Croatia: Transition from Communism Must Accommodate Prosecution of Communist Crimes

“If some groups of victims are considered less worthy, it means that the racist ideology still lives on,” said Rosetta Katz, a Holocaust survivor in Parliament of Germany on Friday 27 January 2023, International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, which marked the first time, after many years of lobbying, German parliament has focused in annual Holocaust memorial commemorations on people persecuted and killed for their LGBTQ or gender identity by the National Socialism regime.

It’s a pity that such great words are not understood or accepted to apply globally to victims of communism as well.  In view of the terrifying list of crimes committed in the name of promoting geopolitical supremacy by all warring sides during World War II and after it, every condemnation of crimes committed in the name of the theory of class struggle and the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat seems justified. It would appear to be equally justified to put the perpetrators of communist crimes on trial before the international community, as it was the case with the terrible crimes of National Socialism, i.e., Holocaust.

But once one says that and means it, respecting all victims of crimes, the wretched and derogatory label of Historical Revisionism is slapped onto one to intimidate and bully those engaging in research efforts to bring out the facts of history and equal respect all victims of all totalitarian regimes. One class of victims, hence, in the eyes of the world, becomes worthier than the other. For lasting peace and prosperity in the world the crimes in the name of communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal. Legal provisions should be introduced that would enable courts of law to judge and sentence perpetrators of Communist crimes and to compensate victims of Communism. But victims of communism largely remain anonymous, faceless, without personal photographs, just piles of skulls and rotting bones in pits, mass graves or piled up into walls of remembrance.

History is undeniably part of an individual and collective awareness and creates identity. It serves to affirm one’s own norms and values, to legitimise rule and claims to leadership, and to develop perspectives for the future. But when that history such as Croatia’s World War II one has been written and kept on life support by the communists with evident help of political aims among the Allies who won the War and when that history has been proven over and over again that it contains significant fabrications in order to justify the communist Yugoslavia enormous crimes against its political opponents then it is our obligation to pursue research and revision of that unjust written history.

“Croatia has to face the culture of remembering that is different from what we would like. We are Europeans now. We have integrated firmly into Europe, which is wonderful news, but mentally we have not entered it. You with the Ustashiade simply cannot go further than Brezice (a small town in Slovenia near the Croatian border). That doesn’t work in Europe. Liberal Europe does not accept Croatia like this,” concluded historian and former communist Yugoslavia fan Ivo Goldstein concluded in his address for the Croatian media the day leading up to the Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day 2023.

Evidently, whether of Jewish heritage, like Goldstein, or not, former communists and those who follow in their mental footsteps today in Croatia fail miserably to acknowledge and accept with open arms the liberal Europe they boast of belonging to. It’s a double standard nobody should tolerate. The Liberal Europe Goldstein refers to had ever since 2009 condemned by parliamentary declaration both the Communist and the Fascist regimes (to which the WWII Ustashe regime is arguably erroneously allocated) because of the totalitarian cloth they wrapped themselves in. For comparison’s sake the communist Yugoslavia murdered or exterminated many more innocent people than what the Ustashe regime did. But, it seems, to people like Goldstein, the term Holocaust holds much more weight for human condemnation and repugnance than what communist crimes do. This is, of course, a catastrophe for humanity as it classifies victims not by their suffering but by their ethnicity, religion, or political leanings. And so, in the case of WWII and post-WWII Croatia, victims of communist purges and exterminations appear insignificant to people like Goldstein, but victims of the Holocaust are significant.

The crux of the matter is that the Ustashe regime fought for independence of Croatia from any Yugoslav conglomerate and the communists fought for a third Yugoslavia (the first two being kingdoms of Yugoslavia ruled by the Serbian oppressive and dictatorial Monarchy). And Yugoslav communists or their indoctrinated descendants evidently loathe the fact that Croats fought for self-determination and independence during WWII. Hence, a clear reason why they keep spinning the lie that they freed or liberated Croatia in 1945! Liberated from whom? Its own people who wanted independence and fought for that in the most difficult of circumstances in the history of the 20th century? In fact, they forced the Croatian people who wanted independence back to a Yugoslavia that took revenge against the Croatian patriots and murdered so many that Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito has been placed on the list of “Top” 15 mass murderers of political opponents of the 20th Century.

