MYPLACE researcher at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Croatia, Marko Mustapic on the prohibition of a recent nationalist conference, planned to be held in Zagreb.
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Croatia belongs to countries in transition in which the parties of the radical right or left very rarely have parliamentary representatives. In other words, radical political parties in Croatiahave weak or even negligible support of the electorate. One of these parties is the HCSP (Croatian Pure Party of Rights). They had an independent member of a parliament only once (1995-1999), and in the current mandate of the Croatian Parliament from 2011, among 153 representatives, there is only one from the HCSP‘s coalition party called Croatian Party of Rights Dr. Ante Starcevic.
It is therefore understandable why the HCSP is rarely in the focus of media interest. Media cover the activities of HCSP mostly during the organised anniversaries related to NDH (Independent State of Croatia, a World War II puppet state of Nazi Germany). However, from the end of March to mid-April this year HCSP was a top issue of all Croatian media for completely different reasons. Namely, HCSP’s Youth announced an International nationalist conference in Zagreb on the 13th of April. In addition to HCSP, the leaders of Hungarian HVIM, Bulgarian VMRO, French Renouveau français, Flamish Voorpost and German NPD were also announced as a conference participants. Besides that, Youth of HCSP announced the maintenance of parade “For the Generals” on the 14th of April. In this way HCSP would, along with their sympathizers and European right-wingers, express the support for the Croatian generals Gotovina and Markac who were sentenced at the International War Crimes Tribunal in Hague.
The announcement of these events stirred up the Croatian public. Criticisms have been voiced by numerous social actors and citizens, primarily on social networks, followed by the Internet web portals, and finally in the press and on TV. Criticisms of opponents of radical right-wing gathering inZagrebcan be reduced to the thesis that the parade in the honour of convicted generals was merely a cover for gathering of the “European neo-Nazis and sympathizers of Hitler”. Only after several days of media sensationalism Croatian government announced on their official Twitter profile that they were outraged by the information from the media and that this event will certainly not be tolerated.
After such criticism HCSP was in a hopeless situation regarding the organization of upcoming events. Both the institution and the hotel where the conference should be held cancelled their cooperation with HCSP. Despite that, they announced the maintenance of a public meeting for the 13th of April on the main square inZagreb, as a substitute for a conference. Therefore, the left-wing civic organizations invited citizens to a public meeting “United against fascism” which took place at the same location and at the same time. Also, prominent political commentators invited the police through the media to ban the maintenance of right-wing public meeting.
Three days before the scheduled meeting Croatian President Ivo Josipovic strongly reacted, saying that he does not support the gathering of the HCSP-related European parties, because among the participants are the ones who question the territorial integrity of the Croatia and use the hate speech. Two days later, on the 12th of April, the President of HCSP Josip Miljak called on the Croatian president for “disabling legal activities of Croatian Pure Party of Rights and declaring our guests from the European Union as undesirable and as advocates of hatred and intolerance”. HCSP has therefore called upon the Croatian president to use his constitutional powers and initiate the prohibition of HCSP if it is Nazi and Fascist party. The same day, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic confirmed that police prohibits gathering of HCSP because of world views and political reasons they propagate, which is why HCSP called this event “the April dictatorship of Zoran Milanovic”.
Despite the prohibition, the central square in Zagreb on 13th of April brought together several hundred people who supported the civil campaign “United against fascism” and dozens of citizens who responded to the call of HCSP for a public gathering. Police used cordons to separate two opposing groups, and this event was soon ended with police dispelling citizens from Main square.
Next day, on the 14th of April, due to the ban of the march “For the generals”, organizers of the march from HCSP along with their European guests walked through the city to St. Mark’s Square (headquarters of the Croatian Government) “as the tourists” with a police escort. The event was eventually reduced to a minor gathering without a clear goal.
Although the need to ban this right-wing meeting was extensively debated for several days, it was all forgotten within a few days. Public hearings on xenophobia, hate speech and intolerance of minority groups was accompanied by media sensationalism and moral panic. Unfortunately, these problems are much deeper than HCSP activities and are present in different spheres of Croatian society. Skinheads and HCSP Youth’s seem just as harmless marginalia compared to them.