25 Things to Know about the Croatian Political Circus

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Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

A selection of some of the more memorable moments in recent Croatian politics.

Many things can be said about Croatian politics, but that they are boring is certainly not one of them. Through the years, an impressive number of flamboyant and weird characters have come and gone, with various levels of success. While some remained at the lowest levels of political hierarchy forever, some have managed to get to the very top. Here is a selection of 25 moments which, in no particular order, represent Croatian politics at its finest.

1. Prime Minister Zoran Milanović falls from an armoured personnel carrier.

While visiting a military barracks, the Prime Minister inspected one of the newly-commissioned armoured personnel carriers. He must have thought that he would impress voters with his physical agility, but the show did not go according to plans. He did admit later that he was trying to show off, and added, “That is life. Sometimes you are up, and sometimes you are down.”


2. Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić crawls to lay a wreath.

Nothing will stop the Zagreb Mayor from performing his duties, particularly if there are cameras around. While visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, he inexplicably decided to take his shoes off, thinking presumably that walking in socks would make ice less slippery. However, as the video shows, the laws of gravity are in force in Bosnia just like anywhere else.


3. Ljubo Ćesić Rojs calls on gay politicians to be open about it.

One of the more flamboyant characters in Croatian politics, now thankfully retired, Ljubo Ćesić Rojs was not known as a particularly progressive politician, to say the least. He did however call on gays in politics to be open about it and admit it publicly. “You should be a real man and say: ‘Yes, I am gay.’” A little later, he admitted to watching gay pornography, although he added that it was, according to him, an ugly thing to watch.

4. Member of European Parliament Ingrid Antičević-Marinović – “Pipl Mast Trast As”

Although certainly not among the most prominent politicians in Croatian history, the former Justice Minister and Member of European Parliament, and currently a justice of the Constitutional Court, Ingrid Antičević-Marinović has multiple entries on this list. One of the most famous English-languages speeches in Croatian history was given by her in 2013 at the European Parliament. It is difficult to say which is worse, her level of English, her flamboyant manner of speaking, or the sheer emptiness of her words.

5. Prime Minister Zoran Milanović compares historic flooding with a broken pipe in his home.

Three years ago, large floods hit eastern Croatia, and Prime Minister Milanović, as any politician would do, hurried to the area to demonstrate how much he cared for regular people whose homes were destroyed by the historic flooding. Never known for carefully choosing his words, Milanović managed to create a minor PR crisis when, trying to show his compassion, he told locals that he also had problems with water, because once a water pipe broke in his home and then it took many months for his apartment to be renovated. The people who lost their homes were not impressed by his home improvement stories.


6. Split Mayor Željko Kerum puts prosciutto ham on his forehead.

For some reason, the Split Mayor, while running a re-election campaign in 2013, decided that the best thing to gain some votes would be to stuck a slice of prosciutto ham on his forehead. The move did not work, and he lost the elections. However, Kerum is now back and is again running for mayor, even winning a plurality of votes in the first round last week.

7. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović apologizes for giving Serbian chocolate to children.

It is the holiday season, Christmas is approaching, the President is visiting Dubrovnik and she decides to give some chocolate to local children. Nothing unusual or controversial, until it is discovered that some of the chocolate was produced in Serbia. While most people would say no big deal, there were some who complained to the President. And then she suddenly decided to make things worse, by apologizing to everybody, announcing a prompt investigation into what happened and vowing that nothing similar would ever happen again. The reaction shocked many who thought that chocolates did not have a nationality, and particularly those involved in selling Croatian products to Serbia, who worried about the reaction of Serbian consumers to President’s words.

8. Former President Ivo Josipović makes the strangest political ad ever.

After losing the election for the second presidential term, former President Josipović decided to launch a new political party. The whole project was a disaster, with the party not getting even close to winning a single seat in Parliament in 2015. However, he did succeed in producing perhaps the strangest political ad ever. There are no words, not even music, just some people making noise.