Furthermore, it is evident that the more the facts of WWII Croatian history are uncovered and the more these facts show that the history of WWII Croatia written by the communists of Yugoslavia and their allies (including in relation to the numbers of Jews and others perished under the blanket of the Holocaust) who won the War was alarmingly falsified and fabricated, obviously for political dominance reasons and for social engineering communist Yugoslavia practiced, the more we experience people like Goldstein regurgitating the worn-out and intentionally intimidating term of the so-called historical revisionism. Historical revisionism should have positive connotations because it seeks to either prove as correct the historical records published so far or to disprove them as blatant politically motivated lies. Perhaps Goldstein and those like him in these matters harbour a sense of dread and fear that “their” history books will end up in trash bins or in bon fires across the world!?

There must be a politically “strong” reason why Ivo Goldstein, when he was the Ambassador of Croatia to France 2012-2017, kept a portrait of former communist Yugoslavia President Josip Broz Tito on his Embassy office walls.

Did this practice mean that Goldstein did not and does not accept the independence of Croatia from communist Yugoslavia for which terrible price in Croatian blood was paid amidst Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression in early 1990’s? While there were complaints to the Croatian government about this photo of Tito on Croatia’s Embassy walls from Croats living in France the best the communist bent government of Croatia could reply was that there was no law in Croatia forbidding the hanging of pictures on the wall! The eradication of succinct lines of communist mindset and practice in official Croatia has a long way to go yet.

The opening of State Archives after Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia in 1991 is indeed bearing fruits that have the potential of exonerating to a great extent the WWII Independent State of Croatia of many crimes and victim numbers that have been peddled to the world against it for over seventy years!  The more the credible research into facts and archival documents of WWII Croatia reveals a completely different truth, the actual truth, to the one peddled for decades, Goldstein and those like him seem to waffle on increasingly about anti-Semitism in Croatia, as well as accusations of relativising Ustasha crimes through historical revisionism, i.e., through archival research! These kinds of public outbursts are akin to attempts to intimidate and suppress the factual truth from coming out.

Leading contemporary historians and researches into WWII Croatia, including factual victim numbers and rescue of the Jews, have been several and it is worthwhile mentioning some in this article whose work has attracted much public interest even if the Croatian government  remains largely and unfairly uninterested in such facts of history that have been denied for decades : Esther Gitman, Roman Leljak, Blanka Matkovic, Stipo Pilic, and Igor Vukic,  

“Ustasheism and historical revisionism have been coming at us from all sides for the past eight years,” Goldstein said in his public statement last week, failing miserably to reveal the indisputable outcomes of historical research that has been conducted in the past decade that more and more place his historical writings under severely unsafe historical records which cannot be trusted by those pursuing justice for all victims of state war and post-war crimes. It would appear apparent that he has personal interests in speaking against research or revision of written history and Ustashe regime of WWII Croatia. He has announced a new book he is writing on Historical Revisionism, and one must wonder how much of historical and general tripe, concoctions of biased personal views and biased content that book will have? If one is to judge from his past pro-communist agenda authoring works then Croatians, in readiness, need to keep their fingers pressed against the toilet flush button.  No historian on Croatia, on the need to revise historical records through factual research, who fails to condemn the communist regime after 94% of voters condemned it in 1991 Croatian referendum, who fails the victims of communist crimes while tagging the victims of Ustashe crimes with precious worth, is worth the embrace by the public as a truth-bearer or authority on history. Such a book Goldstein is announcing seems nothing more to me, and I believe to multitudes, than an opportunistic gimmick to “earn a buck” and a promotion as worthwhile and “to them glorious” the murderous communist regime of Yugoslavia, which European Union has included in its condemnations many years ago as criminal.

The constant distortion of history by keeping the fabricated historical facts alive, by devaluing historical research through labelling it as historical revisionism with relativisation does nothing for the fact that the radical left (especially communists and former communists still holding a candle for communism) just like the radical right also must come to terms with its own history in Croatia and elsewhere. Without such confrontation no lasting peace or absolute respect of human rights can be achieved.

