Schengen Zone and Euro For Croatia

It is done! As anticipated in my article dated 5 November 2022 it’s a double windfall or double whammy, depending on your vantage point on the matter! The start of this year brought very big changes for Croatia. To pro-European Union political elites and to quite a few Croat ones the entry into the single currency among 20 other countries and the entry into free travel, no borders zone among 27 other countries are considered a major landmark in Croatia’s modern history. For others it is taken with a pinch of salt and lots of distrust.

Certainly, at the time of Dr Franjo Tudjman’s speech at the inauguration of Croatian Parliament 30 May 1990 the European Commission (EC) was very young within the so-called European Community, EU as we know it was to be founded later, and the euro not even on the horizon of the EC but Tudjman had put Europeanisation of independent Croatia as one of Croatia’s major goals in its planned exit from communist Yugoslavia. What a paralysing tragedy for Croats who fought for independence from communism to know that the European Union Parliament had over a decade ago condemned all totalitarian regimes, including communism, and the Croatian governments since his death in late 1999 not only have not in effect condemned communism but in practice glorify it more and more including its mass murderer Josip Broz Tito!

Schengen Zone and the Euro – a perfect match??

January 1, 2023, marked Croatia’s shedding of its kuna currency and the shedding of its sovereign borders in favour of the euro and Schengen Zone. Some say this is a great thing for Croatia, some say it spells a catastrophe for self-determination and a thousand-year proud identity. It is, however, most disappointing that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic did not in any way, shape or form express the country’s gratitude to all (not just HDZ Party ones) Croatian Homeland War veterans and activists who fought for Croatia in 1990’s, its exit from communist Yugoslavia, its self-determination, paving the way for its European existence with blood, sweat and tears. Andrej Plenkovic’s government continues its coalition with the Serb political minority that was either through direct family lines or political allegiance part of the aggression against Croatia in 1990’s; his government almost does not even acknowledge the part of Serb minority in Croatia that fought shoulder to shoulder with Croats to defend Croatia amidst the brutal Serb and Yugoslav Army aggression.

Asked recently about the implications of open borders with Croatia’s neighbours, Plenkovic said: “People are really thrilled that there are no more border controls on the crossings between Croatia and Slovenia; between Croatia and Hungary. Seventy-three border crossings are now police-free and customs-free. That means people going freely to the west or to the north of Europe. It means less costs, and more tourists coming to Croatia. 82 percent of overnight tourist stays in Croatia are made by people who come from the Schengen area. So this is going to be a huge economic benefit for us.”

Prime Minister Plenkovic and all his government ministers scandalously omitted to mention the rivers of Croatian blood sacrificed by all not just members of his political Party HDZ and the unprecedented harnessing of the Croatian patriotic diaspora in achieving the goal of Europeanisation of Croatia that was so critical from the start of Croatian independence movement from communist Yugoslavia in 1989/1990.

Plenkovic said: “We have no reason to be afraid to say that we are from the HDZ Party, we should be proud, satisfied and happy. Being a member of HDZ means being part of the politics of the party of direction, leadership, achievements, those who made the greatest contribution to an independent, free and internationally recognised Croatia, those who made an immeasurable contribution to the defence against Great Serbian aggression in the Homeland War, those who made a huge contribution the development of Croatian institutions, those who have contributed to the development of democracy, the improvement of the economy, Croatia’s membership in NATO, the European Union, the euro area, the Schengen area…”. Plenkovic did not say that his HDZ Party of today is a mere shadow of what it was when Croats fought for independence, when Croats needed to defend their bare lives from Serb aggression. Independence was a national matter then and Schengen and euro are now – they are not political party matters because they encompass all Croats.

Most activists and fighters have left the Party during the past three decades mostly out of disappointment with the Party’s growing pro-communist Yugoslavia mindset. But hey, 2024 is an election year and Plenkovic is not likely to say anything that would reduce the Party’s chances for re-election. 

