Appraising Croatia As Nation In Transit From Communism

Referendums in Croatia

On its website, the US based “Freedom House” says about itself that it “is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world”.

Whether Freedom House is an independent organisation is an issue that is best judged by individuals at large; while its research figures and scales upon which it measures progress in freedom can be considered reliable and valid, its commentary may not be. Individuals who may or may not be politically biased usually produce commentaries.

When it comes to transitioning from totalitarian communist regime to democracy, such as the case is in Croatia, nobody who is democratically-minded would argue against having as many watchdogs as possible. Keeping a sharp eye on the progress of democratic reform in both law and daily living is a must, especially given that no one loyal to or having been a part of the communist regime will admit to having done anything wrong within the spheres to freedom and human rights. That, at the end of the day, is a failing of human nature, but human nature nevertheless. Watchdogs, therefore, need partners on the ground that will, in case the government fails, act in the interests of achieving freedom and democracy for the people.

Freedom House has just released its 2014 Report: Nations in Transit 2014—the 18th edition of Freedom House’s comprehensive report on post-communist democratic governance—highlights recent setbacks to democracy across Eurasia and the Balkans, as well as in Central Europe.

The Key Findings in this report include:
• “The Balkans registered some positive developments during the year, including Croatia’s EU accession and a historic agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but dysfunctional governments continued to drive down democracy scores in the region overall”.

Judging by this report, among the 29 countries rated Croatia rates among the bottom lot for democratic progress, with a decline in Electoral Process and Judicial Framework/Independence.

The scores pinned to Croatia in this Report suggest inadequate democratic progress in corruption fighting, in media independence, in local and state governance, in independence of judiciary and in electoral process while the category “Civil Society” has according to it just passed the mid-way point towards the positive mark.

It’s a given that Croatia needs many more “drastic” changes and positive moves in order to achieve a fuller, a meaningful democracy. There have been many barriers and obstacles in this path during the past two decades, particularly those that have seen the former communists’ reluctance to let go off the communist past and condemn its dark and freedom obstructing sides. There’s no doubt that the current Social Democrats led government as well as the communism loyal presidents since year 2000 have contributed alarmingly to a disturbing stale-mate in the democratisation of Croatia.

Civil Society is considered a positive facet of democracy; it reflects the aggregate of non-governmental organisations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens. Freedom House report acknowledges this as a positive progress in Croatian democracy and yet it characterises citizens’ initiatives for referendum as an effort of “a broader rise in activism by ultra-conservative groups within Croatian society, many of which are nationalist in orientation…”.

Hence, it would seem that while considering Civil Society as healthy democracy in its aforementioned Report Freedom House tends to label those elements of Civil Society that are fighting for democracy in Croatia against the communist leaning powers as “ultra-nationalistic”! It seems democracy-hungry Croats cannot win, whatever they do –  they are undeservedly often labelled with negative connotations (?).

What a shame for democracy! This appalling wind of labels blows from left-wing politics -which in this case are seen as pro-communist – given that it lacks criticism of high-handed, controlling government, when it comes to achieving progress with democracy.

No wonder, then, that Croatia has seen a strong rise in organised citizens’ groups seeking democratic changes and progress in respecting the will of the citizens. The current government and the president of Croatia seem to be “surprised” at the intensity some citizens’ organisations are attempting to have their views heard; one could hear from the Prime Minster Zoran Milanovic’s lips words such as “this referendum will never pass while I am the Prime Minister” – and that was in relation to the highly successful collection of signatures organised by the Headquarters for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar for a referendum on the Cyrillic script on public buildings in Vukovar. Although all conditions for a referendum have been met by the citizens (enough verified signatures on petition etc.) the government still doesn’t know what to do with this reality – i.e., its actively denying or heavy-handedly stalling the citizens in holding a referendum, implementing a constitutional right.

The latest “Civil Society” moves in Croatia include steps taken for a referendum on matters of the electoral process, which is, by the way, given a relatively low score for democratic progress by Freedom House. Also, moves by Trade Unions for a referendum against the government announced privatisation or outsourcing of government ancillary services (cleaning etc.) and one can almost feel a new issue surfacing for a referendum: against retirement age of 67…

All in all, the citizens are “on the streets” in Croatia because the democratic and consultative process on major issues affecting its citizens is at standstill, leaning backwards! And backwards is towards communist-like oppression.

And so, let the Freedom House label Croatian citizens’ initiatives for democratic change as “ultra-nationalistic” as much as it likes, I will, for one, heed the suggestion of the Croatian Cultural Council’s journalist contributor Ivan Miklenic: “In line of this, all the citizens’ initiatives should be greeted, supported and joined”.

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. It’s encouraging to learn that referendum’s work in some countries, Ina, because there are not a lot of places where government is effective or serving its citizens interests.

    • They’re still in early days in Croatia but it’s encouraging the people have taken to this tool of democracy quite strongly – the government doesn’t like them, so that’s a good sign that progress in democracy will pick up with referendums, Eric.

  2. The world is full of self-righteous ‘know it alls’ who like to get all the attention and pride themselves on labelling people, nations, and the like.This is just is just one fine example of their pious efforts.

    • Exactly, Kev. Why call Civil Society a good thing for democracy if you’re going to label it ultra-nationalistic. While Freedom House, an NGO, seems to kick-off some good issues into research and consideration their commentaries are politically suspect, to say the least.

  3. Good night friends! Sleep well and sweet dreams, and smiles when you’re sleeping
    We hear tomorrow night as beautiful and quiet!

  4. Double standards – one for the rest of the world and one for Croatia. Communist apologists should also shoulder the blame and guilt for enabling a system that disables human beings freedom and rights. Read this article about how the Communists in Croatia are re-writing history to cover-up their failures and imposed human misery and death with a lime covering of lies:

    • Oh yeah, Sunman, communists and so-called antifascists thrive on double standards – it’s good that people are more wiser today than before. see through the communist garbage, form citizens’ groups and organisations and fight for their rights since the red government won’t.

    • Veronika says:

      Well said Sunman. Note, the US govt. provides 80 % of funding to this NGO. Simply put, one must always look at who is funding NGOs and what their motives are. We are certainly not naive enough to think that anyone is doing anything out of the goodness of their hearts. Thanks for this Ina and thanks for quoting Miklenic, a prolific writer on the ground in Croatia. You are bang on when you write: “It seems democracy-hungry Croats cannot win….” Croats are labelled ultra-nationalist’s if they are remotely patriotic. Everyone else can be a patriot but this tiny nation. Double standards for small nations vs. large ones.
      For more on this NGO:

  5. Reblogged this on theconservativehillbilly.

  6. With the Scottish referendum coming up, this is a good read.. x

  7. I respect the Serbs for one thing…they GET RID OF their traitors!

  8. Hilda Marija Foley says:

    Sunman’s comment “double standards – one for the rest of the world and one for Croatia…” are absolutely true. It occurs over and over again. When other nations cheer for their people and/or
    show pride for their nation it is normal and proper, but when Croatians do the same, it is immediately labeled “nationalistic”
    “ultra-nationalists” and such. Do we ever see Serbs labeled this way in the press? Heck, no, they can burn our flags, call Vukovar a Serb city, and get their president hugged by Croatia’s president instead!

    • I hold, Hilda Marija Foley, Croatian citizens should go forth with achieving their freedoms no matter who says what – the who is stuffed with bias anyway

  9. I am certain Croatia will succeed and prevail .Yesterday6/23 l watched the football match Croatia /Mexico.and l remembered your posts.Best regards.Jalal

  10. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

  11. Sad news. But this is your best article ever. Bless you, my friend. Barbara

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