President Milanović’s Speech on the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis

18. March 2020.

The President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović addressed the nation and called on everyone to comply with the decisions and recommendations from the Civil Protection Directorate.

“Dear citizens,

Today I have signed a decision amending the Civil Protection Act, which grants greater powers to the Civil Protection Directorate. I expect all of us to seriously comply with the instructions and decisions issued by the Directorate, because in the present crisis the State can and is doing certain things for us, is working a lot and, in my opinion, is doing a good job.

However, each and everyone’s personal responsibility to comply with the rules that we have been talking about for days, will make a difference between success and failure, between the long or short duration of this crisis. It is a good thing that we have approached it relatively seriously from the start and not at one moment did we knuckle under to negative feelings, much less panic, a word I would rather not use at all.

Two months after this whole unfortunate story began, this epidemic followed by pandemic began, we know certain things better, I think we can say it with certainty and it is good for me to repeat this as President of the Republic because I feel this to be my duty and my obligation towards the citizens. This is an illness, which affects and has fatal consequences for our elderly and those who have a serious illness. Our task now that we are fully aware, is to do everything, actively and passively, to act and avoid frivolous acts, to protect our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers. They are people who raised us and took care of us our whole lives, this is our human obligation.

Croatia is doing everything other democratic, Western countries are doing. We are a democracy, and in democracy decisions that are slightly rigorous are not made easily, especially when you are facing a crisis that has some new elements, and this crisis is new. We know that this illness is aggressive, and I repeat, we must first and foremost protect the elderly. This will be accomplished by complying with all the measures our public services and institutions are telling us and advising us to do, all those who are working hard, healthcare workers, nurses, doctors. And above all we have to use common sense, we have to act out of a feeling of human obligation and upbringing, our relationship with other people.

We are not at war, because in a war people fight against each other. However, we are facing a challenge, we are in a crisis that will pass – I dare say – in a few months or so. However, its impact – particularly economic and social consequences – will remain. The question is when we will be able to fully open our borders and function the way we have virtually until yesterday. Some things unfortunately change and I am confident that like any crisis, this one too will end with a certain amount of damage done, but it will also teach us lessons that will help us when a new crisis strikes us.

My constitutional powers do not allow me to deal with issues for which I have no direct authority and for which I do not bear direct responsibility, but my human and political duty obliges me to say and confirm what is done well, and what still has to be done. Economic damages will certainly be considerable, and we just have to realize this. What the Government is doing at the present time are temporary measures which I support. Their budgetary and monetary effects will be clearer to us from day to day, from week to week, and these measures will certainly be changed.

I am encouraged by the fact that Croatia is doing more or less everything that our European Union neighbours are doing, some of which are among the richest and best organized countries in the world, with the best structured public healthcare systems, yet things that we can call mistakes happen even there. This is a chance for us to show that we are mature people and responsible individuals and thank once again all those who are taking care of us, in the first place healthcare workers because they are the ones who can get infected during the crisis and are not easily replaced.

I have seen and heard stories that insufficient testing is being carried out in Croatia. For now, this system is showing solid results in Croatia. I feel that we have to continue with it because in the current situation it is a political decision in the end. The medical profession is important, it has given a lot of good advice, but decisions of this type are finally made by politicians, members of Parliament who have been elected by Croatian citizens to represent them.

Dear fellow citizens, I would like to end by saying – heads up, but since our heads are already up, and we are responsible and optimistic, I will conclude by saying – thank you!”