They omitted to quote relevant parts of Dr Franjo Tudjman’s, First President of modern Croatia, speech at the 30 May 1990, inauguration of Croatian Parliament that afterwards suffered terrible consequences of the genocidal Serb aggression. Franjo Tudjman among many other things said: “… allow me to endeavour and put forward, in the briefest of points, some of the most urgent and immediate tasks that stand before the new democratic government of Croatia…Inclusion into Europe and Europeanisation of Croatia. Simultaneous with democratic transformation we need to undertake all necessary steps for Croatia to be included into the European Union as soon as possible. For centuries, Croatia has been a constituent part of the Western European (Mediterranean and Central-European) culture. Even when it did not have a full political state subject status, Croatia was inseparably connected to the Western European civilisation. The contribution to European life several centuries ago as well as through later history by Croatian Latinists bears loud witness to that fact. The return to that cultural tradition must be multilayered. In European integration Croatia must secure its independence and faster progress…”. 

Judging from all said from the Croatian government side during the past two weeks regarding the matter of entry into Schengen and adopting the euro one finds it difficult to avoid the ominous and painful feeling that Prime Minister Plenkovic is peddling the idea that his government, his HDZ Party, are singlehandedly responsible for and should be accredited with Croatia’s entry into the Schengen Zone and the adoption of the euro. Yet, he himself and most of his government ministers had avoided fighting to defend Croatia from Serb aggression, avoided fighting to realise the Croatian dream Franjo Tudjman was voicing in parliament on 30 May 1990, most likely covertly if not overtly vying for communist Yugoslavia to survive the 94% Croatian vote to secede, to leave Yugoslavia and turn freely towards Europe as sovereign country.  One finds it difficult also to avoid the feeling that this is so to enable further pandering to the 1990’s rebel Serb associates in his government’s coalition, who fought against such a path for Croatia and killed and ethnically cleansed Croats mercilessly in the effort to try and stop Croatian independence.

Travel the Schengen Zone – carefree

All said above the fact remains that being within the Schengen Zone and being a citizen of Croatia, even with dual citizenship, the gates within the zone are wide open, care free, and easy – for travel to or from any of its country members, to live and work. Third country nationals, carrying a non-Schengen country passport, who have not needed a visa to enter Schengen countries will be able to stay for 90 days and for longer stays visas are required. Border and customs checks will be removed at the borders between Croatia and other Schengen member states for people crossing the borders by road, rail or water. Checks at internal air borders will be lifted from 26 March due to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) summer/winter schedule.  That is a good thing especially for younger generations as it gives them more opportunities to succeed in life.

With the euro, economy in Croatia has no immediate fix

As for economic advantages of Schengen Zone Plenkovic is talking about for Croatia the jury is likely to be out for quite some time in delivering a verdict. Only days into the euro Croatia is faced with unjustified price rises in food, petrol and energy. So much so that the government is setting up a price watchdog with plan to implement sanctions against all those who increase prices of goods and services, disrespecting relevant legislation. Croatian production, for instance, would need to significantly increased in order to benefit from possible easy cross-border trade (the old fashioned export concept). For the time being Croatia’s production of goods has no capacity to benefit from easy cross-border trade because it hasn’t got much to trade with; its agriculture, fishing etc have been severely curbed by European Union quotas since it became member of the EU in 2013. Contrary to what the government is saying it seems that planting into the national mind that Croatia will become rich because it is in Schengen will certainly not become a reality. A country does not become a wealthy country just because it keeps company with rich countries within Schengen! Much needs to change in Croatia’s labour market and productivity before Croatia sees real advantages of this new big market it is a part of; nepotism and corruption must go, at least to high degrees, if Croatia will succeed in this field.

While favouring being a part of the Schengen Zone Croatians have and are exhibiting mixed sentiments towards adopting the euro. According to last year’s European Commission survey only 55 percent of Croatians are in favour of the euro, while others fear a potentially increased cost of living; 80% in fact thought price hikes that will accompany the use of euro in Croatia would put a stress on living that will be difficult to bear.

