Lost Sleeping Beauty (?)

Kolinda Grabar KItarovic, President of Croatia
Photo: dulist.hr

When in the second half of 2014 Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic entered into the race for the Office of the President of Croatia the other candidates’ camp hung a “Barbie” tag upon her. One assumes that the “Barbie” tag relates to her good looks, elegant and fashionable dress but also it maliciously alluded, at the time, to the notion that she may possess a lack of needed knowhow power for that leadership position. More than three years into her mandate as President of Croatia it would seem that Grabar Kitarovic reminds one of a lost “Sleeping Beauty” rather than of “Barbie”, and I do say that without any derogatory intentions to the Brothers’ Grimm Sleeping Beauty or Mattel’s Barbie, for they represent positive values and aspirations many generations have grown up with.

It would appear that she has suddenly awakened after more than three years to a socio-economic landscape where nothing of note of the urgent crises that needed fixing she spoke vehemently about at her inauguration speech has changed.

Grabar Kitarovic’s inauguration speech in February 2015 was filled with optimism, hope and positivity about a great future Croatia will have, or start having, under her leadership. “Our economy has been hit by crises for the last six years,” she said. “Thousands of young people are leaving, many companies are going bankrupt. This requires urgent action from the government, employers, and unions… We find ourselves in a time that calls for a broad national consensus on key issues. There is no time for divisions … It is time to rise above our individual and political party interests in order to overcome the economic crisis.”

All of our differences were brought to the forefront during the campaign, but starting today we have to turn them into our strength,” she said and continued, “I call upon all of us in Croatia to abandon the history of our divisions and misconceptions. It is only though togetherness of the whole nation that we can build a better Croatia. Let’s compete with ideas, solutions and innovation, and not with the roles our parents or grandparents played. We will not realise a better life through ideological divisions nor will be become better people on account of them… Just as president Tudjman had created the preconditions for the creation of the Croatian state through the reconciliation of the divided national being, so too must we open a new page of our better future through a new Croatian togetherness. We seek a better life in the future, not in the past!

Although the country’s economy currently shows signs of humble but steady recovery and budget surplus the crises she spoke about at her inauguration are still as critical as they were in February 2015. Grave lack of investments and industrial developments as well as widespread company bankruptcies or insolvencies had led to a gravely lacking job market and unemployment, resulting in many tens of thousands of people leaving Croatia in search of employment elsewhere within the EU or abroad. Demographic crisis has been colouring Croatia’s books for a couple of years now.

While presidential powers are limited in Croatia and real reforms and legislation thereof rest upon the government, there is the presidential power to call governments to accountability, as one of president’s duties is to “watch over the orderly and fair functioning of all governmental bodies”.

At this point in time it is most appropriate to ask about the concrete protocols or measures president Grabar Kitarovic had put in place in order to “watch over the orderly and fair functioning of all government’s bodies”; and the “fair” functioning at times of crises (without the benefit of having seen the actual presidential list of specific duties or steps to be taken in that realm) surely must cover the measures undertaken to address the crises, to curtail them. Certainly, there has been a great deal of presidential generalised rhetoric what should, could, would be done for Croatia but never what has been done or where we are – or, how are the government bodies faring in attending to the crises the country has been and is enveloped in.

On 11 June 2018 Grabar Kitarovic held a long press conference, which came over as some sort of awakening from a long sleep – hence, Sleeping Beauty analogy. During the press conference she, for the nth time, spoke about the crises and the urgency of dealing with them; same things or mainly same things as stated before in public on various occasions. She said that she has prepared documents that contain concrete or specific measures that should be undertaken to get Croatia out of these crises and that she would be handing those documents to the government forthwith. Some media as well as various government bodies have stated that ideas and suggested measures to overcome the crises have been put forth before by politicians, individuals, members of government, members of community activists etc. and that the government has been working on many…

So here comes the crunch:

President Grabar Kitarovic said at the same press conference that there have been three different governments since she took over the Office of the President and that she has not been able to establish a working relationship with any of them, that would lead to the implementation of ideas to solve the crises! One wonders whether such an admission (confession?) has components of excuses for some inaction on her part, given that we are amidst the time of preparation for next presidential elections due late 2019.

(R) Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, Croatia’s President
(Second from R) Andrej Plenkovic, Croatia’s Prime Minister
Photo: Screenshot

Certainly a void, a gap, a disconnection in the relationship between the Government and the President of Croatia has been noticeable all the while. It always takes two to tango, even on the podium of leading the country in the direction everyone wants. From her statements at the press conference, from her confession regarding inability to form a positive/effective working relationship with the government, it is impossible to know who is responsible for such a sorry state of affairs in the country; or whether no one is responsible except lack of trying, lack of team-building and team-functioning skills; or what! The public was not given any details about any attempts by Grabar Kitarovic to establish a working relationship with the government.

