Taking into consideration the seemingly prevalent mood, the problems that revolved around me during the last three weeks while I was visiting Croatia in March point to an alarming and concerning situation from which one can conclude that Croatia is revolving in a destructive circle whose orbit needs to be thwarted as soon as possible and Croatia returned to the principles and directions that it set for itself 27 years ago when it headed on its path to independence.
Today, people in Croatia are tired of big democracy that isn’t really there, as it is in the West, and the roots of such desperation lie in bad privatisation that was marked by uneducated and money-hungry political elites – from Pantovcak (Office of the President) across Mark’s Square (Government offices) to the Parliament as well as to the local government levels. Great possibilities exist in Croatia but, in the face of the still existing well-networked communist mentality, which evidently still expects that others solve their problems from personal life to jobs as it did during the Socialist era, most people are afraid for their personal existence.
The citizens appear to be suffering more and more from apathy or depression thinking that nothing can be changed, and this is exactly what is dangerous for a young democracy. There are individuals who have the will and who are trying to change things but are quickly disabled or trampled upon by the networked family, political party and particular personal interests machinery.
And when a certain hope for progress appears, or as it did two years ago with the change of President or recently with the change of Government, one quickly sees that the destructive structures soon thwart them, stop them in the realisation of goals they promised during election campaigns. The political-economic climate is filled with big words borrowed from Western democracies but without matching results and so we continue spinning in a circle, and palpable results are nowhere to be seen.
Not even the long-awaited entry into the EU has moved Croatia forward because it had been presented to the nation as an almost instant saviour and we have demonstrated that we are not up to the task of acting as equal partners in that organisation. After all, we couldn’t be any other way when the old communist mentality and habits wreak havoc at almost every level and crevice of public administration and processes.
What’s to be done: like others I too have been saying repeatedly that investments or capital are not enough to lift Croatia into the prosperity it once planned for, demographic revival, with which without doubt comes a spiritual revival, that is – fresh ideas and more people who have learned how to lead a country and how to make the people more satisfied, is also needed but even after 27 years the Croatian emigrés have no role in Croatia as similar population structures have in, for example, Israel, Ireland and the newest diaspora efforts occurring in India, etc. Emigration is not only a demographic revival of Croatia but the ideas and the knowhow it brings are more important than capital itself, and I dare say that the most important thing about émigrés is that they have no fear – that is, they are independent and have no fear of those in Croatia who try stopping various processes in order to save or keep their own positions there.
Besides the need for lustration, which is running terribly late in Croatia, a climate for the cessation of auto-censure needs to be created because people are afraid to express their ideas and wishes, and such people are vulnerable to manipulation and are not active members in the creation of a better Croatia, which we wanted when we headed towards the battle for independence.
Through conversations with many people of different intellectual, business and political groups I realised that the situation in Croatia is much more serious than seen by Brussels or other centres of power and they will not help with anything unless Croatia itself starts the changes that are needed.
I noticed neglect in the work with the young, whose idols are becoming populist tribunes such as Ivan Pernar (whacky and often bizarre member of parliament), and that is of short breath or incongruous with the expectations we have of youth in general in the developed democracies. Because of their self-interests the political elites do not permit change of generations nor are they preparing the young or other people to take up positions in society and, hence, we have the same city mayors for 20 years, the same members of parliament for 20 years, the same public company directors for 20 years … which, of course, works against stimulating further progress and as a result our educated and our young are leaving the country. I hold more dangerous the fact that the young do not feel needed and that they cannot change anything than the fact that they are unemployed.
To think that the whole country (Croatia) is trembling because of one private company like Agrokor, which employs some 60,000 people, is blackmailing the government with those jobs, while it brought ruin upon itself by itself in the process of receiving government subsidies and other perks, never seeking help with company governance but doing it all on its own, and when forced against the wall pulls the whole country by the nose – is something that’s unthinkable in Western democracies.
Alarming indications of a dying nation are not taken seriously, and there is no adequate immigration policy or long-term vision but, instead, every new government goes its own way, pushing the country deeper into crises and hopelessness.
The bright spot in my visit to Croatia was the widespread realisation of what needs to be done and, hence, I believe and hold that the diaspora, as it did during the 1990’s, can serve as a flywheel of changes if we got together as we did before and with such strength found an opening into Croatia whose doors appear mainly closed for us. The fact that confirms this is found in that there are only three seats in parliament designated to the representation of the diaspora (and only one of those representatives, independent member General Zeljko Glasnovic, maintains a determined representation of the need for changes in the status and the role of the Croatian diaspora) and three seats is not even close to being enough. I believe that those representing the diaspora in the parliament should be independent, not members of political parties, so as to avoid the threat of political party or interest groups’ influences. Ina Vukic