President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Friday she condemned any violence but added that "not every incident which occurs between Croatian citizens of different ethnicity can be qualified a priori as an ethnic incident, i.e. ethnically motivated violence."
"I won't allow that in Croatia because it's very unpleasant and irresponsible when politicians start commenting on and labelling those incidents, either by ignoring actual facts that are established in an official investigation or by not caring about those facts at all. That's very dangerous because it causes a new spiral of violence, intolerance and disorderly conduct. I won't allow such political irresponsibility," the president said on national television, commenting on last week's attacks on Serbs in the Knin area.
The investigation isn't over and I won't comment on details
The president's role, she said, is to be a factor of stability, to see that state institutions function. "In this case the institutions responded immediately, very efficiently and very quickly. If institutions didn't respond, it would be my duty to call for that, to call for a thorough investigation. This was an incident that is still being investigated. The police have done all that is necessary, they went to the scene, did an investigation, persons have been arrested, charges have been pressed against those persons. However, the investigation is still under way."
Grabar-Kitarovic said she was in contact with the relevant authorities, that she was receiving reports, but that she would not comment on the details of the incidents as the investigation was still under way.
She went on to say that her role "is least of all to deepen divisions in Croatian society."
Pupovac's statement was rude and irresponsible
Commenting on Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac's statement that Croatia was a factor of instability in the region, the president said it was "rude at the very least" and very irresponsible. "Unfortunately, Mr Pupovac said a series of untruths about his own country. He must understand that he is a member of the Croatian parliament, that he represents the Serb community in Croatia, Croatian citizens whose capital is Zagreb and not Belgrade."
She went on to say that she would announce her re-election campaign in time, thanking the HDZ party for its support.
She would not say who was her most dangerous opponent. "Croatian citizens must consider what they want in the next five years. Do they want work for a better Croatia, someone with experience who will work on that or do they want experiments?"
Honoured by Fulbright Association award
The president went on to say that she was honoured by the US Fullbright Association's decision to give her a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award as their alumnus. "I'm working on the promotion of the Fullbright programme... What's good about the programme is that once you've participated in it, you have the obligation to return to your home country and transfer the knowledge you acquired."
Vucic begged the expression Great Serbia aggression not be used
Grabar-Kitarovic also said that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic not only asked but begged that the expression "Great Serbia aggression" not be used, but that his appeal was not heeded.
Vucic said on August 21 that he had asked Grabar-Kitarovic that said expression not be used all the time as it no longer made sense.
She told the public broadcaster that it was "very inappropriate and unacceptable" in diplomatic relations to go public with what was said in private.
She said "the Great Serbia aggression, unfortunately, is written in blood in Croatian history. It was just another totalitarian regime and should be treated as such. It failed, it was defeated. However, I want to say very clearly to all those who are threatening Croatia today that not one Serbian tank will ever enter Vukovar again."
She said Croatia would not be lectured by a country that had not dealt with its own past. "A state which not only hasn't admitted to the Great Serbia aggression and the crimes and the genocide committed in its name, but a state which is still hiding information on missing Croatian defenders and civilians which, for me, is a crucial issue of bilateral relations," she said, adding that "Croatia won't be lectured by a state which has rehabilitated the Chetnik ideology and Serbia's fascist regime from WWII."
However, Grabar-Kitarovic added, Croatia wants stable relations with Serbia as that is, first and foremost, in the interest of the Serbian minority in Croatia and the Croatian minority in Serbia. "We must be responsible. I won't let us fall for provocation, I won't allow let us be dragged into a verbal war, but we will fiercely defend Croatia's national interests."