Croatian cock-a-doodle-doo coalition plans a cock-up in return of Jewish property

Cartoon of Ivo Josipovic by Senad

Well, well, well! It’s only been a few hours since I posted my last article on the return of the confiscated Jewish property and smelled a political rat – on the part of the former Communist/Antifascist camp (President Josipovic and the governing Kukuriku – cock-a-doodle-doo – coalition to which the foreign minister Vesna Pusic belongs).

Only ten minutes ago the Croatian news portal Index.hr has published a “newsflash” – a message from president Josipovic that:

the return of property needs to be towards all in principle, but that does not mean that the State can pay everything to everybody, and that the Constitution needs to be changed”.

Josipovic commented on the unofficial information that the governing coalition would like to change the Constitution in the way by which the State would be obligated to return the property only to Croatian citizens, but not to foreigners.

“I personally do not think that a change in the Constitution is a good idea, I think that it doesn’t fit into certain European trends and practice in many other countries”.

It seems that the cock-a-doodle-doo’s are planning on a fate worse than the one Jews seeking the return or compensation for their confiscated properties experience under the law passed in 1996 – under Franjo Tudjman’s leadership. At least under the latter foreigners had the door opened, but the cock-a-doodle-doo will cock this up, it seems, without blinking an eyelid.

One doesn’t expect better from the former Communist League of Yugoslavia.

Most Jews, descendants of those whose properties have been confiscated and who live abroad most likely do not have Croatian citizenship, and to obtain one for such purposes would present a yet another hurdle that may take many years to overcome under such a government whose members occupy the villas, the grand apartments, the lands…usurped by Communist nationalisation schemes.

It’s not clear yet whether Josipovic is coming out with these statements to soften the blow for the cock-a-doodle-doo coalition, or whether he is in fact struggling to shed his strong Communist ties. We’ll watch the space around this issue because it is an important issue in the reconciliation of historical wrongs. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. Michael Silovic says:

    Why does this not surprise me.Croatia needs to move very slowly with this issue. As I commented in earlier posts Israel will suck the life out of people she becomes friendly with in a matter of time.I oppose giving any land back to Israel period.If Israel demands any land that it supposedly own then it should be based on Israelis returning ill gotten land back to the Palestinians as well.One should not be allowed to claim land when they have stolen other lands that do not belong to them and do not want to return.It is the same concept.If the Croatian government does return land and does not support the same for the Palestinian people Croatia will be looked at as a puppet of Israel by the middle eastern countries of not having demanding the same issue for them as well. Here is an issue that Croatia can provide leadership on the world stage and demand the same of Israel.But again the picture here is larger then return of land.The right of return will be a part of the issue as well.Before this can even begin to happen the Croatian Government must examine all claims to be certain that none of the lands conflict with national security issues such as does the claimant aka as Jews claim to own property with exceeding amount of natural resources for which they may want to claim? what historical building or lands do they may want to claim and what further rights will they want to be granted on Croatian land if returned. Is there enough land in a particular area that Israel may want to claim as another independent state on Croatians soil?Do not underestimate this scenario either as it is only a matter of time before Israelis will want to leave Israel and re-establish another home land as the Palestinian population out grows the Jewish population in Israel.Have any of these lands become sacred to the Croatian peoples that may contain final resting places of Croats. Before any right of return this needs to be examined.With all the problems Croatia has in trying to establish itself as an independent country why is it that this issue with Israel taking front stage at this point. Something here is not right and we all need to watch this issue very carefully. I wish our president would explain why his interest in working with Israel as a top priority is in Croatia’s interest at this point in our history.

    • I do sincerely believe that it’s not an issue of Israel as a State demanding the return of property, it’s the issue of Israel, USA and other countries (where either the Jewish persons who survived the Holocaust or the descendants of those perished or fled the European countries where anti-Jewish politics threatened their lives now live) supporting the cause. It’s the issue of properties confiscated from private individuals and Jewish organisations (whose property was obtained by private means). Therefore, I believe, Croatia simply cannot allow itself to pass a law where it restitutes property or gives compensation only to Croatian citizens because there are many individuals (descendants) who live all over the world and have not had ties with Croatia for decades probably because of family history of WWII, and yet have some inheritance rights there. This goes for all ex-Communists countries of Europe not just Croatia.

