željko reiner.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Newly-elected Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner said on Monday that he would propose that the Croatian Parliament be again renamed the Croatian National Parliament, calling for unity and noting that divisions must not be an obstacle to the further progress of the Croatian society.

Addressing an inaugural session of the Sabor, Reiner underlined its role in the past and in the present time.

It must not be forgotten that the Sabor is not only a guardian of democratic values and the highest expression of the people's democratic will but an institution of crucial importance for the preservation of the Croatian national identity and national interests, Reiner said.

"The Sabor is and must be a beacon of patriotism, of love for the fundamental values of the Croatian people, its history, tradition, family values, religion, the Croatian language, culture, for everything that makes us the way we are and that makes us different from others, but at the same time it must be a strong guarantee of respect for all rights and values of those who are not Croats but are Croatian citizens," said Reiner.

He said an important role of the parliament was "to protect others and those who are different, notably those who are in the minority and are thus more vulnerable, and to guarantee their rights."

He noted that he intended to propose that the Parliament be renamed the National Parliament as soon as conditions for that were met.

It is the obligation of all members of Parliament to make the Parliament a place of dialogue where elected representatives of Croatian citizens will be deeply aware of their responsibility to citizens who elected them and work continually for citizens' better life, greater freedoms and better future, their happiness and the happiness of their children and grandchildren, said Reiner, expressing gratitude to his predecessor Josip Leko of the Social Democratic Party for chairing the parliament so far.

Reiner also thanked the MPs who voted for his appointment as Parliament Speaker as well as those who did not. That shows that Croatia is truly a democracy where everyone can freely and without fear, "in which we all lived for a long time", express their views even if they are not the same as those of the majority, he said.

He also expressed gratitude to "the founders of the modern Croatian state led by Dr. Franjo Tudjman" and "the 15,000 courageous defenders who gave their lives for Croatia's freedom in the Homeland War".

In his speech Reiner also noted that "achieving a balance between a free market and a social approach and solidarity, notably with those in need, the feeble and the ill, must be one of the foundations of the Croatian society if it wants to be happy and successful."

He said that one of the main goals was for the Croatian society to overcome a deep economic crisis as well as an even deeper social and moral crisis and a crisis of values.

"To achieve that, we will have to make, as of the very first day, difficult decisions but I assure you that it will be possible to implement them and make them benefit all only if we make them together. We are all aware of the need to carry out structural reforms and of the courage needed to accept the risk of their implementation," Reiner said.

Underlining the need for national unity and for toning down emotions from the election campaign, Reiner called for making an effort to make Croatia a just state. "After years of hopelessness, we have to restore hope and optimism to Croatian citizens... we have to restore pride to them," he stressed.

"Divisions in the Croatian society, notably ideological ones... must no longer be an obstacle to the further development of the Croatian society," Reiner said, but underlined that this did not mean that the past should be forgotten.

"I am deeply convinced that if different political camps invest enough good will and effort, we can reach a consensus on key issues... that will impact the years and generations to come and that cannot be dealt with or resolved by only one government or only one parliament. The responsibility for doing that rests with all of us..." Reiner said.

Reiner was proposed for the position of Parliament Speaker by 79 deputies of the Patriotic Coalition, the Bridge reformist party, the party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, and minority MPs Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj, Mirko Raskovic and Vladimir Bilek.

In a vote on his nomination, he was supported by 88 deputies (of the Patriotic Coalition, Bridge, Bandic's party, and all minority MPs), while 62 MPs abstained and one - Ivan Vilibor Sincic of the Human Shield - voted against.

Reiner's candidacy was presented by HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko, who said that Reiner was a professor at the Zagreb School of Medicine, a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts and of the London Royal Society of Medicine, the most quoted member of the Croatian academic community and a Homeland War volunteer.

Reiner has held a number of government positions and in the previous, seventh parliament he was Deputy Parliament Speaker.

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