Croatia: Corruption Is The Decisive Factor Causing High Emigration

Corruption has countless manifestations. Prominent examples include bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds, nepotism, non-existence of equal opportunities in employment and public tenders and procurement, influence peddling, insider trading, extortion, and abuse of the public purse to name only a few.

Even bare logic alone tells us that nothing honest can come out of a dishonest process.

And so, nothing anti-corruption can come out of members of Zagreb Holdings management board placed in those positions via a corrupt process headed by the newly elected Mayor, green-left nutjob named Tomislav Tomasevic, even if such appointments are reportedly temporary or until a public recruitment process is undertaken. Tomasevic is giving his people, those he appointed directly to those positions, an advantage in their future competition for those positions – not an equal opportunity exercise by a long shot.

The new model of governing Zagreb announced as electoral promise (to rid Zagreb of corruption) by the We can! movement (green-left) Tomislav Tomasevic explicitly stated that members of the management board of Zagreb Holding (and other city companies) would be selected in a public competition and procedure to give everyone an opportunity to compete for the job. As soon as he became the Mayor of Zagreb, he broke that electoral promise and appointed people into those jobs without a publicly advertised recruitment process. Tomasevic says that he needed to do that because he found the state of the city’s finances and business in a shocking state and had to act quickly and appoint his people directly to the positions! It is obvious that he did that because he practices corrupt and biased measures that were and are associated with the former Yugoslavia regime and its generation of mass corruption. Tomasevic, is after all, a politician with a nasty communist mindset. Instead of getting rid of the Zagreb Holding Board incumbent Board members overnight he could have retained them while a public call for applications process was afoot.   

Knowing whether corruption leads to higher emigration rates is important because most labour emigration is from developing to developed countries. If corruption leads highly skilled and highly educated workers to leave developing countries, it can result in a shortage of skilled labour and slower economic growth. In turn, this leads to higher unemployment, lowering the returns to human capital and encouraging further emigration. Corruption also shifts public spending from health and education to sectors with less transparency in spending, disadvantaging lower-skilled workers and encouraging them to emigrate.

Migration and corruption are among the defining issues of socioeconomic development across the world. Migration provides a lifeline and offers safety to millions, while corruption remains one of the most pernicious obstacles to economic and social development. Fighting corruption and managing migration have become major preoccupations of governments across countries at all stages of development. However, one yet needs to see real and sincere efforts being made by the government of Croatia to fight against both since the late 1990’s when the war of Serb aggression actually ended fully.

If corruption and nepotism are perceived to undermine meritocracy, it is a plausible reaction to turn towards opportunities elsewhere, especially among the highly skilled. This direct effect on individual migration decisions comes in addition to the negative indirect impacts of corruption on the economy or on security. Widespread corruption can hamper economic development and undermine the rule of law. The resulting poverty and insecurity can in turn stimulate the wish to leave.

Croatia has, with new research findings, joined the countries of the world where migration and corruption have been proven to have a causal relationship.

New research findings’ report („Research on Corruption in Croatia – Measuring Corruption“) and recent book (Gastarbeiter Millennials/Milennial Guest Workers) by Dr Tado Juric, political scientist and historian at the Catholic University of Croatia in Zagreb, point to Croatia as a country where corruption is on the rise as is the number of people leaving the country, emigrating.  

Political corruption is growing in Croatia, which means placing its people in positions that govern society. What ‘hurts’ a little man is when someone with the same education as him in society passes, if he has connections and membership cards, while he or his children stagnate and regress, said Dr Juric last week for the Croatian Television show “Studio 4”.

The emigration of Croatian citizens, in addition to the dire consequences for the pension, education and health care system, also leads to an increase in corruption in Croatia. Statistics show that more than 370,000 Croatian citizens (a whopping 6-8% of total population!) have emigrated from Croatia during the past decade in search for a better life, employment and fairer life, while some 125,000 have come to Croatia, not all citizens. The sum of these entry and exit figures is a drastic decline in population leaving little hope for economic prosperity and autonomous well-being without injections from the Croatian diaspora that now numbers more Croatian people than Croatia itself. But that injection is likely to shrink significantly the longer the corruption is allowed to thrive. 

The more people leave Croatia the more are the corrupt enboldened to continue with corruption as those who leave are among those that care the most, who are concerned the most, and who protest the most, wanting changes. Once they leave the country the number of people left that push for changes reduces. The results of Juric’s new paper and book link the reported increases in corruption and emigration – and explain how emigration is both the result of past corruption and the fuel for further corruption.

