Zoran Milanović

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Zoran Milanović
Z milanovic.jpg
10th[a] Prime Minister of Croatia
Assumed office
23 December 2011
President Ivo Josipović
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
Deputy Vesna Pusić
Milanka Opačić
Branko Grčić
Preceded by Jadranka Kosor
2nd President of the Social Democratic Party
Assumed office
2 June 2007
Deputy Zlatko Komadina
Milanka Opačić
Gordan Maras
Rajko Ostojić
Preceded by Željka Antunović (Acting)
4th Leader of the Opposition
In office
2 June 2007 – 23 December 2011
Prime Minister Ivo Sanader
Jadranka Kosor
Preceded by Željka Antunović (Acting)
Succeeded by Jadranka Kosor
Personal details
Born (1966-10-30) 30 October 1966 (age 49)
Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia)
Political party Social Democratic Party (1999–present)[1]
Other political
Croatia Is Growing
Spouse(s) Sanja Musić
Children Jakov
Alma mater University of Zagreb
^a Counting from the 1990 Croatian parliamentary election. 22nd Croatian prime minister overall.

Zoran Milanović (pronounced [zǒran milǎːnoʋit͡ɕ]; born 30 October 1966) is a Croatian politician and the Prime Minister of Croatia since 2011. He has been the leader and president of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), the largest centre-left political party in Croatia, since 2007.

After graduating from the Zagreb Law School, Milanović started working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served as counselor at the Croatian Mission to the European Union and NATO in Brussels from 1996 to 1999. That same year he joined the Social Democratic Party. In 1998 he earned his master's degree in European Union law at the Flemish University in Brussels and was assistant Foreign Minister of the Republic of Croatia for political multilateral affairs in 2003.

He was the coordinator of the Social Democrats in the 4th constituency in 2006 and was elected party leader in June 2007, following the death of longtime leader and former Prime Minister Ivica Račan, running on a reformist platform. After endorsing Ljubo Jurčić as the party's official candidate for Prime Minister, Milanović set out his goal of making SDP the largest political party in Parliament. In the 2007 general election the Social Democrats came in second and were unable to form a governing majority. Despite losing the election, he was reelected party leader in 2008 and served as Leader of the Opposition until the next election cycle. In 2011, Milanović initiated the formation of the Kukuriku coalition, uniting four major centre-left political parties in the country. The coalition won the 2011 parliamentary election in a landslide, with SDP becoming the strongest party in Parliament. Milanović became Prime Minister in December 2011, after Parliament approved his cabinet by a large majority.

The main agenda of his Premiership has been revitalizing the economy, with the most focus being on reforming government administration and bureaucracy, lowering the public debt and reforming the tax code. Other major initiatives include finishing the ratification process and overseeing Croatia's entry to the EU and liberalizing the country's artificial insemination law. A self-described social liberal, Milanović is a strong supporter of gender equality and LGBT equal rights.[2]

Early life[edit]

His father Stipe Milanović, an economist, and his mother, Gina (née Đurđica) Milanović, a teacher of English and German. Zoran has a brother, Krešimir. Stipe Milanović has roots in Sinj. He was baptised in secret by his maternal grandmother Marija Matasić at the Church of SS Peter and Paul, and given the baptismal name "Marijan".[3]

He attended the Center for Management and Judiciary (an elite high-school). By his own admission, he was very lively and prone to fighting.[4] In 1986 he entered the University of Zagreb to study law. Apart from Croatian, he speaks English, French and Russian.

After college, he became an intern at the Zagreb Commercial Court, and in 1993 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ironically being employed by future political rival Ivo Sanader. A year later, he joined an OSCE peacekeeping mission in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan.[5]

In 1994, he married Sanja Musić, with whom he has two sons.[6][7] In 1996, aged 29, he became an advisor at Croatian mission to the European Union and NATO at Brussels, and two years later he got his master's degree in EU law from a Brussels university. He returned to the Foreign Ministry in 1999, at the end of his mandate.[citation needed]

Party president[edit]

In 1999, he joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as he had not yet been an official member. Following SDP's win in the 2000 elections, he was given responsibility for liaison with NATO, three years later he became assistant to Foreign Minister Tonino Picula. He left his post after the 2003 elections when the conservative Croatian Democratic Union came to power.

As an SDP member, in 2004 he renounced his position as an assistant minister of foreign affairs and became a member of the newly founded SDP’s Executive Committee as well as the International Secretary in charge of contacts with other political parties. Two years later, he briefly became party spokesman, standing in for absent Gordana Grbić. In early September 2006 he became SDP’s coordinator for the 4th constituency in the 2007 elections.

