Let them eat cake…or…chocolate


The background to this article is related to the unacceptable and utterly disappointing practices in the handling of complaints that arrive at the Office of the President of Croatia. It is to be noted that due process in Complaints handling by a public office is taken seriously in a developed democracy, not in Croatia it seems.

Let them eat cake…or…chocolate
The President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s Marie Antoinette response to Croatian Diasporan Voice (Glas hrvatske dijaspore).

“Let them eat cake” probably the most famous quote attributed to Marie-Antoinette queen of France during the French Revolution, and as the story goes, it was the queen’s response upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread.

Because cake is more expensive than bread, the anecdote has been cited as an example of Marie-Antoinette’s obliviousness to the conditions and daily lives of ordinary people.

Eventually however, both Marie and husband Louis XVI of France found that the peasants had tired of the couple’s obliviousness towards them and accordingly Marie and Louis lost their heads to Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s new invention during a bloody revolution.

Yes, I know, I am confusing you all, bear with me it always comes out the other end proportionately shaped and monotone, even though it starts off as very colourful Galati cake, digest with me!

In December 2016 during the celebrations for the “Day of Defenders of Dubrovnik” Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic met with a group of children in Dubrovnik and gave them gift packages containing numerous goodies, however there was a problem, a sample of chocolate included in the packages was produced in Serbia and one parent took offense and forwarded a photo of the chocolate bar with attached signed photograph of the President to news outlets stating:

“I had to post this on social networks so that you could see what kind of country we live in. My child’s kindergarten went to see the President, and the children received from her hands a chocolate from Serbia. That is really sad – and it all happened on the Day of Defenders of Dubrovnik. Bravo!”

The chocolate bar named “Mony” which is produced by “Pionir” (a company based in Subotica in Serbia) became the focus of the President who decided that she should apologise for the “mistake” and accordingly announced an investigation into who was responsible for the monumental screw up.

The eventual explanation offered by the “Office of the President” was that they had purchased them from a Croatian company based in Vukovar, and luckily, they only contained “One disputed chocolate per package”. They went on to add that “The package was full of Croatian products, but as it happened, amongst three hundred products, several of them were questionable”.

I guess we should feel a lot better about that, don’t you think? Imagine visiting a Middle Eastern country and presenting a peer head of State with a gift package containing a copy of “Israel, the six-day war, and how they kicked Middle Eastern butts”?

(Ummmmmmmmmmmm, no I don’t think so, same same though)

Subsequently, the President herself also gave a statement to reporters about the case exclaiming her astonishment regarding the “mistake” and adding that she did not personally check the contents of the packages.

(Guess that puts her in the clear then.)

She went on to state “I am extremely disappointed because I personally support the Let’s Buy Croatian campaign. The packages contained products which were not produced in Croatia, but which can be bought on the Croatian market.

(Ok, good come back I guess, justify the mistake and all that.)

“The Croatian President must promote Croatian products, and this will not happen again. We will apologise to the parents who have received these chocolates and we will send them Croatian products”

(And so, you should! Well done……………… President material our Kolinda)

The owner of the Pionir company, Serbian businessman Miroljub Aleksic, advised that he did not understand what the problem was and that he himself sometimes gives away sweets made in Croatia.

(Because you don’t like made in Croatia goods and would rather give them away Miroljub?)

While Serbia’s Minister for Trade and Tourism, Mr Rasim Ljajic, stated that
“Serbian products were obviously not welcome in Croatia, the statement by the Croatian President is non-democratic and non-European”
and posing the question

“What kind of normalisation of relations in the region can we talk about if such a level of ethnic intolerance can be caused by a single chocolate just because it was produced in Serbia?”

(We didn’t like you commie Tractors either and thank God you took them with you when you left)

I could have coined this editorial “Choko-Linda” or “Kolinda Surprise” or even “That chocolate impacted my Kolinda!” but in the end “Let them eat cake, or chocolate” made more sense which I’m sure you will all appreciate as you read on.

The President was very sensitive to this error (Obviously her staff should have checked the contents that would constitute the gift packs, clearly not her) and hence the investigation and subsequent apology, all because of “1” parent complaining about “1” chocolate bar, however, it seems that when her staff stray from their responsibilities, different reactions are called for in response to different concerns conveyed to her by her constituents, and it seems depending if you are a citizen within Croatia’s borders, or one or many in the Diaspora, this also has an effect as to what level, or at what speed, concerns are addressed and dealt with, if at all.

This editorial is a follow-on from the one which was tabled regarding the letter which we as a group, and organisation (Croatian Diasporan Voice), sent to the President prior to her departure from Croatia for her State visit to Australia.

