Croatia: renewed cronyism under leftist government – extreme and brazen

Corruption, cronyism, and a general lack of transparency stymied meaningful economic reform, as well as much-needed foreign investment in Croatia during the past decade or so.

Much of the blame for corruption and cronyism has been directed towards Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ as it had up until December 2011 been in government for most of those years. Certainly the now ruling Kukuriku coalition (comprised of political parties that arose out of the former Communist League or former Communist party) has enjoyed a rich feast of electoral success on the back of reported HDZ cronyism and alleged corruption; it won majority seats in the Croatian parliament at December 2011 general elections.

The Croatian voters had demonstrated they were sick and tired of corruption and cronyism that particularly saw severe depletion and impoverishment of public companies, employment discrimination and severe lack of competitive non-politically and non-nepotistic opportunities run rife.

When former Prime Minister (HDZ) Ivo Sanader suddenly resigned his post (2006) and was subsequently arrested on an array of criminal corruption charges, there was an air of optimism in and outside Croatia. Bringing Sanader to criminal trials served as a catalyst that would help social and political transformation closer to what democracy should look like; be like.

Sanader and HDZ were often portrayed in foreign press has having dismantled the country’s democratic institutions.

But the reality is that destruction and dismantlement of Croatia’s democratic institutions has never been worse than what is happening right now, under the Social Democrats/SDP and Croatian Peoples Party/HNS.

Not only is Croatia’s leftist government practicing cronyism but also it has now taken it to the extreme. The embattled First Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic is now pushing for changes to Constitutions of organisations (e.g. Environment Protection Fund) in order to create conditions for employment that fit the personal qualifications of a persons from Social Democratic Party (SDP) he wants to install into high positions.

Despite the fact that such positions already have professional incumbents Cacic says that he’s installing his people because he wants his people in important public companies who will not undermine him. Cacic and the government do not seem to know much about job accountability and how to ensure it without bringing politics into it.

What’s distressing is that Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic is in agreement with Cacic. This is shattering not only because of the ugly face of such brazen cronyism but because he himself recently sought Environment Minister Mirela Holy’s resignation for attempting to secure a job for the wife of an SDP member, and Milanovic should ensure that such zero tolerance of cronyism continues.

Croatian media and Croatian parliamentary opposition (including HDZ) rallying and criticisms against practices of cronyism (such as the latest ones by Cacic) is, sadly, only raising dust that may settle in discomfort but end up ineffective in attempts to rid Croatia of the stymying cronyism for some time yet.

European Commission’s April 2012 Monitoring Report on Croatia’s EU accession preparations concludes, on page 10,

In the field of social policy and employment, attention must be given to further legislative alignment in the fields of anti-discrimination and equal opportunities. Structural weaknesses of the labour market as well as further capacity-building of social partners and further strengthening of administrative capacity across all areas must also be addressed”.

Well, guess what?

It seems the SDP led government in Croatia is paying more attention to “legislative alignment in the fields of anti-discrimination and equal opportunities” – it is, just as Communists did in former Yugoslavia, aligning company Constitutions and bylaws to create conditions of employment that fit the personal characteristics of the specific individual they want to install into positions.

This is truly obscene! This is truly un-democratic. This is truly anti-equal-opportunity.

Having said this, it may, nevertheless, be argued that patronage politics (type of cronyism) is a phenomenon present in every political system, irrespective of the country, whether democratic or not. In fact, in some political systems, endorsement of patronage is an acceptable occurrence at the highest levels of government, where the ruling authorities are entitled to select their cabinet and department heads.

In relatively recent years many governments (e.g. United Kingdom, Canada …) have felt the need to enhance public confidence in the integrity of the political processes around public sector appointments. They have established transparent processes with a high degree of independence, if not also attention to ensuring merit-based appointments.

Milanovic, Cacic and the whole of the Croatia’s current government have been installing their politically suitable individuals on numerous Boards and into leadership of various companies. But now, they’re not talking about departmental Heads or most senior public servants, they’re installing politically suitable people throughout public organisations and companies.

Evidence shows that patronage systems (cronyism) “extending down the organizational chain are susceptible to incompetence, unprofessionalism and corruption” (West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008).

So nothing is really changing in Croatia when it comes to reducing opportunities for corruption, cronyism and incompetence. In fact, things are getting worse despite public, media and parliamentary opposition outcries.

