A Week in Croatian Politics - Protests, Threats and Expensive Dresses

A Week in Croatian Politics - Protests, Threats and Expensive Dresses
Slavko Midzor/PIXSELL

May the 12th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've had threats made to Plenkovic and the government, demands from nurses, technicians and other hospital staff for an increase in their wages and better working conditions, broken planes and expensive dresses.

We're kicking off this week in Croatian with a bang as threats were made to the government and the police turned up at Banski dvori

As Index reports, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said today (May the 12th) that a threat was made to him and members of the government this morning, and added that police officers are now present in front of Banski dvori, according to Dnevnik.hr.

"The threat is still present and a police unit is currently standing in front of Banski dvori because this morning there was a threat made against me and members of the government. It happens all the time", Plenkovic said in a statement to the media down in Dubrovnik, where he arrived on the occasion of the Day of Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

"There was a terrorist attack three years ago"

He said the above while commenting on today's annual SOA report, about which he said: "We had discussions at the Committee for National Security given that there was a terrorist attack almost three years ago, it could be the case that someone would want to carry out a terrorist act against the Prime Minister, that is, against me".

A special challenge is the return of ISIL fighters and their families from captivity in Syria to neighbouring countries. SOA pointed out that in some countries of the Western Balkans, Salafi jihadist parajams are still active, and they are led by charismatic religious preachers.

As has been the case over more recent years, the primary terrorist threat in Europe continues to be radicalised individuals inspired by jihadist ideology. These are independent attackers, so-called lone wolves, whose actions are unpredictable. They typically have no direct contact with any terrorist organisations, but are inspired by calls from terrorist organisations to commit a terrorist act, SOA revealed.

"Extremism in Croatia has no foothold or public support"

Despite the attack on St. Mark's Square back in 2020, Croatia is still a society in which extremism on any basis - religious, ideological or national - doesn't have a significant foothold, nor does it have public support, and thus no strength or potential to destabilise national security, the SOA report stated.

However, as they pointed out, SOA has detected attempts by individuals with extremist and militant attitudes to properly organise their followers, with the intention of implementing military training and the procurement of weapons, all with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the democratic constitutional order.

"That young man carried out the shooting in 2020 because of the atmosphere in which he grew up. Someone gave him a weapon, someone taught him to shoot and someone provoked in him that exact moment, which is the most important factor. We were lucky that he unfortunately didn't succeed in carrying out his intentions,'' the PM said.

What did SOA announce today in its annual report?

As far as terrorism in Croatia is concerned, SOA estimated in their annual report published today that the threat of organised attacks by terrorist groups here in Croatia is still considered low, but the possibility of a terrorist attack being carried out, primarily by independent attackers, can never be entirely ruled out.

President Zoran Milanovic meets with Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency Member Denis Becirovic

Zoran Milanovic recently met with Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Becirovic in Zagreb. The Bosniak member of the BiH presidency, Denis Becirovic, has been officially visiting Croatia, during which he will also meet with Plenkovic.

After the bilateral meeting of Milanovic and Becirovic with their accompanying delegations was held, statements to the media followed.

"I'm pleased that after a long break, we're now having talks at the highest level. The talks were in Croatia's interest because I represent Croatia, and the interest of this country is for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be spatially stable and for it to become an EU member state. I give my special support to the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina,'' said Milanovic.

"It's time to relax and improve our relations and to build bridges of friendship," said Becirovic, adding that the two countries generally cooperate with each other very well and that talks must be focused on solving any issues that do remain between the two neighbouring nations.

"Dodik is a security threat, he must be stopped''

Becirovic called the controversial Dodik a security threat. "He's a security threat, he must be stopped in his politics, it's time for everyone to understand that," he said and added that he believes better days are ahead in the cooperation between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was followed by questions from journalists. The first question was about the gas pipeline.

"I have no problem supporting all of the development projects, and some people must understand that it's in their interest that we regulate that an acceptable way and in the way that the EU asks of us. There are clear directives about this so we do need to talk about it. A policy of blackmail isn't a policy that can bring good," said Becirovic.

Spain's Queen Letizia turned heads with a dress which cost almost 800 euros during her recent visit to Zagreb

Queen Letizia arrived in Zagreb recently on the occasion of the Summit of spouses of European leaders on the prevention of childhood obesity. She was hosted by Sanja Music Milanovic, the wife of Zoran Milanovic.

Queen Letizia, often referred to as one of best-dressed women in the world, wore a sky blue dress made by the Spanish designer Maria Barragan (which totalled 775 euros), which she combined with snake pattern heels from the Carolina Herrera brand. According to the Spanish media, she also wore diamond earrings.

