Zeljko Glasnovic MP and “The Lion in Winter”

Zeljko Glasnovic MP in Croatian Parliament 13 Feb 2020
Delivery of anti-corruption speech
Photo: Screenshot

When I watched the live video broadcast of Croatian Parliament sitting on last Thursday, 13 February 2020, while the Parliamentary representative for Croatians living abroad (for the diaspora), retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, it was his usually ardent presentation of the perilous woes that continue afflicting and stifling progress of democracy and, indeed, a society that provides opportunities for all its citizens to better themselves without the fear of nepotism, bribery and political allegiances. Without corruption as mainstay! His speech was about the urgent need to stamp out corruption, which, as he emphasised, even “SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency in Croatia) says represents the biggest danger for the Croatian state”. But, as he said, nothing is being done to actually deal with this debilitating issue; nothing is being done to call the “red directors of companies” (former communists) to account, who have destroyed multitudes of public companies and amassed personal wealth in the process, alarmingly impoverishing Croatia’s public wealth. That is why “there is no money for Croatian Defence Council/HVO, no money for Kindergartens and other critical matters…because at least 30 billion kunas (4.1 billion Euro) are stolen every year and taken out of the country. The left and right wing of the Party (meaning Communist party) are to blame for this. Life is good for them, but why not start with them, when we talk of the provenance of property legislation … what’s with the dossiers of former UDBa (Communist Yugoslavia Secret Police) operatives, some of them sit today in this Parliament…and when I talk about that it is prohibited on HTV (Croatia’s public TV channel), instead we have to watch shows that serve as confessional for those Khmers Rouge and those where their children rule like emperors…that in fact is censorship and we don’t come across discussions about that…What’s with the stolen properties by the Reds  … until academic and other lustration are implemented we will not get far…but that is a taboo topic for HTV.”

Now comes the crunch of the day!

The real and distressing marker for the relatively widespread and repugnant animosity against Croatians living outside Croatia, or émigrés, which is constantly fed to the public by those in Croatia who had profited living under the Communist Yugoslavia regime and circumvented or refused to fight for an independent Croatia in 1990’s once 94% of voters voted at 1991 referendum to secede from Yugoslavia.

Croatian Peasant Party representative in parliament, Zeljko Lenart (otherwise a “torchbearer” for the likes of  Kreso Beljak who says that communists did not kill enough Croats in their purges during and after WWII) stood up protesting against Glasnovic, saying: “…Glasnovic insults me as a parliamentary representative and I would like to say that in my family no one was member of the Party but I will also tell you that we did not flee to Canada and hide in Canada for 30 years like you and now you hold moral sermons and continue insulting …”. Glasnovic then approached Lenart, protesting to Lenart’s ugly provocation, calling him names (monkey, nit/louse…) saying: “I did not flee, you chased us out …”. And that in fact is the truth. Retired general Glasnovic was only 8 years old when in 1962 his family was forced to emigrate to Canada; their sizeable properties stolen by communists, family persecuted, denied the right to work, and members imprisoned as political prisoners in Communist Yugoslavia. His story of emigration is the story of hundreds of thousands of Croats who emigrated from Yugoslavia. But Glasnovic (like many others) returned to Croatia in 1991 to voluntarily join the Croatian defence forces (after having served in Canadian Army for 5 years and then French Foreign Legion/The Gulf War) to defend Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslav/Serb aggression once Croatians voted overwhelmingly to secede from communism and become an independent Croatian state. Croatian communities in the diaspora joined the fight for freedom once those living in Croatia had overwhelmingly voted to secede from Yugoslavia. This was their God-given and moral duty.

