Published in Nacional number 752, 2010-04-13

Autor: Robert Bajruši

HNS LEADER makes comeback

I will offer Jadranka Kosor a lever of development

RADIMIR CACIC, president of the HNS, following a two month hiatus from the public spotlight, talks about his relationship with the Prime Minister, possible cooperation with the HDZ, as well as his conflict with the judiciary over the publication of private messages from murder victim Ivo Pukanic

Radimir CacicRadimir Cacic"One must have ideas, but it is also necessary to know how to guide the processes, and that is not something everyone is capable of. The incumbent government most definitely is not capable of doing this," Radimir Cacic, president of the Croatian Peoples' Party (HNS) repeatedly stated during our interview. Following a nearly two month hiatus from public life after causing a serious automobile accident, Cacic is once again extremely active and often at the centre of attention. His meeting with Jadranka Kosor, at which he presented his proposals for a recovery from the recession, was intriguing. And while he insists this was not a precursor to cooperation, speculation has surfaced that the HNS and HDZ could indeed be moving closer together.

During his appearance on the Otvoreno TV show he strongly criticized the work of the judiciary, particularly a ruling from Judge Ivana Krsul that permitted the publication of the private communications of Ivo Pukanic. It did not take long for a reaction; recently Duro Sessa filed criminal charges against Cacic, with the explanation that his remarks represented pressure being applied to the judiciary. By all accounts, Radimir Cacic does not plan to withdraw his statements, and eagerly awaits the beginning of this process.

NACIONAL: If you could go back in time, would you repeat your views that the "Croatian judiciary has touched bottom"?
- This is a value judgement for which they have not sued me, even though I'm sure they would have liked to charge me for that as well. The fact of the matter is that in Croatia there is a problem with the judiciary, and has been ever since two thousand judges were sacked in the early nineties. Professionals were discarded, and in their stead Tudjman brought in his loyal cadres; during which time article 309 was implemented, according to which commentary of the process is punishable as an attempt to influence the court's decision. In this process there exists a certain duality because one cannot comment the merit of the issue until the court has issued its ruling, but given that some verdicts are ten years in the waiting, it ends up becoming a situation of "consequences be damned." In the contentious episode of Otvoreno, which focused on the publishing of Ivo Pukanic's text messages, I had absolutely no intention of discussing the merit of the issue. My disgust and horror were aimed at a segment of the process in which the court directly attacked the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, which both explicitly defend the right to private conversation and correspondence. In the Pukanic case, the court attacked the privacy of the victims - and that is a message to all citizens that it is possible that you could be murdered or die, and the court could decide to make public your private life. I said that I am against that, and I will continue to do so in the future. Of course this cannot influence the court's decisions, because the ruling to make the messages public has already been made and the material already published. The simple fact that I was not served charges filed against me from a court - they were rather presented to me by journalists - says enough about the state of our judiciary. It appears as though the association of judges issues criminal charges via the TV set.

NACIONAL: I assume that you do not agree with Duro Sessa's argument that you are attacking the autonomy of the judiciary?
- The problem does not lie with the majority of the judges, because 90 to 95 percent of them are honourable professionals. But there is a stratum of judges that has brought about the current situation in the judiciary, and the association of judges is not entirely innocent in this regard. Let us not forget that Zagreb County Court was rife with scandals and corruption precisely at the time when Duro Sessa was the president of that court, and he currently serves as the president of the judges' association. A similar pattern was recognizable in the work of his predecessor. There is something else that is very dangerous. Judges are untouchable, regardless of whether or not they are working, or of what kind of consequences their lack of work produces, regardless of their incompetence or openness to political or other influences. That is why the charges against me will work against the very people by whom they were filed, because they are offering me an opportunity to speak about a burning issue.

NACIONAL: When the economy is in question, the HDZ government has not yet begun to cut public spending, and criticisms from unions and the bulk of the public speak of the fact that many in Croatia are not prepared to give up their acquired privileges. Why do you think that same public would accept your reform measures, which are equally painful?
- I think that primarily the union protests are not in reaction to the announced cuts in public spending, but are instead a reaction to the general state of the economy, the loss of jobs and a general feeling of uncertainty. Today, along with 320 thousand unemployed, we have 80 thousand people that are working but are not being paid, and who could easily be formally unemployed as early as tomorrow. Objectively speaking, to date we have not seen any reform cuts that the Government led by Jadranka Kosor could implement. The only cut came from Ivo Sanader one month before his departure, when he cut the budget by 6 billion kuna, after which we had two budget revisions and this new budget, which in each case were budget increases. This means that the reason behind the citizen's displeasure is not the cuts implemented by government, but the feeling that we're not on the right path. That feeling is well founded and unfortunately the economy is in freefall as a result of this Government. On the other hand I am speaking of two necessary simultaneous processes. One refers to cuts such as getting rid of bogus war veterans, bogus agricultural subsidies and people abusing social assistance programs, accompanied by a simultaneous process of investing into a strong cycle of development. In this way we would fill the budget with quality funds and secure new job openings, and in 2015, when the first phase of this cycle is completed, those projects would remain as the permanent pillars of growth and development. In Croatia we have the exact opposite examples, for example the construction of the sports arenas or the Peljesac Bridge, which initially evoked a more active dynamic response from the economy, but later became the cement shoes fixed to the drowned. These are two unnecessary investments that have now become nothing more than a burden. In the investments I am talking about, the role of the state is to recognize which areas are attractive for capital, prepare concrete projects and then monitor and coordinate the completion of these projects. This Government is the absolute champion in its inability to do something like this.

