Generally, all the events were almost predictable. Even the last one, from a few days ago, when the renowned French newspaper Libération published a call of a group of prominent signatories for a resignation of the Croatian Minister of Culture, Dr. Zlatan Hasanbegović. Exactly this predictability should be merged into a whole now.
It would be completely easy to only say that the signatures of a French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, Italian Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and spouses Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, as well as the Oscar winner, director Danis Tanović, and former Spanish foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, represent a sufficient confirmation that Hasanbegović can no longer be a minister in one of the governments of the European Union states. Due to his revision of history and his sympathy for the Ustasha regime of former collaborationist Croatian state NDH.
However, we would be somehow too superficial, because it is not just about the political future of the current Croatian minister of culture in this case. It is about something much bigger. It is about the inquiry about the government to which the minister belongs. This inquiry began at least a few months earlier.
First, with two documentaries. The first one was about the killing of disabled Serbs who found a shelter, during the great Croatian army offensive in August 1995, in school premises of small town Dvor na Uni. The narrator is a Danish major, Jørgen Kolde, who wonders whether his soldiers, members of the protective battalion of the United Nations, who watched the entire massacre literally from a close range, could have prevented it. During his dilemma, there is an endless line of human misery moving in the background, are fleeing from their homes in Croatia with their entire property only because they are citizens of different religion and nationality. We follow a big expulsion of Serbs.
Another documentary was broadcast just a few weeks later. If the first one was withdrawn from the program, the second one was followed by state bow. Jakov Sedlar prepared a film document entitled Jasenovac-the Truth. A film about probably one of the most brutal concentration camps of the second great war. The representatives of the new Croatian government and, among others, accredited foreign ambassadors in Zagreb, were invited to the gala presentation in Zagreb, in the first days of April. Minister for culture, Zlatko Hasanbegović, as well.
Immediately after that, we received or read the letter written by the Israeli ambassador, Zina Kalay Kleitman. It was merciless. She wrote that the film showed history very selectively, attempted to revise a number of historical facts and that at the same time insulted all those who lost their closest ones in Jasenovac, including Jews and Serbs. She did not, however, write, but it was clear that she expected for minister to leave the show as a protest, but he did not do it.
Just a few days before the Zagreb promotion of Sedlar’s film, there was a football match in Osijek. Croatian and Israeli national teams were playing. High representatives of the Croatian government and, of course, ambassadors, were invited to the game, in addition to numerous fans who attended the match. Somewhere in the middle of the match, the audience began to chant the famous slogan: za dom spremni. The match was neither terminated nor did the representatives of the Croatian state leave the stadium. One of the few people who commented the threatening chanting was the president of the leading Istrian Party, Boris Miletić. I am appalled with primitivism that leaves a permanent scar not only on the Croatian football, but, above all, the reputation of Croatia as the youngest member state of the European Union.
This is why the Zagreb visit of the special emissary of the US government, Nicholas Dean, was no longer coincidental. He warned his hosts, key representatives of the Croatian state, of the Holocaust and also conveyed concern because of the radicalization of Croatian society.
They tried to prepare a response probably right after that visit. Precisely, there were confidential and extensive preparations for the dialogue which was supposed to take place between Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovač and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the fourth of May in Washington. The exact time (hour) of the dialogue was determined. At five in the afternoon. An afternoon timetable of the secretary was also scheduled. A lunch with the European Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, then protocol obligations, and towards the end of the day, minister Kovač. However, all this was changed. Croatian Embassy received a notice that their minister would be met by one of the officers from Kerry’s office.
This is probably the worst thing that can happen to a minister of foreign affairs from the professional side of view. The cancellation of dialogue could no longer be hidden. Not even the political consequences. President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović addressed the citizens with a separate written message. Recently, we have witnessed an escalation of hate speech, intolerance and glorification of failed criminal regimes, the Ustasha movement, which tied to fascism and Nazism with its policy, and, through criminal acts of mass deportations and massacres, totally abused the then legitimate desire for its own country.