Croatian Parliament 13 Feb 2020
Zeljko Lenart MP (L), Zeljko Glasnovic MP (C), Miro Bulj MP (R)
Photo: Screenshot

Lenart, to my opinion rightly called “a nit” from political perspective that affects a nation struggling to implement that for which it fought and gave blood, has the gall to provoke Glasnovic with such malicious lies! Lenart has proven beyond any doubt that Croatia has indeed much to attend to if it is to decommunise and become a fair-for-all country. Instead of supporting Glasnovic’s speech and standing behind the need to stamp out corruption, Lenart attacks with provocation the man who advocates blanket and decisive actions to rid Croatia of corruption – the cancer that has all but chomped away the opportunities for many to make a decent living in Croatia. Croatia finds itself periled by mass exodus of young people, who have and are leaving the country in droves in order to earn a decent living abroad. Even if it were true that no one from Lenart’s family was in the communist party during the times of Yugoslavia, one thing stands out like a sore thumb: they must have sucked-up to or tolerated/supported communists for personal gain. The fact that he stands behind Kreso Beljak, instead of being abhorred by the murders of innocent Croats by the communists, for which Beljak says there weren’t enough killed, is an unshakeable indication that the latter must have been the case for Lenart’s family.

Croatian media had in its usual biased manner reported this incident from Croatian Parliament on Thursday 13 February as an incident where Glasnovic called Lenart by seemingly derogatory names! There was nothing about the real and critical issues for Croatia Glasnovic was talking about to which Lenart responded with provocation, and none that I could come across sought Glasnovic’s comments afterwards. All this is very symptomatic of the dire problems Croatia has and about which Glasnovic talks loudly: the absolute need to stamp out corruption and delve into the provenance of the wealth amassed through corruption and theft by many former communists, many of whom, or their descendants, are currently in positions of power in the country.

What became painfully obvious from Lenart’s malicious provocations is that it serves as proof of  a vicious war going on in Croatia for the survival without repercussions of those who have illegally and through corruption amassed wealth by being in power, and/or who have participated in or shut their eyes to the mass murders of innocent Croatian people by communists during and after WWII. The battle for power between the former communists and most of their like-minded descendants and those who actually and with much sacrifice fought for an independent and democratic Croatia during 1990’s has reached the stage where possibilities do not exclude a justifiably brutal reckoning for the political trajectory Croatia will take.

The ugly resistance by communist (or former Yugoslavia) sympathisers to delve into real combat against corruption reminds one, in a way, of the political backdrop in James Goldman’s 1960’s acclaimed play “The Lion in Winter”, an intended political comedy about politics in the Middle Ages that transforms contemporary battles for political survival into often tragic consequences for a nation.  Questions about the battle for succession and the demands of leadership have never felt more pertinent to me. What makes the messages from The Lion in Winter feel so immediate and fresh is how it bridges great political posturing and intense personal and domestic intrigue. The play is overwhelmingly about the battle over succession. After Croatia’s Homeland War ended completely in 1998 and after Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999, those who placed their own life at independence’s disposal (the war veterans) and those who worked alongside them ensuring political lobby and financial backing as well as providing combatants to defend Croatia from aggression (the Croats in the diaspora) were the natural successors who would see Croatia rid itself of communism and its corrupt ways. Those who would preserve Croatia as independent and develop it into a full democracy. But, after Tudjman’s death the former communists would do anything to ensure that Tudjman’s and Homeland War’s natural successors were run into the ground and even pronounced the Homeland War as a criminal enterprise. It took 12 years for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague to acquit in 2012 Croatian Generals of “Joint Criminal Enterprise” (politically-driven) indictments.

The Lion in Winter” political agendas translated into today’s Croatia, would see the plot where with the fate of their ideal country (communist Yugoslavia) at stake – forever – there are many former communists and their followers or descendants who are willing to survive by any means necessary and thus prevent the ultimate demise of the communist regime, threads of which still perilously remain ingrained in Croatia’s public administration and society. In these times of heightened attacks against those who fought and fight against communism, questions about the battle for succession and the demands of leadership have never felt more pertinent for Croatia.Those who are among the natural successors, including retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, continue to have a fight on their hands that needs to bring about the real positive consequence and values of the Homeland War come “rain, hail or shine”: to decommunise the country and usher in real or functional democracy to the streets (not the one on paper only) by any means necessary. Many in the political arena, though, fail miserably at recognising leadership, support it actively; it’s the old woe of egomania palpable in many. Regretful as this is, it is not insurmountable. This is the time to draw the battle against communism to a close and bring the combatants against it together to a conclusion. Will Croatian combatants against corruption know how to do that, how to join forces against the enemy, once again? Ina Vukic