What to remember and how to remember is, in Croatia as in many countries, a very topical and urgent question that keeps both historians and politicians occupied. It does not only concern schoolbooks and history teaching, but also the use of public space to represent history whether in the form of monuments, museums, mainstream media or otherwise. Often decisions of this kind lead to fierce political debates and they are certainly not limited to aesthetic values of monuments of past regimes, even the criminal ones. And the truth or revealing it without condemnation suffers. The politics of the past keeps haunting Croatia and without the removal of World War II touted communist contribution for an independent Croatia from the historical narrative preamble to the Constitution the hundreds of thousands of victims of communist crimes have no chance for deserved and due justice.  Ina Vukic

A Moving Memorial Mass Tribute In Sydney Australia To Mile Nekic – One Of „Croatian Six“

From Left: Barry Lowe, Marijana Rudan, Vesna Krizmanic, Marko Franovic, Ina Vukic, Cecile Lowe. Inset: Mile Nekic

On a busy, working day, Friday 20th January 2023, a Memorial Mass was held at the St Anthony’s Church, Croatian Catholic Centre, Summer Hill, Sydney, Australia. It was a holy mass honouring the memory of a Croatian selfless patriot who walked and lived with the Croatian Community in Sydney for many years and passed away at the age of 75 in Osijek Croatia on 10 December 2022. After immigrating to Australia in 1969 Mile Nekic lived a peaceful productive life until 1979 when along with five other Croatian immigrants’ lives known as Croatian Six took a deeply tragic turn. The six men were arrested on allegations of planning terrorist attacks in Sydney area, tried and convicted to 15 years of prison each. They always maintained their innocence to be released from prison in 1991 on good behaviour around the same time when the Australian television investigative journalist Chris Masters tracked down their accuser, Vico Virkez, who confessed that his testimony against the Croatian Six was false and that he was a Serb national Vitomir Misimovic on Communist Yugoslavia Secret Services UDBa assignment to blacken Croatians as extremist terrorists. Almost immediately after being released from prison in Australia Nekic packed his meagre belongings and headed back to war-torn Croatia to help defend it from the brutal, genocidal Serb and Yugoslavia Army aggression. His life’s dream had always been to see Croatia free from communist Yugoslavia. He died as a retired Croatian Army Officer; a hero of oppressed people by anyone’s definition. He died yearning for final justice for him and all the Croatian Six; he was not meant to see the day when the outcome of the Supreme Court of NSW in Australia would deliver the findings of the late 2022 ordered Judicial Review into convictions for planning terrorist attacks from 1981 against the Croatian Six.

Ina Vukic, Readings from the Bible, Mile Nekic Memorial Mass Sydney

Today, there are several sources that indicate that the Yugoslav UDB set up the case against the Croatian Six, and these sources include the declassification in 2016 of the relevant National Archives of the Commonwealth of Australia, the publication in 2019 of the book “Reasonable Doubt: Spies, Police and the Croatian Six” by Hamish McDonald, McDonald’s interview with American national security professor John Schindler, publication of the book “The Secret Cold War, The Official History of ASIO, 1975-1989.” by John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley, 2017, Hamish McDonald’s 2012 book “Framed”, which succinctly contextualises the circumstances under which the Croatian Six were charged and convicted of conspiring to bomb or attempt terrorist attacks on Sydney, and interview by Vice Virkez with ABC journalist Chris Masters, in which Virkez (Misimovic) clearly admits, among other things, that he lied in his statements to the police and the court against the Croatian six.

Fra Davor Filko , St Anthony’s Church, Croatian Catholic Centre Summer Hill, Sydney, Australia

After the Memorial Mass on Friday 20 January 2023 delivered by Fra Davor Filko touching memories of and tributes to Mile Nekic were shared by Mr Barry Lowe, a prominent former Australian journalist and Ms Marijana Rudan, a journalist, documentary film producer and a former television presenter.