“Namely, if the critics leave, it becomes easier for the criticised,” Juric writes, adding that corruption is deeply rooted in Croatian society and has become a form of parallel system that undermines the economy.

 “Increased emigration reduces the possibility of pressure from citizens on political elites, because it is those who leave who would be most capable of initiating change and they are the most motivated for change.”

With fewer people to hold power accountable, there’s more corruption. And when corruption runs rampant inside a country, those uninvolved want to leave to find honest work. Juric calls this the “departure of the dissatisfied.”

When Juric compared corruption and migration trends from 2012 to 2020, i.e. the number of emigrated Croats to Germany, where the majority of Croatian citizens emigrate, and Croatia’s positioning on the world scale of the corruption index, it turns out that corruption is more pronounced the higher the emigration. In 2019 and 2020, Croatia was ranked 63rd out of 180 countries, while before the peak of the emigration wave it was ranked 50th.

Corruption has done even more damage to Croatian national identity, sense of community and solidarity and Croatian culture in general than the damage it has done to the economy, which is unquestionably enormous. The main negative impact of corruption has affected human capital and political stability in the country. In Croatian society, corruption has become a kind of privilege of the elites, and the so-called major corruption, political corruption and clientelism and the so-called civil corruption.

 “So called. elite corruption has also enabled a special phenomenon in society that can be called ‘elite revolt’. Elites are the ones who use the media space to protest against the media, citizens, institutions on a daily basis… which accustoms citizens to the practice that they should not express dissatisfaction with politicians, but politicians with them,” Juric points out.

He added that corruption is proven to be less present in developed economies, while in transition economies it is extremely developed that the smaller the population, the greater the corruption. The latest study on corruption research conducted on a sample of small, medium and large companies in Croatia (a sample of 178 companies, equally from each county) showed that companies believe that corruption has been growing in the last five years and that 65.3% of them 32.4% of companies believe that there are no significant changes, reports Croatian media.

The desire to emigrate is, and was, often driven by a lack of faith in local opportunities. Knowing this and having experienced this from its own fleeing and later emigration, as the borders of former communist Yugoslavia opened during the 1960’s, the Croatian diaspora had during the early 1990’s war of independence, Croatian Homeland War, stepped in and helped enormously the fight for democracy.  The Croatian diaspora wanted the people and future generations of Croatia to have the same or similar local opportunities in life within Croatia as its children had in the “West”. To achieve this, eradication of corruption or its minimisation was seen as necessary for Croatia to survive into a well-developed country and democracy. Regretfully, corruption in many forms of manifestation still largely defines Croatia and its emigration is alarmingly high. Perhaps the new players, elected officials and councillors as local Municipal Councils that include relatively large numbers of relatively young people from relatively young political movements and parties will set a trend to Croatia’s recovery from corruption that will spill into national political platforms? However, if the majority of these relatively young people and new players now involved with local governments carry the heritage of communist Yugoslavia, because they grew up in communist families, no real progress can be expected; corruption is likely to “reign”. It will be interesting to follow, say the next couple of years, how many local corrupt thugs are exposed and brought to justice. Ina Vukic   

Serb War Criminal Ratko Mladic Must Still Answer For Crimes Against Croats

Serb aggression – Skabrnja massacre victims in Croatia

After a very long legal battle in the Hague, Ratko Mladic, the Serb dubbed “butcher of Bosnia”, was finally and firmly pronounced guilty of genocide and imposed a life sentence by the UN Appeals judges during last week. It is a pity and a crying injustice for the international criminal justice that Ratko Mladic was neither charged nor tried in the Hague for the heinous crimes he committed in Croatia prior to moving to the Bosnian territory, which were just a brutal as those he committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One wonders, therefore, in whose political or otherwise interest it is to deliver such piecemeal justice for victims of crimes committed by one and the same person!? Some might say, and many have said, that this case of Ratko Mladic and its verdict, despite the long time it took, remains an important warning to criminals, especially dictators, that, slowly but surely, they will be brought to answer for their crimes. Well, Mladic was not brought to answer for all the known crimes he committed, and the justice delivered in the Hague in his case is a selective justice – the one afforded to some and not to all victims.

On Tuesday 8 June 2021, the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague Appeals Chamber, with the exception of Judge Prisca Nyambe, confirmed the 2017 Trial Chamber’s ruling, finding Mladic guilty of commanding violent ethnic cleansing campaigns across the country and sniping and shelling attacks against the civilian population of Sarajevo between May 1992 and November 1995, committing genocide against an estimated 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica between July and at least October 1995 using the forces under his command, and using UN peacekeepers as human shields after taking them hostage from May to June 1995.

