Croatian Parliament: The Detrimental Representation of Ethnic Minorities (?)

From Left/Front row: Furio Radin, Milorad Pupovac, Andrej Plenkovic Photo: V.P.P./ Hina

From Left/Front row:
Furio Radin, Milorad Pupovac, Andrej Plenkovic
Photo: V.P.P./ Hina

 

At the time of its formation in 1990 Croatian parliament and a rather large number of NGO institutions were devised and established in such a way that Croatia’s diverse population in the ethnic sense was and remains rather well represented. There are currently eight (out of 151) seats in parliament dedicated to representing ethnic minorities living in Croatia … Many have and will say that the extent to which ethnic or racial minorities are present in legislatures can be viewed as a litmus test for the effectiveness of a country’s democratic system. However, Croatia has the troublesome misfortune of having to deal with and accommodate into its democracy and parliament an ethnic minority – Serb – that attacked the Croatian majority and other non-Serbs in Croatia and committed war crimes in the early 1990’s against the Croatian people and their property in order take one third of Croatia’s sovereign land for the purposes of creating a Serb, ethnically clean republic that would eventually be attached to Serbia. As such, a number of ethnic minorities in Croatia have not been contributing towards the development of a democratic system in Croatia but have most often tugged the ropes their way with view to securing individual benefits.

 

This is certainly no enviable situation for any democracy let alone Croatia where the perpetually elected leaders of the two largest ethnic minorities – Serb (Milorad Pupovac) and the Italian (Furio Radin) – are still ideologically and practically loaded with communist Yugoslavia agenda and, to boot, the Serb minority with the help of Serbia continues its irritating, angering and utterly unjust quest of trying to equate the Homeland War aggressor with the victim. The ethnic minority part represented by Pupovac do not appear as living in and holding Croatia as their homeland, as their country, but ethnic minority that still in many ways primarily identifies with Serbia and, in many ways the same could be said for the Italian minority led by Radin. Although there are 3 parliamentary seats representing the Serb minority in Croatia the one Pupovac sits on is the loudest, the obnoxiously divisive one that, sadly, gets relatively most left-leaning media coverage.

 

Zlatko Hasanbegovic Minister for Culture Croatia Photo: Grgo Jelavic/Pixsell

Zlatko Hasanbegovic
Minister for Culture
Croatia
Photo: Grgo Jelavic/Pixsell

Last week, Friday 23 September, both Pupovac and Radin have expressed views that they would not collaborate with the new government of Croatia if it re-appoints Zlatko Hasanbegovic as minister for culture. Their apparent sense of self-importance is so obscene that they assume their power includes making decisions about government cabinet members even if they are not in the political party that won majority seats in parliament. They, like a large slice of communist Yugoslavia fans in Croatia and outside, that keep fighting against prosecution of communist crimes and keep calling those who advocate for lustration as well as prosecution of communist crimes – nationalists and Ustashe (as in WWII Ustashe regime in Croatia) – keep promoting the new anti-Croatian trend, which says that under HDZ government Croatia has moved far-right and revisionist inclinations are gathering more and more ground. Zlatko Hasanbegovic has been the one “copping” most of of the “blame” for this vicious construct of defamation and vilification against Croatia and, yet – he remains the brightest light Croatia has had in the parliament for quite a while that keeps insisting on unraveling the truth in Croatia’s history.

 

Having in mind the cruel divisions and utterly unfair agenda behind accusing without foundation in facts Croatian minister for culture Hasanbegovic of revisionism, the two leaders of ethnic minorities (Pupovac and Radin) are perpetuating, as well as other cruel agendas, like equating aggressor with the victim or defending/justifying communist crimes, and amplified by the rhetoric of these two ethnic minorities representatives (and at times others),it is blatantly clear that the word “ethnic” – as in ethnic minorities – has outlived its usefulness in Croatia.

 

 

The word “ethnic” has become divisive and derogatory in more ways than one.

 

Croatian government, and parliament, would do well by turning their efforts away from the political and practical pursuits of engaging in business of seeing what benefit an individual ethnic minority might receive and turning towards the agenda of seeing what individual ethnic minorities will and can contribute to Croatia as a whole. Indeed, the government must be and is committed to ensuring that all Croatian citizens have an opportunity to be active and equal participants in the Croatian society, free to live their lives and maintain their cultural traditions – this is enshrined in Croatia’s laws and the constitution. It’s just that the existence of ethnic minority representatives in parliament has led to an unwanted result: instead of uniting Croatian citizens it mainly divides them as ethnic minority agendas are not often in harmony with Croatian national interests.

 

Indeed, many – including myself – believe that having an ethnic Member of Parliament has led to high expectations among members of their ethnic community about what will be achieved for them.

 

For the second time in one year Croatia has held general elections and both times a minority HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union led government formed, although forming the new one has not yet happened as HDZ continues coalition discussions with various smaller parties and independents. It is at such times of minority government that the existence of reserved (dedicated) seats contradicts the strict electoral equality of one-vote, one-value and challenge the ‘liberal, individualist notion of political equality’.

 

The fear that a representative holding a dedicated seat may control the balance of power – a scenario seen as lending too much power to a minority group. It is also a scenario capable of causing division within the community, particularly if it is possible for a member to be elected to a dedicated seat with fewer votes than are needed to be elected to a general seat. Allocating seats on the basis of ‘skin colour, ethnicity or any other trait, could by definition be seen as threatening democracy’s principles… it threatens to encourage tokenism and discrimination.

