President Zoran Milanovic said on Wednesday that he would instruct Croatia's Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Mario Nobilo, to vote against the admission of Finland and Sweden to the alliance until the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina is amended.
Milanovic has been insistent on making Finland’s and Sweden’s membership in the Alliance conditional on the electoral reform in Bosnia, even though the Croatian government has repeatedly expressed its support for the two countries’ NATO membership.
Speaking at a news conference in his office, Milanovic said that Croats in Bosnia are “being destroyed” as a political entity, adding it was in Croatia’s national interest to improve their position in the country.
He claimed he would instruct Ambassador Nobilo to vote against Sweden’s and Finland’s membership in NATO. However, the Foreign Ministry said last week that, should this happen, Nobilo will follow the instructions of the ministry, and not the president.
The issue has further strained what is already a tenuous relationship between the government and the president, with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman saying recently that Milanovic is damaging Croatia’s reputation with his statements.
“If I am to be blamed, I am prepared (for that). I have said before, Croats in Bosnia are more important to me than the entire Russian-Finnish border,” Milanovic insisted in his rant on Wednesday, holding up Turkey, which has expressed opposition to the two Nordic countries joining the Alliance, as an example of a country “showing how to fight for national interests.”
“Turkey will certainly not budge before it gets what it wants,” Milanovic said, saying Croatia’s stance was quite the opposite, and that the country is not fighting for its interests.
“The government does not have a monopoly on foreign policy,” he said, adding that “Ukraine is not a burning problem for us. This is.”
He called on the parliament not to ratify the agreement on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. “I will talk about this until the last moment and warn that the parliament has the last word.”
Milanovic said he was convinced that Croatia’s refusal to ratify the agreement would turn the international community’s attention to Croatian interests in Bosnia, saying that was the only way to resolve the problem of Croats in that country.
“If the parliament does not ratify (the agreement), at that moment, unbelievable interest for Croatia’s problem will arise,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Grlic-Radman called those statements “blackmail” and “un-European.”
“The rights of the Croat people are achieved through legal mechanisms, political and diplomatic efforts and not blackmail (…). The President is ruining our international reputation with his statements and causing political damage that can jeopardize our national interests,” Grlic-Radman said.