The President denies involvement in the attack on the PM: 'I Am Not Toppling Plenković'

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03.12.2018.

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Na fotografiji: Andrej Plenkovic, Predsjednik Vlade Republike Hrvatske i Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, predsjednica Republike Hrvatske.
Foto: Goran Mehkek / CROPIX
Goran Mehkek / CROPIX

The PM Andrej Plenković and the President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

"The President of the Republic of Croatia most decisively dismisses fabrications of her alleged involvement in the alleged toppling of the Government of Andrej Plenković."

Those words open the almost dramatic Thursday statement from the Office of the President. "The President holds that the fabrication itself, based on statements the credibility and truthfulness of which have not been confirmed by competent institutions, is a direct political strike at the state institutions of the Republic of Croatia, and especially at the institution of the President of the Republic of Croatia", says the document further.

Misinformation

The release says that it was precisely because of such "unverified information published in certain media", that on October 26 Grabar-Kitarović suggested to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to convene a session of the National Security Council, "but has not received an answer so far".

"The President of the Republic considers it unacceptable that, so far, there has been no competent response of the relevant state institutions to the disclosure of information that is still subject to confidential investigation", says the document. "She therefore expects all relevant institutions to report at the session of the National Security Council on all the actions taken for the purpose of clarifying this scandal and identifying its actors and goals, with no intention of undermining the confidentiality of the investigation."

Immediately after the statement emerged from the Pantovčak [presidential palace], Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković responded by saying it was difficult to figure out the reasons for such a dramatic stance by the President. "As soon as the issue of the 'SMS scandal' opened and information from the security system leaked out, it became a matter in which the events and the perpetrators had to be identified", said the Speaker. "It was necessary to establish whether it was the work of a broader group or not. I'm not sure whether it is a sufficient reason to schedule a session of the Council session, to raise tensions. I support the initiative to talk about it; at the Council or not; the exact form does not matter." He added he was not aware "which part of Mr. Varga's deposition the President has referred to".

Sharp Assessments

Such a sharp statement has not been issued by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's Office so far in the mandate. It is not entirely clear whom the very serious qualifications in this release pertain to. The release from the Pantovčak appeared directly after a part of Franjo Varga's deposition given to the Office of the State Attorney had made it to the media. [Varga, now under arrest, is a former IT expert at the police and apparent author of forged text (SMS) messages used in political infighting.]

Varga mentioned many names in the deposition, including that of the President's adviser Vlado Galić. It is almost impossible to judge whether some political games are being played behind the scenes, or perhaps the relations between the two political hills have taken a turn for the worse, but the 'SMS scandal' has obviously triggered an avalanche that has shaken the top of the state. Sources close to the Banski Dvori have indicated that many activities related to [Varga's] faked SMS messages were aimed at toppling the Government and Plenković, but the Prime Minister has not spoken about it in public in any detail so far.

A reminder: the President did ask for a session of the National Security Council back in October, but specifically mentioned the migrant crisis as the reason. She also said the Council should be meeting at least four times a year. On the day the President defended her doctoral dissertation at the Faculty of Political Science, journalists asked her about the 'SMS scandal' and she replied it was not in her jurisdiction but a matter the relevant institutions should attend to.

"I will certainly be monitoring the situation, I will seek information", she said, "but it is a matter for the judiciary. The information leaks are, unfortunately, something that happens in other countries, too, not just in Croatia, but it does need to be addressed. Again, it is up to the relevant services to deal with; it is not within my authority to say who should do their job."

When the name of her adviser Galić started popping up in the 'SMS scandal', Grabar-Kitarović said she knew Galić had contacted Varga on several occasions. "I respect the rule of law and will not interfere with the work of the police, the judiciary and the DORH", the President said. "Let them finish their work." She expressed the hope that it was not an internal party conflict. The Prime Minister did not indicate that to her, either. The information that there had been attempts to compromise, or even topple Plenković, came to her only through the media, she maintained.

No indication

"I talked to Chief of [Security and Intelligence Agency] SOA Daniel Markić and he did not give me any indication to that effect", she said. "If that is nevertheless the case, I expect the relevant services to contact me, and to talk with them about it, because it changes the entire situation."

At the time, Grabar-Kitarović said that, according to the information she was getting from the relevant services, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Sabor, the scandal involved criminal acts of individuals, whose services were potentially used by 'other individuals'.

"If there are indications that there have been efforts to topple the Prime Minister, it is a matter of national security and stability, and the institutions have to deal with it", said the President. "I can exert political influence to a certain extent, but have to respect the independence of the institutions." She added that it was more a matter of regular institutions than the National Security Council.

It is difficult to speculate on what could have happened in the meantime suddenly to generate such a dramatic statement from the Pantovčak. A few days ago, the Prime Minister himself stated that the 'SMS scandal' was looking increasingly bad and required further steps to be taken. He did not elaborate what steps he had in mind. Three days later, the Office of the President issued the dramatic statement.

Andrej Plenković on the President's press release:

"We are playing the political game", commented Prime Minister Plenković on Thursday, asked about the President's statement. "We encounter a problem every day. If I were as sensitive, I could say I suffer an attack every day. You have to get used to it; it is not that terrible."

Grabar-Kitarović's statement said the fabrications about her involvement in an alleged toppling of the Government represented a direct political attack at the state institutions. The Prime Minister obviously does not think the media reports on the alleged involvement of the Office of the President in the 'SMS scandal' constitute an attack at the institutions, given that he survives political storms daily. He obviously does not perceive them as seriously. — The forging of text messages that imply I have participated in something outside the law is the only attack [here] — he commented. — We can discuss everything politically, and there are also relevant institutions that need to investigate and solve the problem.

He responded to the President's reproach about asking for a National Security Council meeting on October 26 but hearing nothing about it thus far, by saying that the conditions for the session had not been obtained. — Council sessions must be prepared very well — he said. — We will have a session when we judge it is the right moment, but certainly sometime in December.

He also responded to the question of whether the President should suspend her national security adviser, whose name is being mentioned in the same context as Franjo Varga. — She must consider and make such decisions very carefully — said Plenković upon his return from Bratislava.

At the start, talking to the press, he talked of impending increase of the minimum wage, about to be discussed at the Government session.

 

Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version