Dismissal of Security Intelligence Agency Director Causes New Divisions in Government

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Who is making the decisions in Croatia these days? 

There is a good chance that the dismissal of Security Intelligence Agency (SOA) Director Dragan Lozančić might turn into a new political scandal. At a time when Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković on Friday afternoon was telling reporters that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and him will make a decision on Lozančić’s dismissal next week, the Office of the President formally announced that the President had already signed the decision on the dismissal. That has put the Prime Minister in a very awkward position since he is now facing a fait accompli, reports Jutarnji List, HRT and Index.hr on February 7, 2016.

“The Prime Minister was stunned and angered by the President’s move”, says a source familiar with the situation. It added that it was customary for such decisions, when two signatures are necessary, to be made and announced jointly.

“Orešković is now in a difficult situation. If he refuses to sign the dismissal, he will open a confrontation with the president and perhaps start a constitutional crisis. On the other hand, if he accepts the decision, he will give another argument to those who claim that he is just a figurehead in the government. So it might have been better if they had previously held a meeting of the National Security Council, come to a agreement and announced a joint decision”, says the source. Some in HDZ agree that a very “awkward situation” happened on Friday.

In addition, Deputy Prime Minister and MOST leader Božo Petrov has announced his opposition to the dismissal. In an interview with Croatian Radio, he said that “the dismissal can happen only with two signatures”. “Lozančić has still not been dismissed. I have talked with him because I wanted to see what was going on, and at this moment I cannot say that I have noticed anything which might indicate that there are reasons for his dismissal. The final decision should be made by the Prime Minister who probably has more information”, said Petrov.

Croatian Television reported that it was almost certain that the Prime Minister would accept the dismissal because the government does not have any reason to start a political conflict with the President. For the Prime Minister, a much bigger test will be the choice of Lozančić’s successor. During negotiations on forming the new government, MOST demanded that they should have control over the secret services and Interior Ministry. However, HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition will not easily give up its influence in the secret services.

SDP president and leader of the opposition Zoran Milanović said that Lozančić’s dismissal would be illegal because his guilt had not been proven, and that all these events just demonstrated that there was a chaos in the country. “We do not have a government, we do not have a prime minister. We have a president who gives pardons to suspicious types of persons, hangs out with strange people, signs a decision on the dismissal of the SOA director. They show no respect for the Croatian state”, said Milanović.

National security expert Vlatko Cvrtila commented on the latest events. “This is a strong pressure on the Prime Minister. They should have made a joint decision, but now the Prime Minister does not have much of a choice”, he said. “I think he can only confirm the President’s decision. If he would challenge it, then we would have a crisis, and I am not sure that we need such a crisis right now”, he said. “We now have an embarrassing situation. The procedure for dismissal has been initiated, but he is still a director because the Prime Minister has not yet given his signature. Lozančić will be a ‘semi’ director for a few more days. Such situations should be avoided in the future”, said Cvrtila.


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