The Power Of The Croatian Diaspora

The Croatian diaspora sends more money to Croatia than what it earns from its summer tourism industry (which is considered the strongest arm of Croatia’s economy), wrote Bozo Skoko in Večernji list newspaper on Saturday 2 July 2022, after a survey on how expats perceive Croatia was completed.

According to the survey Croatian expatriates believe that the greatest advantages of the homeland are the sea and natural landscapes, tradition, cultural heritage, hospitality, gastronomy, rich history, while the greatest disadvantages are the weak economy, inefficient political power, the legacy of communism, low level of democracy and political culture, lack of community and care for the environment.

Although, according to the latest population census, Croatia has less than four million inhabitants, in reality it can boast of 8 million people of Croatian roots and interests if all the Croatian diasporas from all over the world are included. If we exclude Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatian minorities in neighbouring countries, the facts show that more than 4 million Croatian emigrants and their descendants live at and around various world meridians and parallels. Among the largest number of Croatians and those of Croatian origins living in the diasporas are those in the US, Canada, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany.

The Croatians living in the diaspora have always and still do represent a strong potential of political, social, and economic power.  Certainly, the 1990’s breakaway from communist Yugoslavia into independence proved that such a goal would not have been achieved without the support and involvement of the Croatian diaspora and this, in itself, is a testament to the diaspora’s power on all fronts. However, the questions that would arise are to what extent they “feel” Croatia, what Croatian identity means to them, what could attract them to visit the homeland of their ancestors more and to invest, promote it and lobby for its political interests. Many Croatian emigrants, especially those who fled the communist Yugoslavia after World War Two and their children and grandchildren are largely integrated into the mainstream societies they live in and are very sensitive to ideological issues in Croatia, the homeland from whence they originate. The survey has shown that it is these latter Croatian emigrants that often bring and maintain enthusiasm to the social activities of their communities in the diaspora. This, of course, is nothing new, it is a continuation of what the Croatian post WWII political emigration had been doing all along – maintaining Croatian identity throughout the world, language, culture, traditions and political aspirations of democracy and freedom. Utilising the freedoms gained and offered by the democracies of the West to maintain and nurture their identities while assimilating into multicultural societies they live in.

Croatian diaspora is made up of top scientists, humanists, philanthropists, experts and business people, who were not satisfied with the situation in the former Yugoslavia and in search of freedom and democracy and better living and working conditions built their careers in the West, and today they make up the elites of the societies there. They were joined by those who left Croatia in the last thirty years — from professionals, who, thanks to their talents, knowledge, and creativity, quickly integrated into new societies, to those who, in search of better-paid jobs and fairer societies, became attractive and still cheap labour to rapidly growing Western economies.

We must not forget the so-called “guest workers”, who since the 1960s have been going to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other Western countries to make ends meet. While they always have one foot in their homeland, their children are educated and well-to-do citizens of the world, who like to spend their summers in Croatia, listen to Croatian music and rather support Croatia than the national teams of the country in which they were born.

In the first two quarters of last year, for instance, remittances from Croatian workers abroad totalled one billion and 745 million euros, while at the same time, the state’s income from foreign tourist arrivals was one billion and 494 million euros. This means that through various channels, Croatian workers from abroad sent 351 million euros to their homeland, or 23.5 percent, more than foreign tourists spent on accommodation, food or entertainment.

Although there was a fear that the monetary value of remittances would decrease due to the Covid pandemic, this did not happen in the Croatian case and remittances increased by as much as 206 million euros, i.e. by 13.5 percent more than the previous year. In the first quarter of last year alone, Croatians sent 890.7 million euros in remittances, and 854.3 million euros to the workforce from the beginning of April to the end of June 2021. So, in each quarter, Croatians abroad sent more money to their families than the state received in the first tranche from the European Union mechanisms for recovery and resilience.

These facts about the Croatian diaspora’s enormous ongoing contribution to Croatia’s economy, in addition to the relatively vast population of Croatians living abroad bring to the fore even more the tragedy of Croatian political and government leadership who continue ignoring and suppressing the significance of its diaspora. The government has few years ago created the so-called Centra State Office for Croats Abroad which was reportedly devised to actively engage the diaspora in advising the government what changes are needed in Croatia to further the development of democracy, increase expat return, increase investment is Croatia from its diaspora etc. However, this body is failing to deliver real changes and in its discriminatory process of nominations for advisers it has largely alienated Croats from the diaspora leaving as its backbone only those who are “yes” people to the government and its political party and who, evidently, do not dare raise their voice against the government and its policies. Were this advisory body a true representation of the Croatian diaspora communities then we could be looking at positive prospects of diaspora’s input into Croatia’s development. One would have thought that the years of this body’s existence, 55 advisors from all over the world, would have at least insisted in the adjusting of parliamentary representation for the diaspora from the current 3 seats back to 12 seats, which used to be from 1995 until 2010 when former communists in power (e.g., communist Yugoslavia nostalgic Jadranka Kosor as Prime Minister) took 9 seats in parliament away from the Croatian diaspora. The communist mindset and resistance to real input from the diaspora within the Croatian government is palpable at every corner and signpost on the path that was supposed to get rid of all communist Yugoslavia practices by now. The good thing is that Croatians appear to be waking up to this tragedy with actions. Thankfully, there are a number of organisations and private businesses in Croatia set up in the last decade especially, by returned expats who want to contribute to the betterment of Croatian living and economy despite the government’s aloofness towards the treasure trove of knowledge and skills that exists among the diaspora Croats. Looking forward to the 2024 general elections in Croatia and hoping for real change in government away from being bombarded by former communist operatives or their offspring.  Without that widespread corruption and nepotism will continue thriving and driving away into the diaspora, in pursuit of a better life, hundreds of thousands more people. Ina Vukic   

Comments

  1. Very nice article on Croatian Daiaspora contributing more money to their economy than what Croatia generates from within . Thanks for sharing !

  2. Nice post 🤠

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