“It’s a bit painful reflecting on a life that was as difficult as the life Mile lead. 10 years in some of the worst prisons in Australia, the whole time knowing you’re innocent. Then the rest of your life waiting and hoping for that wrong to be righted,” Barry Lowe said, continuing:

“I think some of the people like me who tried to get the Croatian Six verdict over-turned – and there were many of us, some of them in this church today – have carried a sense of guilt that we couldn’t have done more. For me the Croatian Six campaign had a personal element, Mile was my friend and my starting point in wanting to see justice prevailing.

But I think the remarkable thing about Mile was that he managed live a full and productive life despite the bad hand of cards that he had been dealt. He was a patriot who made a significant contribution to Croatia’s struggle for independence – and he was awarded the medals for bravery that prove it. His role in leading a military intelligence unit that worked behind enemy lines, is an important chapter in the history of the Croatian resistance in eastern Slavonia.

Barry Lowe delivering his speech at Memorial Mass for Mile Nekic, Sydney

But this productive life also included the warmth and generosity and total commitment of loyalty that he gave to his friends. An anecdote from the time soon after I got to know Mile – which started when I interviewed him about his success as an artist while serving time in Long Bay jail: My wife Cecile and I had just moved into a small terrace house in Marrickville – a bit of wreck, in dire need of some major renovation. But I barely knew which end of a hammer you’re meant to hold. Mile dropped in one day, had a look around and said ‘I can help with this’. The next day, a Saturday, 6 o’clock in the morning we’re woken by a knock on the door and Mile walks in with a couple of mates, a cement mixer, bags of cement, timber, power tools, you name it. All the weekend they’re pulling up floors, stripping down walls and in a couple of days we’ve got a reasonably presentable house. I couldn’t get Mile to take a cent for the work or supplies, he even insisted on buying the beer for the post-job celebration.

We kept in touch, and we spent time together when the war was on, often sitting in the bar that used to operate in the underground shopping mall beneath the central square in Osijek, a safe haven when the city was being shelled.

Then there was a couple of decades when we didn’t have much contact until I heard about the new effort to reopen the Croatian Six case. I tracked Mile down and last April went to see him, Cecile and I driving from Salzburg through territory I hadn’t visited since the war. The four us – including Mile’s lovely wife Mirjana, who we really bonded with despite a reliance on Google Translate – had a wonderful four days together, kicking over the old traces, visiting the ruined water tower at Vukovar, touring the underground wine cellars in Ilok. I’ve been reflecting recently how much more painful Mile’s death would have been for me if I hadn’t had those few days with him last year.

Then the news a few months ago that the judicial review into the Croatian Six had been ordered. I rang Mile – in the middle of the night for him. He was over the moon. He sent me a message the next day saying it was important to him that I had been the one to give him the news. He talked about returning to Australia to have his day in court.

Well, that’s not going to happen now. There’s a bitter irony about how things turned out. Mile always wanted to clear his name and have the world know that he wasn’t the terrorist he’d been labelled with. I think he had imposed a sort of exile on himself and felt he couldn’t come back to Australia until his name was cleared. He didn’t get that opportunity that but at least he learnt that it was going to happen.

Of course, the Croatian Six conspiracy wasn’t just about jailing six innocent men. It’s objective was to defame the entire Croatian community in Australia. I think Mile somehow assumed some of the burden of guilt for that being allowed to happen.

I’ve been advised to steer away from politics in this speech. But I can talk about religion, this seems like an appropriate place. One of the tenets of our faith is forgiveness. And I can, with difficultly I admit, forgive those who made this injustice happen. But they need to show remorse and contrition. Some of them – former public officials – are still out there. They need to speak out now and say, yes this did happen, we were part of it and now it needs to be put right. Rest in Peace Mile.”

“Last year in May, thanks to the efforts of Ina Vukic, i visited Mile Nekic and his wife Mirjana in Osijek for a research project. I stayed with them in their home, where Mile recounted all the details of his difficult life to me,” said Marijana Rudan and continued:

“There in his tiny kitchen while he smoked many cigarettes and Mirjana made coffee, he explained how he’d met my uncle at the airport in Vienna as they boarded the same plane to Australia in the late 1960s. 

