President to Enter 2019 on Wings of Positive Initiatives?

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ZAGREB, December 22, 2018 – In a comment on her decision to relieve her domestic policy advisor Mate Radeljić of his duties, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday that new times required new ideas and solutions and that she had decided to enter 2019 “on the wings of positive initiatives from the outgoing year, such as demography and branding”, which was why she had appointed former journalist Mirjana Hrga as her advisor on strategic policies and relations with the government and parliament.

“I want to achieve synergy between domestic and foreign policies, and naturally national security policy, and I want to mark this year with positive initiatives with which I will help the government and the parliament deal with the problems the Croatian society is faced with,” Grabar-Kitarović said in an interview with the Croatian Television (HTV), aired on Friday evening.

The interview was broadcast before Radeljić issued a statement on his dismissal, in which he said that had to resign because he was threatened by the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA).

Asked about the extent of involvement of her advisors in the fake text message affair, considering that since it broke out, her defence and national security advisor Vlado Galić has resigned as well, Grabar-Kitarović said that the affair should be investigated by relevant state institutions and that it would be “inappropriate” of her to “speak about the advisors on their behalf”.

Asked if her advisors had tried to topple Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and prepare ground for her to take over the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Grabar-Kitarović categorically dismissed such a possibility, and she also dismissed claims that she was getting rid of her advisors so that she could launch a campaign for a second term in office without any burden and with the support of the HDZ.

“I was never told who to hire as an advisor or who to dismiss, Prime Minister Plenković never interfered in my personnel policy, just as I would never interfere in his,” she said, recalling that in the past four years, several people had left her office. “Some sought an opportunity elsewhere, I support ambition and try to help everyone in accomplishing their ambitions, both business and private.”

Responding to the interviewer’s remark that some would describe Radeljić as one of her closest associates, she said that all of her advisors were equally close and important to her.

Speaking of her relations with the government in the outgoing year, she described them as good. “I pointed to problems in the society and will continue to do so, but I also commended the government for the good things done, such as its efforts in dealing with the Agrokor crisis,” she said, adding that she would like communication between her and the government to be more intensive in the year ahead and that she wanted to contribute to the government’s work.

Speaking of positive examples of her cooperation with the government, she cited demography, saying that after she presented her programme for demographic revival, she and the government held a session and agreed on joint action.

Grabar-Kitarović said that she believed that the programme was good and that her criticism of demographic trends was purposeful. “I am glad to hear about reports from other countries that the process of emigration from Croatia is beginning to slow down and we now must do our best to stabilise that process and work on conditions to encourage people not only to stay in the country but to return here,” she said.

She also said that the situation regarding the Marrakesh Compact on Migration was not an ill-thought-out move but was probably due to lack of clear communication, adding that the issue of migration could be dealt with only by eliminating its causes in countries of origin – conflict, low living standards, inequality and lack of education. “That requires cooperation between countries, also within the EU, notably as regards illegal migration,” she said, adding that immigration policy was an internal matter of every country.

“That is why I believed that it was good that the minister of the interior should attend the Marrakesh conference and that is what happened.”

The president said that demography and the lack of a development strategy were burning problems. “People are the key to everything, without them the pension and health insurance systems will collapse and we will not have enough workers to raise living standards, create jobs and increase growth rates.”

The president said that her priority in the year ahead would be to continue pointing to problems and giving proposals for possible solutions and to cooperate with everyone willing to cooperate.

Speaking of her term so far, she said that she considered it bad that ideological divisions and debates still existed. “I regret that, despite having promised myself not to do it, I yielded to pressure and entered ideological debates. My statements were frequently misinterpreted or put in a wrong context. On the other hand, it is good that I have managed… to considerably distance myself from ideology and put emphasis on citizens’ real problems,” she said.

She said that she did not consider herself the leader of the right because “the president can neither be right nor left, they must combine all policies that are important for the Croatian state and society. We are a welfare state and a market economy, a state of the Croatian people as well as of minorities and all the others that live here.”

Grabar-Kitarović also said that changes in her office had nothing to do with her plans for a second term, but that rather she wanted to use the last year of her term to “contribute to positive ideas that are necessary for the society…. and continue the work on the international scene.”

“The country’s international rating has improved since last year, I have to continue working on that, I have met US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The whole world has heard about Croatia, we have to continue working on our branding but branding won’t make sense if we do not change living conditions in Croatia,” said the president.

More news on the Croatian president can be found in our Politics section.


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