International ultra-right nationalists’ conference and rally: Tempers will flare?

Photo: Boris Kovacev/Cropix

Croatian Pure Party of Rights is hosting on Saturday 14 April an international conference of ultra-right parties or movements in Europe. It’s said that after the conference the organisers plan a rally against the ICTY’s judgment against Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, of April 2011. Ultra-right wing movements or parties from Hungary, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria and France have been invited and are expected to arrive in Zagreb for the conference and rally.

The event has captured a great deal of media attention in Croatia during the past week.

Originally the conference was to be held in the rooms of Croatian Foundation, leading cultural organisation “Matica Hrvatska”, but the Foundation had a couple of days ago changed its mind and cancelled the plan to allow its rooms for the use of this event. The organisers had then booked a venue with Hotel Palace in Zagreb, and the hotel has cancelled the booking due to heavy pressure from citizens’ groups and negative reactions from Zagreb’s citizens evoked by the dust raised in the media.

Hence, Croatian Pure Party of Rights has now stated that it will hold its event – conference and rally – in Zagreb’s public square Ban Jelacic in the centre of the city.

Citizens throughout Zagreb seem set on stopping the event from happening and have come up with the slogan: “Fascism – not in my city”. Citizens’ activists groups are planning to hold their own rally at the same time as the Euro-nationalists group. Zagreb’s citizens’ activists have opened a Facebook page: “United against Fascism” and say that they’re prepared to form human shields and stop the gathering of Europe’s ultra-nationalists in Zagreb. It is not known what protection the Croatian police are planning to install around the place on Saturday, but judging by the media hype tempers will flare.

Croatian president Ivo Josipovic stated on Tuesday 10 April that he does not support this conference and the gathering of nationalistic groups from Europe in Croatia, as “among them are those that bring into question Croatian territorial integrity and practice the speeches of hatred“.

While in a democracy everyone should have the right of expressing opinion, of holding rallies, the limits must be set when rallies tend to incite violence and destruction. So far, there’s much indication that things may not pass peacefully in Zagreb on Saturday and the relevant authorities need to judge very carefully as to whether either of these two rallies (the nationalist one and the Citizens’ activists one) should be issued the green light. If they are, then security or police presence must be high, high enough to smother any sign of violence.

To my view Saturday in Zagreb is increasingly resembling a time-bomb, ready to explode. Not because of any nationalist movement being there, nationalist movements are present everywhere, but because many Croatians and their announced guests from all over Europe come from places where unemployment is high, existential despair is accentuated and a rally is just such a fertile ground to lose oneself and lash out. Not from any nationalistic sentiment or following, but out of pure personal, bottled-up frustration that simmers in all crumbling economies. Furthermore, a mention that Serbia’s ultra-right movement representatives might find their way there on Saturday send signals of possible provocation to violence.

Croatian generals in the Hague, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, do not deserve to be associated with such an event that heralds through the media all the hallmarks of profound intolerance. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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