Croatia: Mentality Change Equals Croatian National State

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President of the Republic of Croatia

26 April 2019 (last leg of Grabar-Kitarovic Presidential mandate):

Addressing a special session of Karlovac County Assembly on County Day on Friday, Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said that the most significant measure at the moment needs to be “reforming our mentality,” in order to make the Croatians think and work faster, more resolutely and in a better organised manner. She acknowledged with praise Prime Minister the Andrej Plenkovic’s cabinet for reducing taxes and administration levies, however, she claimed that the “most significant reform we need to implement is to reform our mentality,” so that at all levels, we can think and work more resolutely, faster and in a more organised manner.

1 July 2015 (first leg of Grabar-Kitarovic presidential mandate):

“The key for solutions and for coming out from this economic crisis is in increase of jobs but also in change of mentality, strengthening of accountability and political courage,” said Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at the inaugural meeting of her presidential committee for economic affairs in Croatia, “that is what I want to see in Croatia – economic growth, opening of new jobs, increase of employment, creation of new values and new products, export, fiscal discipline and productivity in public administration. We need to change in order to come out of this situation we are in. Solutions exist, it’s just that we must have enough political courage and accountability in order to implement them.”

The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia in the last point within the Historic Foundations section says the following:

“At the historic turning-point marked by the rejection of the communist system and changes in the international order in Europe, the Croatian nation reaffirmed, in the first democratic elections (1990), by its freely expressed will, its millennial statehood and its resolution to establish the Republic of Croatia as a sovereign state.”

About the need for mentality change

Bravo President Grabar-Kitarovic for reiterating the need to change mentality in Croatia but it’s a clear as a sunny day that Croatia’s government and presidential forces have not rejected the communist system (mentality), rejection of which is fortified in the country’s Constitution. With a heavy dose of bitterness I can understand why, after the Homeland War ended and all Croatian Serb-occupied territory liberated (1998), communist presidents Stjepan Mesic and Ivo Josipovic never bothered to even accentuate to the people of Croatia that a change in mentality was needed in order for Croatia to move ahead; in order to rid it of communist mentality. I say communist mentality even if Grabar-Kitarovic did not define it as such because neither she nor anyone else needs to spell this one out.

And now we have the case of four years wasted since the President had stated the obvious – that Croatia needs a change in mentality – also! President Grabar-Kitarovic is still, after four years, telling Croatian people they need a mentality change or reform. I guess when one doesn’t really seem to care about what one says, just as long as it sounds good for political grandstanding, one is not likely to roll ones sleeves up and do something about it. Her repeated expressions of need to change mentality are evidently mechanical – a parroting exercise.

It is a fact that former communist countries have since 1989 (since the fall of Berlin Wall) been going through a painful metamorphosis on a confusing path toward acceptance of the individual responsibilities freedom brings and of acceptance of democratic values. Croatia is no different except for the fact that nothing has been officially done to drive a mentality change. Individual politicians and academics have been constantly addressing the problem of enormous barriers to progress that communist mindset or mentality represent in Croatia. So it’s not as if Grabar-Kitarovic would have been without allies were she truly mindful enough of tackling mentality change.

It is time for change – now!

The debilitating impact of the communist moral and psychological legacy on the socioeconomic transition into democracy means that even after three decades (almost) of formal independence as a sovereign state, Croatia is still struggling to find its way forward. The fact that former highly positioned communist operatives still hold the fort of key socio-economic and political structures has been and is a source of painful discontent and disappointment; a source of apathy that continues to see dismally low voter turnout at elections and a source of staggering brain drain from the country. It is a source, I believe, that drives the much present call for togetherness and unity of all Croatian patriotic political parties these days of election campaigns for the European Parliament. The sad part is that only very, very few of those calling for such unity mention the need to affirm a Croatian national state; a state of Croatian people (with minorities respected). This line of action would among other benefits, return to the forefront the intentions and plights within the massive and united movement all those years ago of late nineteen eighties and early nineties when almost 94% of voters in Croatia voted at a referendum to rid themselves of communist Yugoslavia.