An extraordinary Party convention was held in Zagreb on 2 June 2007, due to the 11 April resignation of the first Party President and Croatia's former Prime Minister Ivica Račan. Milanović entered the contest, despite being considered an "outsider", because of his shorter term in the party, running against Željka Antunović (acting Party President since Račan's resignation), Milan Bandić and Tonino Picula. On 29 September 2007, during the campaign for party president, he publicly promised to resign and never to seek presidency of the party again, if party didn't win more seats that HDZ in next elections.[8] In the first round he led with 592, well ahead of his nearest rival Željka Antunović.[9] In the second round, he faced Antunović and again won by a large margin, thereby becoming president of the party.

2007 Parliament election[edit]

The 2007 parliamentary election turned out to be the closest election since independence with SDP winning 56 seats, only 10 mandates short of HDZ's 66. 5 seats that HDZ had won were from the eleventh district reserved for citizens living abroad, which was one of the main campaign issues of SDP which sought to decrease electoral significance of the so-called diaspora voters. The resulting close race left both sides in a position to form a government, provided they gather 77 of the 153 representatives. After the election, Sanader seemed to be in a better position to form a cabinet which caused Milanović to make himself the candidate for Prime Minister over the less popular Ljubo Jurčić, without first consulting the party's Main Committee.[10] However, the Social Democrats remained in the Opposition, since Ivo Sanader managed to form a majority coalition.[citation needed]

After losing the hotly contested general elections, Milanović did not resign as party president, despite promising before the election that he would, should the party lose.[8] In the 2007 election, despite the loss, SDP emerged with the largest parliamentary caucus in their history and achieved their best result yet. Milanović seemed to be in a good position to remain party president and announced he would run for a first full term as party president. In the 2008 leadership election he faced Davorko Vidović and Dragan Kovačević, but emerged as the winner with almost 80 percent of the delegate vote.[citation needed]

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

Logo of the manifesto of the Kukuriku coalition for the 2011 elections

With 56 seats won SDP emerged from the 2007 election as the second largest party in Parliament and the largest party that is not a part of the governing majority. This made Milanović the unofficial Leader of the Opposition. Milanović was very critical of the Sanader administration, especially concerning their handling of the economy and the fight against corruption.

In September 2008, Milanović made a highly publicized visit to Bleiburg to commemorate the repatriations.[11] This made him the second leader of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia to visit the site, the first being Ivica Račan.

The 2009 local elections were held on 17 and 31 May and resulted with the Social Democrats making considerable gains in certain traditionally HDZ-leaning cities and constituencies, such as Dubrovnik, Šibenik, Trogir and Vukovar, as well as retaining such major traditionally SDP-leaning cities as Zagreb and Rijeka.[12]

Milanović with Ivan Jakovčić, Radimir Čačić and Silvano Hrelja announcing the formation of the Kukuriku coalition on 15 July 2011.

On 1 July 2009, Ivo Sanader announced he was resigning the Premiership and leaving his deputy Jadranka Kosor as Prime Minister. Parliament approved her and the new Cabinet which made Kosor the first woman ever to be appointed Prime Minister.[13] Since late 2008, the SDP had been leading the polls, however by a narrow margin. After the sudden resignation of Sanader HDZ plummeted in the polls to their lowest level since 1999 when corruption scandals were rocking the party establishment.[14] Milanović insisted the resignation of the Prime Minister means that an early general election was necessary. The governing majority refused to dissolve Parliament and insisted that the Kosor cabinet would finish the remainder of its term.

In 2008 the country's accession to the European Union was deadlocked with the Slovenian blockade over a border dispute. Sanader and his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor were unable to settle their differences in the following months which meant Croatian's accession to the European Union was in a standstill. There was much speculation, since Sanader hadn't given a reason for his departure, whether the Slovenian blockade was the cause for his resignation. In the following months Kosor and Pahor met several times, trying to resolve the border dispute. The negotiations resulted in an agreement which led to the continuation of negotiations for the Croatian accession to the European Union. The solution was an Arbitration Agreement[15] which was signed in Stockholm on 4 November 2009, by both countries' Prime Ministers and the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.[16] The agreement required a two-thirds majority in Parliament for it to be approved. Milanović and most SDP MPs voted in favor of the agreement, however he criticized the Government and especially its former and present leaders, Sanader and Kosor, for wasting precious time since the arrangement with Slovenia could have been made a year earlier and Croatia wouldn't have waited so long to continue with the accession process.[17]

