Taking a Break From Writing!

The past three years have been difficult for most. The Pandemic often stopped us from rejoicing in the company of family and friends and from travelling. I now intend to make up for the lost time and am heading across several countries for a well-deserved holiday and catch-up. However, I will continue writing my posts regularly but after Easter Sunday 2023 whence I plan to feel the ground of Croatia under my feet and all its amazing beauty!

I will not be visiting any blogs or portals during this time. Not until I write my first post after Easter. Thank you all for being with me all these past 12 years of this blog portal. I have been fortunate to belong to a world-wide community with my articles spanning over 227 countries and independent territories. I have been humbled by the number of times my articles have been cited in Academic Papers across the world and in several major books on the former Yugoslavia, on Croatia’s Homeland War, on transitioning from communism into democracy and freedom, on war veterans reintegration into society, on international justice and rights to self-determination.

At these very important coming weeks for Christianity and the world please keep in mind that Jesus told His disciples that His suffering was certain: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22; cf. 17:25). Note the word must—He must suffer, and He must be killed. The suffering of Christ was God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ! Happy and Blessed Easter everyone! Ina Vukic

Call M.M. when you want to smear Croatia

Written by Dr. Josip Stjepandic

Translated into English by Ina Vukic

The largest portion of the Croatian diaspora lives in Germany, which happens to be the largest country within the European Union. Almost half a million people with Croatian passports as well as several hundred thousand with Croatian ancestry who have received German citizenship and their descendants reside permanently in Germany. Croats are almost ideal immigrants: loyal, calm, hardworking, enterprising. Croats are known not to cause problems, the crime rate among them is low when compared to the rest of German population. It is no different in Croatia either. The crime rate in Croatia is the lowest in Europe and this becomes evident to the 3.3 million German tourists that visit Croatia regularly. The average German, therefore, does not have even the slightest of reasons to be suspicious of Croats as potential causers of unrest.

Croats in Germany are not only employees, but also entrepreneurs, especially in construction and gastronomy. Jure Vujcic has been running the restaurant “Marjan Grill” in Berlin since 1981. The restaurant is doing so well that you can only get a table by reservation. Adi Cerimagic, a Bosniak activist employed at ESI (European Stability Initiative), was among the restaurant’s numerous guests late last year. According to its own statement ESI advocates for democratic institutions and human rights. There is a justified suspicion that for ESI or employees thereof these ESI noble intentions do not apply to Croats; this is demonstrated by the ESI attitude towards the controversies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it openly advocates a pro-Bosniak and anti-Croatian position.

In his own words, Cerimagic warned the owner of the restaurant about the Croatian coat of arms on the front of the building. In his opinion, such a coat of arms is not permitted, because, he says, it is “Ustashe”, so it should be removed. The restaurant owner did not agree with that because it is a historical Croatian coat of arms that has been used continuously for over 500 years. Hence, no social group can have an exclusive right to it. Much like the Swiss cross. Cerimagic passed on his understanding of the coat of arms to Michael Martens, a correspondent of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) newspaper for Southeast Europe, who proceeded to use it as a topic for one of his newspaper articles. Martens has a reputation of being a journalist of good quality and experienced who spent many years in Serbia (which harbours relentless enmities against Croats and Croatia) where he learned a lot of bad things about Croats and Croatia. Hence, in his occasional articles about Croatia, Martens mainly presents well-known Serbian stereotypes that are not anchored in facts nor have a foothold in facts.

Based on such attitudes, being a Croat is suspicious in itself, and if a larger group of Croats celebrates a sporting success together with their favourite singer, then it is absolutely reprehensible, even if there are no riots. Martens dismisses an argumentative reply as the work of a right-wing extremist.

Martens accepted Cerimagic’s recommendation and wrote an article entitled “Restaurant Review” (“Restaurantkritik”, 10.03.23), which is less of a restaurant review and more of a criticism of Croatian society and especially of Croats in Germany like Vujcic, who are supposedly pro-fascist and not even aware of it.

At the same time, Martens stays in the background with his judgment and gives the floor to university professors Ivo Goldstein (Zagreb), Florian Bieber (Graz) and Alexander Korb (Leicester), who seem to be competing against each other as to who will give a more severe criticism.

The essence of their criticism is that the Croatian red and white checkerboard coat of arms, which begins with the white field as the first field on the checkerboard, belongs exclusively to the Ustashas. The Ustashe were the military police formation in the World War Two Independent State of Croatia (NDH) created by Hitler in 1941 on the ruins of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, who established his government in it, which carried out his orders, such as the enforcement of racial laws.

