Angela Merkel was not aware what the songs played during a rally she attended in Zagreb were about, the office of the German Chancellor said on Wednesday after NGO’s and some German media expressed disappointment over the music by a controversial nationalist Croatian singer at the gathering.
Berlin’s ‘Der Tagesspiegel’ wrote after the rally on Saturday that Merkel’s speech about the dangers of nationalism and about strengthening right-wing populism was “overshadowed by noticeable nationalist sounds.”
This primarily referred to a speech by ruling party politician Karlo Ressler, who mentioned the Bleiburg commemoration event, and the song ‘Lijepa li si’, by Marko Perkovic Thompson, which was played there.
The newspaper said that the German guests were probably not aware who is singing the song since concerts of the Ustasha singer Marko Perkovic Thompson were banned in Germany several times in recent years.
“Chancellor Merkel was not familiar with what songs will be played during the party gathering in Zagreb, nor did she know of the content of those songs. Chancellor Merkel has during her visit to Zagreb clearly expressed her stance that she opposes nationalism,” Merkel’s office told N1.
"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,” Merkel said in front of thousands of HDZ supporters at the Saturday rally.
"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, adding that this “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.
In Bosnia, Thompson’s music was criticised because it glorifies Herzeg-Bosna, a wartime self-declared para-state established the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1991.
Its armed forces, the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), were first allies with Bosniak armed forces but the two then turned against each other after the parastate declared itself a republic on August 28, 1993, and changed its name into the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosna, with Mostar being its capital.
The parastate had the ambition to become part of neighbouring Croatia.
The Croat-Bosniak conflict ended in 1994 with an agreement brokered in Washington, D.C. which prescribed the creation of a Bosniak-Croat Federation entity (FBiH) out of territories controlled by Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. Herzeg-Bosna was abolished two years later.
The Bosnian Advocacy Centre (BAC), an independent organisation advocating for a free and democratic Bosnia and Herzegovina, sent a letter to the German Ambassador in Sarajevo asking for clarification of "a set of unclear circumstances," following Merkel's attendance the rally.
Merkel proved her dedication to strengthen the friendly ties between Germany and Bosnia, said the letter. However, her attendance at the rally which glorified so-called Herzeg-Bosna, was “disappointing.”