Young migrants with no money, bound by their desire to escape Yugoslavia and start again in a free land of opportunities.

‘I know your father and your uncle well. Welcome Marijana,’ he said.

I immediately sensed two things in his large blue eyes as he spoke.

I saw that this man carried so much pain and that did not surprise me knowing the details of his life, yet despite the years and the many times life had broken Mile with its injustice, his eyes still held onto hope …

Marijana Rudan delivering speech at Mile Nekic Memorial Mass, Sydney

‘What will you do with my story?’ Mile asked.

‘What would you like me to do with your story Mile?’ I asked him. ‘What is your wish?’

‘I just want people to know that I wasn’t guilty. I just wanted to live my truth and for that they wrongly judged me. I want the world to know that I was innocent.’

I told Mile, that I would do my best to make sure his wish came true.

‘But Mile’, I said,

 ‘Please eat something and look after yourself. 

I want you to live to see the day when everyone will know the truth.’

and Mirjana laughed. ‘It’s a good day when Mile remembers to eat.’

That evening in Osijek Mile and his wife showed me their city, the cafes they frequented, the main square and then they took me to dinner in one of the nicest restaurants. ‘See, I do eat Marijana, but for me it’s more important that you eat and that you remember your time here with us in Osijek.’ 

I will never forget his kindness.

A few months after I left Osijek, the news spread that a Judicial Inquiry had been ordered and that the evidence that led to the conviction and jailing of six innocent Croatian men, including Mile, would now be re-opened for examination.

I immediately called them.

‘The time has come Mile. The time has come.’

‘Are you still going to tell my story?” He asked me.

‘Yes, of course, but I am working with a team and these things take time. Look how long you have waited already. Over 42 years. Just a little more now. Hold tight.’

‘OK’ he said, ‘you will tell my story one day’.

When Vesna Krizmanic rang me to say Mile had died, we were both in shock and shed tears. 

 Over the years Vesna and Lydia had shared many stories about Mile’s kind heart.

‘He was a dreamer’ said Lydia ‘a true artist by nature.’

‘Mile was ruled by his emotions and his ideals, but somehow he was unfairly judged and so misunderstood.’

Mile Nekic lived his entire life yearning for freedom through expression in his fight for Croatia and through the stories he told in his artwork.

In one way, I’m not surprised that Mile chose to die on the night Croatia beat Brazil in the World Cup. Little Croatia beating the world’s greatest footballing nation. What a story of resilience, a fight to the end.

Mile’s heart was probably bursting. Because dreams do come true…

So will yours Mile Nekic.

Rest in peace dear Mile.

And know that your story will be shared, and your innocence honoured.

We all gathered here in your name today promise you this. Amen.”

With proud memories we hope and trust. Rest in God’s peace Mile Nekic and may the perpetual light shine upon you – always!

With thanks to Branko Miletic, Written and compiled by Ina Vukic

PRITISNI ZA OVAJ ČLANAK NA HRVATSKOM JEZIKU/ CLICK FOR THIS ARTICLE IN CROATIAN LANGUAGE

Schengen Zone and Euro For Croatia

It is done! As anticipated in my article dated 5 November 2022 it’s a double windfall or double whammy, depending on your vantage point on the matter! The start of this year brought very big changes for Croatia. To pro-European Union political elites and to quite a few Croat ones the entry into the single currency among 20 other countries and the entry into free travel, no borders zone among 27 other countries are considered a major landmark in Croatia’s modern history. For others it is taken with a pinch of salt and lots of distrust.

Certainly, at the time of Dr Franjo Tudjman’s speech at the inauguration of Croatian Parliament 30 May 1990 the European Commission (EC) was very young within the so-called European Community, EU as we know it was to be founded later, and the euro not even on the horizon of the EC but Tudjman had put Europeanisation of independent Croatia as one of Croatia’s major goals in its planned exit from communist Yugoslavia. What a paralysing tragedy for Croats who fought for independence from communism to know that the European Union Parliament had over a decade ago condemned all totalitarian regimes, including communism, and the Croatian governments since his death in late 1999 not only have not in effect condemned communism but in practice glorify it more and more including its mass murderer Josip Broz Tito!