The fact is that some Ustashas committed terrible crimes while others resisted committing crimes. This resulted in at least a quarter of the pre-war Jewish population being saved in the NDH even though Hitler’s strictest of orders were to exterminate them all. There are few such examples in Europe from the Second World War. There is a book about this based on archival material and authored by Esther Gitman: “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941–1945”. I gifted Martens a copy of this book 4 years ago but it seems he hasn’t even read it. Meanwhile, almost no Jews survived in Serbia, which had a state administration similar to that of the NDH. Already in 1942, Serbia declared itself “judenfrei” (Jew free). Evidently, Martens does not care about this nor does this fact appear to interest him.

Goldstein comes from a hardline Yugoslav Communist family. There are several vanquishing reviews about his work, for example by Dr. Vladimir Geiger: “In his latest book ‚Jasenovac‘ Goldstein showed neither ‚good will‘ nor ‚common sense‘. On the contrary, he continues to lobotomise us by expressing everything but the willingness and ability to engage in scientific approach.”

When Goldstein says: “There is no doubt that anyone who today uses the checkerboard that begins with a white field declares himself a neo-Ustasha,” a serious analyst, such as Martens who is being portrayed as such, would have to interpret this as something like this: “Whoever uses a checkerboard that begins with a white field today shows himself to be a free-thinking man, who is not interested in the servings dished out by the Yugoslav communists”.

Goldstein is known to be a fan of the communist dictator Tito and he kept his portrait in his office while serving as the Croatian Ambassador to France in Paris from 2012. Despite being a supporter of one totalitarianism, as far as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper is concerned, he has become qualified enough to judge another totalitarianism!?

In a television interview in 2018, he claimed that in March 1945, for the purposes of hiding their crime the Ustashe received a special corpse crushing machine from Germany with which they grounded and crushed the corpses of their victims. That statement, which he did not repeat again, and whose accuracy could not be confirmed by anyone else, earned him the appropriate nickname “the Crusher”.

Florian Bieber, known among other things for having signed the so-called The Sarajevo declaration on a common language, according to which Serbian and Croatian are one and the same language, and therefore Croatian, one of the languages of the European Union (!), does not exist at all. Matica Hrvatska, the leading Croatian cultural organization, considers this Declaration to be linguistic violence. Bieber says:

“A coat of arms with a white field at the beginning indicates support for the Ustasha regime or are right-wing extremist groups. The use of a checkerboard with a white field is clearly associated with a right-wing extremist meaning.”

With this categorical statement professor Bieber shows all his superficiality and ignorance. Obviously, he has never had in his hands the 1974 Constitution of the SFRY (Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia) which prescribes a checkered coat of arms with an initial white field for the then Socialist Republic of Croatia, a component of Yugoslavia. Following his statement, Tito supported the Ustasha regime in the last years of his life.

Evidently unaware of its consequences, Alexander Korb, a Holocaust professor in Leicester, England, makes the most drastic, albeit true, statement:

“The use of symbolism is primarily a signal that the ‘Independent State of Croatia’ from 1941 to 1945 is considered a historically legitimate project.”

This is precisely the position that Martens persistently expresses, and it originates from Greater Serbia Serbs and Yugoslav communists: “Since Adolf Hitler in 1941, with his spontaneous decision, fulfilled the centuries-old dream of many generations of Croats and established a Croatian state, it, like Hitler, would have to disappear and remain permanently banned! All Croats must suffer for all eternity because a group of Croats abused the power that was suddenly granted to them by Hitler in April 1941.”

The checkered Croatian coat of arms originates from Austria in 1495. Although heralds claim that it should start with the first red field, which symbolises gold, which is more valuable than silver (white field), it seems quite natural that both variants are used simultaneously.

The coat of arms in question was used in all countries where Croats had some form of identity (Austria, Austria-Hungary, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Independent State of Croatia, SFR of Yugoslavia). There is also an opinion on this from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, which Martens unfortunately failed to request it seems:

“The historic Croatian coat of arms with a red and white checkerboard has existed for centuries in both heraldic forms, with an initial red or white field at the top left. Both forms are used today in Croatia as symbols on buildings or in associations. From the point of view of the Republic of Croatia, this coat of arms cannot be viewed as an anti-constitutional symbol, because it, as a free-standing symbol without additions, refers to belonging to Croatian culture and identity, and in no way to the military formations of totalitarian regimes.”