  2. Michael Silovic says:

    I agree with you on that issue. However right of return is part of what Israel as a state demands of any government on which it’s peoples own an interest.It is part of Israels platform in which is has no right to interfere when they themselves have lands they do not own in Palestine.. These issues are only to be handled on a case by case basis by proof of ownership of individuals and then a determination should be made by the government as to its feasibility.Naturally this would be the same for Serbs and others who lost their land to war and be treated on equal footing.The issue of just returning land is a complicated matter and has serious national security aspect to it. Implementation of doing this needs to be examined very carefully as a whole.Let us not forget what the homeland war was about. As an example if the Serbs were allowed right of return to their home and lands that they populated more so then Croats ( such as Vukovar as an example ) then we have an issue again as to if it is actually part of Croatia or is it part of Serbia.In my opinion this is deeper then just returning land. One must be made to recognize Croatia as an independent and sovereign country and pledge alliance to Croatia in order to return as part of any transaction in returning of anything. I am not opposed to anyone claiming land they they rightfully own but at the same time we must put Croatia’s interest first and guarantee the sovereignty of our nation.I do not see where Croatia’s government at this time is in a position to do this with out carefully drafted language in our constitution. I do not want to see us rush into this as a country only to have another flair up in our country. You rightly said so earlier this also goes to right of citizenship in Croatia.You can not force citizenship on anyone that does not want to participate in it. Do we want a country that has a majority ownership that is not a citizen of that country in which we become the minority and our interests are not the same interests as those who own the land?

    • Agree, however the devil in the works is that Croatia (like other EU & world countries) allow property ownerships by foreigners. So internal laws or regulations need to be tight to protect Croatian sovereignty and adherence to its laws (rebel Serbs in Croatia have demonstrated they in 1990’s that they don’t give a hoot for Croatian laws even if they were citizens of Croatia). Aside, I strongly believe that any returning Serb to Croatia must have a condition that if they participated in the destruction of Croatian property then they must pay compensation to Croatians for that before they return or at the same time. Otherwise, Croatia could simply take what’s owed to her from those pre-Serb owned properties. Return of property is a complicated matter indeed but I believe that a way needs to be found to compensate the real victims.

  3. Michael Silovic says:

    Ina , I agree with you. As to the compensation I do not see any viable means to have individuals held accountable for restitution even if they participated in any type of destruction. If they are commanded by their country as a so called patriotic duty it mostly is dealt with on the governmental level.This is why our president stated that we could not afford to pay restitution to everyone and even more so why I do not believe now is the time for us as a country to be dealing with this issue.To be honest I do not believe that we have the capability to be able to do this with out serious consequences to our country until we get in a stronger position of recognition in the world. Why now and why the rush? It is obvious that any lands owned by Jews were not being claimed right after ww2 in any world court which makes me wonder why now? Even more so we do not probably have records dating ownership any longer so how do we know who actually owned what? I can not even locate my mothers school records in Zagreb so finding proof of ownership is going to be a difficult task I am sure.

    • Very difficult indeed, but I guess some do have records. And I guess some compromise or negotiations will need to be put in place. Return of Jewish property is not a new issue, there were cases of claims filed in late 1990’s, I know that for a fact and lots of stuff got derailed after Racan became premier etc then lost then God knows what. But, the other issue of compensation or building houses or Units to Serbs who participated in destruction etc etc I honestly believe that Croatian tax payers should not fork the whole bill of getting them resettled into new or restored abodes which they destroyed because they retaliated against Croatian independence.

  4. Michael Silovic says:

    Again I agree with you. As to compensation I do not believe anyone should be compensated from a monetary stance at all. The right of return of the land and buildings is something I can support as long is it is handed over in its current conditions and ownership returned as long as there are no national security or other national interests of the Croatian people. I am totally against anyone receiving financial restitution from Croatia other then Croats. This would not even be possible because Croatia would never be able to rebuild itself with additional financial burdens and if this does become the case that a monetary policy is enacted it should only be done as an agreement that does not provide for the right of return. Whether this is right or wrong could be debated but Croatians interest and people must come first and foremost at this early stage of our democracy.