9. Member of Parliament Anto Kovačević – “Women are not here to be smart, but to lie on the bed”.

While the Croatian Parliament is certainly not the greatest deliberative body in the world, it rarely gets as low as in 2001, when MP Anto Kovačević told Vesna Pusić, later Foreign Minister, that she should not be too smart, because there are other reasons why women existed. Of course, many in Parliament laughed.

10. Justice Minister Ingrid Antičević-Marinović ceremoniously opens a lift.

Ahead of any election, it is quite usual for politicians, at least those who are in power, to suddenly start opening various facilities and marking launches of important investment projects. However, sometimes they go too far and start looking ridiculous. In 2003, then Justice Minister Ingrid-Marinović (yes, the same one from no. 4) organized a major ceremony for the inauguration of a renovated lift in Varaždin. A ribbon was cut, photos were taken, food eaten, and statements given.

11. Parliament Speaker Luka Bebić – “Politicians sometimes have opinions they do not agree with”.

There is a saying that a political gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say. That is certainly true for this statement made by then Parliament Speaker Luka Bebić, who tried to explain why he and others sometimes voted against their own previously issued statements and opinions.

12. Prime Minister Designate Tihomir Orešković – “Citizen-Buildings”

Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković was in office for just nine months, but he has left a rich repertoire of statements which we could include in this list. That is mostly a consequence of the fact that he did not speak Croatian very well, since he spent most of his life abroad. His tortured usage of Croatian language was evident from the very beginning, when he was appointed as Prime Minister Designate and gave his first major address to the public. Since he was a completely unknown beforehand to most Croatians, this was his first opportunity to make an impression. And he did just that, although not probably the one he wanted. He mixed up the words for “citizens” (građani) and “buildings (građevine), and he proudly said he was here to serve Croatian buildings.

13. Member of Parliament Ivan Pernar being forcibly ejected from Parliament.

One of the most recent entries in this list took place in January of this year. MP Ivan Pernar refused to obey the parliamentary rules and his nemesis, Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner, who was presiding at that time, ordered him to leave the chamber. Pernar refused and Reiner then ordered the security to escort him out of the hall. Pernar again refused so the security guards carried him and his party colleague Ivan Vilibor Sinčić out. A rare sight in Croatia, where MPs are usually more than happy not to spend any time in the parliamentary chamber.

14. Health Minister Milan Kujundžić – “One priest is worth more than 20 physicians”.

One of the stars of the current government is Health Minister Milan Kujundžić. He is known for claiming that there are no problems in the Croatian healthcare system, although the debt is huge and conditions for both the patients and the medical staff horrible. However, his most famous statement came from a roundtable on medicine and religion, when he, as a health minister and a physician, said that having one priest in hospital was more valuable than having 20 doctors.

15. Head of Zagreb City Office of Education Ivica Lovrić – “Windows are falling out in other schools as well”.

As the head of the Zagreb City Office of Education, Ivica Lovrić is in charge of all the primary and secondary schools in Zagreb. So, when windows started falling from one of the dilapidated schools, parents knew whom to call. Lovrić came to the school to visit and accused the parents of being overly dramatic. “Since the beginning of this school year, windows have fallen out just three times. Anyway, windows are falling out in other schools as well.” Needless to say, nothing was done and windows have continued to fall out ever since.

16. Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalić laughs during a press conference while discussing a potential collapse of Croatia’s largest privately-owned company.

People do sometimes laugh uncontrollably, but when you are a deputy prime minister, you should avoid it if possible. Particularly if you are talking about problems in the largest company in Croatia, whose collapse could wipe out tens of thousands of jobs. Dalić asked the cameramen to delete the recording, but obviously her wish was not fulfilled. What was the reason for the laugh is not known, although some say she was actually “tired and emotional”.


17. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader – “Seizure of my paintings is an attack of art itself”.

Sanader was for years the most powerful person in Croatia. But, when the fall came, it came quickly and dramatically. He was arrested and soon stories about his wealth were published by the media. One of the discoveries was a number of valuable paintings which Sanader had in his home. As part of court proceedings against him, the court ordered the police to enter Sanader’s home and seize all the paintings, because it was suspected that he had bought them with money earned through corruption. At his next court appearance, Sanader protested, claiming humbly that the seizure of his paintings was an attack on art itself. This being Croatia, it is not necessary to say that after seven years, the trials are still ongoing and no final verdicts have been issued.

