Croa­tia elects first fe­male pres­i­dent

Lesotho Times - - International -

ZA­GREB — Croa­tia’s first fe­male pres­i­dent Kolinda Grabar-ki­tarovic pledged to help kick­start the coun­try’s ail­ing econ­omy as she was sworn into of­fice on Sun­day.

The 46-year-old con­ser­va­tive for­mer for­eign min­is­ter and NATO of­fi­cial nar­rowly de­feated her left-wing pre­de­ces­sor Ivo Josipovic in an elec­tion run-off in Jan­uary.

“I will be a top eco­nomic diplo­mat of our coun­try,” she said in her in­au­gu­ral speech, vow­ing to do her ut­most “to make Croa­tia a wealthy na­tion”.

“Al­most two years of (EU) membership, I would like us all to even­tu­ally start to live the life of a Euro­pean Union mem­ber,” Grabar-ki­tarovic said at the open-air cer­e­mony in the old quar­ter of Za­greb.

Hopes that EU membership would boost the econ­omy of the small Adri­atic na­tion of 4.2 mil­lion have faded.

The Croa­t­ian econ­omy, hit by a six-year re­ces­sion, re­mains among the weak­est in the 28-na­tion bloc. Un­em­ploy­ment is al­most 20 per­cent and the gov­ern­ment fore­casts a mea­gre 0.5 per­cent growth this year.

Sun­day’s cer­e­mony was at­tended by hun­dreds of Croa­t­ians and top lo­cal of­fi­cials as well as pres­i­dents of sev­eral re­gional na­tions and, no­tably, Ser­bian Prime Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vu­cic.

His pres­ence hinted at an eas­ing of ten­sions be­tween the for­mer foes. Re­la­tions be­tween Bel­grade and Za­greb have grad­u­ally im­proved since Croa­tia’s 1990s in­de­pen­dence war, dur­ing which it fought against Bel­grade-backed rebel Serbs.

“We talked about all our is­sues... we will re­solve them,” Vu­cic told re­porters af­ter meet­ing the new pres­i­dent.

In her in­au­gu­ral speech, Grabar-ki­tarovic, a lead­ing mem­ber of the main op­po­si­tion HDZ party un­til be­com­ing pres­i­dent, called for na­tional unity to over­come the eco­nomic cri­sis. — AFP

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