Croatia: To Euro Or Not To Euro

Croatian Sovereignists (L), Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian Prime Minister (R)

Since Croatia set on the path of independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1990 its citizens have held only three referendums: independence referendum in May 1991, referendum to join (or not) the European Union as member state in 2012 and the referendum for the definition of marriage (between a man and a woman) in 2013.

In 2013/2014, 650,000 signatures were collected in Croatia for the initiative introduced by the Headquarters for the Defence of Vukovar Association to hold a referendum regarding the Cyrillic (Serbian) script in Vukovar. That is, a referendum seeking the exclusion of the Cyrillic script as a second official script/language on public buildings and institutions etc in Vukovar. The referendum was abandoned due to Constitutional Court’s ruling that such a referendum question could not asked as it would severely compromise the rights of minorities under the Croatian Constitution living in Croatia.

In 2018 a referendum was planned, and signatures collected in Croatia on three questions related to changes in electoral legislation and the cancellation of the Istanbul Convention, but this pre-referendum signature collection ended in agony and scandal with claims from the government agency engaged in counting the votes, APIS, that over 40,000 signatures were invalid, including double signatures. The referendum initiating and organising group “People Decide” complained and demanded an independent recount of votes, however this process did not eventuate as claims of ballot papers’ being destroyed arose besides apparent resistance from authorities to permit a recount.  

Come 2021 and the socio-economic surrounds for another referendum of key significance for Croatia emerge, with politics hotting up just as they did in 2011 and 2012 ahead of the European Union membership referendum. This new referendum would seek to clarify whether Croatia should abandon its beloved monetary currency unit Kuna and adopt the Euro.

Since 2004 Croatia had a bumpy ride to its 2013 achieved status as EU member state. This bumpy ride particularly saw parts the international community collaborating with some ex-communist Yugoslavia Croatian operatives fabricate evidence to attempt a criminalisation of Croatia’s Homeland War in defence from brutal Serb aggression. This bumpy ride included the equating of victim with the aggressor. This bumpy ride included an increased stacking of Croatia’s public service posts and positions of power with former communists and/or their descendants. Hence, an anti-EU membership mood that became visibly prevalent in by 2010 and the government, obviously fearing that the EU Membership referendum would fail if the Constitution was not changed went on to change the Constitutional law governing referendums.

That is, the section dealing with Referendums in 1990 stated that the referendum is decided upon by the majority of votes but under the condition that a majority of the total voter numbers vote in the referendum and this was changed in 2010 whereby majority of total voters were no longer required to turn up at voting but the question asked in the referendum is decided on the basis of majority vote out of the total number of people who turned up to vote. And so, we had the situation that in 2012 the majority vote out of the dismal 28% of total voters turnout decided that Croatia should become an EU member.  

Having been through the process of public consultations/submissions since the beginning of this year the government of Croatia is currently bringing before the parliament its proposal for changes to the Constitutional law governing referendums. The government claims that its proposed changes will being an improvement in the vague legislative framework of the referendum institute. That the new legislation will be harmonised with the Constitution and ensure transparency and openness of its implementation. Citizens should have a more effective influence in the political decision-making process, the government claims.

The changes proposed include that Local self-government units are obliged to provide places for collecting signatures for referendum initiatives, depending on the number of inhabitants in that local self-government unit. Parliament also undertakes to call a referendum within 30 days (instead of the current 15) after the Electoral Commission determines that enough signatures have been collected.

Whether, if passed into law, limiting referendum polling places to government offices only (not city squares, schools, or parks also) is the most voter-friendly part of the referendum process is a moot point and its clarification is bound to appear if a referendum is held after the parliament passes the proposed changes to the legislation. Certainly, experience would suggest that limiting polling places to government-controlled venues will always deter many voters from turning up at the polls in fear of government control and corruption.   

Conspicuously missing from the proposed changes to law governing referendums is the fact that the proposal does not include any possibility of scrutinising or observing the counting of votes in the referendum voting processes despite the bitter experiences of the 2018 referendum attempts that were often described as corruption and manipulation of public votes.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has announced that his government will introduce Euro as Croatia’s official monetary currency during 2023. He has also reminded the public this month that the process of joining the EU in Croatia enjoyed the support of all participants in the political scene and made it clear that there would be no referendum on the Euro.

“It was seen in the process of EU accession negotiations and in the referendum,” said the Prime Minister, adding that 150 MPs voted in favour of joining the Union at the time and that he believed that the issue was resolved by referendum and vote in Parliament. “Croatia then legally and politically undertook to join the eurozone,” he said. Plenkovic also stated that those against introducing the Euro to Croatia had done nothing for the process of Croatia achieving membership in the EU.