 

 

 

Croatia: Anti-corruption and anti-fraud measures to be tightened for NGO’s

Associations Act Croatia

While to some it may seem relatively minor, this is a very significant development for the advancement of accountability in public funds. It is another step in moving away from the old totalitarian communist system, where only those at the top had insight into the expenditure of public funds, and closer to full democracy.

Croatia’s government on 30 January 2014 has approved the new Accounting Act for non-profit organisations/ perhaps one could say it is a compliment to the Associations Act well known throughout Western democracies. The Act will require non-profit organisations to submit regular income and expenditure and asset reports to the Finance Ministry, including the Catholic Church.

NGO’s are set to be forced out of their comfort zone, which to date had meant that little, if any, accountability measures enforced when it comes to acquittals of government funding.

All non-profit organisations with revenues more than 1.2 million euros per year will have to face audit reports as well, Finance Minister Slavko Linic said. To my liking and to the standards applied in Western democracies, with their government funded organisations the 1.2 million euros seems a most generous benchmark and should be lowered significantly.

The aim is to introduce transparency in the operation of all civilian organisations, regardless of whether it is sports, church or some other companies,” Linic told reporters on January 31st.

Minister Linic has also stated that non-profit associations that achieve an annual trade greater than 230,000 kunas (30,000 euro) will need to form a trading company or some other form of association that is not non-profit.

The reactions to the new requirements for Regular Income and Expenditure reports and Audit Report requirement has caused quite a stir in Croatia over the past fortnight. Some are against it and criticise it, and others are for it. But most seem to see this move as the introduction of new taxes and a new way to fill the collapsing government budget.

GONG’s (an NGO) executive director Dragan Zelic, while in essence supporting the transparency of non-profit sector operations, stated that the new Act needs refining, that “it’s not in keeping with the strategy of stimulating social entrepreneurship because the work of non-profit associations that employ a significant number of people will be made more difficult…”. While it may be that the new Act needs refining, it’s difficult to see how the number of employees would make the NGO’s work more difficult – all it can do is take a longer time to prepare reports but not to the levels of hardships as any extra work would surely be factored into an affected NGO’s budget.

According to SEtimes portal, the parliamentary opposition condemned the announcement of church taxation, saying that the Catholic Church is a force for stability in Croatian society.

The church gathers people and she is credited for Croatian history, and I think this is some kind of further ranting which is completely unnecessary,” said HDZ’s leader Tomislav Karamarko.

Wherever we turn in the world, the debate as to whether the church/religious institutions should pay taxes is as old as the taxation system itself. So, Croatia is no different.

However, it is customary in Western democracies or legal systems to say that a non-profit organisation can still make a profit, but this profit must be used to carry out its purposes and must not be distributed to owners, members or other private people. Any profit made by the non-profit organisation goes back into the operation of the organisation to carry out its purposes and is not distributed to any of its members.

Hence, tax exemptions and/or tax concessions come into play.

