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News 30 Jun 15

Croats to Rename Airport after Tudjman

Controversial independence leader is likely to lend his name to country’s main airport once a revamp is completed, minister says.

BIRN
Zagreb

Croatia’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Sinisa Hajdas Doncic, has confirmed that Zagreb’s reconstructed Pleso airport will be named after the country’s first president, Franjo Tudjman.

“We have talked about it over the past few months, and upon its inauguration, the new terminal will be named after the first Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman,” Minister Hajdas Doncic, from the governing Social Democratic Party, SDP, said on Sunday.

The minister denied that the SDP-led government was caving in to pressure from the opposition centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, which Tudjman founded.

“There is no pressure. Franjo Tudjman was a Croatian president, a anti-Fascist and a Partisan,” Hajdas-Doncic said, referring to Tudjman’s wartime membership of the Yugoslav resistance army led by Josip Broz Tito.

 Last Friday, HDZ leader leader Tomislav Karamarko officially put forward a proposal to name the airport after Tudjman, to honour the first president and founder of independent Croatia.

“We are glad that after 15 years of de-Tudjmanisation, the SDP leader Zoran Milanovic has started to accept, even if for election purposes, our positions and has recognised the historical role and importance of Dr Franjo Tudjman,” Andrija Mikulic, a senior member of the HDZ, said.

Tudjman remains a controversial figure in Croatia still more in the region. Many Serbs revile him for playing a key role in the breakup of the old Yugoslav federation, which they mostly wanted to retain.

Tudjman also ordered a successful military offensive in 1995 that recaptured swathes of Serb-held territory in Croatia and resulted in the flight of several hundred thousand Serbs.

While Croats mostly hailed the recapture of the lost territory, many resented Tudjman’s increasingly autocratic style of government in the years before his death in 1999.

Some also blame him for the corruption that has become endemic in the years since independence.

His party, however, remains a formidable force in Croatian politics and the HDZ candidate, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, won the last presidential election in January.

Tudjman was born in 1926 and for years was a loyal member of the ruling League of Communists before later embracing Croatian nationalism and going to jail for his beliefs.

After founding the HDZ in 1989, the party went on to win the first free elections held since World War 2 in the republic in 1990. Tudjman then presided over Croatia’s declaration of independence in June 1991, which resulted in a four-year war with break-away Serbs backed by the Yugoslav Army.

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