 

HDZ and its leader Andrej Plenkovic would do well in steering away from forming a government with ethnic minority representatives. The past quarter of a century has shown that this causes more damage than good for Croatian national interests. Having ethnic minorities dedicated seats for representation in the parliament for a quarter of a century in Croatia has evidently and essentially given a rise to a reality that tells us that the balance that is struck between the representation of minorities, and the maintenance and development of an overarching sense of national identity and purpose is detrimentally wrong.

 

The fact that the Croatian parliament also has 3 seats dedicated to Croatian citizens living abroad in the diaspora does not present the same problematic issues primarily because these seats are for electorates where Croatian citizens live regardless of their ethnic make-up. If anything, there should be at least 3 more dedicated seats to Croatians living in the overseas diaspora (not living in the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina) as their population is almost as large as the one in Croatia and the agenda of Croatian government to encourage Croats living abroad to return to Croatia and/or invest in Croatian economy is omnipresent.

 

Croatian parliament appears in an urgent need of re-grouping so its every seat represents all people living in every electorate regardless of their ethnic make-up and the enactment of laws that would see the establishment of government department and non-government organisations responsible to an appropriate minister of the government (ideally a minister for ethnic affairs) for dealing with matters arising from or exclusive to ethnic origins or cultural/religious practices of citizens. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. Excellent article, thank you for the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From Facebook: General Glasnovic and the besieged former minister for cultural affairs Dr Hasanbegovic remain the most vocal and effective voices against the stalling of full and lawful investigations of the post homeland war proto-socialist junta who still control the political agenda of a nation whose economic future, moral dignity and cultural entity are held captive by the systematic non disclosure of economic and human rights abuses spanning multiple generations. To this end the current government has not shown resolute action for fear of internationally projecting some semblance of a patriotic image beyond the token nationalism it briefly evoked during its election campaign.

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    • Hasanbegovic still minister albeit in care-taker government but let’s hope he will continue in the role under the new government, Moreno. If that does not occur then one would need to ask whether that also means that the new government agrees with the vilification being thrown against Hasanbegovic (?) – interesting couple of weeks ahead

      Like

  3. Ethnic.. that is yet another problem, in Croatia the minorities are not referred to as ethnic nor cultural minorities rather as National minorities where Croatia has become a multi-state or a union of states. Interesting enough that Croats are not referred to as a Nation rather only as citizens. What is chiseled in my mind are the words of a former Sabor (Parliament) president Josip Leko when he made reference to a member of parliament from a minority party HDSSB advising him not to refer to the Sabor (Parliament) as Croatian as it is Croatian only by name, Leko reminded the member to remember his oath in office and to refer to the oath. The Sabor is expressed as – The Croatian Sabor (parliament) is the representative body of the citizens and the holders of legislative government in the Republic of Croatia. (Hrvatski sabor predstavničko je tijelo građana i nositelj zakonodavne vlasti u Republici Hrvatskoj).

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    • You’re right, Darko, they’re not referred to as “Ethnic” but as “National” minorities, however the meaning is the same and there should be no such seats in parliament that are dedicated regardless of the number of people that actually can vote for the seat or be represented by it. 25 years has been enough to demonstrate the detrimental effect of these when it comes to the overall Croatian nation. National/ethnic minorities should have a dedicated government department dealing with pertinent issues of life specific to national/ethnic identification but not seats in parliament.

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  4. I can not pretend to understand all of the ins and outs of Croatian Politics, but reading this “Their apparent sense of self-importance is so obscene that they assume their power includes making decisions about government cabinet members even if they are not in the political party that won majority seats in parliament. ”
    Surely this can not be right!

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  5. interesting article, i have no knowledge of Croatian history to debate or back any comments i make nor will i try to act like i know but being a person of colour,ethnic and called a minority. I have to ask you, what is an “ethnic minority” in Croatia and when you say they’re,ethnics or minorities ..who exactly are you talking about … Serbians? my first thought was to insert black hispanic etc. as a minority myself it is confusing. I know no one i know wants to be forced to have quota’s or be one, but then again how do you achieve equality, or is that just not something that is important after 25 years ?
    thank you

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    • Thank you Nativegrl77, Croatia has many different ethnic minorities living in Croatia who had been living there for hundreds of years as history evolved. They are referred to as National minorities as in descending from different national or ethnic group than Croatians – hence, they may have different cultural traditions, language, religion etc but they are citizens of Croatia with equal citizens’ rights as Croatians. There are Serbs, Italians, Hungarians, Romas, Austrians, Bosniaks, Macedonians, Germans, Slovenians, Russians, Slovaks, Jews, Polish etc – they all together form between 8 – 10% of the total population in Croatia. To me you achieve equality by ensuring all have same rights under the law but you also assist those that need assistance with accessing those rights etc, which is best done under a dedicated government department etc. Australia is one of the best examples of practicing such multiculturalism where ethnic communities are offered dedicated assistance and programs to help access mainstream or practice culturally specific activities etc…Having dedicated parliament seats for minorities has not really proven in Croatia to achieve unity and reconciliation that’s why practical programs would be better. “Ethnic” minorities exist in every country I think but every country does not reserve seats in parliament for them, in fact only a few really

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