The idea announced by the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) to use the nation's Parliament as a venue for meetings related the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb has been scrapped, HDZ said on Thursday.
The announcement came after weeks of criticism from opposition MPs and the local media, who slammed the idea to rent out the plenary hall at the national parliament for what is essentially a party-related event.
Some went a step further and speculated that this might mean that Serbia's President, Aleksandar Vucic, a reviled figure among Croatian right-wing groups due to his outspoken nationalism in the 1990s, might attend the event and sit in Parliament, calling such a scenarion 'scandalous.'
The European People's Party (EPP) - the largest alliance of conservative political parties in the EU - is due to hold its congress on November 20-21 in Zagreb, with a number of national and EU officials attending.
Vucic's SNS party is an associate member of EPP and he has been invited and confirmed to speak at EPP's congress in Zagreb.
Rejecting criticism, HDZ later clarified that Parliament was supposed to be used as a venue hosting a meeting of EPP's presidency which Vucic is not a member of. However, the Thursday's announcement makes the issue moot.
According to state news agency Hina, which cited the tabloid 24 Sata, the EPP decided to change the location for meetings initially planned to take place at Parliament's plenary hall to "avoid any damage to the group's reputation." EPP was originally supposed to pay 74,488 kuna (€10,000) for renting the venue.
EPP's congress - the bulk of which will take place at the Zagreb Arena - will host some 2,000 delegates and officials from more than 40 countries, and will be used to elect the alliance's senior leadership.
EPP's current president is Joseph Daul from France, who formerly led EPP's group in the European Parliament. Its secretary-general is currently Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White from Spain.