But the Appeals Chamber also dismissed the parallel appeal against Mladic brought by the prosecution, which had sought a second conviction against Mladic for genocide committed against Muslims and Croats in other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina (five municipalities) during the early phase of the war from 1992. Certainly, this ruling that excluded convictions for genocidal crimes in these other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina will certainly weaken and undermine international community’s convictions that more robust and decisive actions by the international community at the time to curb, to stop, what has become known as “a slow-motion genocide” perpetrated by Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina should and could have been pursued. Foca, Kotor-Varos, Prijedor, Sanski Most and Vlasenica, the campaign of persecution escalated to such a degree that it demonstrated precisely the intent to destroy Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats as a group. The prosecution was not successful in achieving a conviction for these crimes of genocide that were a part of the Serb joint criminal enterprise in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is alarmingly unjust and cruel towards victims and justice that similar crimes committed by Ratko Mladic in Croatia, prior to his criminal spree in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not included in his Hague international tribunal for war crimes indictment. While Mladic acted in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a commander of the so-called self-proclaimed Serbian Republic Army when he was stationed in Croatia he was a commander in the Yugoslav People’s Army that set out to quash the Croatian people who wanted secession from communist Yugoslavia and independence and, as such, rebel Serb agenda in Croatia suited him and his campaign of persecution and murder of Croatians in the own homes, on their own land escalated to such a degree that it demonstrated precisely the intent to destroy Croats as a group in all areas of Croatia where Serbs lived in larger numbers.

In July 1992, the County Court in the coastal town of Sibenik in Croatia sentenced Ratko Mladic to twenty years imprisonment for the attack on the village of Kijevo, which totally destroyed the village in the Dalmatian hinterland, on August 26, 1991.

Mladic was also sentenced for ordering attacks on the villages around the towns of Sinj and Vrlika in the Croatian Dalmatian hinterland in the period between September 16 until 23, 1991. In those attacks many civilians were killed.

In December 1995, Croatian prosecutors filed an indictment against Mladic for an attempt to destroy a hydro plant in the village of Peruca near Sinj.

By the time Mladic was appointed as the commander of the 9th JNA Corps in the Croatian town of Knin on June 3, 1991, the territory was already cut off from the rest of Croatia, because Croatian Serbs, who proclaimed the Serb Autonomous Territory of Krajina in 1990, barricaded the roads around Knin on August 17, 1990. Mladic aligned himself with rebel Serb forces and ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs, persecution, killing, rape, plunder… commenced. Many civilians were killed and wounded during the shelling of Croatian villages and towns, and water and electricity supplies were blocked for months.

It is held that Ratko Mladic, as a Yugoslav Army commander that sided with Serb aggression against Croatians and Croatia, is responsible for the brutal massacres and slaughter of 88 Croatian people in the village of Skabrnja, near Zadar, on November 18, 1991 and the death of 30 Croatian people in the village of Saborsko in central Croatia, also in November 1991. 

At the time of his command in Croatia in 1991, Mladic can certainly be linked to the crimes in Knin and its surroundings, in the hinterland of Zadar and Šibenik, and especially to the crime in Skabrnja, which in its blatant ethnic cleansing had the character of genocidal intent.

The Croatian prosecutor’s office had reportedly informed the ICTY about the verdicts in Croatia against Ratko Mladic and the investigations against Mladic in 2003. After Mladic was arrested in July 2011 (having hidden in Serbia and Serbian Republic for some 16 years under an assumed name and identity to avoid prosecution in the Hague for war crimes), then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor announced Croatia would “insist” that the ICTY includes crimes in Croatia into Mladic’s indictment. But the ICTY did not include Croatia’s findings in its indictment causing public outcry in the country. The reported reason for that decision was that the Hague needed to economise its proceedings, so it pursued only the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.The Croatian authorities at the time, which included the former communist Yugoslavia operative Stjepan Mesic, was not about to represent on the international levels the truth about the Serb aggression against Croatia. If anything, they played it down and attempted to criminalised Croatia’s defence efforts of the Homeland War. All for the glory of the failed communist totalitarian and criminal regime of Yugoslavia.