Putting the issue of tax dues aside, one thing is most important: NGO’s must be subject to financial accountability and transparency. Such processes and their rigour do in fact ensure a path towards minimising the risk of corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds. And, God knows, the NGO’s in Croatia have had little if any audits and inspections and proper annual acquittals of government funds received, as far as I can see. Furthermore, I would suggest, the government should not only insist on Financial and Audit Reports from NGO’s but it should also insist on Compliance certification/reports. I.e., that an NGO did what it was funded to do, including what percentage of government funding is expended in direct services/activities as opposed to the indirect, such as purchases and running of luxury vehicles we seem to see everywhere in Croatia. I could not agree more: accountability and transparency of NGOs in Croatia badly need improvements and any disquiet about whether the church or any other non-profit need to pay taxes should be regulated under a string of tax concessions and exemptions avenues made available under the taxation law as is customary in the developed world. It is regretful that much of the public disquiet has revolved around the issue of the church coming under the taxation law rather than on pushing for these reforms for NGO’s because the new Act should be seen as a positive measure in combating corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Natasha Srdoc’s H-21 Party nest anti-corruption crusaders reveal ugly side to consider

Sasa Radovic Photo: Novi List

Corruption in Croatia is an intolerable reality that had spread its roots deeply within the society from the days of communist Yugoslavia. The former government’s minister of internal affairs Tomislav Karamarko (newly elected President of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ) had waged a decisive and firm war against corruption.

Charles Crawford, a former UK diplomat who spent decades serving in or dealing with communist and post-communist Europe was quick to jump on the anti-Croatian lynch mob bandwagon that, in the midst of widespread corruption allegations in Croatia, failed to sit back and afford Croatian authorities the trust they should be afforded. Crawford wasted no time in calling Croatia a tyrannical state when he should have waited to see what develops. I wonder if he would call UK a tyrannical state if a candidate at parliamentary elections was arrested on suspicions of having committed some crime? In November 2011, he wrote:

“Sasha (Sasa Radovic) is now a political prisoner of a tyrannical state …

In an independent initiative, Denis Latin, anchor of Croatia’s state-run television and one of the most respected journalists in Croatia and Southeast Europe has joined well-known public figures in a signed letter calling for the release of Sasha. 

Over the last four months, over 20 political party candidates of H21, supporters and volunteers have been harassed, intimidated, lost business contracts and had visits by Croatia’s ‘financial police’.

 The Adriatic Institute for Public Policy and Hrvatska 21 call for the immediate release of Aleksandar Saša Radović and encourage Western leaders from strong rule of law nations to join this effort in calling for Croatia to uphold the rule of law and establish an independent judiciary”. 

Crawford wrote soon after Sasa Radovic was arrested in Croatia having, according to news and media reports, been caught in flagrante delicto receiving blackmail money. Radovic had reportedly been blackmailing General Ivan Cermak (acquitted of war crimes charges in the Hague, April 2011) for months. According to media reports the blackmail consisted of Radovic extorting money (one million Euros) from Cermak: Cermak pays the money to Radovic and Radovic will stop publically accusing Cermak of war profiteering!

Sasa Radovic, an activist and writer (one of his books on corruption and war-profiteering was “Tko je jamio, je jamio” / “Who grabbed, grabbed”) has been described as having in his book accused Cermak of amassing enormous wealth from selling petrol for Serbian tanks during the 1990’s war in Bosnia. Radovic had reportedly also been a member of a group of Croatian civil activists (including journalist Domagoj Margetic, and writer Darko Petricic) pushing for a Different Croatia, seeking that many politicians, government officials, president … leave their positions before “they do more damage”.

Reportedly, Radovic was also involved in the organising of a series of rallies (2008/2009…) under the banner “You tighten your belts, you thieving gang” that aimed to bring down the government and called out against criminals and war criminals.

Whether as author, whether as public speaker …Sasa Radovic, it seems, had been seen as a relentless anti-corruption activist, not shying away from naming persons who were, according to him, corrupt, regardless of the credibility of evidence he may or may not have had.

In 2011 he became a candidate for December 2011 general parliamentary elections for Croatia 21 Century Party. President of this Party is Natasha Srdoc, head of The Adriatic Institute for Public Policy in Croatia. Srdoc has received many accolades in “Western” media as the person who is a staunch anti-corruption fighter and whose resolve in this could significantly help bring Croatia out of the dark corridors of widespread corruption. She has been dubbed Croatia’s “Iron Lady” by some.