Sanja Music Milanovic welcomed her in a purple suit with a modern cut, which she combined with black heels.

One of the best dressed women in the world arrives in Zagreb

As noted above, Queen Letizia is considered one of the greatest fashion icons in the entire world. Vanity Fair ranked her in the top ten best-dressed women on Earth, and many foreign media portals and papers regularly write about her elegant style, but also her simple and affordable fashion choices (we're not sure 800 euro dresses and diamond earrings are exactly affordable, but there we go). Otherwise, she can often be seen wearing clothes from Zara, a popular Spanish brand which has shops and is popular across Europe.

Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman attended the coronation of King Charles III in London, and not Zoran Milanovic

A truly historic event took place recently, with the coronation of King Charles III following seventy long years of his mother's reign as queen. Queen Elizabeth sadly passed away back in September 2022, and since then, preparations have been underway in Britain for the crowning of her son. 

As statesmen and women of the world descended on the British capital for the coronation, there was no sight of President Zoran Milanovic, with Gordan Grlic-Radman attending the historic event instead. Many raised their eyebrows when the news broke that President Zoran Milanovic and his wife weren't going to attend the coronation of King Charles III, but there were no reasons within British or Croatian politics for it. The plane that was going to be used to transport to pair to London simply broke. Instead, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman travelled using a commercial plane.

As was soon learned from the Croatian Government, the Directorate for the Use of Official Aircraft informed the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia about the failure of the official aircraft during a technical flight. It was then stated from the government that instead of President Milanovic, Gordan Grlic-Radman would head over to London on a regular commercial flight.

It was explained that their pilots performed a technical flight to test one of the aircraft's systems, noting that the test was failed and the plane was returned to the airport. The replacement part was then ordered from the manufacturer. President Milanovic decided to remain at home and swapped London for the Istrian city of Pula, which was celebrating its City Day.

The previously announced protest of healthcare professionals who are not doctors and hospital employees took place, with their wages, conditions, and Health Minister Vili Beros in their sights

Around 1000 nurses, technicians and non-medical staff from all parts of Croatia protested on Thursday at Zrinjevac (Zagreb), demanding higher wages and better working conditions, with the message that they've been devalued and cannot continue to sit twiddling their thumbs and waiting for announced changes in 2024.

"The new coefficients and pay grades will be applied only from February 2024, we can't wait until then," said Stjepan Topolnjak, president of the Independent Union of Health and Social Welfare.

At the protest, which lasted about an hour and a half, he warned that cleaners, laundry workers and auxiliary workers work for minimum wage, and nurses with a secondary vocational education for only 50 euros above the minimum wage.

"A nurse in primary care has a salary of 700 euros, and in hospitals that goes up to 900 euros. Is that enough of a salary for the work they do?!" asked Topolnjak, greeted by shouts from protesters: "We're healthcare too!" "Give us back our rights and our dignity!", "Saving on nurses is like saving on the foundations of a house, one day everything will collapse!" and "Nurses deserve more!!

"The system does not need ministers, but it does need workers"

The president of the Croatian Professional Union of Nurses and Technicians, Brankica Grguric, told Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who has thus far refused to accept them, that they don't need him, adding that his attitude towards them is shameful.

"The system does not need ministers, but it does need workers, cooks, midwives, nurses and physiotherapists," said Grguric.

The president of the Croatian Chamber of Nurses, Mario Gazic, came out to provide support with the message that the protest at Zrinjevac should only be the beginning of further actions.

"Nurses and non-medical staff deserve the same respect as doctors get"

The president of the Association of Independent Trade Unions of Croatia, Mladen Novosel, also spoke at the protest, saying that nurses and other staff deserve the same respect as the prime minister and the health minister showed to doctors.

"They were put in a more favourable position compared to you," Novosel pointed out to the protesters present.

The president of the Independent Croatian Trade Unions (NHS) Kresimir Sever warned that Croatian healthcare is in an unwell state, and that the cure is in the hands of the prime minister and Vili Beros.

"You were forced out onto the steets to protest because you aren't being respected equally, one group is accepted and the other is invited to collective bargaining," said Sever.

The protestors were also supported by Zeljko Stipic from the Preporod educational union and Sanja Sprem, the president of the Croatian Teachers' Union.

Trade unionists have claimed that the prime minister had opened a "Pandora's box" by increasing doctors' salaries but choosing to ignore others.

''This is the beginning of a story that will succeed,'' said Stipic, while Anica Prasnjak from the Nurses' Union said that "there is no giving up".

Prasnjak also warned that starting on May the 25th, she will begin preparations for a "serious strike" if the government and actors in Croatian politics continue to willfully ignore their demands.


For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section. A dedicated Week in Croatian Politics article is also published every Friday.