„We tasked the State Inspectorate, the Tax and Customs Administration to monitor prices on the ground. The goal is to identify those who unjustifiably raised prices. Fines are foreseen for that…Part of businesses have unjustifiably raised the prices. If we observe a further violation of the Government’s regulations, we have a number of mechanisms, from the return of prices to levels prior to introducing the euro to the cancellation of subsidies. I would like to remind you about the subsidised prices of energy for economic entities and more than 1 billion Croatian kuna in subsidies. All competent services receive a large number of complaints from citizens, who we invite to continue sending their complaints about unjustified price increases. We continuously strive to reduce the inflation rate, it is important to avoid irresponsible price increases, which directly reduce purchase power and citizens’ living standard. Businessmen’s responsibility and social solidarity are elements that cannot be bypassed,“ said Croatia’s Prime Minister Plenkovic Friday 13 January in response to the price hikes and chaos occurring.

More than 30 percent of shops and service providers in Croatia have raised prices unjustifiably, some up to 43 percent in the lead up to and transition into euro. This gives a most concerning picture as to how poorer the life of ordinary Croats and pensioners may become. Quite soon! Ina Vukic

Hey New York Times – Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman’s True Image Needs No Buffing!

Having read the latest New York Times article by Andrew Higgins, “To Buff a Balkan Leader’s Image, a Filmmaker Calls In Kevin Spacey”, published 3 January 2023, few things must be said first up in response to this journalistic tripe.

First, Croatia’s First President’s Franjo Tudjman’s true image does not need buffing – it already shines where it counts – among and with all Croatian people bar some former communist Yugoslavia operatives and their lapdogs; he as leader achieved independence, ushered Croatia out of the communist regime albeit soaked in blood and set Croatia towards the path of democracy and European Union.

Second, Andrew Higgins may wish to refresh his knowledge of the Balkan Peninsula countries or change his preferences about placing Croatia on the geographical map that covers Balkan Peninsula. Croatia is not considered to be a Balkan country in the full sense given that almost 60% of its territory is not situated nor has it ever been within the borders of the Balkan Peninsula maps. Furthermore, Franjo Tudjman was born and bred in the part of Croatia that is not and never has been included in the map of the Balkan Peninsula. Croatian people do not consider Croatia as a Balkan country but a South-eastern European country just as all bar the “Higginses” of the world place it.

Third, 1990’s war of independence from communist Yugoslavia in Croatia (and Bosnia and Herzegovina) did not happen by spontaneous combustion, where no culprit can be found. It happened by Serb and former Yugoslav People’s Army brutal and genocidal aggression and, hence, Croatia’s absolute and rightful need to defend bare lives of its people.

Fourth, the Croatians did not ethnically cleanse Serbs out of Croatia after the liberating military Operation Storm in August 1995 as Higgins evidently would like the world to believe. Serb evacuation was planned and ordered by Serbs and Serbia, but Serbs did ethnically cleanse of Croats 25% of Croatian territory known as Krajina as they occupied the area with the help of rebel Serbs in Croatia who did not want an independent Croatia.

One can’t help but wonder and stare in disbelief and bitter disappointment at what some journalists, even Pulitzer Prize winners, are capable of concocting to aid a push for a bigoted line they obviously pursue when it comes important issues such as exiting communist regime for democracy, defending oneself from brutal aggression etc. And so, it is more than plain that New York Times journalist Andrew Higgins did not and does not like Croatia’s first President, Franjo Tudjman, and that such personal sentiments may, sadly, have influenced this latest abominably biased and fact-twisting article on Croatia’s fight for independence in the 1990’s. But then again, Andrew Higgins has appeared, along with a couple of other New York Times journalists, as the butt of jokes in Kyiv, Ukraine, for “getting matters wrong”. Andrew Higgins in this article writes about Croatian “ethnic cleansing” in this war, of Serbs! The fact is that it was Serbs who ethnically cleansed all Croats and other non-Serbs from the quarter of Croatia’s territory they occupied at the start of their war of aggression. They also ethnically cleansed a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina of Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims)! 

