President Milanović’s Speech on the Occasion of Croatian Armed Forces Day and Croatian Army Day

28. May 2020.

The President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces Zoran Milanović delivered a speech at a formal reception held on 28th May 2020 in the Office of the President of the Republic on the occasion of Croatian Armed Forces Day and Croatian Army Day. In his speech he said the following:

“Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed commanders, officers, war commanders, envoys of the Prime Minister and of the Speaker of Parliament, dear friends,

First of all we have to remember all those who laid down their lives for our country. Without my saying so, that is the highest price that someone can pay, and we have to be forever grateful to those people. Eternal glory to them! This is not just a formality, this is not just paying lip service – this is reality.

I see some unfamiliar faces here, but many familiar ones as well that I have known for years, for decades when I was a young diplomat. I can say that without the Croatian diplomacy, as much as I am fond of it and how important it is to me, the Croatian State would exist, yet without the Croatian army, it would not. People were not killed in diplomacy or wounded in offices, but people were killed in the army. In the early nineties when Europe had entirely other expectations, and when nations that had lived for decades under the Soviet totalitarian heel had reason and the right to seek a better future, a better tomorrow, Croatia was not that fortunate. It was attacked, butchered, and thanks to the Croatian army and the special police, the armed forces of the modern, young Croatian State, finally – won.

Twenty-nine years in the life of a young nation with deep roots is already a bit of a tradition. The Croatian army is, not just an institution, but the way it is – and if you wish, the way it looks, how it is dressed and what weapons it carries – is already part of Croatian tradition. Tradition should not be invented, we have it. We have both an ancient tradition and this new tradition. We can be not only proud of it, since pride is a fickle feeling that easily turns into arrogance and excessive haughtiness, we can be content with what we have done, though never fully. The Croatian army is here first and foremost to defend Croatia, to defend the Croatian people and territory, to defend Croatian interests in the way set out by the democratic Croatian authorities, elected democratically – with the participation of all social stakeholders and factors, not just political parties, but at elections of political parties – and as the citizens of this country decide.

Democracy is a system, a way of holding power and of living that is very sophisticated, very demanding and very delicate. Democracies, genuine democracies, let no mistake be made, do not wage a war against each other. That did not happen. And Croatian democracy, modern Western society, is made up of values as well as tradition, and the army is one of these traditions, like family and faith for those who believe. Those are all things that each in their own way, in their own share, in their own force, are connected and make up one Croatian totality and Croatian specificity at the same time.

We often say that the Croatian army – when speaking of progress and the future, about equipment – shares the fate of other beneficiaries of the national budget. However, we as a nation are not a community of budget beneficiaries or a community of orderly taxpayers, but we are a nation, which is something deeper, broader and greater. The Croatian army, its people and modern equipment have to follow on what most of our people are going through, but this is also a priority issue. Some were, not so long ago, starving their people and their villages in order to feed their armies, to be ready for war or maintain power. This is out of the question today, but the difference between that and neglect is huge. We have to find our place. This has nothing to do with neglect, this was never the issue in the past and is not at present, we are working and equipping the army as much as possible. However, in order to be loyal to the assertion that we make so often whereby the greatest value of the Croatian army is its people, we have to make sure that the equipment is such that it will be better for the people, preserve their lives and their health. For, without this equipment there is nothing, and without funds there is no equipment, therefore dear friends, a vicious circle.

Thanks to all of you for coming, thanks for having celebrated this thirtieth anniversary together. These days Statehood Day will be celebrated, whatever day it is. These are all somehow the same days, the same period in which the Croatian State, this modern State was born. The Croatian army does not start from scratch, its tradition should not be sought in royal guards from 150 years ago that suppressed the Croatian identity, or in armies from World War I or even less from World War II since that divides the Croatian people and there will never be agreement on that issue. Our statehood, as far as the army is concerned, begins when you were founded. Dear friends, esteemed guests, once again, I wish you a happy Croatian Army Day and Croatian Armed Forces Day. Long live Croatia!”