After talks with several prominent cultural workers on Wednesday, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic said that an end should be put to the ruling structures' policy of the past eight months because the SDP, unlike the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), does not see culture as "a military march" but rather as "a symphony or an orchestra" in which he is not the conductor, yet the orchestra is "not out of tune and it tolerates and promotes freedom."

"It is important to put a stop to the bad practice of the toppled (Culture) Minister and government," said Milanovic, who met with cultural workers in a Zagreb cafe, together with his associates.

Attending the meeting were the director of the Croatian National Theatre (HNK) in Rijeka, Marin Blazevic, the head of "Pogon", a Zagreb-based centre for cultural autonomy and the youth, Emina Visnic, the president of the Association of Book Publishers and Bookshop Owners, Miso Nejasmic, and ZagrebDox Festival director, film director and producer Nenad Puhovski.

"We can see what the government has done over the past eight months, the people in the cultural sector are embittered and frustrated, and not only because of funding," Milanovic said, adding that his government would be able to set aside slightly more funds for culture.

The SDP leader said it was important to send out the message that culture "is not a military march", "conducted by commissaries in leather coats who carry mausers and lugers, but a space of freedom and realisation."

"We do not want the culture minister to be a party commissary like the current one, but a normal, inclusive person," said Milanovic.

Blazevic, whose proposed appointment by the Rijeka City Council as HNK Rijeka director has been turned down by the Culture Ministry, said that that move "is a clear indicator that the current caretaker government is not serious about its support to Rijeka as a European Culture Capital."

"Such moves make it clear that if the same structures continue making decisions on the financing of the project, it (financing) will not happen, which is bordering on an international scandal," said Blazevic.

Describing the meeting with Milanovic as constructive and concrete, Blazevic said that none of the previous HDZ culture ministers had dared interfere in the cultural production representing different positions or aesthetics to the extent the current minister had done.

"(Former HDZ Culture Minister Bozo) Biskupic was much more tolerant in that regard and cared about national cultural interests, the interests of Croatian culture as a national, international, plural culture. What is happening now is a disaster," Blazevic said.

Puhovski said that participants in today's meeting were agreed that a stop should be put to the outgoing government's cultural policy, marked by "trends of direct state financing of culture."

"That should be ended, not in the name of the left or the right culture, but in the name of freedom of creation and all the good things that Croatian culture has produced," said Puhovski.

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