The 2008 economic meltdown hit most European countries hard, as well as Croatia. The crisis continued throughout the following years. Industry shed tens of thousands of jobs, and unemployment soared. Consumer spending reduced drastically compared to record 2007 levels, causing widespread problems in the trade as well as transport industries. The continuing declining standard resulted in a quick fall in both the Prime Minister's as well as government's support. Milanović was very critical of the Government's supposed slow response and inadequate measures that did little to revive the economy. The recession and high unemployment continued throughout 2011 resulting in many anti-government protests around the country.[18]

2011 Parliament election[edit]

On 28 October MPs voted to dissolve Parliament.[19] President of the Republic Ivo Josipović agreed to a dissolution of Sabor on Monday, 31 October and scheduled the election, as previously suspected, for Sunday, 4 December 2011.[20] The 2011 parliamentary election saw SDP joining three other left-wing parties to create the media-dubbed Kukuriku coalition with Milanović at the helm. Kukuriku won the election with an absolute majority of 81 seats. The election was the first in which rival HDZ was not the leading individual party in Parliament.[21]

Prime Minister[edit]

Zoran Milanović in the Croatian Parliament on 23 December 2011
Milanović's approval rating since becoming Prime Minister, conducted by Ipsos Puls

Milanović presented his cabinet to the Parliament on 23 December, 19 days after the election. The discussion resulted with 89 members, 81 Kukuriku and 8 national minority MPs, voting in favour of the Milanović cabinet.[22] The transition to power occurred the following evening when Jadranka Kosor welcomed Milanović to the government's official meeting place, Banski dvori, opposite the Sabor building on St. Mark's Square and handed him the necessary papers and documents.[23]

Taking office at the age 45, Milanović became one of the youngest prime ministers since Croatia's independence.[24] In addition, his cabinet also became the youngest, with an average minister's age of 48.[25] Cabinet members came from three out of four parties of the winning coalition, leaving only the single-issue Croatian Party of Pensioners (HSU) without representation.[26]

Domestic policy[edit]

The Milanović administration started its mandate by introducing several liberal reforms. During 2012 a Law on medically assisted fertilization was enacted, Health education was introduced in all elementary and high schools, and Milanović announced further expansion of rights for same-sex couples.[27][28] During the 2011 elections the Kukuriku coalition promised to publish the registry of veterans of the Croatian War of Independence, which was done in December 2012.[29]

In the Trial of Gotovina et al, following an initial guilty verdict in April 2011, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač were ultimately acquitted in November 2012. Milanović called the ruling "an important moment for Croatia", adding that "A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I say thank you to them for surviving so long for the sake of Croatia."[30]

In September 2013 anti-Cyrillic protests started against the introduction of bilingual signs with Serbian Cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar. Milanović condemned them as "chauvinist violence", saying he will not take down signs in Cyrillic in Vukovar as the "rule of law must prevail".[31]

On 1 December 2013, a constitutional referendum was held in Croatia, its third referendum since becoming independent. The referendum, organized by the citizen initiative For the family, proposed an amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus creating a constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriage. Milanović opposed the proposal and told HRT that he would vote against it.[32] The government advised citizens to vote against it, but the referendum passed with 65% votes in favour. Milanović was unhappy that the referendum had taken place at all, saying, "I think it did not make us any better, smarter or prettier."[33] He also said that the referendum does not change the existing definition of marriage according to Croatian laws. He further announced the upcoming enactment of the Law on Partnership, which will enable same-sex persons to form a lifetime partnership union, which would share the same rights as that of marriage proper, apart from the right of adoption.[34] On 12 December 2013 the Government passed the proposed Bill,[35] and the Parliament passed the Life Partnership Act in July 2014.[36]

Croatian war veterans started a protest in Zagreb in October 2014, calling for the resignation of Predrag Matić, war veterans minister, and a new constitutional law guaranteeing their rights. Milanović rejected their demands, saying that there is no reason to sack the minister and that he would not submit to ultimatums:[37]

My government has not, even by thought, act or omission, brought the human dignity of the Croatian defenders and the eternal significance of the Homeland War into question.[37]

The protest continued throughout 2015. In May 2015 it escalated when hundreds of veterans scuffled with the police in front of the government building. Milanović said that his government has not curbed their rights and that he is ready for talks, but will not be blackmailed. He accused the opposition party HDZ for manipulating with the veterans. Tomislav Karamarko, the president of HDZ, rejected the accusation.[38] Milanović met with the representatives of the protesting veterans in June, but the protest continued.[39]

