Former Croatian President Stjepan Mesić often parroted irritatingly simplistic and self-righteous analysis of the post Yugoslav world he inhabited and helped shape, of Bosnia and the Serb-Croat relations in particular. Early on in his career he uttered publicly a number of extremist statements of the kind that he later came to condemn. And stupidly he became friends—reportedly in his signature lighthearted way—with mobsters who, among other things, between 2001 and 2003 conducted a concerted campaign to demonize the then Serbian prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated in March 2003.
Yet, more than anyone else Mesic helped turn the self-obsessed and often hateful Croatia of the 1990s into a much sunnier place. Just as many feared that the bigotry and unkindness of the Franjo Tudjman era were to become permanent conditions, there Mesic was in February 2000, smiling as the freshly elected president whose victory, built on a public profile that was in many respects the exact opposite of Tudjman’s, surprised observers as well as Mesic’s close associates. Until his retirement last year, Mesic tirelessly re-humanized Croatia’s public life primarily through his friendly, often cheerful public manner. On the whole, his influence on the rest of the region was similarly positive, even if some of his ill-thought out pronouncements soured regional relations.
I am happy to report that Mesic is still a good-humored and civilizing force. According to a number of media reports in Croatia, he is soon to appear in a feature film, playing … well, a Croatian president.
“We thought about casting a handsome professional actor as president or an amateur who would play this role well. But given his status today, we decided to offer the role to … Mesic. He is exactly the link to connect documentary aspects and fiction, while his acceptance of the role puts new wind in our sails,” director Filip Sovagovic told Gloria, the region’s leading celebrity gossip magazine.
How fitting and reassuring that Mesic should accept this offer and not find it, as many in his position would, beneath him.