Croatian president stirs hornet's nest with apology (News Feature)
By Boris Raseta Apr 17, 2010, 11:58 GMT
Zagreb - Croatian President Ivo Josipovic has fallen foul of the government over an apology for crimes his countrymen committed during the 1992-95 Bosnia war, Zagreb media reported Saturday.
In a speech to the Bosnian parliament, Josipovic expressed his regrets at the deaths of thousands of Bosnians during the conflict and criticized the policies of the country's leader at the time, Franjo Tudjman.
'I deeply regret that that kind of policy contributed to the sufferings of the people and the divisions that still trouble us,' said Josipovic, who took office only two months ago.
In the war Serbs, Croats and Muslims fought among themselves but Croats and Muslims formed an uneasy coalition. The war ended with the partition of Bosnia into a Serbian part - the Serb Republic - and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
Josipovic's comments earlier this week were widely seen in Bosnia and the West as an apology, but caused uproar among Croatian conservative circles and the government of Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor.
Kosor's ruling HDZ party, founded by Tudjman, accused Josipovic of breaching the constitution, betraying the national interest and meddling in foreign policy.
'Croatia was never the aggressor,' Kosor was quoted by local media as saying. 'The war was just, and of a defensive character.'
Josipovic tried to smooth the government's ruffled feathers by claiming he did not apologize, but merely expressed his regrets, something which the conservative HDZ refused to let pass.
Kosor met former premiers Friday evening to discuss Josipovic's visit to Bosnia, the Jutarnji list daily wrote Saturday.
Croatia's wartime prime minister, Franjo Greguric, claimed what the president said was 'an absolute lie ... which would hurt Croatia's international standing,' the paper reported.
Jutarnji list said Kosor and the HDZ planned to seek a parliamentary debate on the president's statement 'and his unconstitutional act.'
According to the Croatian constitution, the government is responsible for foreign policy, not the president.
Expert Mlden Stancic believes Josipovic's comments and Kosor's reaction are 'two ways of looking at Croatia's foreign policy and the country's position in the region.'
'The HDZ has its own foreign policy and the president does not have to think about party politics but about the country's foreign policy,' Stancic told the Novi list daily.
Croatian media pointed out that the country's first premier after it declared independence in the early 1990s, Stjepan Mesic, was not invited by Kosor to the meeting.
Mesic left the HDZ in 1994 because he did not agree with Tudjman's policy in Bosnia. He later served as president of Croatia.
Opposition leader Damir Kajin said the row was proof the ruling party is loosing control. 'The HDZ is becoming history. It is trying to save what can be saved', he told the German Press Agency, dpa.