Let’s keep it real, Prime Minister!

Plenkovic’s statement that those against the Euro had done nothing for Croatia’s membership in the EU appears scandalous and certainly not true because Croatia became a member of the EU as an independent state created and fought for in a bloody war by multitudes of those who do not want to give up the Kuna and embrace the Euro. The people who fought for and sacrificed their own lives and for an independent Croatia have an absolute right to fight to retain a potent symbol of their suffering for freedom from communism – the Kuna!

Hence, the Prime Minister Plenkovic is wrong in insisting that there would be no referendum regarding the Euro. Not all EU member countries are also members of the Eurozone and therefore, this evidences the option that membership in the EU does not oblige its members to also become members of the Eurozone.

As the date of the apparently imminent introduction of the new currency approaches, such a possibility is gaining more and more public attention, which, as with EU membership for example, is divided. Some are in favour of the introduction of the Euro because they believe that it will stabilise Croatia and help its further development and investments. At the same time, others strongly oppose the announcement because they fear an increase in the prices of everyday necessities and an additional drop in citizens’ standards.

Croatian Sovereighnists party, headed by Hrvoje Zekanovic MP, which is part of conservative opposition parties in the Croatian Parliament, has launched the organising of a referendum on the adoption of the Euro in Croatia and they are against the Euro and against Croatia being a part of the Eurozone. They state that their main reason for wanting to protect the Kuna, to keep it is in the fact that national currency and the management of its exchange rate is one of the key parameters of influencing the economic development of the country, so this parameter should remain in the hands of the Republic of Croatia and its citizens, for whom Croatian interests are a priority.

No date is in sight as to when the referendum process will commence but one may safely say it will be during 2022. Furthermore, it is anticipated that it will take several months for the new legislation regarding referendum changes to come out the other end as passed. Hence, the initiative for a referendum and the government’s insistence that there will be none, is surely to bring in a great deal more of political unrest and disagreements in Croatia, including bitter clashes between citizens who tend to see the adoption of the Euro as the hated last straw that will break the back of the pride rightly held for the glorious victory over the Serb and communist aggressor during the 1990’s.

Prime Minister Plenkovic keeps telling the Croatian public that the adoption of the Euro will increase the standard of living at a greater rate than any increases in prices. The opponents of the Euro in Croatia state that this is not the time to adopt the Euro in Croatia as that currency is good only for the wealthy countries, those in the EU with a much higher standard of living, that the rounding off of prices is bound to occur with the introduction of the Euro and thus be detrimental for Croatian citizens. Also, on the side against the Euro many say that the Eurozone is an unsafe conglomerate and if it falls apart the poor Croatia will be placed in the situation of having to contribute to the repair and bailing other countries, such as Greece and Italy, out of a debt crisis, as their losses in this event could surface after the Coronavirus pandemic as being astronomical. The greatest complaint against the Euro appears to be the widespread belief that by losing its national currency Kuna, Croatia will lose a great deal of its hard-earned sovereignty, paying for it with rivers of blood and devastation.

And at the end of the day a referendum regarding the Euro should be held in Croatia if because of nothing else then because only 28% of total Croatian voted at the EU referendum in 2012 and barely 67% of those voted Yes to Croatia’s EU membership. A referendum on the Euro could indeed be a great test for the Croatian citizens regarding their experiences and trust as members of the EU as opposed to national sovereignty and retention of values from the Homeland War. Ina Vukic

Croatian Pickings From UN General Assembly 2021

The past week saw the sitting of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City and Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic was there delivering a speech that spanned from global issues such as Climate Change, Violence, Hunger, Poverty, Coronavirus Pandemic, dealing with the Taliban, Multi-lateral cooperation to localised issues of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia has vested interests in the well-being of the Western Balkans. The region’s stability, functionality and prosperity mean a great deal to us. This is why Croatia is one of the strongest advocates of the region’s EU enlargement prospects. The fulfilment of well-established criteria, the implementation of reforms and delivering tangible results remain key requirements for EU membership. But even more so, the path to membership serves to secure the higher standards its peoples aspire to.

Democratic transformation and the rule of law will remain central markers. But we have also continued to call on all regional leaders to lower tensions, overcome their differences, and seek ways to build lasting relationships.

