Croatia governs from the Prevlaka peninsula in the south to Savudrija Bay in the north, which is a great responsibility and obligation that costs, and that's why the defence budget should remain at the pre-pandemic level, President Zoran Milanovic said at a Navy Day celebration in Split on Monday.
“Croatia can be calmer more than ever,” the president, who also serves as the country’s commander in chief of the armed forces, said and added that for the first time in its history the Croatia political community governs the Adriatic coastal stretching between Prevlaka and Savudrija Bay.
“This is a great responsibility and obligation” Milanovic said
Therefore it is necessary to invest into the armed forces and not to reduce defence outlays. The defence budget should be kept at the pre-crisis level, or we will not be able to maintain all that we are procuring, he said, adding that all the equipment needs backup.
Commenting on the latest report by the SOA intelligence agency, which warned about cyber and other security threats, Milanovic commented on developments in the neighbourhood, with Serbia “prating on about the Serbian world” and growing tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, as well as tensions in Montenegro” where a part of the political milieu behaves as if Belgrade is their capital city.”
We have an unresolved situation in the region, there is the government in Belgrade that “is prating on about the Serbian World,” Milanovic said and corroborated his arguments with some statistics from the past.
For instance, in 1900 the city of Subotica, in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, had 100,000 inhabitants and at that time, Split was inhabited by 15,000 people and Zagreb by 60,000 people. Of the 100,000 residents in Subotica, over 50% were Croats, Milanovic said, adding that obviously at the time Subotica was the biggest Croatian city. Milanovic posed a rhetorical question whether it could mean that Subotica belongs “to a Croatian world” alluding to theses of Serbia’s leadership about a Serbian world.
“I call on the Croats living outside Croatia to be on good terms with their neighbours, foster their tradition and their identity and be aware that they live in Serbia,” Milanovic said in this context.
As for the tensions in Kosovo, Milanovic said that Kosovo’s authorities had now taken a reciprocal measure after Serbia had been barring cars with Kosovo licence plates from passing through its territory for 20 years. Serbs in the north of Kosovo have been blocking the roads near the border crossings with Serbia after authorities in Priština barred cars with Serbian licence plates from coming into Kosovo.
“This is a row that has been going on for years,” he said, adding that he could now also call for de-escalation as European diplomats have done for years without achieving anything regarding this issue.
Milanovic does not expect any changes in German policy in respect of EU enlargement to include Western Balkan aspirants, after the end of the chancellorship of Angela Merkel.
In that regard, Germany has done nothing in the last five years, he added.
A summit meeting on EU enlargement and the Western Balkans will be held soon but the Croatian president does not expect any progress at that event in the light of the fact that the other biggest EU economy, France, is holding elections in 2022.
Milanovic said that the situation in Montenegro was serious since a portion of its politicians and their followers were opposed to the country’s independence.
Commenting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milanovic said that the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina see Sarajevo as their capital city and they want to be represented, as a constituent people, by a politician they elect, he added.
Milanovic and the Croatian government call for amending Bosnia and Herzegovina’s election legislation to prevent the Croats, the smallest constituent people in the country, from being outvoted. The current practice has resulted in the election of Željko Košić as the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency due to ballots cast for him by Bosniak voters.
Those who are making problems to Croats do not understand that the solution is simple, Milanovic said.