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. 

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.