Having in mind that her inaugural speech accentuated the urgent need for unity, the impression one gets from her statement on 11 June is that, really, everyone has been asleep at wheel for three years, especially her, when it comes to joint efforts for the betterment and interests of the country. I say especially her because the president is the one who must “watch over” the orderly and fair functioning of government departments. And, in a state of crises no president should tolerate unworkable relationships between the government and the president; the president must as a matter of responsibility ensure that a relationship exists at least on the cold, monitoring basis if no cordiality is possible.

In reality, the divide between the president and the government has been a sorry state to watch; recriminations and even some offensive choice of words went well beyond incivility to embrace disagreements on core principles and conceptions of how the world (the country) works or should work. Bridging this divide, if possible at all, will take much more than a change of tone in the President’s Office, or the Government’s. It requires, as well, a policy and procedure agenda that spells out traditional partisan bounds. For the interests of Croatia as a whole, the citizens are entitled to know how the president and the government will work together in overcoming the urgent crises and political point scoring can go to hell (as far as I’m concerned)!

Given she pointed out from the start the alarming situation with crises in Croatia, it is an open question whether there was any feasible course the president could have pursued in the early months of her presidency that could have diminished the fierce partisan conflict of her first three years in office, regardless of changes in governments. Systems and protocols/procedures exist (and if not they should be drawn up) to be followed regardless of circumstances. That is just the way things must operate if persisting crises are to be curtailed. It appears that Grabar Kitarovic had not locked in any such system or procedure within the realm of her duties to “watch over” the functioning of government departments. If I get to be proven wrong on this, I will be happy.

Whether the president or the government, or both, were not partisan enough in order to establish a working relationship is a question that could only be answered by having the insight of what was done, who has done what, in order to make this indispensable relationship work. The relationship is indispensable particularly given that both the president and the government admit to the existence of crises (economic, demographic…) and it seems that it is the president’s role to watch over government’s functioning in these matters. How much support and determination on each side was there to reduce the crises Croatia had found itself in? Judging by the media, government officials have been saying that they are working on plans and measures to address/reduce the crises that the president had reiterated on 11 June, thereby suggesting that the president’s statements about them are unfounded. So, I suggest, the president would be well within her duties to carry out an audit of these measures rather than leaving the public with a message that she was unable to overcome the divide between her and the governments she has been dealing with. The latter just makes her out to be a whinging and whining persona detached from professional etiquette. Presidents cannot give the appearance of living in a bubble that is about to pop at any moment, at the detriment of the nation, without outlining all the efforts undertaken as part of her duties and expect to survive it.

If people get angry enough quickly enough they may just be able to stop this steep descent in standards of living and opportunities to succeed. Ina Vukic


  1. Dear Ina, impressive to see Croatia vote for a Woman. Is it possible, do you think that the ‘old world’ that is to say, the Mans world, would attempt to undermine such progressive politics. It is my personal belief that more Woman in politics is for the better. After all, look at the legacy of ANY country in the world over the course of history, abiding by the Mens club. This is not to say men in general are all bad, but a gender balance in positions of political power can only be a start, at least towards a more empathic and generous outcome. Peace and love.

    • I agree Gary, more women should enter into leadership positions. At the end of the day, though, we should not look at the gender make-up but look at the job itself! And surely, women are just as capable as men in all leadership positions of politics etc. Peace and love to you too.

  2. Splithead says:

    It is my belief that the most capable “person” should chosen for any position, either in Croatia or Australia, gender should not be considered!!! How’s that for a novel idea, so the mistakes of the past don’t reoccur!
    Unfortunately this president like the ones before her, which have done little to progress the interests of Croatia. The visit from Vucic and on this occasion the inability to state what practical measures she has undertaken to communicate with all governments, are examples of her performance to date.

    Yes laddies, playing up having an education, cleavage, good hair style and politeness/ manners just does not cut it. The Croatian people are starting to look for people that can deliver real outcomes, finally.

    Her missing question to Pelenkovic was, we’re are the structural reforms? If anything, to give people hope that things might change and that they might stay.

    She is Devoid of courage or leadership at this critical juncture. Same as some of her male communist HDZ colleagues.

    On current performance, sorry this is no role model to look up to, mediocre at best.

    Enjoy the WC!

    • Yes Splithead – everybody knows that Croatia has been in crises for years but it is irresponsible and utterly unprofessional to criticise the government without actually providing, on the basis of her own as president audit of progress the government is making towards trimming the crises, which is her role, as we all know that while things are rather slow progress is being made in some parts, however insufficient the results add up to curtail crises altogether. Her role is to “watch over” things and yet more than three years into mandate she starts ringing alarms the loudest. Truly unacceptable as far as I’m concerned

  3. Thank you for continuing to follow me. I really appreciate you. M

  4. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  5. Woman beauty is my taste

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