The historic Gric cannon fired, Zagreb’s St Mark’s church bells chimed and a most enthusiastic crowd cheered and applauded as Croatia’s newly elected first female president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was sworn in Sunday 15 February in an emotional, politically and culturally superior ceremony that felt as though Croatia has been re-started with a new and refreshing breath of hope, unity and pride.
Presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, parliamentary presidents, and dignitaries from dozens of nations among 88 foreign delegations along with thousands of Croatian citizens and dignitaries witnessed first hand the uplifting speech delivered by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
Her inaugural speech called for unity and national consensus on main issues affecting Croatian life and economy for which she said forms the main foundation of prosperity and wealth she plans to steer into Croatia.
“All of our differences were brought to the forefront during the campaign, but starting today we have to turn them into our strength,” Grabar-Kitarovic said.
Special gratitude to War Veterans and Franjo Tudjman
She gave special thanks to Croatia’s war veterans and to Croatia’s first president Fanjo Tudjman, which received very loud applauses.
“…In this celebratory moment let us remember all those known and unknown Croatian daughters and sons who have, through a thousand years of battles for Croatian independence, embedded their lives into the foundations of the modern Croatian state.
I express my special gratitude to the Croatian war-veterans who were and will remain the pivotal stone of our Croatian homeland. We owe a particular gratitude to the first Croatian president dr. Franjo Tudjman, the leader of that historic undertaking and the founder of the modern Croatian state,” she said.
She acknowledged the significant contribution made by Croats living abroad, the diaspora, to the creation of the Croatian state and its independence and democratic trends.
“ On this occasion I wish to send a special message to our émigrés throughout the world. You too are Croatia and I shall never permit anyone to neglect your role and your contribution to the creation of the Croatian state. You are an important link between the homeland and the world but, also, our important component that will continue contributing to our national development. Croatia’s door is wide-open to you. Your knowledge and experience are precious to our homeland…”
Abandon historical divisions and misconceptions
“I call upon all of us in Croatia to abandon the history of our divisions and misconceptions. It is only though togetherness of the whole nation that we can build a better Croatia. Let’s compete with ideas, solutions and innovation, and not with the roles our parents or grandparents played. We will not realise a better life through ideological divisions nor will be become better people on account of them… Just as president Tudjman had created the preconditions for the creation of the Croatian state through the reconciliation of the divided national being, so too must we open a new page of our better future through a new Croatian togetherness. We seek a better life in the future, not in the past!”
Kick-starting the troubled economy
“Our economy has been hit by crisis for the last six years,” she told the gathered crowd. “Thousands of young people are leaving, many companies are going bankrupt. This requires urgent action from the government, employers, and unions…
We find ourselves in a time that calls for a broad national consensus on key issues. There is no time for divisions … It is time to rise above our individual and political party interests in order to overcome the economic crisis.”
On the national debt she said, “We must stop living on money borrowed from future generations” and on jobs, “Our strategic national interest must be creating new jobs.” She addressed corruption saying, “I am a proponent of zero tolerance for corruption.”
Grabar Kitarović urged the government to improve the investment climate by providing tax incentives and removing administrative obstacles to doing business. She pledged to be an economic ambassador.
“I will be our leading economic diplomat and tirelessly back our exporters to forge new ground that may seem impossible today,” she said, vowing to do her utmost “to make Croatia a wealthy nation”.
On EU and NATO
“Our permanent strategic national interest remains to include all of southeast Europe in European and euro-Atlantic integration, because every other option prolongs uncertainty and can ultimately lead to the renewal of lines of division and separation,” she said.
“ I wish that after almost two years of membership we, all together, finally start living the life of a member of the European Union. We must increase our efforts so that the facilities of the European funds become more accessible and are utilised in as short a time as possible…Croatia will continue conducting its foreign politics through cooperation with our allies inside the EU and NATO, as well as through cooperation with our neighbours.
I want for the South-Eastern European countries to become members of the European Union family and in that endeavour we offer a hand of cooperation. I expect that we will finally solve the open questions such as border disputes with our neighbours, and in relations with Serbia the status of the missing persons from the Homeland War will hold a special place, and so will the mutual protection of minority rights. Ethnic minorities are Croatia’s wealth. I will develop and protect their rights, but I will also promote the rights of Croats in the neighbouring countries,” she said.
Youth and Education
In addressing education, Grabar-Kitarovic said: “We must focus on practical knowledge and skills to prepare our students for the life challenges ahead…
My mandate will especially be devoted to the youth. We must open space for them in our economy, in politics and in the life of our society. We must give them work. Let their voice be heard – they are educated, desirous of success and are unburdened by the past. I see them as leaders of the new Croatian togetherness.”
She promised: “I will do everything to make Croatia a wealthy country. A country from which young people won’t flee, seeking luck elsewhere. And whatever mistakes I make during my Presidency, I will find the strength to acknowledge it and do what is in my power to correct it. We are seeking a better life in the future, without looking to the past.”
Croatia’s new president is set to serve a five-year term after a narrow victory over her left-wing predecessor Ivo Josipovic in January. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a 46-year-old former foreign affairs minister, former diplomat and former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy officially takes the reins of the presidency at midnight 19 February 2015 and she has already officially resigned as a member of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, the conservative party that backed her presidential candidacy. I wish Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic every success and the heeding of her messages would indeed bring Croatia not only out of its economic rut but out of its widespread depression and hopelessness that have calamitously ruined during the past fifteen years most of the hope for the achievement of that for which so very many lives were lost in the 1990’s Homeland War: democracy and prosperity within an independent Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)