Supporters of Croatia’s far right A-HSP party voiced their support for US President Donald Trump during a march through central Zagreb on February 26. A few hundred participants shouted pro-Nazi slogans and waved the flags of the US and Germany’s far-right NPD party.
Concerns over surging extremism in the Adriatic country have not lost pace under the new centre-right coalition between the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Bridge of Independent Lists (Most). The previous HDZ-Most coalition was accused of turning a blind eye to rising nationalism in Croatia.
The crowd in Zagreb on February 26 was dressed in black uniforms and they chanted slogans of the Ustasha, Croatia’s WW2 Nazi puppet regime. They also took an oath to the homeland and expressed support for Trump, AFP reported.
The A-HSP is not the only far right party in the Balkans to openly support Trump. Members of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) led by ultra nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj also voiced support for Trump back in August during the then US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Belgrade.
Croatian police arrested the leader of A-HSP, Drazen Keleminec, after the demonstration for violating public order. A-HSP is an extremist party without any presence in the parliament.
In a separate incident on February 24, Croats in Vukovar on the border with Serbia woke up to find posters insulting the Serb minority at the city’s bus stations. The posters also included Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic’s face. Two days later, Croatian police arrested a 19-year-old man, who has been charged with putting up the posters.
The Croatian government condemned the incidents in Zagreb and Vukovar on February 26. The Croatian government is against all forms of hate speech, intolerance and discrimination, the government said in a statement.
However, the coalition led by the conservative HDZ’s Andrej Plenkovic has not managed to allay concerns about rising extremism.
On February 25, Josko Klisovic, an MP from the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP), raised concerns over the government’s position on human rights after media reports suggested that the Croatian government held a position against abortion in a discussion on women’s rights in the European Council.
"This is a major and radical turnaround in the country's foreign policy, which was constructed in consensus between HDZ and SDP-led governments until now, in terms of human rights," said Klisovic, according to EBLnews.
Other concerns centre around the government’s position on the Ustasha. The Jewish minority in Croatia has been boycotting official holocaust remembrance ceremonies, claiming that Croatian government downplays Ustasha crimes. In 2016, the culture minister in the former HDZ-Most government, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, was accused of being involved in the rehabilitation of the Ustasha regime.
Earlier this month, a nightclub in Zagreb was attacked with tear gas when it was hosting a gay party.
Recently, a group of Croatian filmmakers launched a campaign against what they say is an attempt to exert direct political control over film financing via the State Audit Office. Amnesty International’s February 2017 report on the state of human rights around the world also criticised the undermining of media freedom in Croatia and the “muzzling” of public broadcasters.
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