Following media reports that the newly-appointed Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Reiner, "has already begun taking advantage of his privileges" by bypassing a line of vehicles waiting at a border crossing with Slovenia on Saturday, Reiner said on his Facebook page that he would have gladly avoided travelling under police escort if he could.
"I would have gladly avoided travelling under escort if I could, but that was not possible because it is now part of my new job. After a stressful election campaign and a week of arduous negotiations, I wanted to take a few days off, but some people obviously want to make a scandal out of it," Reiner said.
Reiner was seen in his private car bypassing a line of vehicles at the Bregana border crossing under the escort of two police vehicles with flashlights on. The car was driven by his wife.
Under a regulation, the President of the Republic , the Speaker of Parliament and the Prime Minister and their immediate families are treated as "protected persons of the first category". Foreign heads of state or government and parliament speakers also enjoy protection while on Croatian soil.
Although Reiner did not violate the regulation, media raised the question of the cost of security for his private trip being covered from the state budget.
Nikola Grmoja, spokesman for the Bridge party, a junior partner in the newly-formed ruling coalition, said that it had probably been assessed that waiting in the line was a security risk.
"However, we are of the view that at this sensitive political moment, when a new government has not yet been formed, and in this difficult social situation, such behaviour and going on a skiing trip is absolutely inappropriate. Citizens do not expect something like that. The cost of this type of security is unacceptable. This is not the first time that a high-ranking politician goes on a private trip and uses security that is paid for out of citizens' pockets (for example, Prime Minister Milanovic in 2012), which is unacceptable. We've had even worse cases, such as using a government vehicle to go on a skiing trip (Health Minister Varga). It's time for that kind of practice to stop and for politicians to start treating budget money more responsibly because that is taxpayers' money," Grmoja wrote on his Facebook account.