A turnaround back to the oppressive and discriminatory employment tactics of communist Yugoslavia is more than visible – it’s becoming a brazen practice.

Instead of stamping it out, cronyism, it seems, will continue to affect every facet of government functionaries, every company or organisation where the government has shares or direct involvement, leading to gross inefficiencies in service delivery and increased corruption, most likely with private sector connivance with public officials to dupe government of taxes and revenues.

In the past week the government has succeeded in getting it’s bill through the parliament that will see names of individuals and companies with tax debts posted on publicly displayed lists (pillar of shame!) – except those who succeed in postponing the payment of their tax debt or have it struck out. One doesn’t need too much imagination to realise that conniving with politically installed public officials will run rife when it comes to tax evasion. It’ll happen elsewhere and the power of belonging to a political party will rule life and “decent” existence. The same as it did in communist Yugoslavia.

Cronyism and corruption stymied foreign investment before and it will, undoubtedly, continue to do so under this climate of extreme and brazen cronyism.

But then, the leftist government may not be worried about this – their arrogance could well be fed by a “sure” promise of EU development funding.

Croatia seems to be the “darling” of EU and NATO at the moment (probably due to Croatia’s geopolitical strategic position in influencing EU expansion into the rest of former Yugoslavia eastern states and therefore, lessening Russia’s influence in the region?) and, alarmingly, standards it needs to achieve in areas of EU accession monitoring may become compromised.

In March 2012, when Croatia’s leftist government was still in its honeymoon period, the very Radimir Cacic (who is also the Minister for Economy) expressed his position on the economic crisis:

Only jumping out of Socialism can pull us out of the crisis. I’m for the privatization of public companies because I think that Croatian politicians are very bad owners. Give them a toy and they will abuse it. With the privatization the companies will cease to be political and media marionettes”.

Now, in this July of 2012, not only are public companies in Croatia marionettes of the Social Democrats led government but also the people at large. The parliamentary opposition and the media must ensure that such trends are rooted out before it’s too late – before Croatian nation, once again, becomes a hostage to oppressive communism/socialism it lost thousands of lives to escape from. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Very informative and well written Ina….unfortunately I found the information rather disturbing as well…

    • It is disturbing and distressing. But there are many in Croatia who see it too and let’s hope that the pressure to change will bear the desired fruits.

  2. Harold Lahl says:

    Cronyism diverts resources away from the wants and needs of consumers (people) and toward political purposes.
    It seems that Croatian media is becoming more and more cynical of the current government and that’s good. Only, the alarming reality that cronyism will be allowed to continue is what matters and pressure must be stepped up to get rid of politicians that practice it. Hard cuts are needed.

  3. Ivan Krasovic says:

    I agree with Nila – very disturbing indeed. Why did Croatian people so desperately want out of communist Yugoslavia in 1991 when they now tolerate the same politicians they had then?
    A hard broom is needed in Croatia. Everyone should have a fair chance in employment and prosperity without needing to affiliate to any political party.

  4. There’s Croatia Summit happening in Dubrovnik and of course Serbia didn’t send a rep because Kosovo rep was there, but ex Serb president Tadic arrived by surprise… Well, Serbia says it will never recognise Kosovo and Croatia’s Prime Minister says he wants to put behind him everything that has haunted Croatia for the past 20 years! What, he wants the return of commie Yugoslavia and he wants to simply erase the torture and pain and independence of Croatia –