On 4 August 2015, on the insistence of Milanović and the Defence Minister Ante Kotromanović, a military parade of the Croatian Armed Forces was held in Zagreb in honour of the Victory Day, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Operation Storm. Milanović thanked everyone who sacrificed their lives for Croatia's freedom. He also expressed his gratitude to Franjo Tuđman, first Croatian president, who led Croatia during the war.[40]

Croatia had every right to do everything that it could to stay alive and integral, it had the right not to get expelled from its home, it had the right not to serve as human shield to those who destroyed cities and burned down villages. Croatia today is not celebrating the war, it is not celebrating anyone's suffering or persecution, let this be clear to everyone who still don't understand. Croatia had done everything it could to avoid the war, it had offered peaceful solutions. And it was rejected. Croatia today celebrates freedom and peace and with a pure heart it celebrates victory, a turning point which put an end to an ugly, imposed and particularly caddish war


Milanović government approval ratings, conducted by Ipsos Puls

The Milanović administration adopted a number of reforms in taxation in order to cope with the difficult economic situation. It raised the standard Value-added tax from 23% to 25% and introduced new VAT rates for goods and services that were not previously taxed. It also cut social insurance contributions and public-sector wages.[26][41] In October the Financial Operations and Pre-Bankruptcy Settlements Act was passed, which allowed firms that were unable to pay their bills to stay open during the bankruptcy proceedings and restructure their debts.[42] Because of opposition by its coalition partner, HNS, property tax has not been expanded.[43]

The government succeeded in reducing the budget deficit to 5,3% in 2012,[44] but GDP contracted by 2,2% and public debt reached 69.2%.[45][46] Milanović's time in office has been marked by several cuts to Croatia's credit rating. On 14 December 2012 S&P cut the country's long term rating to BB+ and the short term rating to B.[47] On 1 February 2013, Moody's cut Croatia's credit rating from Baa3 to Ba1.[47]

Several major construction projects started in 2012, including a new passenger terminal on the Zagreb International Airport and a third block of the coal-fired Plomin Power Station. However, some projects have been suspended, including the Ombla hydroelectric power plant.[48] The government said that construction of the Pelješac Bridge was to start in spring 2016.[49] Milanović expressed his support for further oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the Adriatic Sea,[50] which is opposed by the opposition parties and environmental organizations.[51]

In November 2012 Minister of Economy and Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Čačić resigned and was replaced by Ivan Vrdoljak. In 2013 a new fiscalization law was introduced to control gray economy and minimize tax avoidance.[52] The government put focus on the shipbuilding industry and privatized state-owned shipyards by May 2013.[53] In order to service public debt, the government presented a project of monetization of Croatian highways in 2013 which would bring around 2,5 billion euros. Trade unions and civic associations rejected the proposal and called for a retraction of the decision.[54] A civic initiative called "We Are Not Giving Our Highways" gathered signatures for a highway referendum. Although the constitutional court ruled that a referendum on the subject was unconstitutional, the government announced that it was withdrawing the decision. Instead of the initial plan to lease the country's highways to foreign investors, the government will instead offer shares in them to Croatian citizens and pension funds.[55]

The Pension Insurance Act of January 2014 raised the statutory retirement age from 65 to 67 and early retirement age from 60 to 62.[56] The unemployment rate peaked in February 2014 at 22,6%, but has since been steadily declining.[57] In May 2014 Milanović sacked the finance minister, Slavko Linić, over a property deal that he said had hurt the state budget and appointed Boris Lalovac on his place.[58] Changes in Personal Income Tax were introduced in 2015, the non-taxable part of income was raised, which resulted in a net salary increase for around one million people.[59]

In January 2015 the government decided to freeze exchange rates for Swiss francs for a year, after a rise in the franc that caused increasingly expensive loans for borrowers in that currency.[60] In August 2015 Milanović announced that Swiss franc loans will be converted into euro-denominated ones.[61]

GDP decreased in 2013 (-0.9%) and 2014 (-0,4%), but in the 4th quarter of 2014 real GDP growth reached 0,3% for the first time since 2011.[45] It was announced on 28 August 2015 that the economy had grown by 1,2% for a third consecutive quarter which marked Croatia's exit from a six-year economic recession.[62] On 23 September it was announced that Croatia's public debt amounted to nearly 290 billion Croatian kuna (42.7 billion USD) and was approaching 90% of the national GDP.[63]