Last week in a Press Release responding to the verdict against Ratko Mladic in the Hague the government of Croatia expressed regret and dissatisfaction that “Ratko Mladic was not indicted and convicted for numerous crimes committed during the aggression on the Republic of Croatia, where he started his bloody campaign, continuing it in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Well now, the Croatian government achieves nothing but bitterness from the public by pretending it is sorry that the Hague tribunal did not consider Mladic’s crimes in Croatia. After all, the Croatian governments and its Presidents since the year 2000 did nothing much, nothing decisive, to truly ensure Mladic’s crimes are included in the Hague indictment. These were the years when the former Yugoslav communists took increasing hold of power in Croatia, these were the years that saw Croatian Government and Presidents enter into extraordinary measures, including fabrications and lies against Croats, in attempts to equate the Serb aggressor with the Croatian victim during that 1990’s war of Serb aggression. Nothing short of treason in my books. The Croatian Government should have made big noises throughout the world, within the UN itself, insisting that crimes perpetrated by Ratko Mladic be included in the indictments against him. They did no such thing, and one must ask why, or rather, one must conclude that the very top echelons of Croatian power at the time did not want the world to see how truly brutal and depraved Serb aggression against Croatia was. I just hope that new indictments will, at Croatia’s instigation, be raised against Ratko Mladic in the near future for the crimes committed in Croatia. It is very important for the victims of these crimes, their families and for justice that those responsible are held to account.

It is likely that the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals – the institution that succeeded the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague – will hand down a first-instance verdict by the end of this month to Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, wartime heads of Serbia’s State Security Department and Slobodan Milosevic’s closest informants. They are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at “forcibly and permanently removing most non-Serbs, primarily Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large parts of Croatia and BiH, by committing the crimes of persecution, murder, deportation and forcible transfer.”  The eventual conviction of Stanisic and Simatovic could be the first, and the last, in which the heart of the Milosevic regime, which was the Department of State Security, is singled out and declared a key link in the chain of Serb criminal enterprise in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Viewed from the perspective of the current Serbian state policy that denies genocide and aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding Stanisic and Simatovic guilty would be a heavier blow to them than the vast majority of previous Hague verdicts, including Mladic’s. Serbs may at last start looking truth in the eye and see themselves for what they were and are in their depraved imperialistic appetites for Greater Serbia. Ina Vukic

Croatia Local Elections 2021: Winds Of Change – Still A Matter Of Forecasts!

Apart from a small town or two in Croatia (for example Kraljevec on Sutla) that will need to undergo a Third round of local elections due to resulting ties between candidates at First and Second rounds, the political map of Croatia’s local networks for the coming four years has been cast. The results portray a mosaic of old and new, the established and the establishing, the left and right, the “new left” and the confused that come with them.

While the main governing HDZ party won the posts of County Representative (Župan) in 15 out of 20 counties across Croatia (13 with its own candidates and 2 with its political partner candidates), it’s mayoral and Council Assembly results barely managed to hang on by the skin of the Party’s teeth. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) received an electoral lashing so severe that the once powerful party may indeed cower in pain, into a dark corner, and take quite a few years to return as a political force of note. Hopefully it never will as far as I am concerned because its name used to be Communist League of Croatia and it never wanted an independent Croatia and it never changed its mindset.

As to the larger cities for Croatia SDP retained Rijeka, which has always appeared as a stubborn and staunch supporter of the former Yugoslavia criminal and totalitarian communist regime. Ivan Puljak from Centre party has conquered as Mayor of Split, beating the HDZ candidate Vice Mihanovic. HDZ’s Ivan Radic managed to win the mayoral race for Osijek and Patriotic Movement’s candidate Ivan Penava (mayoral incumbent and formerly HDZ) won sweepingly the city of Vukovar.

The “new left”, green-left “We can!” (Možemo) Tomislav Tomasevic won the mayoral race for the Capital of Zagreb in the second round of voting held 30 May 2021. He is given just over 65% of the cast votes while his opponent Miroslav Skoro, Patriotic Movement, received about 35%. Voter turnout at these Second-round local elections was alarmingly low, in most polling places below 20%!