    Daily-T portal reports: “Croatia’s role is important. We want to be an active member but we don’t want to be leaders. We have no megalomaniacal pretensions, Milanovic said, adding that he wanted Croatia to be a regulated state.
    We are here to help our neighbours because we have both business and human interests, he said at the summit’s closing news conference, also wishing that “everything that haunted us for the last 20 years be behind us.”
    Commenting on former Serbian President Boris Tadic’s unannounced arrival in Dubrovnik, Milanovic said he had personally invited him and that he was a former president and the president of a big Serbian party that was technically still in the government.
    Tadic did not meet with Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci, although the media speculated the meeting would take place, but they shook hands at the end of the summit. Milanovic said this was a good thing that set good standards for the future.
    One side always avoided the other. I hope that next year, if we organise the summit, we will be a good host to both, he added.
    Although invited to the two-day event, Serbia did not send its representative. Because of the attendance of Kosovo’s premier, no Serbian official attended the summit in the past either.
    Tadic told reporters that the handshake with Thaci took place nearly by accident and that it should not be given too much attention. He said he supported Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic’s statements in which he said that he was willing to hold talks on the settlement of the Kosovo issue.
    Milanovic said he was satisfied with this year’s Croatia Summit, saying that over the last seven years it had been a good opportunity for regional dialogue. Closing this year’s edition, he said a whole new world would open to Croatia next year, referring to the admission to the European Union scheduled for July 1, 2013.
    An annual international conference for Southeast Europe, Croatia Summit brings together the prime ministers and representatives of the countries in the region, the EU, the U.S. and organisations such as NATO.
    Seven prime ministers attended this year – Milanovic and his counterparts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo and Poland. There were also NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon.
    The foreign ministers of the countries caught in the Arab Spring attended for the first time.
    Milanovic said he was very pleased that this had been an opportunity to exchange opinions on events that, the summit heard, surprised the whole world in early 2011. He said everything that was happening in north Africa had direct impact on the Mediterranean, including Croatia

  5. Stephen Vadjunec says:

    Ina Vukic you rubbish the S.D.P. who are modern-day LIBERALISTS, yet you call them Neo-Socialists Huuh !!!! Dont insult the real socialists.!!! In the Socialist Republic of Croatia the goverment fed & clothed the people. Everyone had jobs, there were careers in the military. Today’s pittyfull Croatia there is high unemployment, sky-rocketing living expences & no Croatian military to speak of. The Socialist Republic of Croatia’s T.O. was larger than today’s Croatian military !!!!!!

    • The Socialist Repupblic “fed” everyone on borrowed money from overseas, productivity was poor, not enough to earn wages, companies borrowed money to pay the workers … a false economy to support the socialist & communist ideals … Inflation came to nearly 400% by late 1980’s – it had to fall apart sooner or later. Today’s Croatia which you call “pitiful” began its life with more than a pitiful inheritance and it’s certainly not easy to get out of that mess.

      • Stephen Vadjunec says:

        Atleast people were happy for the most part & did not go without !!!!!

      • Some weren’t and some did. Not everyone,s life was the same. And the ones who had most only considered themselves, stole, pilfered, looted public companies … didn’t pay taxes, didn’t worry how the country was going to pay off foreign debt only rubbed their hands together with every new foreign loan thinking how much of that would come into their hands … and that is the truth of how people were “happy” under communism.

      • Stephen Vadjunec says:

        If it is all true what you are biasly reporting & Croatia was bankrupt under Socialism then why did the S.R. of Slovenia & the S.R.of Croatia rank the highest of all other Socialist Republics of Jugoslavija in G.D.P.. The Socialist republics of both Slovenia & Croatia even ranked higher in G.D.P. rates then other Eastern European states at that time in history.

      • Croatia & Slovenia were the most productive of former Yugoslav states but they did not get to keep the fruits of their labour. If you check your historical facts then you would know that all earnings were sent to Belgrade, to federal coffers and then distributed to other states, and Serbia got relatively much, much more than Croatia or Slovenia. That was also a part of disenchantment with former Yugoslavia by various states. St the end of the day the whole of Yugoslavia had over 400% inflation and the road to bankruptcy was paved from Belgrade – that is, federally.

  6. Stephen Vadjunec says:

    Ina you always have alot to say against Croat Socialists but have nothing to say for the thousands & thousands of Croatian Youth who attend Marko ” Thompson” Perkovic music concerts dressed up in the Black uniforms of Croatia’s notorious Ustasi & in turn Nazi Saluteing to eveyone of Perkovic’s Ustasa Lyrics, preaching hate & gloryfieing Ustasism, yet you claim to be UN-BIASED.?????????

    • What individuals wear or do at a concert is a matter of private choices and one has little if any control over that, but Croatia did bring a law against that. I have nothing against Croatian Socialists as Croatia is a democratic country where political persuasions of all kinds are allowed and should be allowed. However, there are those who DID not want an independent Croatia twenty years ago and who don’t want it now despite the fact that 94% of Croatian voted for independence. Yes, I will criticise anyone who tries to belittle the pride of Croatian independence and justice.

  7. Stephen Vadjunec says:

    You claim to be UN-BIASED in youre articles, Ina .!!!!!!?????

