Zlatko Hasanbegović.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic said on Tuesday that a motion for a vote of no confidence in First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko over conflict of interest allegations was based on a defamation campaign and that he was sure parliament would turn it down, confirming the stability of the majority.

Asked by Croatian Television about the opposition SDP's motion, he said it was a typical opposition instrument. "By stating systematic lies and truths, they want to personally discredit him both as president of the HDZ (party) and as the key representative of the strongest party in the current ruling majority. Any defamation campaign which doesn't rest on facts can't yield results. I'm sure this motion will be rejected in parliamentary procedure and that the stable parliamentary majority enjoyed by this government will be confirmed on this example."

Hasanbegovic said he did not expect any surprises from the HDZ's partner Bridge during the vote, adding that Bridge leader Bozo Petrov "clearly said that he would rely on facts and not rumours and lies."

The minister was interviewed in Hungary before the news that French newspaper Liberation has published an open letter calling for his replacement. He was in Hungary for a literary forum with his counterparts from 14 central and east European countries and China.

Asked why in Croatia "there is no social consensus that both Nazism and communism were evil" as in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany, Hasanbegovic said the reasons were historical and political-national. "Croatian society hasn't gone through a catharsis in that sense. The lack of a catharsis and of a comprehensive dealing with the past leads to social quakes, debates, polemics and rifts which we see on a daily basis."

He said the experience of Hungary and central and east European countries could be a model for completing the process of dealing with the past, which he said contained "a basic postulate, a clear break from all anti-democratic regimes which preceded the state of affairs established on 30 May 1990."

"The modern Croatian state rests of two fundamental values, the idea of Croatian state independence and the democratic parliamentary order. Both values are in perfect opposition to all significant characteristics of Yugoslav communism which certain political forces as well as certain currents in the public life are systematically trying to rehabilitate, relativise, including through the manipulation of the notion of anti-fascism," Hasanbegovic said.

He said the argument about a verbal civil war was essentially founded, but that "the argument about the fascistisation of society is a sort of political disqualification which isn't based in even one fact, which isn't based in any action or statement by any minister in the Croatian government nor any prominent political or social figure. It's an attempt at political disqualification and at actually transferring the legitimate political party battle into the field of ideology."

He said that in order to stop the polarisation of society, it was necessary to reach a minimum level of agreement on fundamental social values - the clear condemnation of all anti-democratic and anti-Croatian signs of the state of affairs that preceded the establishment of the modern Croatian state. "It's necessary to clearly remove from the state's foundations everything that recalls any criminal regime and to seek a consensus on what is common to us all."

Asked how he was accepted by European culture ministers, Hasanbegovic said his ministry had launched an intensive international cultural cooperation," notably with important and key countries, our neighbours in central and east Europe with which we share a historical legacy and the experiences of having lived in undemocratic systems for half a century."

"The fact that we have signed many agreements, that we will sign more, says that everything one can read about a certain international isolation of the Republic of Croatia, notably of this government and me as just one minister in this government, is mere speculation that isn't based on the truth," Hasanbegovic said.

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