Croatian President Elect Zoran Milanović Gives First TV Interview

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Nova TV

Croatian President-Elect Zoran Milanović gave his first interview to Mislav Bago of Nova TV on January 16, 2020. When asked what people should expect from him as president, Milanović indicated that he would defend the constitution, fight against thieves and do everything which he promised during his campaign. He also spoke about the murder which occurred in Split last weekend, as Slobodna Dalmacija reported. Here are some highlights from that interview.

What can people expect from you as Croatian president?

To defend the constitution, I will fight against thieves and all that I have said in the campaign. I haven’t promise miracles. I’ll do what I promised.

Croatia has recently been shocked by the triple murder (in Split), and there are those who have organized and want to take justice into their own hands.

It shocked me, as it did you, and all of us. Split thrives on the idea of safety although it’s not a very safe city. But it’s not the worst city in the world either. Croatia is a reasonably safe country and the degree of public security is very good. More work is required on prevention. I could understand the approach of people on Facebook at first, but now I can’t.

That needs to stop, and the government has my support. Split is a very segmented and unique city. It is large by Croatian standards; the second largest. And it is a large diverse urban entity when Solin and Kaštela are included. Unlike Zagreb, Rijeka and Zadar, Split is very diverse on the political level. In some parts of Split I received 78 percent of the vote and in other city districts I got 20 percent. This city was built on muscle, big growth and rapid urbanization, which it has not been able to reconcile. It is a big sociological and security challenge.

These people have organized themselves (on Facebook) because they believe that the system is wrong, so they have decided to take matters into their own hands.

I haven’t seen them do anything, but the idea itself is bad.


The system has also been exposed by the tragedy in Andraševac, particularly as it relates to the elderly. We are a nation of elderly people, and the government has announced changes to the law, but they probably want to hear what the President thinks.

The existing Croatian law was adequate, and now the government has become the most convenient scapegoat. Something horrible occurred in Andraševac and it is awful. We are an aging nation and need to invest in the right types of care for people. The city of Zagreb does not even have 4,000 beds in public homes and an average bed is 4,000 HRK (538 EUR) a month. In private homes this amount reaches as much as 1,000 EUR. This is a serious political problem and anyone who seeks a government position in our country will have to address citizens’ needs, which are realistic and justified.

You are expected to assume the presidency on February 18, 2020; and you have said you want to have a normal inauguration, what would that look like?

First, this does not mean that the others weren’t normal. This is one action, you assume the office, and the only thing the constitution says is that you are required take the oath of office before the President of the Constitutional Court. This can be organized in a hundred different ways. That day will take place at Pantovčak, in the President’s office, and I will invite those who I think should be present. That includes the current President, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Presidency of the Parliament, the President of the Supreme Court, the Chief of Staff, the people who ran my campaign and my wife.

Our diplomacy has already informed us about the inauguration. What if some of the presidents of neighboring states want to attend?

That won’t be possible, and they won’t want to attend. The inauguration will be organized the way I’ve described. In Slovenia, a directly elected president takes the oath of office in parliament. This is probably possible in Croatia as well, and it seems more appropriate to me.

Rumor has it that you and the Turkish president will initiate changes to the Dayton agreement?

This is impossible, this contract is like a border agreement and cannot be canceled by standard procedure. You would have to reunite all the stakeholders, which is impossible.


Putin congratulated you and invited you to celebrate May Day in Moscow. Have you decided whether you’ll go?

It’s a legendary Russian parade. I think I’m going to attend, and I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t go. I do not support the annexation of Crimea, but that does not mean that I won’t work on good relations with Russia.

In terms of cooperation with the currrent Croatian President, how is this transition period going?

It’s going OK; I’m pleased.

Were you surprised by the Prime Minister’s statement regarding difficult cohabitation or were you expecting a different reaction?

He has had enough turmoil in his own party, which has been going on now for years, so I won’t comment.

What should we expect in this difficult cohabitation?

You can expect constructive cooperation, and not destructive behavior. When I gather people, who are worthy and who I consider to be the best, it won’t be to lock horns with the government. It is easy to be resourceful in the position of the presidency every day. My big advantage is that I know what it looks like on the other side. It’s a lot more difficult.

The Croatian air force planes could be a topic for disagreement?

I can’t challenge that because it’s a government decision.

But they will listen to your position. You have said publicly that this should be done directly with the Americans, without an invitation or tender, yet the government informed seven countries about the purchase, why do you think it is better to automatically work with the Americans?

Because we are not buying cars for the Croatian parliament like we did recently. You call a public tender, specify those cars and know in advance that Audis are being purchased. But if you call a public tender through the General Affairs Office of the Government, Parliament and Procurement Office: they’ll end up spending too much, rather than just buying cars directly, which is twice as cheap.