    • The article looks at how they’re proposing to change company constitutions to fit characteristics of people they want to employ and what that means. Simply stating the facts picked up from Croatian news – statements made by Cacic etc. Matter cannot be biased or un-biased, it’s simple application of consequences and motives.

  8. Stephen Vadjunec says:

    The current S.D.P. is still waveing the checker-board shield FLAG of Croatia’s Ustasa regieme ( the First Croat State to fly a Flag with the Checker-board shield- the N.D.H.)

    • If you knew Croatian history you would know that the check-board did not originate during NDH but much, much before in Croatian proud history.

      • Stephen Vadjunec says:

        The N.D.H. was the FIRST self-governing Croat state in recorded history to fly the red,white & blue flag WITH checker-board shield included on that flag. NO OTHER CROAT ENTITY in PREVIOUS RECORDED HISTORY EVER USED SUCH a FLAG OFFICIALLY WITH CHECKER-BOARD SHIELD.!!!!!

      • Again – check your history, Stephen. Ban Jelacic had a red, white, blue with check-board included, Flag of Kingdom of Dalmatia, Slavonia and Croatia up till 1918, etc etc. It’s a beautiful flag.

      • Marko L. says:
        Croatia flag 1848, way before NDH, Stephen. Of course your comments here only show that you are stuck in former Yugoslavia, it’s not there any more by the will of the people, so live with it. What is your point: to stop the whole truth from coming out? Well, no man has been able to do that, ever. The truth comes out whether we like it or not, it’s just that some accept it and some don’t and you seem to fall among the latter lot when it comes to Tito’s regime.

  9. Stephen Vadjunec says:

    The Morning Star “Danica ” star is Croatias only UN-STAINED symbol, unlike the Checker-board shield flag that flew over Jasenovac in WW2.

    • Steven Kosh says:

      Jasenovac was a terrible place not only because of those that perished there during NDH but also because of those who perished there between 1945 (end of WWII) and 1948. Tito’s communists kept Jasenovac open to 1948 and many thousands of Croatians perished there as part of the Way of the Cross murders. But then, they put no flag there and counted those victims as victims of NDH too. While NDH has answered for those crimes – rightly so – those that came after never answered for theirs, sadly

      • Stephen Vadjunec says:

        “Jasenovac was kept open ” ???? Jasenovac was flattened to the ground by after the war. Everyone that entered Jasenovac under the N.D.H. entered with only one-way tickets , no-return un-like Goli Otok.!!!!!

      • Steve Joos says:

        Stephen, you have a big problem with the facts of history. Your facts are those dished out by communists, friends of SDP etc – since you like them so much (which is OK because political freedom of expression and belonging is what democracy is all about) why don’t you – as well as many in recent times – ask them to publish the names of multitudes murdered (and buried) around Jasenovac after WWII ended – for months and months these slaughters went on, that’s no secret, it’s just that it’s not “so well” published as what happened before WWII ended there. My view is that everything needs to be published especially the full truth.

  10. Stephen Vadjunec says:

    You are being fooled by Croat Nationalists

    • Evan B. says:

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Croatian nationalism, or any nationalism for that matter. To be a nationalist means you like and are proud of the people you come from. When it’s the truth that’s written I’d rather read that than anything you Stephen could ever muster up because you do not seem to like Croatia and that is solely your problem, you’re free to do as you like except giving lessons to people you know nothing about.

      • You have health Patriotism mixed up with distoted Nationalism my friend, look the words up before you start telling me i know nothing

      • StephenVadjunec that is your opinion and mine is that both can turn into each other depending on circumstance, both are each other whether positive or negative facets paint the in any particular example

  11. Reblogged this on HDZ 2012..

  12. I must confess, I have a great deal to read, so I do not read your posts all the way. However, I can pick a few pointers…and this is EXACTLY what is happening in my own country, Nigeria.
    We need to do something about this “pallyship”. As we used to say in school, “Pallyship is not Muguship” – a Mugu being a complete idiot.

    • Thank you Whalsy on comment, indeed “pallyship” syndrome is a widespread occurrence however it’s the countries that impose checks & monitoring of this that end up being fair to all. Fairness is what democracy is about.

  13. We need to get the Pallyship syndrome out. As we used to say in school – pallyship is not Muguship. A Mugu being a complete idiot.

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