Tomislav Tomasevic, a perpetual, green-left activist on the streets of Zagreb who has reportedly never held down a real job but made his living depending on grants for various projects, promotes an aggressive environmental policy, transparency and equal opportunity in public procurement and a subtle but repulsive nostalgia for the fallen criminal regime of former Yugoslavia. Tomasevic has also promised the public to clean the house, i.e., clean the Zagreb Holding which controls and manages almost all facets of Zagreb’s infrastructure and business and services.  Tomasevic’s promise to clean up Zagreb Holding also shows that corruption is rife there and he intends to clean it up! This promise may be as superficial as the rest of “We can” promises appear to be, unless, of course, Tomasevic and his team do not know the barriers imposed by the relevant employment legislation. They will need to break open and apart the 20-year rule over Zagreb by the late Milan Bandic and unless done with knowhow and real determination Tomasevic could spend almost all of his mayoral mandate trying to fix or expose Milan Bandic’s corrupt handiwork and legacy.

But then, one wonders if Tomasevic’s promises to tackle corruption head on are nothing but hot steam and empty phrases? After all, he has done nothing of note since 1998, when he set out on his life of activism, to truly tackle corruption in Zagreb or elsewhere!

Miroslav Skoro, on the other hand, promotes new job-creation, new investments, healthier business environment in which corruption and widespread clientelism and wasteful spending of public money will have no place and their eradication sped up.

“Clientelism and corruption have marked the long reign of the late mayor, and unfortunately the corrupt ‘octopus’ has permeated politics at the national level as well, so I understand very well why citizens feel [apathetic],” said recently Miroslav Skoro, the leader of the Patriotic Movement.

The local elections result in the Croatian capital is also significant because, for the first time since the country’s independence in the 1990’s, both traditional parties – the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) – were left out of the race for Mayor of Zagreb at the First round of mayoral elections. This also occurred in Split, the second largest city in the country, a “new entry” in Croatian politics has emerged: Ivica Puljak – at the head of a centrist civic list. In the first two cities of Croatia, HDZ and SDP are now relegated to the margins, unable to influence decisions.

Judging by this newly arisen political climate across Croatia, especially in its capital city of Zagreb, it becomes rather apparent that changes, or rather a display of dissatisfaction and disappointment with major political parties, HDZ and SDP, have arrived through the “back door”. That is, at local rather than national levels. “We can!”, the Patriotic Movement (Domovinski pokret) and the Centrists (in Split) are relatively new political platforms in Croatia, propelling the electorate to think, again, as to which one of them (if any) may indeed one day form the “third” political force needed to beak up the stale HDZ/SDP political bipolarism or duopoly. Their presence in the Council Assemblies across Croatia, not just the Capital City, will be felt during the coming four years as each won a comfortable number of seats on municipal assemblies, local government!

Whether both “We can” and the Patriotic Movement will be able to keep this newly bestowed momentum of political power through the coming four years and turn it into a national political force to be reckoned with is yet to be seen. It would appear that a great deal of effort is needed to maintain that force of influence that promises changes for the better; neither HDZ nor SDP are about to curl-up and die! Croatia had in the past decade seen the rise of a possible third political force in “MOST” (BRIDGE) coalition of independents, but it soon dissipated into not much except wishful thinking. The same occurred with the “Live Wall” (Živi zid) lot which can easily be tagged with the “Gone with the wind” tag given to the film based on 1939 Margaret Mitchell’s legendary novel by the same name! There one day, gone the next!  

There is rather a widespread fear that Tomasevic and his green-left or new left, that’s now present in large numbers of Council Assemblies across Croatia, will usher in a new lease of life to the communist mindset and values of the former communist Yugoslavia. This, of course, would mean further erosion of Homeland War values and the reasons why 94% of Croatian voters voted at referendum in May 1991 to secede from communist Yugoslavia. All until the “antifascist” elements of World War Two Croatia are removed from the Croatian Constitution as a foundation of independence of Croatia such fears will be fuelled and sadly justified. Justification, though, means nothing unless actions are taken up to remove the fear.

Tomislav Tomasevic and his political partners in the “We can!” movement are constantly voicing how they want Zagreb to be equal for all, equal opportunities for all but they seem to overlook that equality is not possible in the surroundings that operate on political suitability of individuals and undermining those who fought and died for independent Croatia. Surely – there can be no equality there where many (pro-left usually) still live in houses and apartments stolen by Yugoslav communists from either Jews or Croats who fought for an independent Croatia during WWII. Surely – there can be no equality in a place where one category of mass killing victims (victims of communist crimes) are not afforded respect and justice and the crimes which led to their deaths – covered up.    

Surely, there can be no equality unless the equality is measured against the national goals or values and for Croatia these goals and values are attached to the 1990’s fight for independence from communist Yugoslavia and not to Yugoslavia itself.

The point is that while certain steps towards the change for the better can be made locally, it is the national steps that actually bring real change all across the land. Ina Vukic

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