Croatia's President, Zoran Milanovic, said on Tuesday that he intended to veto the decision to allow Finland and Sweden to join the Nato alliance.
“In my capacity as the head of state representing Croatia at the Nato summit, I will veto the invitation, if it is extended at that level,” Milanovic told reporters in Vukovar.
Milanovic’s statement was part of yet another meandering rant which have become the main hallmark of his public appearances, which local media cover on an hourly basis. Last week, Milanovic said he was opposed to approving Nato membership for Finland and Sweden, unless the US steps in to change the election law in neighboring Bosnia to the benefit of Bosnian Croats.
Croatia is one of 30 countries members of Nato, and the alliance is expected to hold a summit in Madrid later this month. According to international media, the traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland are likely to formally submit a membership by the time Nato holds a scheduled summit in June.
It is unclear whether Milanovic has any authority to block other countries from joining the bloc, as Croatia’s head of state is largely a ceremonial figure, with very few legislative powers – apart from formally commanding the military and the intelligence service SOA.
On Tuesday, Finland said its parliamentary committee would issue a recommendation on potential Nato membership by May 13, and Germany said it would support the bid. Although Milanovic is adamantly opposed to extending Nato membership to these two Scandinavian countries, it is not entirely clear whether he would be able to do anything about it.
Nato membership for any future members must be ratified by all existing countries, and in Croatia this is done through Parliament, which is controlled by the conservative HDZ party led by Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic. Milanovic earlier threatened that he would “pursue” any MP voting in favor of their membership.
“If the invitation is sent through lower levels, Milanovic said he was not sure he would be able to make the Croatian ambassador accept his position and veto the invitation,” state agency Hina said.
Milanovic added that he was “not afraid of either of Russia or of Ukraine,” and claimed that he was “on the Croatian side,” determined to fight “for the Croatian state and nation.” Milanovic repeated his attacks against the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s government, saying it was pursuing “a treacherous policy” towards Bosnian Croats.
Milanovic recently decided to take up the cause of the main Croat nationalist party in Bosnia, HDZ, which has been claiming for years that ethnic Croats are being “outvoted” in by ethnic Bosniaks in the Bosnian elections. Although leaders of all parties have had endless rounds of talks on changing the election law, no concrete proposals have been set forth ahead of the October general election.
In another rant last week, Milanovic described the potential Nato membership for Finland and Sweden as a “very dangerous adventure.” Since becoming President in February 2020, Milanovic – formerly the country’s Prime Minister and leader of the Social Democrats – has become known for provocative statements and rants usually involving bickering with PM Plenkovic or his ministers.
In late January, as Russian forces began amassing on Ukrainian border, Milanovic dismissed the notion of Ukraine becoming part of the NATO alliance, and in early February accused Western countries of “warmongering” in Ukraine. His statements also earned him inclusion into the infamous Ukrainian Myrotvorets online blacklist which publishes information about people deemed “enemies of Ukraine,” where he has been accused of “disseminating Russian propaganda.”
Also on Tuesday, Milanovic insisted that he was not “taking Russia’s side” and continued to slam PM Plenkovic, describing his cabinet as “a clique” over perceived inaction in changing the election law in Croatia’s neighboring country.
“The Russians are playing their game. They are the aggressor in this war. And we have our own clique, working actively against the interests of Bosnian Croats. I took an oath to protect them, too, and I will die a political death for them, if necessary,” Milanovic told reporters.