When Croatian forces as part of the liberating military operation Storm on 5 August 1995 entered Croatia’s Serb-occupied town of Knin, the town was already deserted (see for example the well-documented book by Nikica Baric, “Serb rebellion in Croatia 1991 – 1995”, 2005, p. 520). Serb paramilitary forces, Serb insurgent leadership, and “civilians” fled Knin for Republika Srpska (Self-proclaimed Serbian Republic on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Serbia. Estimates of the number of Serbs who fled from Croatia vary by sources. Different sources cite different numbers of Serbs that left Croatia at the time and immediately after the Operation Storm that liberated Serb-occupied Croatian territory. These figures vary from 90,00 to 150,000 to 300,000. Of course, the latter figure is a fabrication of Serbia’s propaganda to aid its fanciful and politically driven claims that Serbs were victims! The departure of the Serbs from Serb-occupied areas liberated by the 1995 Operation Storm was planned, organised, and executed by the insurgent Serb leadership from Knin with Slobodan Milosevic’s directive backing from Belgrade. This is a well-documented historical fact that seems to have eluded Andrew Higgins and those like him who prefer to make their false assertions appear credible by talking to people like Dejan Jovic, a staunch opposer of Croatian independence, of Serbian origins and pro-communist Yugoslavia “academic crusader”.  The fact is that the vast majority of Serb “civilians” from Northern Dalmatia and Lika were evacuated with the aid of Serb forces, ignoring Franjo Tudjman’s pleas to remain in Croatia as equal citizens of Croatia (see further my article dated August 4, 2020). Between 4 and 5 August 1995 the evacuation of Serbs from Croatia followed the decision made by the Serb self-proclaimed authorities of the Republic of Serb Krajina Supreme Defence Council, led by its president Milan Martic (convicted in June 2007 to 35 years prison by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague ICTY for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Croatia) and commander-in-chief of the Serb Army of Krajina (the Serb-occupied part of Croatia) lieutenant general Mile Mrksic (Convicted by ICTY in 2012 to 20 years prison for war crimes, viz murder, torture, inhumane acts in Croatia against Croats). Although the decision to evacuate Croatian areas they had occupied and ethnically cleansed of Croats did not apply to Serb military forces, they nevertheless joined the “civilians” and left the area with them. 

“Croatia, almost ethnically homogeneous as a result of the 1990s violence that drove out many Serbs and members of other minorities,” writes Higgins, leading one to believe that it was Croats who ethnically cleansed the Serbs from their homes in Croatia and the truth is and was the opposite! Indeed, it occurs to a lucid and decent mind that Serbs may well have fled Croatia in 1995, including “civilians”, largely due to fear of vengeance for the horror and crimes they themselves committed there between 1991 and August 1995.  Furthermore, the fact that their evacuation was an order even from Belgrade, Serbia, seems to suggest that Serbia planned well in advance to try and convince the world of a fallacy that Croats ethnically cleansed them! Such an elaborate plan was not beyond Serbia’s propaganda machinery, and it does not seem beyond it today. Annihilation of Croats and Croatia was Serbia’s goal and political platform to which even so-called civilians subscribed. Multitudes of these Serb “civilians” in Croatia (or Bosnia and Herzegovina) cannot truly be considered civilians as per international humanitarian laws but rather non-combatant civilians. Many held convictions of Greater Serbia creation, acted upon them without a gun in their hands, aided the Serb paramilitary, military, and Yugoslav forces in various ways. Many, for example, are held responsible for or actively contributing to the rounding up of their Croatian (and Bosniak/Muslim) neighbours as they were being forcefully taken to concentration camps in Serbia, e.g, Begejci and Sremska Mitrovica ( the ABC TV Australia Award-winning 1995 documentary by journalist Chris Masters, “The Coward’s War”, is a great record of truth on these matters) where they were tortured, starved, raped, humiliated. Had the international criminal tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in the Hague tested and differentiated between groups of so-called civilians to a fuller extent it would have found, I am convinced, an overwhelming Serb “civilian” following and aiding the military aggressor.