Our organisation’s president Darko Orec has gone into some detail regarding the contents, which were questioned and speculated over internationally (Appearing in Croatian portals) and which we as a group were attacked, criticised, and condemned over, so this editorial won’t be addressing the finer points of those letters.
What this editorial attempts to highlight is this:

“What level of importance do our homeland’s elected officials bestow upon their constituents in the Diaspora? and, what level of sensitivity do they apply to these concerns based on either their ongoing general commentary or actual response when one is raised?”

When we consider the first letter we sent (PDF) we were mindful of conveying a level of diplomacy and respect while also raising our concerns as concisely as we could, there was no disdain towards the President as many wrote blindly, and we wrote to her as a representative group, which we are in two respects. We are both as an internationally dispersed group of Patriots, and secondly an emerging lobby group who hold the concerns of the Diaspora and the Homeland as our immediate focus.

Those that attacked us and our rights to contact the President, should seriously review the level of success associated with having had their “Red Chips” removed, it seems they still prescribe to totalitarian ideals of the state and not the individuals rights to question or approach within a true Democratic environment.

The first letter was ignored, and concerns were raised as to the workings of the Government procedural protocols when it appeared again in Australia in the hands of our detractors as she was on route. We should keep in mind it was only ever sent to the President via a single email to her Presidential office.

Ok, so a chocolate bar on the scale of things outweighs a Croatian Diasporan Voice letter?

After the President’s departure, a second letter (PDF) was issued (this time raising our concerns regarding what I have just described above) and suggesting that because of the previous circumstances of no response, we felt it may never have reached her and she might wish to investigate as a matter of internal protocol, the reason for this (Similar to “Which one of you put the Mony chocolate bars in the show bags?)

If we received no response we would assume the worst and make both letters public for all the reasons we raised concerns over as I have mentioned throughout.
Yes, we received a response (PDF), “Ohhhhh Joy” but neither was it signed by the President, nor did it address a single issue we raised in either the first or subsequent second letter, therefore, we can only assume one of two things.

#1 She once again, didn’t receive it but someone panicked, loaned a sheet of Presidential letter head and the Presidential seal and responded on her behalf or

#2 As per the letters post-card like theme throughout of “It was a wonderful trip, met many interesting people, saw many interesting places, I love you all” would suggest, it was a case of Marie Antionette syndrome and quietly whispering between the lines in here response “Have a slice of cake……or…… chocolate”

The Presidential theme for this state visit to her constituents was one of building bridges, dialogue, welcoming us to return (either us and our bank accounts or preferably the latter I would think) and wanting to hear our concerns.

“We tried Madam President, we honestly did, and the bad news is, we are going to try a lot harder, we promise”

As I mentioned at the start, both Marie and husband Louis XVI of France found that the peasants had tired of the couple’s obliviousness towards them and accordingly Marie and Louis lost their heads to Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s new invention during the French Revolution.

And the coined phrase “Let them eat cake” be it true or invented nevertheless concisely described the attitude of those times and in particular Marie’s attitude towards her own people.

Be it a chocolate bar, a letter from a bunch of nobodies in the Diaspora, the term “Za Dom Spremni” (For Home Ready) a Plaque to commemorate our troops that gave their lives to make the role of President of a Democratic Croatia a reality, these are all concerns belonging to the many and all should deserve equal consideration dignity and respect.

Perhaps next time, we should send a chocolate bar, or maybe even a chocolate cake?

By John Davor Ovcaric


  1. Croatian diaspora has only ever been viewed by the Croatian govts. of the last two and a half decades as a “krava muzara” (milking cow) valued solely for its financial wealth and not as a legitimate member of its body politic… a decidedly one-sided relationship. The diaspora, once successfully organized and united,could potentially be a very powerful force for change and I believe that is exactly why we are so underrepresented in the Croatian parliament….change has been systemically resisted and stifled resulting in the unlustrated mess we have today. Holding govt. officials accountable is the duty of all citizens of a democracy and I applaud your efforts to hold this President to the high standard that she herself swore to uphold, and that is to be the President of ALL Croatians. We have seen that she is not the President to and of the hundreds of thousands of Croatians who were victims of communism (read “antifascism), let’s hope she heeds your words and becomes the President to and of those millions of Croatians living outside our country’s borders. One lives in hope, but prepares for disappointment.

    Za Dom Spremni!

    • Much work to be done there,Velebit, including demonstrating good will that would match the rhetoric regarding diaspora and its high value for Croatia

  2. Unfortunately Marie-Antoinette’s Hapsburg background was used against her by those who didn’t like her in the French royal court and were all too happy to attack her for something or another. Never mind Marie-Antoinette had French relatives in her family tree too!
    Also, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI contributed to numerous charities during their lifetimes. The “Let them eat cake” quote has been attributed to others.

    If there was unlimited room in my suitcase, I would’ve bought more Kras Chocolate in Dubrovnik! (We don’t have that brand here in the US)

  3. Reblogged this on Ace News Desk.

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