Several books have been published about the Croatian checkered coat of arms, for example Dr. Mario Jareb’s 2022 book: “From Checkerboard to Tricolor: Development and Use of the Croatian Coat of Arms and Flag Throughout the Centuries”. If only Martens and his interlocutors had taken a brief look at it, an article like the one mentioned above would probably not have been written. Dr. Jareb himself writes in an article: “Coats of arms and flags without the Ustasha tendril are not NDH coats of arms and flags.” Therefore, the insinuation that the flag which contained the coat of arms with the initial white field, with which the then Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic took a picture with a group of Croatian emigrants in 2016, is “Ustasha”, is baseless. By the way, during the Second World War, the Ustashe movement did not have its own flag at all, so there was never an Ustasha flag.”

In the end, the question remains open as to why the Government of the Republic of Croatia did not regulate the issue of the Croatian checkered coat of arms in an appropriate manner (at least with a decree). Considering that the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS), which emerged from the Serbian rebels, who terrorised the Croats during the 4 years of war in 1991-95, and today are trying to realise their war goals with peacetime means. The passive attitude of the Government is also represented in the parliamentary majority is not surprising, although it is by no means acceptable, and is absolutely reprehensible. As long as this is the case, further attacks on Croatian national symbols can be expected.

The combination of red and white squares can be found in many patterns in Croatia, especially in sports. Designer Boris Ljubicic created many applications on that basis. Among them is our logo, which according to the logic of Martens & Co, should also be banned, because it starts with the first white field.

The Croatian checkered coat of arms is so widespread among Croats around the world that some form of state protection of origin and authenticity would be necessary. Outbursts like this article in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” are the best proof of that. It is fortunate that German readers do not read or believe articles like this one.

It is unfortunate that FAZ, once a very respectable newspaper, allows the publication of articles that exude the spirit of Greater Serbian, Yugoslav-Communist enviers and charlatans in line with the principle: “Call M.M. when you want to smear Croatia.”

dr. Josip Stjepandic

President of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Diaspora and Homeland

Croatia: Will The Newly Assembled Electoral Commission Bring Voting Rights Equality To Citizens Living In The Diaspora?

And – they’re off!

Bar it’s head or President a brand-new Croatian Electoral Commission has been sworn in on Thursday last week to meet the most challenging electoral year in Croatia’s modern history. The Electoral Commission will soon face a very rare challenge, and that is the next year, 2024, when Croatia will have triple elections: those for members of the European Parliament, those for the Parliament and those for the President of the Republic. To make the year “more interesting” the Parliamentary elections will be operating under the new Electoral law ordered recently by the Croatian Constitutional Court.

After taking the oath that reads – “I swear on my honour that in the performance of my duties as a member of the State Electoral Commission, I will respect the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Croatia and that I will perform my duties conscientiously and impartially”, the new Vice President of the Electoral Commission, Josip Salapic, an officer of the ministry of justice at the time and former Member of Croatian Parliament,  stated that the newly elected members, who were elected for eight years, shall perform their duties impartially, honourably and fairly.

Along with Salapic, on March 3, the Parliament elected Vesna Fabijancic Krizanic and new members Slaven Hojsko, Ivana Ljulj Cvitanic and Drazenka Pandeka as another vice president of the Elecotoral Commission.

The swearing-in was also attended by the President of the Supreme Court, Radovan Dobronic, who by law is the President of the Electoral Commission.

As far as the Electorate 11 is concerned, for the diaspora and Croatian citizen voters residing outside of Croatia, let’s hope that the new make-up of the Electoral Commission will follow the footsteps of the Constitutional Court and revisit the voter and representation formula as the Constitutional Court did for the Electorates in Croatia proper. The access to voting booths within the Electorate 11 has been painfully biased and downright discriminatory. That is, in the Bosnia and Herzegovina part of the Electorate 11 voting booths or polling places were many, scattered fairly across the territory, accessible to all voters. In the rest of the Electoral 11 – Canada, USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Austria etc. – polling booths were limited to Embassy or consular Headquarters! This meant that up to 80% of voters could not access the polling booths and cast their votes because of the unreasonable distance and personal cost to the individual voter. The Electoral law does provide for the Electoral Commission to allocate polling places within all Electorates and since 2010, when the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ government was under Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, not only were the seats in parliament reduced from 12 to 3 for Electorate 11 but many polling places were also cancelled for accessible community-based clubs and centres and left only to Diplomatic-Consular Headquarters!

So, not only is the representation in the Croatian Parliament severely reduced for Croatian citizens living abroad but their access to polling is grotesquely reduced also. Many would need to take a four-hour plane ride, for instance, to cast their vote at General Elections or any other elections!

