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News 12 May 17

HDZ Hardliner Infuriates Croatia's Minority MPs

Ethnic minority MPs – whose support is crucial if the government is to survive – are insisting that Croatia's Prime Minister must distance himself from a right-wing hardliner who has repeatedly offended them.

Sven Milekic
Croatian parliament in session. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Lana SLIVAR DOMINIC/DS

A key representative of ethnic minority communities in the Croatian parliament is insisting that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic must distance himself from hardliners if he wishes to remain in power.

A row erupted after Milijan Brkic, a senior official in Plenkovic’s Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ and deputy chair of parliament, on Monday said it was up to ethnic Croats to decide matters in Croatia.

An MP from the Italian ethnic minority, Furio Radin, on Wednesday warned that he would not support the HDZ-led government if it did not distance from such rants.

Due to the collapse of the coalition agreement between the HDZ and Bridge of Independent Lists, MOST, Plenkovic’s HDZ needs extra support in parliament if it wishes to avoid another snap election, in September.

Plenkovic’s government was voted into office last October with the support of 91 out of 151 MPs.

But that support has shrunk without MOST’s 15 MPs. The HDZ will especially need support when it nominates four new ministers to replace former MOST ministers removed by Plenkovic or who have resigned.

The HDZ is in a tight spot since it apparently cannot count on the five votes of the opposition Croatian Peasant’s Party, HSS – despite its support for the government until now from the opposition benches.

Radin on Wednesday told BIRN that “he firmly stands behind his decision” not to support the government’s new ministers unless Plenkovic distances himself from Brkic. Radin also said that other national minorities MPs have a similar position on the issue.

“All the representatives of national minorities, especially the SDSS [the Independent Democratic Serbian Party] and Veljko Kajtazi [MP for Roma and other smaller groups], have the same opinion as me but use a different terminology because they act in their specific conditions and environments,” he added.

National minorities hold eight of the seats in Croatia's parliament – three of which are reserved for the country's biggest national minority, the Serbs, traditionally represented by the SDSS.

The SDSS leader in parliament, Milorad Pupovac, responded to Brkic on Facebook on Monday, by saying that “in the name of more important things” he would for now “respond with public silence”.

He was himself the target of Brkic’s attack in March 2016 when he said that if Pupovac felt threatened in Croatia, “he should go where he won’t be threatened”.

Pupovac responded that he would not look for somewhere else to move to since this was “his country” as well.

Other HDZ hardliners, such as the former senior party member Zlatko Hasanbegovic, have also criticised the SDSS for having a place in the government.

Pupovac, Kajtazi and Vladimir Bilek – representatives of the Czech and Slovak minorities – did not responding to BIRN’s request for a comment by the time of publication.

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