Croatian Diaspora On Agenda – Most Parliamentarians Busy Bunking

Zvonko Milas
State Secretary, Office for Croats living outside Croatia
Photo: Damjan Tadic/HANZA MEDIA

Imagine this: it’s Friday 20 October 2017, a very important government office report is about to be read and tabled in parliament. Your eyes circle attentively around the chamber, apart from the State Secretary for Croats living abroad and his assistant, the government front bench is empty – all the ministers and Prime Minister probably too busy elsewhere to clear their diary for attendance here. There are barely 20 out of 151 members of parliament sitting on their seats, including two of three representatives for the diaspora – General Zeljko Glasnovic and Bozo Ljubic (Couldn’t spot Zeljko Raguz, the third MP for diaspora). The report to be read is that of the government’s Office for Croats living outside Croatia – the first one, in fact, even if the Office has been operational for almost five years (most of those under the former Social Democrats government that set up the office in the first place).

You ask yourself: is this truly the parliament majority of whose members, whether government or opposition, incessantly give public statements how the diaspora is the most important element that can ensure future prosperity for Croatia? Incessantly keep saying how Croats from the diaspora need to return, need to invest – are desired and welcome… You shake your head in disbelief; so much energy wasted in creating the hope that the Croatian diaspora will once again (after twenty years of leftist consistent politically fuelled erosion) become a vibrant and indispensable part of Croatia as it was during the 1990’s times of fight for independence and freedom – the relative apathy radiating from the empty seats in the parliament suffocates with disappointment.

When the nation is looking forward to change – and attracting significantly increased diaspora engagement in the domestic economy and demographics is one of them – these ambassadors of change are busy bunking! It’s a serious problem when teachers bunk classes in schools, but it’s perfectly fine if you are member of parliament! The shortage of attendance of MP’s does not only reflect their carefree attitude towards the problems and challenges that we as a nation face but it is an insult to the apex authority of the Parliament. People who have no respect for the parliament should not have been nominated in the very first place. But that’s another issue that reeks for changes in the electoral system.

State Secretary Zvonko Milas tabled his report about what has been done for Croats living abroad, for the diaspora. While acknowledging that more work could have been done by the office in the past years Milas emphasised that connection with the diaspora has been active with some 50 advisers from the diaspora, however the Office and its work have largely remained unknown to the diaspora Croats. He said that there have been a number of infrastructure built especially in the areas of education (Croatian language and culture) across the world and that Croatia has financed some 40 million kunas (5.3 million euro) worth of diaspora projects last year. The Office’s strategy has focused especially on areas of Croatian identity in the diaspora through assistance with language and culture but also fostering connections with Croatian organisations and business networks.

There are three strategic goals that the Office wants to achieve, Milas said: develop cooperation, protect rights and interests of Croats outside Croatia and strengthen their communities, encourage the return of emigrants and their descendants. Milas announced the establishment of a new TV channel for the diaspora attached to mainstream state TV HRT. Milas did not in his report give away any notable detailed or concrete steps or strategies how these goals will be achieved – apart from help with Croatian language and culture education. Which, can mean that concrete strategies or steps are still in the development stage.

One thing that disappoints from this report and announced goals is actually in the lack of concrete reference to the needed integration of Croatian diaspora with Croatia, homeland. Helping and supporting the diaspora with its own educational organisations, helping it maintain a Croatian identity is not integration but rather maintenance of status quo that could be seen as “you stay where you are and we will help you”. Integration requires engaging the diaspora in matters that are relevant within Croatia. That in essence means extending the rights and obligations enjoyed by the Croatian citizens in Croatia itself to Croatian citizens living abroad. And there has so far been little of that, apart from some half-baked initiatives that barely wet the ground let alone help it flourish.

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Independent Member of Parliament for Diaspora
Photo: Screenshot

While noting the good work the Office has done with limited means, especially in the area of cooperation, the independent Member of Parliament for the diaspora, General Zeljko Glasnovic, alerted in his speech and reply to the sorely lacking strategies and concrete steps to be taken for integration of diaspora to homeland. He particularly drew attention to the need to develop strategies, to improve Croatian citizenship access for the diaspora which is still abominably long and complicated, to improve and provide acceptable access to voting by introduction of postal and electronic voting …he noted that Croatia still has socialist bureaucracy that stifles and denies progress and a diplomatic core riddled with former communist Yugoslavia UDBA secret service operatives whose interests lie only in their personal ones. He said that people from diaspora would not return to Croatia until the “judicial quagmire” is fixed. The barriers they encounter upon wanting to return are still enormous, he emphasised.

