Were I to put together Christmas messages and wishes from Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, from Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and from State Secretary head of government’s office for Croats living abroad Zvonko Milas, I would end up with a mangled and aloof heap of teasers, tinsels and tassels I couldn’t possibly reuse on next year’s Christmas tree. However, not all Christmas public mood was lost on teasers, tinsel and tassels – General Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament representing the diaspora or Croats living abroad did pass on a sobering, sensible and solemn Christmas message that suggests that he, at least, has ditched (or has not owned a pair ever) the rose-coloured glasses one often finds on Croatian politicians these days and replaced them with 20/20 vision.
“The Year of Mercy that has recently ended gave us an incentive to provide lasting assistance to our neighbours and the most vulnerable in our society, to spread solidarity, cooperation and unity. Christmas is coming giving us yet another strong impetus to do good. More important than giving material gifts is to give one’s attention to others, offer consolation and understanding, spread joy, peace, the unity of the family and the faithful. I wish all Croatian citizens at home and abroad a merry Christmas and an abundance of good in the New Year 2017!” Said the president in her Christmas message that has no passion to enlighten or encourage. Then in her Christmas interview with Vecernji List she blew out of the water anything good and solid she may have said in it, especially with regards to Croatia’s positioning the new geostrategies within the region, by announcing a big rotation of Croatia’s diplomatic staff across the world, where she said she suspects there are Ambassadors who do not represent Croatia’s interests. “The need to make changes in Croatian diplomacy in many countries is urgent because I myself have been convinced that there are Ambassadors who not only don’t work in the interests of Croatian state, but work against the state politics,” she said in the interview.
Now, I cry in despair for Croatia at this: for goodness sake, what are Croatia’s Ambassadors suspected of or known to not be representing Croatia’s interests and known to be working against Croatia still doing in those positions? How long has this been going on – one wonders? One wonders, also, whether such a statement by the president was intended as a teaser – to keep Croatians believing that a keen eye is kept from the President’s Office on safeguarding all that is Croatian, when it clearly appears it’s not.
Well, if the president is seriously considering mopping up Croatia’s diplomatic and consular staff, culling and weeding for Croatia’s interests, I hope she does a thorough job – quickly, thank you – for there certainly have been alarmingly too few in positions during the past 25 years who had actually looked after Croatia’s interests abroad. Now this is a perfect opportunity to make progress in lustration – get rid of some former Yugoslav communist waste that hung around these important positions during the past 25 years. Get rid of those former communist operatives or their heirs in diplomatic and consular nests who have done nothing or very little to affirm in the world the values and strengths of independent Croatia created on the backs of her veterans and Homeland War. And if they are no longer in these positions and now hold other high or key positions in Croatia – stretch the culling arms, pluck them out and give them a job elsewhere, not where they can do more damage to Croatia by simply not doing anything for her interests or neglecting on purpose to do anything positive.
If one were looking for a more distant, cliché and aloof message about togetherness that Christmas brings with a torch-light one could not find a better sample than the one dispatched to Croats by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. His message is one of cold and measured words that remind one of someone waving above a Christmas tree a perfectly manufactured by someone else string of multi-tailed monotonous tinsel. “Christmas is the most joyous of Christian holidays, time for togetherness and understanding, family and friendly closeness. In the spirit of Christmas message, which teaches us humbleness and solidarity, this time is a special opportunity for us to remember those who need our help and attention. Christmas days of optimism and hope invite us to promote Christian and Universal human values and effective efforts for common good. Let this holiday of peace and joy be an additional incentive for mutual consideration and respect so that we may, though quality cooperation, continue building a modern and orderly society…” Plenkovic said in his Christmas greeting to the nation. No tributes to anyone or anything, no clear directions, no reference to successes or achievements, no hopes for the nation’s immediate future … just plain old shimmery and cold string of tinsel dangling away before our eyes and ears; it’s almost as if it had arrived from the quarters of former communist obscuring of Christian practices where children were told chicken lay coloured eggs at Easter because chicken sometimes lay coloured eggs or that Father Christmas was Father Frost (given the bearded man in a red suit appeared in winter, God forbid mentioning presents because of the birth of Jesus Christ) or that people celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ were fools and beneath those who didn’t etc.
Zvonko Milas, State Secretary head of the government’s office for Croats living abroad, had a wilted tassel for a Christmas message. Trying hard to inspire by waffling on of what had and had not transpired during the year, what will be, what is yet to come, he couldn’t make the golden tassel – the message – firm up to deliver some real firm groove no matter how many times he repeated or rubbed in the “hope” or the “faith” words. “… but above all I believe that we can be satisfied with the togetherness that’s been born again. Let this holiday time, Christmas, which by the nature of its meaning calls for optimism, truly comes as holiday of hope and faith. Faith that through work, advocacy and responsible behaviour we set in motion changes that will in the coming 2017 also promote more significantly the relations between the Republic of Croatia and all Croats living outside its borders…” he says. All in all, not much said, really. I have been listening to similar spin from the same government office, under different heads, for a few years now and am not impressed. Am not impressed as that government office continues to gather a limited profile of people from the diaspora seemingly without any efforts to capture most on its horizon and without making the relationship a two-way street outside the twice-a-year-expensive-ministerial-photo-opportunities in Zagreb. Well, given that Milas is relatively new at his job I do like to think: let’s wait and see even if the Christmas message was like a wilted tassel that would look real kitsch tying ones living room curtains .
General Zeljko Glasnovic’s, Member of Parliament for the diaspora or Croats living abroad, sobering, sensible and solemn Christmas message did not escape my attention – as rightly it should not, for who do Croats living abroad look up to if not their MP in Croatia. Glasnovic’s Christmas message had all the hallmarks of what a Christmas message from the Parliament or from the Government or from the Presidency to the people should be: it pointed into relevant aspect/s of state of the nation using real people examples of hopelessness expressed in correspondence or pleas, extrapolating from the individual example a significance for the nation and honing into alternatives facing the future with view to achieving positive changes. “So that we do not end in the tone of complete pessimism let’s remember St John Paul II message, in which he sought from every Catholic to become actively included in the political and social life of their country. We must not permit apathy and moral relativism become a cancerous wound of the Croatian society,” Glasnovic said. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)