Dangerous Presidential Relationship

The correspondence was extremely dangerous both times – in the great novel Dangerous Liaisons, and before that, in that most post-Hegelian text by also a great writer, Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, that is, his work entitled The Seducer’s Diary. The subject there was a fateful erotic relationship, one of the most beautiful love texts, a statement on dangers of the beginning of the relationship between Johannes and Cordelia. Much more final and binding than that from the novel about relationships of Choderlos de Laclos, where a game illusion and not so definitive covenant and fatality remains.

The problem of contemporary politics is that it is not known whether it forgets or does not know. Examples are many. At least one is Slovenian (the letter, written to the then president of the ruling party Milan Kučan, just before the start of the Slovenian Spring, by influential members of his party, urging him to fight civil tendencies and those who think differently). However, this problem is not the most characteristic. Most of such letters were exchanged with the prime ministers and the individual ministers in their governments between either the prime ministers or heads of state. The first were written for the admonitions to the ministers, other for the competence in the state management. Perhaps the most cautious, right on the eve of the last presidential election, was the then Slovenian president Dr. Danilo Türk, when he answered, on questions made by the editor of the newspaper “Delo”, Marko Pečauer, on cooperation with the government, that he always had correct relationships during his complete mandate, that they met the prime minister only twice, and both times on his, Türk’s initiative, and that his proposal on the Slovenian application of the German system which allowed attendance of the representative of the state president at the meetings of the government was not accepted.

Yesterday’s, the latest example, is an exchange of letters of newly elected Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, and the Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.
First there were calls during the elections when the then still a candidate, Grabar Kitarović, announced requests for large session of the government on the economy, and it was followed by the statement on whether the current Prime Minister congratulated the newly elected president or not, and then a several-days standstill came. In fact, it indicated that the two of them were looking for the publicly acceptable solution.

And this was until we learned that such political rationality had collapsed. Previously, the last Monday, with Milanović’s letter to the president and the wish it contained on jointly convening of the session of the council for national security and added greeting on her call for the convening of the session of the Government on economic conditions. Up until there, everything was obviously fine and out of what is labelled as a dangerous relationship in the politics. However, it was added in the letter that even before such convened meeting, she or her advisors should prepare specific proposals of reform measures, as well as ways of their implementation and, consequently, the evaluation of the financial consequences of possible economic measures.
That was the point that crossed the edge. I could write a considerable part of the recent political history of this part of Europe about the dangerous crossing. And Milanović, of course, knew what the written meant. Quite simply, raising the issue of the competence of the head of state and the prime minister. Grabar Kitarović understood that her, therefore, the President’s proposal was not accepted. After the consultation, as she says, with the best economic experts, she decided that the best suggestion for an exit from the Croatian economic crisis was the resignation of the Prime Minister, that is, Zoran Milanović. She confirmed with that that she saw it just as the question of competence. That Sunday, 22/2/2015, a long-time head of the office, Danica Juričić Spasović, of the last Croatian president, Dr. Ivo Josipović, spoke of it in an interview for one of the Croatian daily newspapers “Slobodna Dalmacija”. I happened to meet many presidents, and her rating of her former boss was almost universal. During his complete mandate, he was alone, the loneliest politician, she said. However, he did ask for the necessary approval of the prime minister all the time, although he therefore lost the election.

Many years before that, I participated in a meeting of the then Slovenian Prime Minister, yesterday was the anniversary of his death, Dr. Janez Drnovšek and also the then Croatian Prime Minister Nikica Valentić. We had three-day dialogues, the last week in July 1995, on resolving outstanding issues between the countries. An agreement was prepared, still probably very important for the arbitral tribunal agreement Drnovšek Valentić, followed by an invitation from the host. We had meetings in the Croatian government villa in Opatija, for lunch, as he said, we are going just across the bay, to Cres. We drove there in their national boat. The meal was very good, as well as conversation about everything. On our way back, Drnovšek was extremely cheerful, unusually good-humoured, and they casually touched the subject of relationships with heads of states, Milan Kučan and Dr. Franjo Tuđman, in conversation with Valentić. It is that part of the conversation I recalled so much later when I found that Valentić wrote to Croatian head of state at the end of September of the same year. In essence, I was even more observing in general, because exactly this letter was the reason of Valentić’s dismissal and intention to cancel all agreements with Slovenia. And Opatija’s as well.

Valentić wrote in this letter on insolvency, decaying industry, an overstressed state budget, excessive government spending, and on the internal political conflicts and consequently inability of development and strategic agreements.

However, somewhere right in the middle of that September letter, we come to the point which is apparently still reason for the president’s call for resignation. Valentić warned the then head of state, Tuđman, in not too diplomatic way, that the full autonomy of the Government in the implementation of all its and primarily economic policies had to be provided. This was in 1995, which should not be overlooked, when Tuđman was on the top of the power, within a unitary state policy which was determined by the head of state and the parliament.

That is why he warned the head of state that his direct cooperation in the implementation of planned or adopted government policies was not appropriate, since such approach to many operational problems, and this is where he somehow asked for a consent point, could jeopardize the authority of the president of the country.

Valentić mentioned in that occasion, on the way back from Cres to Opatija, that Tuđman opted, also for the power of his advisors, for increasing the mechanisms for the direct control of the state and economic policies directly from the president’s office. It was later written in this very letter too, when he advises the head of state that this option was not good and that the state responsibilities should be clearly divided.

Letter to Tuđman was sent only few days after the new meeting of Prime Ministers, Drnovšek and Valentić, in Maribor. An extensive work of ministers and experts of both governments aimed at resolving all outstanding issues was apparently confirmed there. The meeting and all already reached agreements were actually completed after barely twenty minutes. The fact is, the then Croatian ambassador in Slovenia, Dr. Miljenko Žagar, most likely joined the meeting with a planned delay, and advised that he had Tuđman’s permission to say that that was the end of the dialogues of this kind, and that Nikica Valentić would no longer be prime minister.

Therefore, yesterday’s president’s call for the resignation of the prime minister is not to be underestimated. Simply, it was prematurely written. And does not allow a political compromise.