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“That was a private thing, Komsic isn’t speaking on behalf of the state or of all of its citizens. What he said at the UN is bad because those are statements that evoke terrible associations among the uninformed, and there are such individuals to keep in mind when speaking. Among other things, he compared Plenkovic with Putin because he didn’t recognise the idiotic verdict of the Strasbourg court. Those judges are trying to play peacemakers, they used to have a certain function, but what they’re doing now, especially with Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a coordinated action between Komsic and others like him from the international community. The verdicts are idiotic and dangerous because they’re trying to change what’s laid out in the Dayton Agreement. That’s impossible. That’s just the path to conflict,” Milanovic stated when commenting on Zeljko Komsic’s controversial statement, writes HRT.

The war ended with the agreement of three nations – we need to stick to that

Milanovic has been extremely diplomatic lately, much to the surprise of many in Croatian politics, He eloquently recalled the earlier judgements passed by that court and warned that the new judgement compromises the rights of the three constituent nations present in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The war ended with an agreement made by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three nations, and we should stick to that if we don’t want something similar to happen again, and not engage in sabotage with the aim of someone forcing their way into the BiH Presidency and stealing an entire constituent nation. This is an attempt to force Bosnia and Herzegovina to change its Constitution – that’s impossible and there is no majority for it.

The court in Strasbourg, in coordination with Komsic and some people in Brussels, is putting pressure on the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina to change the Constitution that they won after paying for it with their own blood. That will never happen as long as I am politically alive. I hope that this government or the one that comes after the new elections will act in the same way,” said the president.

“Kosovo is a reality and Serbia will just have to get used to it”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also made headlines recently for his criticism of Milanovic’s call for member states to recognise Kosovo at the UN. Milanovic has stuck firmly to his guns on the issue, however, and is a strong supporter of the recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation that has nothing whatsoever to do with Serbia.

“In addition to calling on Serbia and Kosovo to stick to the agreement and what was signed, I support the rights of Albanian people in Kosovo and for Kosovo to exist as an independent nation. I also support their membership in the United Nations. Serbia can obstruct this, in fact it’s already doing that, but Serbia is more than aware that [an independent] Kosovo is a reality. I’m sure it isn’t an easy thing to accept, but they will just have to get used to it,” said President Milanovic on the topic of Kosovo.

Croatian police set their sights on Liberland once again

Another twist in Europe’s most bizarre border story, as Croatian police oversee an operation to dismantle the settlement in Liberland. Yet another strange chapter has been written in the now 8-year saga on Croatia’s eastern border on the Danube. A story which gets stranger and stranger, with the latest development being that the Croatian police crossed the county’s external Schengen border to oversee the dismantling of the nascent settlement on the so-called Free State of Liberland, a 7km2 piece of land on the Danube, unclaimed by any country for over 25 years until Czech national Vit Jedlicka claimed it for his new country back in April, 2015.

You can read more by clicking here.


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