Kolinda Grabar Kitarović.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Dario GRZELJ / mm

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Wednesday that freedom of the media in Croatia was much better than some were trying to portray and denied claims about the fascistisation of Croatia.

"It is true that there are incidents in Croatia, I'm not denying that, they occur in every country," Grabar-Kitarovic said in an interview with the HRT public broadcaster when asked to comment on criticisms in foreign media about the fascistisation of Croatia.

"Our society is deeply divided. The far left and the far right are gaining strength," the president said, adding that isolated articles about the alleged fascistisation were coming from Croatia, but that Croatian diplomacy was also partly to blame.

She called on Foreign Minister Miro Kovac to "finally do something about it in our diplomacy". 

"Sometimes I wonder whether some of our ambassadors represent the interests of Croatia or their host country when they absolutely agree with them in statements and criticisms of Croatia," the president warned.

Grabar-Kitarovic said she was deeply disappointed by the fact that a year had passed since a swastika was drawn on the pitch of a football stadium in Split and the perpetrator had not been identified. Stressing that she expected Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic to identify the perpetrator, she said she was confident that this incident had nothing to do with fascist elements but that someone did it deliberately in order to portray Croatia as a country where fascism was growing.

Asked to comment on her being booed at a panel on freedom of the media in Zagreb on Tuesday, Grabar-Kitarovic said that freedom of speech in Croatia was at a much higher level than some were trying to portray. She said that the boos came from "a handful of activists who abused the good intentions of the organisers."

"The point of yesterday's gathering, which was organised by the US Embassy to mark Press Freedom Day, was not just freedom of the media, but also to talk about responsibility, because freedom implies responsibility, responsibility is the price of freedom," the president said, adding that this was precisely why she regretted that she could not finish her speech. She said she was deeply confident that those who booed at her "were not Croatian journalists".

"I will absolutely not be discouraged by any boos or any criticism, because this is not about my rating, but the rating of the country, this is about the life of our citizens, in particular young people who are fed up with ideological divisions and who are emigrating from Croatia not just because they cannot find work but also because of the social climate, which is so divided, so cynical, sarcastic and lacking in optimism. All this needs to be changed," the president said.

Asked if she would join a commemoration at Bleiburg, Austria, Grabar-Kitarovic said that she would go there privately to pay her respects to the victims, but that she would not take part in politicising and divisions of the Croatian people.

Commenting on the government's reform agenda, Grabar-Kitarovic said she was pleased that the reform package had been adopted, expressing hope that the differences within the ruling coalition would now be "translated into constructive work on implementing these reforms."

She said that the reforms would include cuts. "But let's stop saying that these cuts will be painful for the citizens, because they actually need to remove the pain. The burden of the reforms must be borne first and foremost by the government and state administration," the president concluded. 

Related stories

Latest news

Residents in northern Greece oppose refugee children attending school

There were renewed clashes between angry residents and police in the northern Greek town of Oreokastro on Monday, where some locals have for months opposed children from a nearby refugee centre being taught at the local school.

Germany, France slam Russia's acceptance of Ukrainian rebel passports

EU member states Germany and France, which have been seeking to mitigate the conflict between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, on Monday broadly condemned Russia's recognition of rebel-issued passports.

Stier says Croatia strongly supports Kosovo, calls for enhancing economic cooperation

The Croatian minister announced a closer economic cooperation with Kosovo.

Afghanistan demands Pakistan hand over militants, shut training camps

The Afghan government has demanded that Pakistan hand over terrorists operating on its soil and close tens of terrorist training camps, the Foreign Ministry in Kabul said Monday.

Four Russian servicemen in Syria killed in vehicle bombing

Four Russian servicemen were killed and two others injured when a remote-controlled bomb exploded under their vehicle in Syria's western Homs region, Russian state media reported Monday, citing the Defence Ministry.

Iraqi forces advance in Mosul as US Defence Secretary visits Baghdad

Iraqi forces pressed on with their offensive to dislodge the extremist Islamic State militia from their stronghold in northern Iraq, as US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis landed in Baghdad on an unannounced official visit.

Denmark registers sharp drop in asylum bids in 2016

Denmark saw asylum bids in 2016 drop by two-thirds compared to the previous year, the Scandinavian country's statistics agency said Monday.

Zagreb businessman goes on retrial for causing accident at sea

Zagreb businessman Tomislav Horvatincic (70) on Monday went on retrial for causing an accident at sea five and a half years ago in which an Italian couple were killed.

French, Croatian students working together on Dalmatian islands project

A HRK 16 million Horizon 2020 agriculture project on which French and Croatian students will work together was launched at the Split School of Economics on Monday.

Croatian National Tourist Board director requests to be relieved of duty

The director of the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ), Ratomir Ivicic, on Monday requested to be relieved of his duties and a call for applications for this post will be published in a month.

Petrokemija posts HRK 87.3m loss in 2016

The Petrokemija artificial fertiliser manufacturer made HRK 1.93 billion in revenues in 2016, expenditures were HRK 2.02 billion and the loss was HRK 87.3 million, down 5.6% on the year, the Kutina-based plant said on Monday.

Wigemark says election legislation amendments of utmost importance for Bosnia

Wigemark said that amending the election legislation and continuing the process for joining the EU were the most important political processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.