Addressing the main campaign rally of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in Zagreb on Saturday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European People's Party's (EPP) lead candidate for European Commission President, Manfred Weber, said that nationalism was an enemy that wanted to destroy the European Union, whereas patriotism was not aga
"Our values are that we can be proud of our country - patriotism and the EU do not clash with each other. On the other hand, nationalism is an adversary that wants to destroy Europe and we must say that clearly, said Merkel at the rally which brought together 6,000 HDZ members and supporters in the Drazen Petrovic Sports Hall.
Merkel said that the European Union was a project of peace, freedom and prosperity.
"We in Germany now have 74 years of peace. You (in Croatia) had a war in the 1990s and you are aware of what it means and why it is important to preserve this peace," she said.
"And that can be accomplished only if the national cause is advocated on the one hand, while on the other hand, we need to be able to put ourselves in other people's shoes and build bridges," the German chancellor said.
She wrapped up her speech in Croatian calling on voters to go to the polls for the EP elections and support the Europe of peace, freedom and prosperity.
"Support the EPP and the HDZ, support Manfred Weber and Karlo Ressler," she said.
Ressler is the top candidate of the HDZ slate in the 26 May elections for the new EP.
Weber said in his speech that "we love our countries, we are patriots, but we also believe in unity at the European level."
Weber called for a response to nationalists and promised that nationalists would not be part of his majority in the future EP.
In his comment on a rally held in Milan earlier on Saturday, at which Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen addressed their supporters, Weber said that nationalist ideology in the past had caused a lot of tragedies and should be resisted.
He said that the EU was not only an economic alliance but also a community which shares values, underscoring that Christianity is a pillar of Europe.
He said that while travelling across Europe he saw diversities of the continent, however, he also noticed that in the centre of each town, city or village there was a church which signifies the Christian faith as a European foundation.
As for illegal migration, Weber said that each country had the right to decide who could pass through its territory and that such a decision should not be made by smugglers.
He also noted that after Athens he visited Zagreb which he described as an obvious and reasonable decision as Croatia was the newest EU member, describing Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic as a close friend.
Weber, who has served as leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament since 2014 and who is an official of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, congratulated Croatian football coach Niko Kovac for the success of Bayern Munich which won the Bundesliga championship under his leadership this season.
The HDZ's lead candidate for the European Parliament elections, Karlo Ressler, said he was confident that his party would score yet another convincing victory in the forthcoming elections.
"The list of candidates that I lead is an alliance of several generations of the HDZ and several generations of Croatia. But we all work together and breathe as one," Ressler said.
He said that the HDZ's programme was forward-looking, aimed at growth, employment and security, and was promoting a safe and strong Croatia within a strong European Union.
Young generations in Croatia today had the honour to fight for a better Croatia and prepare it for technological, social and political challenges, he said.
Ressler said that patriotism today was proved with dedicated work and knowledge, citing the construction of the Peljesac Bridge, the construction and reconstruction of over 500 kindergartens, and the creation of over 96,000 jobs in the last three years.
"That's what we do today and what we insist on," he said.
In the end, the rally was addressed by Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic. He called on all those present to support Weber as the EPP spitzenkandidat for President of the European Commission.
Plenkovic also mentioned successes of his government, including the budget surplus, better absorption of EU funding, and EU-funded projects such as the Peljesac Bridge and other infrastructure projects.