The communist Yugoslavia regime succeeded in penetrating very deeply into many people’s minds and influenced their way of working, doing business and the sphere of public administration. Corruption, bribery, political pressure, nepotism, theft of public property, reliance on borrowed money to pay wages…all were the hallmarks of the communist mindset and mentality. These echoes of the communist Yugoslavia period are still alarmingly evident in Croatia and while the task of getting rid of them, or mellowing them down to insignificance or non-intrusive level, appears difficult, it is definitely not a Sisyphean one! We have seen that in other former communist countries of Europe, where communist regime’s practices were and are taken head on.

The Croatian governments’ inability to coordinate efforts and prioritise challenges of transitioning from communism resulted in failure to implement judicial and pragmatic economic reforms had further exacerbated many social problems. This political chaos supported wild privatisation, so that the major state-owned companies passed into the hands of well-connected apparatchiks, who continued turning the gaps in institutional and legislative control to their own advantage from the start. The wave of privatisations in the 1990s turned post-Yugoslavia Croatia into a society largely run by new-tycoons, where newly emerged elite with enormous wealth and often decisive control over public policy transformed their economic power into political influence to preserve their dominance; to preserve communist mentality. The roots of nepotism and corruption that existed in communist Yugoslavia are alive and kicking in Croatia.

Promotion of Croatian national identity was considered practically a criminal act in communist Yugoslavia, and Croats living abroad who identified themselves as Croats were hunted down one way or another. All the Yugoslav republics were subject to domination by communist bureaucrats, who were sent far and wide to preserve the Josip Broz Tito’s dictatorship even to remote outskirts of the Western World where Croatian nationals who rejected communism had settled, where the communist Secret Police UDBa assassinated scores. Party control became brutal after WWII, and hundreds of thousands Croatians murdered in communist purges. The fear factor contributed vastly and intentionally to the development of unique national behaviour, which in turn influenced ideology and the operations of various organisations and social institutions. Massive corruption, deeply rooted in the public consciousness, has interfered with post-Yugoslavia economic and political systems in Croatia. Without a change in mentality, the very corruption fuelled by political elites, including those holding the judiciary, will be the bullet that will destroy the Croatian peoples’ dream (a human right) for self-determination.

The theory of behavioural economics suggests that national self-awareness is an important pre-requisite for economic decision-making. Western principles, when forcefully applied to the dominant communist (anti-capitalist) mentality, look like expensive make-up on the wrinkled face of reality. Socio-cultural factors that determine successful transformation (from communist mentality) include individualism vs. collectivism and power distance. The former is self-explanatory as to any healthy thriving of economic development; competition and individual responsibility are at the forefront of thriving economies. In societies with a large power distance, professionals are not consulted but are instructed by the power centres; Croatia still suffers much from this communist regime’s ailment because of which some “elites” think they know everything but will still pretend to seek professional advice.

Today, calling oneself a Croatian patriot (usually meaning the one who was and is against communism) or uttering the age-long greeting “For Home Ready” (Za Dom Spremni) exposes one to being branded as fascist or neo-Nazi, and criminally prosecuted or fined for that greeting! Today, wearing or displaying the communist Yugoslavia red five-pointed star, or Yugoslav flag, does not brand one as anything, nor is it punishable by law! Communism and communist mentality is alive and kicking in Croatia.

Yes, Madam President, political courage is needed and you and most of Croatia’s government cabinet members do not have it! And, courage cannot be learned!

All Croatia needs now is for those who have demonstrated political courage by loudly and continuously advocating for changes from the communist mindset to get voted into government. All Croatians need now is to assert their national right that was asserted through the bloody and brutal Homeland War of Serb aggression; to assert their Croatian national state and measure the extent and values of State sovereignty through it. After all, it was the Croatian people by vast majority who voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia, who fought and lost thousands of lives for it and they have earned the right to finish the task of decommunisation. After all, rejection of communisim is embedded in the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia.

Decommunisation is the only agent that will bring the mentality change President Grabar-Kitarovic is talking about, albeit unconvincingly as to her determination and courage to implement the processes and socio-political structures needed for it. Ina Vukic

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