When Radovic was arrested in November 2011, Srdoc, though, had no time for respecting the justice process in Croatia – she charged forth defending Radovic and called his arrest a political arrest in the days before general elections. She wasted no time informing the international scene of her “plight”. Charles Crawford (former UK Diplomat) was one of many to jump on Srdoc’s bandwagon carrying a lynch mob against Croatian justice and authorities. Srdoc, it seems, had no time to sit back and wait; to allow Croatian police and criminal processing avenues to do their job.

Srdoc is the first to criticize Croatian justice system as being unjust, biased and non-independent and yet here she was doing exactly the thing she says she’s fighting against.

Also, instead of seeking that Radovic step down as candidate for her Party in 2011 general elections once he was arrested on suspicions of blackmail and extortion she dug her heels in and tagged him a political prisoner of Croatia. It’s a given that one must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but to call an arrest for blackmail and extortion at election times a political arrest is wrong because it means that due process in processing allegations of criminal offences is ignored, purposefully I believe. Srdoc did wrong here and that, to my opinion, strips heaps off her credibility as an anti-corruption fighter, as a fighter for independence in judiciary …

Even during times of parliamentary general elections processing criminal charges and allegations must take priority over politics. But not in Srdoc’s world it seems?

Vecernji List news portal reports that at the court hearing (May 23, 2012) for blackmail against Radovic seceretly taped Radovic’s telephone conversations reveal evidence of blackmail (Radovic was arrested in November 2011 as he was receiving blackmail money after this phone conversation). It is claimed that in these phone conversations Radovic sought to extort (via middle-man Tomislav Micic, former employee of Security Intelligence Service) half million Euro from Cermak  – in return Radovic would stop the printing of his new book in which he reportedly names Cermak, again, for war profiteering. Also, Radovic reportedly sought that Cermak withdraws the defamation proceedings against him. Radovic has not presented his defence in this matter but it is expected that he may attempt to turn the tables against Cermak.

Natasha Srdoc’s H-21 Party website  boasts: “Adriatic Institute’s leaders have made a profound impact in changing the climate of public opinion in addressing Croatia’s criminal capitalism, unreformed judiciary, widespread corruption, absence of media freedom and an economy at risk through domestic and international high-level events”.

It would seem to me that Natasha Srdoc and some of her political associates (including Sasa Radovic) have captured the attention of international, and domestic media simply because they speak loudly in blanket statements (often speaking in general terms without evidencing specifics) against Croatian corruption and judiciary, creating a picture of Croatia that is as black as black can be.

Srdoc, instead of taking the route of positive change in influencing “climate of public opinion” by praising the positive changes and progress made in processing corruption cases in Croatia, decided to bang on and on about corruption as if nothing has changed.

There are many in the world who, for whatever reason, don’t like to see positive things about Croatia and latch on hungrily at anyone or anything that might feed their disliking of Croatia.

But things are not so black in Croatia as Srdoc and her associates would like us to believe; there are many positive changes and progress made. One must behold those while keeping a keen eye on those things that still need to be changed.

Perhaps another positive change will arise if Sasa Radovic, Natasha Srdoc’s H-21 Party  “leadership colleague”, is found guilty of blackmail and extortion. This would not be your “ordinary” run-of-the-mill blackmail and extortion case, this case announces an alarming  possibility that leaders (anti-corruption crusaders) such as Radovic may have devised a wicked, wicked plan: Shout loudly about corruption so that persons implicated or named (perhaps even without water-tight evidence) in your shouting get to pay you lots of money to stop!

Well, well, well – if it turns out that Radovic did extort and blackmail, could this be a novel avenue (a road less travelled) of extortion devised or perfected within the corridors of the very Croatian institute and political party that prides itself on anti-corruption, anti-organised crime?

If Radovic is found innocent then the allegations that he was a political prisoner may be proven as correct, and grave concerns about Croatia’s democracy and rule of law will indeed become justified, if that turns out to be the case, in this case.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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