Let’s say a one-year-old vehicle is purchased, however. And we are not buying cars, but deadly machines, which are essential for national security. If that decision has already been made, I won’t oppose it. There are a several factors to consider. The main one, apart from quality, is reliability. Therefore, the long-term reliability of our partners is important, as is the availability of training and spare parts for rebuilding the system. The safest route is to work with the Americans.

Could we survive without investing in aviation and invest in the Croatian Navy instead? We have a lot more sea to defend. I don’t want to downplay the Air Force, but nowadays, Americans are killing and disabling targets with drones.

I agree with you. I am also the Commander-in-Chief now. The President of the Croatian Republic is only nominally the Commander-in-Chief in the event of a war or declaration of war. We have not declared war and didn’t even do so during the actual war in Croatia in the 1990s. This is what the government does during peacetime, and the President is always present. He is a kind of symbolic figure. I know a little about these things and dealt with this issue 20 years ago. However, this system is managed by the Government and I will be their partner, and what I am saying is that this is Croatia’s best interests. I can say this because I do not decide on allocating state funds. I do not decide on procurement and do not have any personal preferences. I do not know about present-day companies or factories. I used to know about all the fighter jet manufacturers as a kid, now I don’t know anything about them.


I ask this because some people say that in the long run it will be more important for us to protect the sea, and we are not investing money in this area, and the question is when and under what conditions will we get the planes?

I have been saying this for five years or more. As Croatian Prime Minister, I left the mandate with an outstanding order for one, or four more – so a total of five Coast Guard patrol vessels, which are part of the Navy today. This is what we need as a minimum, but it is not enough. I consider the Navy a priority, so our 12 or so planes mean nothing in the global arena. It’s purely a badge pride to have those and have that ability. It is expensive, but we are a country, not just NATO members, and the Navy and sea are our most precious resources besides humans.

You have said publicly that we do not belong in Afghanistan. Will you formally initiate the withdrawal of our troops when you take office?

I will constantly bring this up because it is a completely senseless mission. There is no solution for that situation, and the question is when the US will withdraw. It’s often said, ‘We went in together, we will leave together,’ but it’s not a real combat action to refer to warriors’ honor. It is a mission that our people cannot defend.

We entered there a year after the Americans, a year after the Taliban were defeated. We entered there on the initiative of Ivica Račan, but that does not oblige us. We can withdraw when we decide to without consulting anyone. It cannot be on the principle that several soldiers there earn a slightly higher salary. I’m glad about that, but I’m not glad when they come back wounded or die. The situation is stagnant, and I wonder why. The key question is why.

We also have soldiers in India and Pakistan. One wonders what our interest is there.

There is a much smaller number there, but we need to constantly check and review the ratio, not jump in blindly for our partners and their interests.

You said that Slovenia needs Croatia to be a strategic partner, but how can this be achieved with all the obstacles we have; like the arbitration issue, for example?

We’ll proceed patiently, as we did in the campaign. Slovenia is naturally our closest partner. Our challenges with them are nothing compared to the problems we have with other countries.

Do you think Bernardić could be Prime Minister?

He is the president of a strong political party, if the SDP achieves solid results in the upcoming elections and win more than 76 seats, they will have the mandate. And I cannot foresee what kind of prime minister he will be.

Europe has proposed a comprehensive green plan – and as a continent we would like to return to sustainable energy. Do you think that citizens are aware of what lies ahead and what we must do to save planet earth?

They are not currently aware but will become more so over time. We, as a small country and a small economy, contribute little or nothing to climate change and global warming. However, we also do not have the wealth and sometimes pretentious moral guard of Denmark or Sweden. This needs to be clear – it concerns us, it concerns our coast. If the sea level begins to rise, it affects our environment and where our people live. These are things that need to be talked about constantly. There are also several moral issues, such as how shamelessly rich countries are exploiting natural resources, and currently have the right to set the pace for those who are being exploited.

We know what to expect from your inauguration, but what will be among be your first decisions?

I will gather people whom I consider important. I do not mean an advisory team which bypasses the government and copies it. The team will be smaller, but for practical reasons. I can’t gather everyone I’d like to have on board. There will be a smaller number of professional advisors, but don’t consider it a savings. This is not because I am frugal, but that’s how it is coming together this point. Those I nominate will represent my priorities and those are: defense, national security, foreign policy and practically nothing else. I cannot reveal any names right now. I will certainly not have a social services advisor because appointing someone for that position would be pretentious and wrong. I’m not the government. I have no right to mentor the government if I cannot offer a solution. I will make a few of the social fields a priority including education and curricular reform…

What role will your wife play? She said she would like to promote the field she is working in.

She is primarily a university professor and works at the state institute on various projects. She will be doing what she would like to do. She’ll probably be more present than when I was Prime Minister, but not much more. It is, after all, her decision.

Follow our Politics page for updates on the Croatian presidency.


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