Schengen Zone and the Euro – a perfect match??

January 1, 2023, marked Croatia’s shedding of its kuna currency and the shedding of its sovereign borders in favour of the euro and Schengen Zone. Some say this is a great thing for Croatia, some say it spells a catastrophe for self-determination and a thousand-year proud identity. It is, however, most disappointing that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic did not in any way, shape or form express the country’s gratitude to all (not just HDZ Party ones) Croatian Homeland War veterans and activists who fought for Croatia in 1990’s, its exit from communist Yugoslavia, its self-determination, paving the way for its European existence with blood, sweat and tears. Andrej Plenkovic’s government continues its coalition with the Serb political minority that was either through direct family lines or political allegiance part of the aggression against Croatia in 1990’s; his government almost does not even acknowledge the part of Serb minority in Croatia that fought shoulder to shoulder with Croats to defend Croatia amidst the brutal Serb and Yugoslav Army aggression.

Asked recently about the implications of open borders with Croatia’s neighbours, Plenkovic said: “People are really thrilled that there are no more border controls on the crossings between Croatia and Slovenia; between Croatia and Hungary. Seventy-three border crossings are now police-free and customs-free. That means people going freely to the west or to the north of Europe. It means less costs, and more tourists coming to Croatia. 82 percent of overnight tourist stays in Croatia are made by people who come from the Schengen area. So this is going to be a huge economic benefit for us.”

Prime Minister Plenkovic and all his government ministers scandalously omitted to mention the rivers of Croatian blood sacrificed by all not just members of his political Party HDZ and the unprecedented harnessing of the Croatian patriotic diaspora in achieving the goal of Europeanisation of Croatia that was so critical from the start of Croatian independence movement from communist Yugoslavia in 1989/1990.

Plenkovic said: “We have no reason to be afraid to say that we are from the HDZ Party, we should be proud, satisfied and happy. Being a member of HDZ means being part of the politics of the party of direction, leadership, achievements, those who made the greatest contribution to an independent, free and internationally recognised Croatia, those who made an immeasurable contribution to the defence against Great Serbian aggression in the Homeland War, those who made a huge contribution the development of Croatian institutions, those who have contributed to the development of democracy, the improvement of the economy, Croatia’s membership in NATO, the European Union, the euro area, the Schengen area…”. Plenkovic did not say that his HDZ Party of today is a mere shadow of what it was when Croats fought for independence, when Croats needed to defend their bare lives from Serb aggression. Independence was a national matter then and Schengen and euro are now – they are not political party matters because they encompass all Croats.

Most activists and fighters have left the Party during the past three decades mostly out of disappointment with the Party’s growing pro-communist Yugoslavia mindset. But hey, 2024 is an election year and Plenkovic is not likely to say anything that would reduce the Party’s chances for re-election. 

They omitted to quote relevant parts of Dr Franjo Tudjman’s, First President of modern Croatia, speech at the 30 May 1990, inauguration of Croatian Parliament that afterwards suffered terrible consequences of the genocidal Serb aggression. Franjo Tudjman among many other things said: “… allow me to endeavour and put forward, in the briefest of points, some of the most urgent and immediate tasks that stand before the new democratic government of Croatia…Inclusion into Europe and Europeanisation of Croatia. Simultaneous with democratic transformation we need to undertake all necessary steps for Croatia to be included into the European Union as soon as possible. For centuries, Croatia has been a constituent part of the Western European (Mediterranean and Central-European) culture. Even when it did not have a full political state subject status, Croatia was inseparably connected to the Western European civilisation. The contribution to European life several centuries ago as well as through later history by Croatian Latinists bears loud witness to that fact. The return to that cultural tradition must be multilayered. In European integration Croatia must secure its independence and faster progress…”. 