    • Return of ownership should not involve any compensation. The problem that’s there is that under Communism, Yugoslavia, the properties were nationalised and the right of residence or lifelong + descendants probably was dished out to people, the best given to high personalities etc etc. That’s probably where they’re talking about compensation. Former Yugoslavia had the so-called government housing where most properties were owned by the government and people received tenancy for no or pittens for rental. During the past decade + there were privatisations, i.e. people could buy off the places they lived in or had tenancy for ludicrously cheap prices…so yes problems exist and are enormous but in no way should national interests of Croatia be placed at risk…

  5. Why is this an issue all of a sudden? I thought there was a law in place already under Tudjman, but the issue is bureaucracy and efficient handling of matters. This is such a complex issue and no country in the world is immune from it. America should compensate and give back land to native North American Indians – not ever going to happen. Serbs should give back and compensate all its victims – not going to happen. Injustice in B/H has been institutionalized with the creation of Dayton and the Serb state-let. Is there not a way to settle this once and for all?

    • Too right, it’s been going on for years and bureaucracy, red tape, complexities etc have all contributed to stalemate and the public wasn’t aware until recently when Josipovic and Pusic brought the issue to the forefront – vowing to sort things out under their leadership.

    • Michael Silovic says:

      Suman, it is an issue all of a sudden because Croatia opened a new dialog with Israel. Israel does not agree with the current terms and want more for their people to be included in the right of return. As Ina accurately stated in prior dialog it is never enough for Jews.This has always been a stance that Israel has taken.I do not want to sound anti Israeli but If I were in government position I would not return land to any Jew unless there is an international agreement that Israel do the same thing with regards to the Palestinian issue as they are also taking lands that do not belong to them with no right of return. This is actual fact that they are doing so which is in violation of the UN and Geneva convention and condemned by all. Again Croatia has a role to play on the international stage with regards to repatriation of land.

  6. Michael Silovic says:

    If a demand for monetary compensation is demanded then all former states should be responsible to pay it collectively not just Croatia.We need to identify who owns what and what records of proof exists of ownership. Once Identified there would have to be compensation to those who currently took ownership or relocation of current residence and where to house those currently inhabiting those in the building.While we can argue the point that some so called high personalities had gotten these properties for cheap prices does not exclude the fact they they were still purchased and paid for to the government with the possibility that some of these properties may have changed ownership several times.I would think that the best way to handle this issue for our government then would be to collect back taxes on the property being claimed by former owners and that money be used to compensate those who bought the property legitimately and unknowingly . This could be part of any exchange agreement.One would think that ideas along those lines would be fair to all parties involved. Very complicated matter that we should not rush into at this time as I personally believe that we need to focus on Croatians who still are suffering from our homeland war and help them more so to re establish themselves and provide adequate housing and aid. Croatians are a decent and understanding people and in due time will work out the problem in the future. I just do not want to see us hastily return anything and create more of a mess then what we have. I wonder if Jewish settlers on illegal Palestinian land would be so generous when they return their lands.

  7. Michael silovic says:

    so today I learned that not just anyone can get citizenship in Croatia even if you own property you can only get residency. In order to get citizenship you must prove Croat ethnicity. This is virtually impossible to do as I have spent thousands of dollars trying to find documents of my Croatian ethnicity to no prevail so I so not see how anyone can reclaim property and become citizen at the same time.It is very difficult process.

    • Oh my goodness, so sorry to hear that about your citizenship hardships, Michael. It should not be that hard for someone with Croatian heritage. I will spend more time investigating the issues and do a write up on it. Yes right about property ownership of individuals and foreigners (latter I think it’s time limited…)…messy

  8. Michael Silovic says:

    Thank you Ina, I understand why they are requesting proof of Croatian ethnicity. It is in the best interest for the country as a whole. I support this way of path for citizenship even though it is very difficult but as long as it put Croatia’s interest first this is all that matters to me.I will just continue to find more documents hopefully.The issue of others will be just as difficult because If I am having a hard time tracing documents I am sure those who claim ownership will also have difficulty and ownership does not automatically make anyone a Croat.When you have a new and young democracy things are always difficult but it is better then to have people who are not Croat’s enter the country and not care of it’s future.

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