Foreign policy[edit]

Milanović and U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey meet in Zagreb, 2014
Milanović at the European Summit in Buchurest in 2013

Milanović's foreign policy was initially concentrated on the accession of Croatia to the European Union. On 22 January 2012, an EU accession referendum was held, with 66.25% voting in favour and 33.13% against. About 47% of eligible voters took part in the referendum.[26] On 7 March 2013, Milanović signed the Memorandum of Agreement with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, that consists of an agreement to put the issue of Ljubljanska Banka; after the treaty was signed, Slovenia ratified the Croatian accession treaty. After all 27 member states signed the EU accession treaty, on 1 July 2013, Croatia joined the European Union, becoming the 28th member state.

Due to the ongoing civil war in Syria, in February 2012 Milanović called on Croatian companies working in Syria to withdraw from the country.[64] On 18 January 2013 Croatian Foreign Ministry declared that Croatia, as well as the entire European Union, recognizes the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the only "legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people".[65][66] In February 2013 Milanović announced that Croatia is withdrawing its troops from the Golan Heights that are participating in the UN's peacekeeping mission after it was reported that Croatia sold their old weapons to the Syrian opposition.[67]

When demonstrations and riots started in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014, Milanović visited Mostar, a city with a Croat majority, where the seat of HDZ BiH was damaged in the riots. Sarajevo criticized his move, saying he should have visited the capital first. Milanović later called the protest quasi-civic on ethnic and religious vertical.[68]

On 22 July 2015 a major scandal occurred during the arbitration procedure of the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute, when it was discovered that the Slovenian representative has been lobbying other judges to rule in Slovenia's favor. Three days later Milanović announced the withdrawal of Croatia from arbitration after a meeting with the leaders of parliamentary groups.[69]

2015 refugee crisis[edit]

Beginning on 16 September 2015, migrants and refugees from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa began entering Croatia from Serbia in large numbers[70] after the construction of the Hungary-Serbia barrier. On 17 September Croatia closed its border with Serbia.[71] After initial efforts to register all migrant entrances into Croatia, registration ceased on 18 September and migrants began to be transported toward Slovenia and Hungary. By 23 September 2015 over 40.000 had entered Croatia from Serbia, with main acceptance centers set up in Opatovac and Zagreb,[72] while migrants were also held in Beli Manastir, Ilača, Tovarnik, Ježevo and Sisak.[73] Milanović criticized Serbia for sending migrants only towards the Croatian border, while sparing Hungary and Romania[74] and stated that "his country will not become a migrant hotspot".[75] Tensions escalated between Serbia and Croatia, on 24 September Serbia banned imports from Croatia and Croatia responded by banning all Serbian-registered vehicles from entering the country.[76] On 25 September Croatia lifted the blockade on its border and Serbia lifted its ban on imports from Croatia, but Milanović said that he is ready to block the border again if necessary.[77]


Milanović with other members of the Croatia is Growing coalition on 8 September 2015

Milanović was reelected as president of SDP in the 2012 leadership election as the only candidate.[78] Bad economic situation weakened the originally strong public support for the Milanović government, which was demonstrated in the 2013 local elections.[79] In the first European Parliament elections in Croatia in 2013 SDP won 32% of the votes and 5 MEPs, on less than HDZ, the largest opposition party. The following year SDP won 29.9% in the 2014 European Parliament elections and 4 MEPs.[80] Milanović and his party gave support to Ivo Josipović in the presidential elections, which were won by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović from HDZ. Josipović later formed his own party, Forward Croatia-Progressive Alliance, instead of returning to SDP.[81]

For the 2015 parliamentary election the Kukuriku Coalition changed its name to Croatia is Growing. It consists of three out of four original members: Social Democratic Party, Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats, Croatian Party of Pensioners, as well as three new ones: Croatian Labourists – Labour Party, Authentic Croatian Peasant Party and Zagorje Party. Istrian Democratic Assembly left the coalition. The campaign of the Coalition, led by Milanović, is based on rhetoric against austerity measures and emphasizing government's policies during its mandate.[82]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.vecernji.hr/biografije/zoran-milanovic-90
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  7. ^ Premijerova supruga samozatajna je liječnica i majka
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  10. ^ Decision Was Supposed To Be Made By Main Committee
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  26. ^ a b c Liz David-Barrett: Croatia in 2012
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External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Željka Antunović
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
Political offices
Preceded by
Željka Antunović
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Jadranka Kosor
Preceded by
Jadranka Kosor
Prime Minister of Croatia