Judging from all said from the Croatian government side during the past two weeks regarding the matter of entry into Schengen and adopting the euro one finds it difficult to avoid the ominous and painful feeling that Prime Minister Plenkovic is peddling the idea that his government, his HDZ Party, are singlehandedly responsible for and should be accredited with Croatia’s entry into the Schengen Zone and the adoption of the euro. Yet, he himself and most of his government ministers had avoided fighting to defend Croatia from Serb aggression, avoided fighting to realise the Croatian dream Franjo Tudjman was voicing in parliament on 30 May 1990, most likely covertly if not overtly vying for communist Yugoslavia to survive the 94% Croatian vote to secede, to leave Yugoslavia and turn freely towards Europe as sovereign country.  One finds it difficult also to avoid the feeling that this is so to enable further pandering to the 1990’s rebel Serb associates in his government’s coalition, who fought against such a path for Croatia and killed and ethnically cleansed Croats mercilessly in the effort to try and stop Croatian independence.

Travel the Schengen Zone – carefree

All said above the fact remains that being within the Schengen Zone and being a citizen of Croatia, even with dual citizenship, the gates within the zone are wide open, care free, and easy – for travel to or from any of its country members, to live and work. Third country nationals, carrying a non-Schengen country passport, who have not needed a visa to enter Schengen countries will be able to stay for 90 days and for longer stays visas are required. Border and customs checks will be removed at the borders between Croatia and other Schengen member states for people crossing the borders by road, rail or water. Checks at internal air borders will be lifted from 26 March due to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) summer/winter schedule.  That is a good thing especially for younger generations as it gives them more opportunities to succeed in life.

With the euro, economy in Croatia has no immediate fix

As for economic advantages of Schengen Zone Plenkovic is talking about for Croatia the jury is likely to be out for quite some time in delivering a verdict. Only days into the euro Croatia is faced with unjustified price rises in food, petrol and energy. So much so that the government is setting up a price watchdog with plan to implement sanctions against all those who increase prices of goods and services, disrespecting relevant legislation. Croatian production, for instance, would need to significantly increased in order to benefit from possible easy cross-border trade (the old fashioned export concept). For the time being Croatia’s production of goods has no capacity to benefit from easy cross-border trade because it hasn’t got much to trade with; its agriculture, fishing etc have been severely curbed by European Union quotas since it became member of the EU in 2013. Contrary to what the government is saying it seems that planting into the national mind that Croatia will become rich because it is in Schengen will certainly not become a reality. A country does not become a wealthy country just because it keeps company with rich countries within Schengen! Much needs to change in Croatia’s labour market and productivity before Croatia sees real advantages of this new big market it is a part of; nepotism and corruption must go, at least to high degrees, if Croatia will succeed in this field.

While favouring being a part of the Schengen Zone Croatians have and are exhibiting mixed sentiments towards adopting the euro. According to last year’s European Commission survey only 55 percent of Croatians are in favour of the euro, while others fear a potentially increased cost of living; 80% in fact thought price hikes that will accompany the use of euro in Croatia would put a stress on living that will be difficult to bear.

„We tasked the State Inspectorate, the Tax and Customs Administration to monitor prices on the ground. The goal is to identify those who unjustifiably raised prices. Fines are foreseen for that…Part of businesses have unjustifiably raised the prices. If we observe a further violation of the Government’s regulations, we have a number of mechanisms, from the return of prices to levels prior to introducing the euro to the cancellation of subsidies. I would like to remind you about the subsidised prices of energy for economic entities and more than 1 billion Croatian kuna in subsidies. All competent services receive a large number of complaints from citizens, who we invite to continue sending their complaints about unjustified price increases. We continuously strive to reduce the inflation rate, it is important to avoid irresponsible price increases, which directly reduce purchase power and citizens’ living standard. Businessmen’s responsibility and social solidarity are elements that cannot be bypassed,“ said Croatia’s Prime Minister Plenkovic Friday 13 January in response to the price hikes and chaos occurring.

More than 30 percent of shops and service providers in Croatia have raised prices unjustifiably, some up to 43 percent in the lead up to and transition into euro. This gives a most concerning picture as to how poorer the life of ordinary Croats and pensioners may become. Quite soon! Ina Vukic

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