The result of such deplorable electoral practices in Croatia is that, for instance, the three seats in the parliament for Croats living abroad are filled with representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, because their access to polling places is relatively easy, yielding a much higher number of votes than those from, say, Canada, USA, Australia, Germany… Most Croats in these countries do not even know the names of their supposed parliamentary representatives let alone their needs being represented by them.

Since it is estimated that there is the same number of Croats living in the diaspora, or more, than in Croatia proper, it is to be hoped that the newly assembled Croatian Electoral Commission will revisit its definition of polling places in the diaspora and stay away from the exclusivity of “Headquarters of the Diplomatic-Consular Missions”.  What possible excuse can Croatia have not to bring the polling places closer to where the voters are like it does within Croatia! None, except communist mindset as far as I see. Former Yugoslavia communist and their offspring nurtured a particular hatred and intolerance towards the Croatian diaspora because it is mainly made up of Croats who rejected communism and fled to the West from its oppression. That same diaspora was a large contributor to the successful creation of the independent Croatia, exit from communist Yugoslavia.  This was justly rewarded by President Franjo Tudjman by allocating 12 seats in parliament to Croats in the diaspora from the start of the Constitution of the new independent Croatia I early 1990’s. It took Tudjman’s death in late 1999 and the subsequent influx of former communists or their indoctrinated offspring into the corridors of power in Croatia to keep chipping away at the Croatian diaspora rights.

All HDZ Governments in Croatia, since 2003, have shouted that their priority is the equalisation of all Croatian citizens in terms of voting rights. But they are a far cry from being equal today and during the past decade, at least. Croatian citizens outside the Republic of Croatia form a large population which, unfortunately, today is not equal to all other Croatian citizens, although it should be. This inequality is not just about the mere three seats in parliament, but also about the polling places, because they (Croatian citizens outside the Republic of Croatia) are actually “disabled from voting”. Access to polling is the very backbone of democracy and the Croatian diaspora has been severely disadvantaged, if not banned from voting given that in so many cases casting a vote at election also means prohibitive financial burden for the voter.

Croatian voting rights are regulated by Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia. According to paragraph 1, ” Croatian citizens over the age of 18 (voters) have general and equal voting rights in elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament, as well as in the decision-making process at the national referendum, in accordance with the law.”

Therefore, while the Constitution itself evidently aims to provide for equality of voting rights for all citizens the Electoral Commission’s allocation and definition of voting places had since 2010, particularly, severely discriminated against and removed the equality of those voting rights for Croatian citizens living in the diaspora. The latter in particular since equal voting rights would include equal (or reasonable) access to polling booths. This is the principle that every voter’s vote is equally valid.

The question is often heard whether Croatian citizens who do not live in Croatia should have the right to vote at all. In Croatia, these people say that many Croatian citizens living in diaspora do not pay taxes, do not serve in the army and do not have any other obligations, so it is not logical that they are allowed to decide on something. This is countered by the arguments that voting is the constitutional right of all citizens, that emigrants contribute to the economic progress of Croatia with their enormous remittances and investments, that their right to vote is a form of integration of the homeland and expatriate Croatia, and that because official Croatia is calling for the return of Croats from the diaspora they must be given the right and opportunity to shape that return which is also done via parliamentary representation and voting.

However, the term “Croatian citizens who do not have a residence in the Republic of Croatia” does not only refer to the diaspora, i.e., to those who previously lived in Croatia and then emigrated, but also to those who have never lived in Croatia. According to some data, Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina make up more than 70 percent of registered voters in the constituency for “diaspora” (Electorate 11).

There is no exact data on Croatian voters in the diaspora. It is clear, however, that the Croatian diaspora is growing and expanding continuously, but still shows little interest in voting at elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President, or European Parliament Member. This is understandable once one looks at the electoral rules and practices via which voters must register beforehand and they can only cast their vote in person at a Croatian consular representation, and that ultimately, they can only elect three representatives.

It seems to me that the newly assembled Electoral Commission in Croatia can much improve access to polling, and therefore equality, in the diaspora by simply redefining the polling places. Failing that, postal and electronic voting would immensely boost the voting equality of Croatian citizens living in the diaspora. The latter has been a topic of much voter pleas for at least a decade, and nothing has been done. One feels that one has been talking into a deaf telephone on this. So frustrating in this age when rights and equality are on every politician’s lips and yet steps towards achieving them are so painful and slow. Not acceptable! Ina Vukic

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: