First Deputy Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko said in Konavle on Saturday that he firmly supported Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic and would not allow the Opposition to replace ministers of the Patriotic Coalition through the media, as well as that he expected Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic to co-sign President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's request for the replacement of the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) chief Dragan Lozancic in the next few days.
Answering questions from the press after an event marking the 26th anniversary of the HDZ branch in Konavle, Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Karamarko said that Hasanbegovic was not a burden on the government.
"Why should he be a burden? We back him and his statement. It started with (former Veterans Minister) Crnoja, and has continued with Hasanbegovic. Who is next? How much should we tolerate the Opposition's replacing our ministers through the media? That's out of the question, this is where we draw the line," said Karamarko.
Answering a reporter's question, he said that there would be a lot of inquiries in SOA because there had been indications of irregularities in its work and that time would show in which ways Lozancic had violated the law.
He stressed that he did not agree with colleagues from the Bridge party who believed that the parliament's Committee on National Security should discuss Lozancic's replacement before Oreskovic co-signed it.
"President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that Mr Lozancic no longer enjoyed her trust and that part is clear. The replacement is expected to be confirmed in the next few days. The Prime Minister has taken some time to study the whole case, which is legitimate," said Karamarko.
Asked to comment on a letter by Serb National Council president and member of Parliament Milorad Pupovac in which he said that intolerance in society had grown to proportions which he had not experienced even in the early war-time 1990s, and that people were shouting insults at him and calling him a Chetnik, Karamarko said that he was against any rude behaviour towards anyone.
"I condemn such incidents, that's lack of manners. Mr Pupovac must know that as a member of an ethnic minority he is not threatened and that he enjoys the maximum rights. We appreciate our fellow citizens of Serb ethnicity and cooperate with them and we make no distinction whatsoever between Serbs, Croats, Czechs, Slovaks, etc. There can be individuals (who cause such incidents) but Mr Pupovac too can sometimes be clumsy with his statements. Nonetheless, I condemn such rude messages," he said.
Asked if the announced replacement of Croatian Radio and Television director Goran Radman was about purging the media, Karamarko said that Radman's replacement was not about purging the public administration.
"I am not satisfied with that public service which we all pay. That television is in the service of one party and serves to destroy the political cooperation between Bridge and the HDZ. Mr Radman should leave and that structure should start acting professionally and objectively," he said.
Asked about his possible testimony in the German trial of former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence chiefs Zdravko Mustac and Josip Perkovic, Karamarko said that the SOA had assessed that it would not be good for him, as a former SOA head, to testify because a SOA official had already given an opinion on the document over which he (Karamarko) was summoned to testify in the trial.
Asked about the government's planned projects for southern Croatia, the issue of the Prevlaka peninsula and the Peljesac bridge, Karamarko said that Dubrovnik-Neretva County was a priority.
"The Peljesac bridge is the top priority and we will build the bridge. We have to resolve the issue of Prevlaka with our neighbours as soon as possible," he said.
In his speech at the commemoration of the 26th anniversary of the Konavle HDZ branch, Karamarko said that a big monument to first Croatian president Franjo Tujdman would be built in Zagreb, that Zagreb Airport would be named after him and that the names of some streets and squares would be changed.
Criticising the former, SDP-led government, Karamarko said that 93,000 Croats had left the country for Germany during their term in office.
He repeated that there were indications that "ballots were counted in an unusual way" on election night and that he had considered Bridge's demand that he should not be Prime Minister "for 26 or 38 seconds".
"My taking a step back then was good for Croatia. Everything possible had to be done to oust the Communists," the HDZ leader said.