NACIONAL: Both Government and President Josipovic have in recent months surrounded themselves with top-flight economists and proven business leaders. Why then has there been no economic progress?
- A few days ago in the Jutarnji list daily Prime Minister Kosor's advisors literally said that Croatia must boldly enter into radical reforms and investments, and in so doing listed a series of projects I have been advocating for a long time now - energy, the railway and the environment - leaving out only tourism. This means that we have a consensus with regards to what needs to be done, but the question is who is capable of doing it. In a game against Barcelona Dinamo's coach Kruno Jurcic can come up with the best possible tactics for the game, but his team lacks the players capable of applying his tactical ideas on the field. This means that you can have the ideas, but you also need someone who is capable of implementing them. This Government is not capable of doing so. We have made an important step and now agree as to what needs to be done immediately.

NACIONAL: Did you tell Jadranka Kosor this when you met with her one month ago?
- I told her that I would offer our views regarding this lever of development to Government and the public. As a country we no longer have time because we are in freefall, and that is why I defined the priorities.

NACIONAL: Speaking of the economic situation you use the term "freefall", and elections are not due until the end of next year. What will happen in the meantime in Croatia?
- The responsibility of the governing coalition, specifically the HDZ, now after the priorities have been clearly recognized, is to resolutely bring these projects to their fruition, and especially to train teams for the preparation of projects from European funds, because in 2012 and 2013 we will put 1.2 billion euro in and take 3.57 billion out of them. In this sense the responsibility of this Government is perhaps greater than it has ever been before, because the incumbent Government does not negate the optimal strategy. We all know now what needs to be done to recover from this recession and it is just a question of will something be done about it after six years of missed opportunities.

The SDP is our key partner

NACIONAL: What kind of impression did Jadranka Kosor leave on you?
Ivan Suker and Jandranka KosorIvan Suker and Jandranka Kosor- Mrs. Kosor is a responsible and mature person who understands the weight of the task she carries. Within the realm of the possible she is trying to recognize the problem and do something about it. Unfortunately it is clear that she carries with her too many burdens. Even if she had far greater capacities, in the political sense, she would still be unable of doing anything because she would be sacked by her own people, who do not have that kind of capacity. Even if the Prime Minister had the strength to do what is needed, there is no chance of her showing that, which is why she works within the realm of what is possible.

NACIONAL: What would be your response if an official offer came from Government for the HNS to join the cabinet?
- We would decline the offer because this Government lacks legitimacy. Croatia needs a new government with legitimacy and the HNS will participate in the work of that new government with its projects. Our key partner is the SDP, even though in everything there is always that little "but". By this "but" I am referring to an agreement on a strategic partnership that respects the strength of our electorate. Of course, that agreement is also based on the assumption that the strategic components of our programme are brought to fruition.

NACIONAL: If everything has been agreed upon with the SDP why have you not signed a pre-election left-of-centre coalition agreement?
- This is a question for the SDP, not me. We have been talking about this for years, but we will no longer try to convince anyone about the need to sign a coalition agreement.

NACIONAL: In your opinion how competent is Milanovic for the job of prime minister?
- First of all, public opinion polls speak in favour of Milanovic becoming the next prime minister. Of course it is not necessary that the prime minister be an economic expert, however, a prime minister must assume the posture of a statesman, not a politician, and he must of course recognize the current situation, put together a quality team, delegate responsibility to close associates and control processes. In this sense Sanader was dangerous, because he in no way understood the responsibility of the position he held. He knew how to attract media attention and understood the natural tendency of the public to apply to leaders the knowledge and ability they would like them to have. If the citizens knew the true capabilities of certain prime ministers, ministers or judges, the optimism index, which is today at its lowest in Croatian history, would be even lower. People like this at the head of government are dangerous, because they make important decisions but lack the necessary knowledge, and are unwilling to consult with those who do. These are not the character traits of a good prime minister, but I have a feeling that Zoran wants to listen to other people's ideas and open up space for everything that is good for Croatia.

NACIONAL: Were you surprised by the events surrounding Podravka?
- No. My impression is that the Podravka scandal is centred on a painful area that represents the smallest possible threat to the ruling majority and where the HDZ has its weakest base anyways. Damir Polancec was sacrificed, and it remains to be seen what in all of this was the real criminal activity. It seems to me that it is hard to speak of crime in regard to Podravka, but much less so when speaking of the handing over of INA's controlling rights, and to do so using Podravka shares. This arouses suspicion of criminal activities. Everything else is a diversion, shifting the focus from the real problems, like the story of Ranko Mimovic as a potential buyer for Podravka. Ivo Josipovic said it well when he said that ownership has no nationality and it is all the same if Serbs, the French, or the Swiss will invest into Podravka, if the capital is trustworthy.

NACIONAL: Does this mean that you have your doubts as to recent speculation that Miroslav Kutle is one of the secret owners of Podravka?
- He certainly has nothing to do with the transfer of INA's controlling rights to MOL. Bringing Kutle into the story is an effort to shift the focus away from the real problem. It is entirely irrelevant if it is Kutle, Steve or Joe. The question is - are there any criminal activities, and if there are, is the person responsible someone who had much greater influence than Kutle?

NACIONAL: Are you alluding to then Prime Minister Ivo Sanader?
- The most interesting thing is the relationship within INA, and it definitely was not defined without his knowledge. The disproportion between the ownership relationship and the controlling rights must be corrected. When, during the first phase of the sale of INA, we sold 25 percent plus one share, we clearly defined which controlling rights the purchaser would receive. Everyone knew what they were buying and paid Croatia extra for that. In the second phase the rules were changed, the damage is still being done and it remains to be seen what will happen.

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