Zoran Milanović Heading to Ireland to Talk to Croats Living There

Lauren Simmonds

As Novi list/Drazen Ciglenecki writes on the 25th of October, 2019, SDP’s presidential candidate Zoran Milanović wants to talk to Croats who have emigrated to Ireland’s second largest city in recent years, claiming that he is ”not going there to get votes”.

The Croatian presidential election campaign has, rather unsurprisingly, sunk into near-total monotony. There is nothing going on with it, there are no confrontations between candidates, which is of major interest to citizens and the media everywhere, so it is not surprising that the public has lost interest in this election race almost entirely. The current campaign is still monitored mainly at the level of the results of surveys that are published periodically. It is up to nobody else but the presidential candidates themselves to arouse more public interest in the upcoming elections.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has not changed any part of her approach to the elections after announcing her official candidacy three weeks ago. She is still distanced from the campaign.

Miroslav Škoro is trying to add a certain international dimension to his candidacy, but for many people it’s become more amusing to watch than anything else.

This week the singer stayed at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he spoke to members of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) faction about his own vision for Croatia within the European Union. The visit was organised by MEP Ruža Tomašić, who supports Škoro, and belongs to this parliamentary group to the right of the European Peoples Party (EPP).

Zoran Milanović has been paying visits to different areas in Croatia and making comments on daily political developments, and we’ve learned that he will soon travel to Cork, Ireland. He isn’t planning on giving up on it all and moving there, but plans to talk with Croats who have moved there over the last few years.

In his election headquarters, they emphasised the fact that Milanović isn’t ”going there to get votes”, since it is highly unlikely that anyone living in Cork will travel 250 kilometres to Dublin just to vote at the Croatian Embassy there. In addition, very few Croats in Ireland participate in the elections at all.

HDZ strongly attacked the former government headed by Zoran Milanović for the level of emigration from Croatia after the country officially joined the EU back in July 2013, but this worrying trend has not stopped with the change of government. The President of the Republic of Croatia was particularly engaged in this matter, warning the Government of Andrej Plenković that he must adopt demographic measures that would at least mitigate the scale of emigration.

”We stopped the military aggression, Croatia won. However, today, especially Slavonia, Croatia is at risk again. It is threatened with emigration and extinction,” Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović once said firmly.

In her meetings with Croats living abroad, she constantly urges them to return, and she told them a month ago in Pittsburgh, “Croatia is calling you.” Zoran Milanović has repeatedly spoken about this issue during the campaign, denying that people are being evicted because of a specific government. However, he also managed to find a culprit in HDZ.

”Croatia is a country where there is no equality, no equal chance of success. We see it every day and that’s why people leave. They leave because they see that, even when they put in a lot of effort into something and when they play by the rules, there’s no success. Unfortunately, this is a consequence of a Croatia which has been suffering under HDZ for thirty years. HDZ is a cartel, if you’re with them, you’ll succeed if you are not, you have no chance,” the SDP presidential candidate said this summer.

Emigration of young people has been emerging as one of the most difficult problems in Croatia, so Milanović claims that he wants to hear directly from the people who left their homeland about what prompted them to do so, and what their chances of coming back look like.

It is estimated that about 20,000 Croats live in Ireland today, of which about 125,000 are located in Cork. Half a year ago, they wrote to the Embassy in Dublin and the Ministry of Science and Education in Croatia requesting the opening of a Croatian school in Cork, given that their children were forgetting how to speak Croatian.

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