Andrew Higgins quotes Warren Zimmerman, US Ambassador to former Yugoslavia, who in 1992 wrote that “Mr. Tudjman’s election as Croatia’s president in May 1990 had brought to power ‘a narrow-minded, crypto-racist regime’ that, in tandem with Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, was unleashing ‘nationalism, the Balkan killer.” Not a single word here that Croatian people wanted out of the oppressive communist Yugoslavia, they overwhelmingly voted for Franjo Tudjman to lead them into democracy and independence! One simply cannot call a will for democracy and freedom by the name of nationalism, with negative connotations, and get away with it. Especially not in the case of Yugoslavia which was first created in 1918 to benefit the Serbian Monarchy and Croatian parliament never ratified the decision by a few to join Croatia to Serbia and Slovenia and form Yugoslavia (first kingdom and then post WWII totalitarian communist nightmare for most Croats). Higgins, hence, subscribes it seems to a small army of politically twisted and biased people who keep spinning the corrupt idea that it was nationalism that sparked and aided the terrible war of Serb and Yugoslav aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina!  The war occurred because majority of Croats wanted out of communist Yugoslavia and Serbs did not want this. They murdered, tortured, raped, ethnically cleansed, destroyed homes and buildings… in Croatia to try and stop Croatian independence and expand the power of the rotten pursuits to create a Greater Serbia, stealing other people’s territory. Croatia had no option or choice but to defend itself and kick-in its will power for the right to self-preservation. Indeed, nationalism was not responsible for the bloodshed. It was Serb brutal aggression, laced with pursuits to create an ethnically clean Greater Serbia.

Why Andrew Higgins blatantly in this article takes it upon himself to encourage the world to shun and condemn a man – Kevin Spacey – who has so far not been found guilty of sexual abuse entailed in reported allegations against him, or any other crime, can perhaps be answered by any of us who have lived the democracy in which all are innocent until proven guilty. If this article is to serve as any measure of decency towards society, towards democratic rule of law, towards someone who is the subject of criminal allegations but not yet proven guilty then Andrew Higgins appears to gravely lack any decency towards justice and due process to say the least. Andrew Higgins, it appears delights in spreading the awful occurrences where some (even Hollywood!) have written Kevin Spacey off although charges against him have not been tested or proven in a court of law. A large dose of glee, or “schadenfreude” as Germans would put it, in this article is saddening.

It’s difficult to even fathom what went through Andrew Higgins’ mind when he wrote this mean article in which he obviously tries to convince the unsuspecting public that Croatia’s First President Franjo Tudjman’s true image needs “buffing” (i.e., cleaning or polishing). Then, he implies that “buffing” is not likely to happen through the film in which Kevin Spacey plays the role of Tudjman.   

Franjo Tudjman is and has been a popular leader among those that matter, those who wanted Croatia’s freedom and independence, and that was 94% of voters in 1991 independence referendum. As for others, including perhaps Andrew Higgins, no amount of buffing could remove the effects of untruths and half-truths spread about Tudjman have had on some. No, the film with Kevin Spacey is not made to buff Tudjman’s image it was made to present, once again, considering so many lies and untruths being repeatedly spread about Tudjman, the glorious truth of Croatia’s fight and courage for independence!

Contrary to a common narrative whereby politics drives susceptibility to fake news, we are overall as society of the world fortunate with the reality that people are ‘better’ at discerning truth from falsehood when evaluating politically concordant news or published content. This is truly comforting as one trusts that falsehoods and hatred portrayed against Croatia and its 1990’s War of Independence as one finds in this Andrew Higgins article, will mellow in time, and end up in dark corners and abysses where they belong. Ina Vukic

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and that it be filled with good and joyous moments throughout!

Thank you all on your support!

I recall a wise saying by Croatian Blessed Alojzije Stepinac regarding building and keeping a free nation and decades after these principles are still valid for all the Christian world and beyond.

“We must warn and teach everywhere that the holy rapture and noble delight in building the foundations of the young State of Croatia should be inspired by the fear of God and love for God’s law and His commandments, because only on God’s law, and not on the false principles of this world, will the State of Croatia be able to be built on a solid foundation.” Alojzije Stepinac

In the Croatian language: “Moramo svuda upozoravati i učiti, da sveti zanos i plemenito oduševljenje u izgrađivanju temelja mlade Države Hrvatske bude nadahnut strahom Božjim i ljubavlju za Božji zakon i njegove zapovijedi, jer će samo na Božjem zakon, a ne na lažnim načelima ovoga svijeta Država Hrvatska moći biti izgrađena na čvrstom temelju.” Alojzije Stepinac

Blessings to all throughout the year. Ina Vukic

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