18. Prime Minister Zoran Milanović – “Even if we do not do anything, something will happen.”

For the third time, here is former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović. He was known for his strange statements, called “zoranisms”, and we could easily fill this whole list just with his not quite clear statements. In 2013, while giving a speech presenting his government’s plans to help Croatia solve the economic crisis, he again gave a controversial, although not inaccurate statement. “Even if we do not do anything, something will happen,” said Milanović, which was several years later confirmed when Croatia did exit the economic crisis, although a succession of governments did almost nothing to make it happen.

19. President Franjo Tuđman on variously-coloured devils.

This is our only excursion to the pre-2000 period. Then President Franjo Tuđman’s statements would certainly deserve their own article, or several of them, but for now we have selected one of his most famous speeches, given in 1996 when he typically accused everybody else of being paid by foreigners to work against Croatia. “We will not allow those Yugoslav Communist remnants, and those political dilettantes, headless scatterbrains, who cannot see what is going on with various plans for the Balkans. We will not allow those who are ready to link themselves with black devils against Croatian freedom and Croatian independence; not only with black, but also with green and yellow devils. We will not allow those who are linking themselves with all adversaries of Croatian independence, not only linking but offering themselves, not only offering but selling themselves for thirty pieces of silver, and then bragging they are receiving grants from all the global power centres.”

20. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovć – “Croatia is an accidental state”.

Prime Minister Milanović did not excel just in flood conditions (see no. 5), but also in droughts. While visiting agricultural areas hit by the drought in 2012, he criticised the fact that there was no large-scale irrigation system in Slavonia. “It is obvious that we have been left to chance, and a state which is left to chance is an accidental state.” While his intention was obviously to criticise the fact that many things in the country are not planned and are left to chances, his “accidental state” statement became one of the main targets for his opponents. Even today, with Milanović far away from day-to-day politics, it is often quoted by his opponents as “evidence” of his lack of patriotism.

21. President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce Nadan Vidošević hides a treasure trove of stuffed exotic animals in his basement.

Ivo Sanader was not the only former dignitary whose home was searched by prosecutors. When police officers came to the home of Nadan Vidošević, then president of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, they found valuable paintings, as well as an impressive number of stuffed exotic animals, which Vidošević personally killed during hunting expeditions to far reaches of the planet. Bears, deer, wolves, moufflons, elks, and even a polar bear were there, hidden in the basement, where Vidošević presumably spent many hours looking lovingly at his hunting trophies.

22. Former Health and Defence Minister Andrija Hebrang – “I do not lie, I just sometimes do not tell truth.”

This might be one of the rare truthful statements given by the former minister.

23. Minister of Social Policy Bernardica Juretić – “I call on people to pray for me and the whole government, because God’s power and help are the only things which can save us.”

Shortly after becoming a minister, the former nun gave this quite correct assessment of her own skills and competencies. Her short tenure did not disappoint and proved that she was right to claim that it was indeed much better to put one’s trust in God than in her.

24. Cardinal Vinko Puljić warns women not to have sex outside marriage, unless they become “štraca” (worn out slag).

While cardinals are not politicians, the Church in Croatia is so involved in politics that we can include this one gem, given by the head of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina during a mass held in Croatia. He used a rather colourful term to demand from women not to have sex outside of marriage. Interestingly, he had no advice for men who might contemplate something similar.

25. Veterans’ Affairs Minister proposes register of traitors of national interests

We have saved the best for the last. Mijo Crnoja is a truly historic figure, not by any particular achievement, major projects launched, or strategic visionary thinking. He entered the record books by being forced to resign after just six days in office. On the third day of his term, a major scandal with tax avoidance broke out, and the following three days were spent in ultimately successful attempts to convince him to resign. He did however have one interesting idea. He proposed the establishment of the register of traitors of Croatian national interests, which would presumably include everybody who does not agree with him. While his grand project was never implemented, volunteers decided to help him and established their own register, proudly entering their own names in it.


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