Croatia elects first female president
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