In a way, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cornerstone of peace and security in the wider region. Its territorial integrity, functioning institutions, and inter-ethnic cohabitation have always been important concerns for Croatia. Yet, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is as challenging and as complex as it gets in the Western Balkans. (And it is always challenging in the Western Balkans)

We would like to see a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, progressing firmly on the path to EU membership; a country where the equality among its three constituent peoples and the rights of all its citizens are fully guaranteed.

Unfortunately, narratives in Bosnia and Herzegovina often swing between two tenaciously unachievable and unjust ends – centralised governance and separatism. In their own way, both are destructive and contrary to the spirit of its constitutional framework, stemming from the Dayton-Paris Agreement.

The Dayton-Paris Agreement is not without its faults, which undoubtedly will need to be addressed. However, we should not underestimate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s well-established sensitivities and inherited intricacies. Nor should it be subject to experimentation that dangerously deviate from the Dayton-Paris Agreement’s founding principles. This is essential in moving Bosnia and Herzegovina forward and securing its EU aspirations.

The inequality of its constituent peoples has been left unresolved for too long. It unnecessarily created internal political instabilities and tensions. In order to move forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina requires an appropriate institutional ‘power sharing’ framework, based on principles of federalism, decentralisation and legitimate representation. The concept of constituent peoples is often mispresented as an obstacle to the equal rights of all its citizens. Many political and legal practices can be ensured without having to give up democratic rights and freedoms.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s electoral reforms are long overdue and urgently needed. Electoral reforms should facilitate constituent peoples (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) are able to respectively choose their representatives at all the appropriate political levels. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Croats have not been able to exercise this right. It’s no wonder they feel marginalised and disenfranchised. This has to change,” said among other things President Milanovic.

The current chair of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s presidency, Zeljko Komsic, reminded the United Nations of its commitment to human rights, citing ethnic inequality within his own country. The problem with Zeljko Komsic is that he is representing the Croatian people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in its Presidency and yet he was elected there by Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks, and not Croats. Were only Croats permitted to vote for their representative then Komsic would not have won and, indeed, the Croats in Bosnia largely feel he is no ally of Croats when it comes upholding and fighting for their rights as one of three constitutional peoples of the country (Croats, Bosniaks/Muslims and Serbs).   

Komšić on Wednesday 22 September 2021 hailed bilateral and regional cooperation during the pandemic, saying neighbours provided aid before multilateral institutions did. But later in his speech, he spoke of neighbours’ intentions to annex parts of his country by fomenting ethnic tensions within.

Bosnia was the site of a bloody war in the 1990s that ended with the Dayton Agreement. Komsic says the international agreement created complex institutions that make it difficult for the country to come to a political consensus that would allow it to move toward “a functioning state.”

He lambasted conditions that have created political, electoral, and social inequality within his own country on ethnic and religious lines.

Komšić bemoaned population outflows, saying a substantial segment of the population, including those of working age and with young families, have left Bosnia for better business and human rights opportunities. At the same time, Bosnia has received economic migrants from elsewhere. He says this combination has created additional social problems.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace, initialled in Dayton and signed in Paris in 1995, is in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An integral part of the Agreement, as Annex 4, is the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its preamble, it clearly and unequivocally states that it is, among other things, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948…

Unfortunately, such system of values, based on the equality of all individuals within a society, does not exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina… systemic inequality of the citizens is reflected in several aspects of life. That includes political aspects because all citizens do not have equal rights in the electoral system, but also those where the same citizens do not have equal rights and opportunities in social life, such as the right to work. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is such that it gives preference to someone’s ethnicity. Based on that ethnicity, the citizens of my country have greater or lesser rights, depending on which part of the country they live in…

The complexity of this issue is evident in the attempts to impose on us, even through diplomatic activities on the international scene, the existence of discrimination and inequality of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is done by emphasizing the ethnicity of a part of the citizens and demands for greater rights for ethnic communities supported by neighbouring countries, always to the detriment of fundamental human rights…

…I believe that this is the right place to emphasize the expectation that the new High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina will take into account the need to protect international legal acts and their fundamental values. That is one of his most important tasks. Otherwise, if the international community itself in Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to abandon the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then the following question rightly arises – is the Universal Declaration even necessary if its implementation is selective? Should we even talk about the protection of human rights in general if, in the specific case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the United Nations still has an executive mandate through the Office of the High Representative, we do not show by example that we are ready to stand for common values such as protection of human rights and equality of every citizen in relation to someone else and different.