That was her first response. And it did not remain without response. Croatian national television chose, for direct broadcast of regular weekly holy mass, i.e. liturgy, on May 7, the ministry of the prior of the Dominican monastery in Split, Luka Prcela. He denounced Grabar Kitarović in his sermon because she dared to defame the Independent State of Croatia as the one that protected the interests of the Croatian people least of all. I cannot forgive her, repeated Prcela, her claims that the NDH was criminal and that it was not independent.
Therefore, a letter of prominent signatories in Libération should not be understood only as a call for the resignation of the Croatian minister for culture. Despite his well-known positions, I am not referring to his well-composed doctoral thesis and a book about Muslims in Zagreb 1878-1945, but more to his various appearances such as a speech held on the occasion of the funeral of the military prosecutor Mirsad Bakšić four years ago. Mirsad belonged to the Croatian youth who saw and experienced our greatest national tragedy and defeat in 1945 through the eyes of a child. His later public life was, for that reason, only a choice between yugo-communism and his anti-Croat and anti-Muslim values, or to remain independent and outside the ruling caste, Hasanbegović said back then. At the same time, he never tried to hide his support for the one time plans of Ante Pavelić on territorial borders of the Croatian state from the Mura and Drava rivers to the Drina river.
The difference happened when Hasanbegović was no longer just an intellectual with his life and scientific motto, but was elected a member of the Croatian government. And not by accident, but on a proposal of the winner of the last parliamentary elections, Tomislav Karamarko.
Although the scope of Libération’s call should be concluded here, it takes on a whole new dimension. However, they are not only foreign policy dimensions, but related to key relationships within the organization of the Croatian government and authorities.
Karamarko’s party and the coalition won the elections. It was expected that the president of the state, Grabar Kitarović, regardless of the different interpretations of constitutional provisions, would grant them a mandate to form a new government. However, that did not happen. In order to be able to form a government, Karamarko was satisfied with the position of first vice president and proposed the then relatively unknown Tihomir Oresković for the prime minister. It seemed almost understandable that the first vice president would be the one who would actually manage the government. However, such a statement dropped relatively quickly. First, with the removal of the director of the Security Intelligence Agency. Prime minister did not want to participate in this, despite the unambiguous will of head of the state and Karamarko. Here, the winner of the elections, being convinced that he can discipline prime minister in every disobedience or to provoke a government crisis or even collapse of the government and new elections, seemingly made an oversight.
Apparently, he was not able to estimate that a new political consensus is formed in the country. Grabar Kitarović, Orešković and Božo Petrov, president of other government party, Most, have reached a compromise on the name of the new head of intelligence. And then, in spite of complete opposition of Karamarko’s party members of parliament, they elected him. Shortly thereafter, and this was also overlooked, Prime Minister Orešković explained his working credo. He cannot be only an address for receiving individual claims, because he is the one who is responsible for them and takes responsibility, and he must first think it over himself and make a judgment accordingly.
Karmarko’s belief that he is the one who decides on the job of the government, because he has the most parliamentary votes, was not convincing.
This is why current key internal political complications may happen. The president of the largest opposition party and former prime minister, Zoran Milanović, primarily because of this, has submitted a request concerning the parliamentary confidence vote to the first deputy minister. The reason is relatively trivial. Consultancy contracts signed by his current wife with the lobbying company that works also or primarily for the Hungarian oil trader, MOL.
Members of parliament will vote in the coming days on filed interpellation. Karamarko was not clearly and unambiguously supported by anyone. Not even the president of the country. Apparently, the possibility of success of the interpellation is not entirely ruled out. But not because of the opposition. Milanović was only a necessary tool.
There are only two reasons for possible success of the vote of no confidence. That it is not anymore understandable per se that this means the end of Orešković’s government, and second one, that simply a new ruling majority is being formed within the ruling ones. Without Karamarko.