Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

A Very Awkward Situation

Adelina Marini, August 7, 2013

The marking of the anniversaries of operation "Storm" in Croatia is a very special national holiday. The date is literally considered sacred as this is the day (August 5th) when is put an end to Croatia's war for independence from former Yugoslavia. The 18th anniversary, however, was marked by a very awkward situation. In Knin, in front of hundreds of people, in the presence of national heroes Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic was supposed to have a speech. While he was approaching the platform, however, booing and whistling started. It did not stop even when Mr Milanovic was already on the platform ans was trying to outshout the crowd. The Croatian prime minster maintained his composure, but it was clear that he cut his speech short.

On the next day, Croatian media broke the news that a 61-year old man was arrested in Knin for "violating the public order" and for "insulting a high official". He is threatened by a fine or even a 30-day prison sentence. Currently, the police is searching for more people who "insulted" the prime minister. Without judging, the Croatian media recall that this is the first case when a violator of public order will be sued in such a situation. It is also recalled that during a similar situation with former president Stipe Mesic years ago no one was prosecuted.

But for the government of Zoran Milanovic, the imposition of rule of law is an absolute priority. However, there is a very thin red line which seems the press centre of the government saw because a little after 1900 CET yesterday the media received a press release in which it is pointed out that, although the "autonomous" local police acted within the law, "the office of the prime minster of the Republic of Croatia believes there is no point in suing individuals, who during yesterday's marking of the anniversary from the military operation 'Storm' in Knin, with booing and whistling reacted to Prime Minster Zoran Milanovic's speech. When it comes to gatherings with the participation of politicians, the expression of discontent should not necessarily be viewed as a violation of public order and peace, especially when it does not contain violence or a threat of violence. Simply, the right of criticism and the expression of a position is natural and normal in democratic societies".

This is rightly so, although the government reacted a bit late. If I were in Prime Minister Milanovic's shoes, I would have invited the "violators" at a special meeting in my office to understand from first hand what their discontent is based upon and to try to explain to them what am I currently doing for the country. In today's turbulent times when protests, strikes and discontent against any government are almost daily, especially in countries with severe economic troubles, politicians are facing a huge challenge to react adequately.

The greatest danger is distancing from citizens. A danger which seems Zoran Milanovic's cabinet have managed to see. Alas, the government of Plamen Oresharski in Bulgaria have not, which is why the security measures around places where are the members of the cabinet, against whom thousands of Bulgarians have been protesting for more than 50 days, are only growing. Also growing are the mockery and ridicules of politicians for the absolutely justified demands of the protesters. Obviously, Croatia has successfully passed another test. It's a pity that Bulgaria is constantly failing.

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