I believe that, despite all the differences of political views within Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the international community represented by the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which assists the High Representative, the only guiding light to further political development of my country, as a pledge to preserve its peace and future, must be respect for human rights values. All the people of my country, regardless of their identity, ethnicity, religious affiliation or absence thereof, must have the same rights. Otherwise, we will end up in an ‘Orwellian society’, where it is accepted that some are, after all, more important than others. That always jeopardises the stability of a society and undermines peace and security. From this very place, I call upon the United Nations institutions to insist on the values of human rights protection in every segment of their activities,” said Komsic among other things in his speech.

Zeljko Komsic is evidently working hard at undermining the validity, reality and spirit of the Dayton-Paris Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina by suggesting it’s out of sync with the Universal declaration of Human Rights. In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Croatia’s president called for electoral reform in Bosnia, saying its Croats were marginalised. The marginalisation of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obviously not an issue that worries Komsic as he knows that the overwhelming majority of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not accept or recognise him as their representative in the country’s Presidency.

There appears to be a wide international opinion and agreement that changes are needed to the Dayton Peace Agreement to ensure the sustainability of enduring peace. It goes without saying that any success of such changes will depend on agreements reached among Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as one of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement signatories, as well as international leadership figures that include the EU. In addition to President Milanovic’s emphasis on the urgent need for electoral reforms, one of the latest stands from official Croatian foreign affairs ministry on Bosnia and Herzegovina is that its entire society needs a comprehensive transformation, and ‘only by being firmly anchored for European values and standards of civil and political rights for all three constituent peoples and its citizens can the country strengthen its stability and progress’, which appears to have ruffled some high-ranking feathers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Zeljko Komsic’s.

Some in the corridors of Bosnia and Herzegovina powers would argue that electoral laws are a matter of internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Croatia should not meddle. They could not be more wrong because Croatia is a co-signatory of the Dayton-Paris Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and therefore all aspects associated with peace and equality are its business, and, also, hundreds of thousands of Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovia are citizens of the Republic of Croatia and, therefore, have a duty to advocate for and even try to protect the rights of their citizens living there. Agreement of changes that are needed for Bosnia and Herzegovina are without a doubt of vital importance for the country but particularly for the Croatian people there who are supposed to be equal to Serbs and Bosniaks/Muslims but are pushed so far away from their rights as constitutional people that they are threatened with an even more painful existence than till now, if not extinction from their ancestral lands. Ina Vukic

Porphyry Should Spread messages of Peace From Serbia Not Croatia

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), Patriarch Porphyry, said a few months ago in Jasenovac that the place should be the foundation from which messages of peace will spread. At the same time he gave a sermon in Jasenovac, Croatia, the site of WWII camp associated with the Holocaust and enormous fabrications of victim numbers to aid communist and Serb propaganda against Croatia.  “Human evil is few where it has shown its ugliest side as in this place.” wider and wider and further “, said Porphyry in a sermon in February 2021 in the church in Jasenovac, the Hina agency reported.

During the past week, 15 September, Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Porphyry, led the liturgy in the monastery of St. John the Baptist in Jasenovac, Croatia, after which he said that the faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Jasenovac never gathered to do mathematics, that is, who did more harm than memory, prayer and reverence for the whole the human race and that nothing like it ever happens to anyone again.

Given that WWII Serbia was among the first European countries to declare itself “Jew Free” or “Judenfrei” (May to August 1942) by exterminating some 94% of its Jews, given that it was Serbia that attacked Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s and committed acts of genocide in both countries, Porphyry would have done justice to humanity had he said that Belgrade (not Jasenovac in Croatia) should be the places from where messages of peace should be spread. But no, this he will not say because the Serbian Orthodox Church is the guiding “light” on the path to Serbia’s fabrications of history and its denial of its own horrendous crimes on other countries’ territories.

Porphyry’s or Serbian Orthodox Church’s train of intent continues the pathetic and repulsive road of blaming others, particularly Croatia, for all the Holocaust and unlawful killings in Yugoslavia region during WWII and covering up, lying profusely about WWII Serbia, lying profusely about its genocide over Croats and Bosniaks in the 1990’s…. So, given my last couple of posts regarding the “mocking of the Holocaust” and falsification of history it is important to keep in mind and keep telling the world the following part of an editorial published in 1995 “Serbian portrayal of Serbia’s ‘Holocaust Decency’ is historical revisionism”:

Fully six months before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, Serbia had issued legislation restricting Jewish participation in the economy and university enrolment. One year later on 22 October 1941, the rabidly antisemitic ‘Grand Anti-Masonic Exhibit’ opened in occupied Belgrade, funded by the city of Belgrade. The central theme was an alleged Jewish-Communist-Masonic plot for world domination. Newspapers such as Obnova (Renewal) and Naša Borba (Our Struggle) praised this exhibit, proclaiming that Jews were the ancient enemies of the Serbian people and that Serbs should not wait for the Germans to begin the extermination of the Jews. A few months later, Serbian authorities issued postage stamps commemorating the opening of this popular exhibit. These stamps, which juxtaposed Jewish and Serbian symbols, portrayed Judaism as the source of world evil and advocated the humiliation and violent subjugation of Jews.