Bozo Petrov
Member of Parliament,
President of Most/Bridge Independent Lists
Photo: Screenshot

Bozo Petrov, Most/Bridge coalition of independent lists, went on to also criticise the government’s lack of actions in solving the problems Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina face. When we talk about the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina the biggest challenge is reflected in the respecting of Constitutional court’s decision regarding the non-constitutionality of the election of members for the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the change of electoral law. He said that the electoral law needs to be changed as soon as possible.

So, to summarise what’s going on in Croatian parliament regarding the Croatian diaspora at this stage one could say that the government’s side is leaning more to activities that help maintain identity of Croatian diaspora abroad while the independent member for the diaspora, General Zeljko Glasnovic, places emphasis on diaspora engagement and integration with the homeland. The latter, of course, in today’s globalised world is so much more relevant and important than anything else. I would go further here and say that, given the almost daily invitations that come from Croatian leaders for the return of emigrants and their increased contributions to Croatia’s economic development, it’s the integration strategies that will produce desired results more than any strategy in any other moves that support the diaspora. The diaspora is watching this space with great interest and Croatia needs to take on more and stronger initiatives for action. Ina Vukic

 

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    THOSE BUNKING PARLIAMENTARIANS!

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  2. Just sending you a hug in the midst of a busy life, yours and mine are so often stretched to the limit. Blessings to you and yours, Ina. 🕊❤

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  3. I have similar thoughts when we see our parliament almost empty sometimes.

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  4. Stevie10703 says:

    The job of the members of the Sabor are to be involved in the government and not look at it as a place where they can come and go as they please and also not look at it as a free paycheck where you don’t have to do anything and still get paid…wait that’s government in a nutshell! lol.

    But seriously, my parents are set to return for good next year but they are older. The problem is Croatia makes it difficult for the younger generation of diaspora to return. I would love to return but finding a job there is difficult for the locals let alone someone coming back from the diaspora. I would live like the locals do and I wouldn’t expect a job that would pay me similarly like here in the States but if I could find a job with a livable wage I would return in a second. I would also love to find a way to invest in the country…maybe buy a home and fix it up and sell it or rent it out to tourists but once again, this is something that isn’t easy to do either over there so, something has to be done to give the younger diaspora Croatians an incentive to come back…I remember reading somewhere, wouldn’t it be better if Croatia brought back 50,000 diaspora Croatians rather than allow 50,000 invading migrants to stay in the country. The man power is there but it seems the will to bring the Croatians back home isn’t.

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    • What a great attitude Stevie…I think incentives and conditions for return and engagement are key…we look forward to seeing them start to spin diaspora’s way soon, not just a rhetoric but real “goodies”

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      • Stevie10703 says:

        That is exactly it, there has to be something there that allows the diaspora to return. The older ones like my parents have their pensions from where they lived but they won’t drive the economy because they aren’t able to work and considering how long they did work they deserve not to work and enjoy the rest of their lives. Yes, they will help the economy in a small way because they will buy goods and services in Croatia which means paying the PDV which means tax revenue but they won’t be investing or working and paying income taxes.

        But, if you can get the young diaspora…children of Croatian immigrants or even the young Croatians that left some kind of incentive to come back, then that is important. I’m not saying living off the government I’m saying giving these people tax incentives to come back to the country but also making it easier to invest in the country as well and lot have all that red tape and bureaucracy that makes things so difficult over there…young people between the ages of 30-50 should be the target. I hate to say this but, you have one group the far left that doesn’t want that to happen because they know that many in the diaspora wouldn’t vote for them if they did return and if you bring back 50-75,000 people, that could sway elections and I don’t think the far left wants that…but then neither do the do nothing politicians from all parties because they know they may lose their seats in the sabor as well.

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      • Yes indeed, it’s much about politicians saving their own seats, but people action has a knack of making strides so I do expect more of it in foreseeable future that will see more engagement of diaspora young and able, Stevie.

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