While the Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic prepares for his “State of the Nation” report that is reportedly to be delivered on 24 September the words many are known to use these days to describe the state of Croatia today according to Vecernji list include: general depression, hopelessness, confusion, lacking in ideas.
One waits in anticipation to see as to whether Zoran Milanovic will in his first “State of the Nation” speech, as a statesman of dignity should, point to and confront the economic and social chaos that’s sweeping across Croatia, or will he use this opportunity to coiffe or cover up that chaos and indulge in political confrontation with the opposition.
Whatever he says, if he says anything at all given that his government has been known to play games and tricks with legislation in order to get its way, one would expect him to address the incomprehensible drama his government has created with its rushed legislation dubbed “Lex Perkjovic”, which prevents the extradition of one Josip Perkovic (I have written about this in recent posts) to Germany where he stands accused of being involved in the murder of a Croatian national and which case falls into the category of Communist crimes. Because of “Lex Perkovic” and Milanovic’s government’s forceful, deceitful moves Croatia stands at the cross-roads of either swiftly doing away with “Lex Perkovic” or face sanctions from the European Commission, which can include significant withdrawal of EU funds to Croatia for development.
While Milanovic and his finance minister Slavko Linic easily jump onto the blame-the-former-government wagon for Croatia’s economic woes one cannot circumvent the fact that most of the parameters by which the success of a state is measured are at a much worse condition now than ever before. This government has had almost two years to stop blaming the former governments and show leadership for improvement. Giving credit to Linic’s firm stance on implementing taxation and trade laws (which , by the way, have not made any significant inroads to real progress), the truth is that the standard of living has dropped by some 8% during the past two years in Croatia, exports have fallen drastically, trade competitiveness has fallen back to 2008/2009 levels, perception of and affirmative actions against corruption has barely shifted forward, unemployment remains in astronomic proportions compared to population of workers and job-able, there is a real danger that the state will not be able to meet pensioner payments by December this year, Fitch has just placed Croatia’s investment rating into the garbage or junk category – which means that many investment and pension funds may be barred from buying Croatia’s government bonds.
Fitch said Croatia’s government had only made “limited progress” on implementing a credible programme to improve the country’s finances over the medium-term.
A rigid labour market and weak business environment are undermining competitiveness and hampering medium term growth, it added.
Protests against bilingual signage on public buildings in Vukovar continue, moves to exclude Vukovar from erecting signs in Cyrillic and to declare Vukovar as a special place of piety persist. The government continues to reject engaging in a dialogue with the people regarding this matter even though this matter is clearly of grave importance to peace and to dignity of victims of Vukovar.
So, much is on the plate for Milanovic to consider in his “State of the Nation” speech, including an answer to request made in parliament two days ago for him and his government to resign.
While this utter chaos reverberates as if in a hot furnace there are lots of instances where the fighting spirit of Croatian people continues reaping rewards.
A Guinness Book of Records worthy 1 kilometre of cabbage leaves rolled around a filling of minced meat, known locally as Sarma, and weighing around 4 tonnes, was the highlight of the 16th Greens Festival which took place in Varazdin over the weekend.
The biggest Sarma ever to be made in the world was just one of the attractions during the traditional festival held in Vidovec, where visitors were treated to a variety of ‘greens’, folklore, old customs, and music and dance.
But this was not the only Guiness Book of Records attempt made regarding food in Croatia over the weekend. On Saturday in Biograd na Moru (part of Zadar county), a 1.2 kilometer, 1.5 tonne strudel, filled with a cherry compote, was successfully baked by locals. The previous longest strudel in the Guinness Book of Records was 720 metres, which the Croatians have comfortably beaten. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)