Anti-Semitic postage stamps in WWII Serbia

Serbia as well as neighbouring Croatia was under Axis occupation during the Second World War. Although the efficient destruction of Serbian Jewry in the first two years of German occupation has been well documented by respected sources, the extent to which Serbia actively collaborated in that destruction has been less recognized.

The Serbian government under General Milan Nedić worked closely with local Nazi officials in making Belgrade the first ‘Judenfrei’ city of Europe. As late as 19 September 1943, Nedić made an official visit to Adolf Hitler, Serbs in Berlin advanced the idea that the Serbs were the ‘Ubermenchen’ (master race) of the Slavs.

Although the Serbian version of history portrays wartime Serbia as a helpless, occupied territory, Serbian newspapers of the period offer a portrait of intensive collaboration. In November 1941, Mihajlo Olčan, a minister in Nedić’s government boasted that ‘Serbia has been allowed what no other occupied country has been allowed and that is to establish law and order with its own armed forces’.

Indeed, with Nazi blessings, Nedić established the Serbian State Guard, numbering about 20,000, compared to the 3,400 German police in Serbia. Recruiting advertisements for the Serb police force specified that ‘applicants must have no Jewish or Gypsy blood’. Nedić’s second in command was Dimitrije Ljotić, founder of the Serbian Fascist Party and the principal Fascist ideologist of Serbia. Ljotić organized the Serbian Volunteers Corps, whose primary function was rounding up Jews, Bosniaks, Gypsies, and partisans for execution. Serbian citizens and police received cash bounties for the capture and delivery of Jews. Jews are, according to Serbian Chetnik Dimitrije Ljotić, a cursed people.

In his views, there are 4 methods the Jews have of ruling over other nations and the whole world, which include: Capitalism, Democracy, Freemasonry, and Marxism. He openly called for action against Jews because they were, in his opinion, the most cynical and dangerous opponents of Christian values.

The Serbian Orthodox Church openly collaborated with the Nazis, and many priests publicly defended the persecution of the Jews. On 13 August 1941, approximately 500 distinguished Serbs signed ‘An Appeal to the Serbian Nation’, which called for loyalty to the occupying Nazis. The first three signers were bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. On 30 January 1942, Metropolitan Josif, the acting head of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, officially prohibited conversions of Jews to Serbian Orthodoxy, thereby blocking a means of saving Jewish lives. At a public rally, after the government minister Olčan ‘thanked God that the enormously powerful fist of Germany had not come down upon the head of the Serbian nation’ but instead ‘upon the heads of the Jews in our midst’, the speaker of these words was then blessed by a high-ranking Serbian Orthodox priest. A most striking example of Serbian antisemitism combined with historical revisionism is the case of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović (1880-1956), revered as one of the most influential church leaders and ideologists after Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

To Serbs, Bishop Velimirović was a martyr who survived torture in the Dachau prison camp. In truth he was brought to Dachau (as were other prominent European clergy), because the Nazis believed he could be useful for propaganda. There he spent approximately two months as an ‘Ehrenhaftling’ (honor prisoner) in a special section, dining on the same food as the German officers, living in private quarters, and making excursions into town under German escort.

From Dachau, this venerated Serbian priest endorsed the Holocaust:

Europe is presently the main battlefield of the Jew and his father, the devil, against the heavenly Father and his only begotten Son… (Jews) first need to become legally equal with Christians in order to repress Christianity next, turn Christians into atheist, and step on their necks. All the modern European slogans have been made up by Jews, the crucifiers of Christ: democracy, strikes, socialism atheism, tolerance of all religions, pacifism, universal revolution, capitalism and communism… All this has been done with the intention to eliminate Christ… You should think about this, my Serbian brethren, and correspondingly correct your thoughts, desires and acts. (Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović: Addresses to the Serbian People–Through the Prison Window. Himmelsthur, Germany: Serbian Orthodox Eparchy for Western Europe, 1985, pp. 161-162).

Written and compiled by Ina Vukic

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