Croats Abroad Seeking Correction of the Croatian Constitution

Croatian Constitutional Court Building in Zagreb

It’s General Elections time for the Croatian Parliament once again! General Elections will be held on 4th and 5th of July 2020. As in previous election campaigns the Croatian and the public in general will hear many promises people want to hear from the previously alternating HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and SDP (Social Democratic Party) governments. Be aware and be wary! Bitter and disappointing lessons from their promises have hopefully been learned and Croatian voters, by voting them out, will have the power to reel in real positive changes for the Croatian people.

Real positive changes are needed in processes to stamp out the suffocating corruption in Croatia, which has seen the economy tumbling and hundreds of thousands of young and middle-aged people leaving Croatia in search for a fairer and better life; they have in the past decade gone to Ireland, to Germany, to the UK, to the USA, Canada, Australia… The show of false willpower to deal head-on with corruption around the times of general elections has become as predictable as clockwork when it comes to HDZ and SDP! The latest is the theatrical arrest on 30 May of some 12 people (some leading HDZ figures such as Josipa Rimac, theatrically expelled from the party a couple of days ago) associated with long-standing bribery, lucrative contract recipients favouritism and influencing, illegal dealings, etc., within Croatian Forests (Hrvatske Šume)the government funded and propped company).

Another example of HDZ and SDP former government, since 2010, malfeasance is related to official Croatia’s diaspora and its rights as citizen of the country. Not only has the number of parliamentary seats representing Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian diaspora been cut from 12 to only 3, but the reasonable ease of access to polling booths at times of elections has been drastically bastardised. Polling places limited to largely inaccessible diplomatic-consular missions and those within community settings such as clubs – banned! Then comes the accessibility issue related to electronic and postal voting.

“Nothing doing!” Nothing is happening!

One of SDP’s leading politicians Arsen Bauk stated recently (April 2020) that SDP is against electronic/postal voting, that it will not support electronic and postal voting for Croatian citizens abroad “because that would increase the influence of Croatians living outside Croatia on election results…”!

HDZ’s Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, on the other hand, said a couple of weeks ago that there isn’t enough time now to introduce electronic/postal voting. And yet, he and HDZ party, as part of their election promise for 2016 elections promised to introduce electronic/postal voting!

Do not believe in promises given at elections by HDZ and SDP because the proven fact remains that they do not keep their promises to voters!

Both HDZ and SDP during their past government mandates could have instigated a crucially relevant examination of the relevant parts of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia affecting Croatians living abroad and their voting rights. They did not! Nor will they because the less Croats living abroad vote, the more powerful are their cronies within Croatia. Regardless of difficult accessibility to polling booths abroad I do trust Croatian citizens living abroad will vote in large numbers at the coming elections.

For about a year now, a group of Croatians, mainly living abroad, has been working on a project designed to bring about changes to the Constitution by the Constitutional court’s examining of the legislation (Act) relating to the election of Parliamentary Representatives for Croatians living outside Croatia. The leading organisers and instigators of this project are the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Diaspora and Homeland (HAZUDD) with dr Josip Stjepandic as its president and Croatian World Congress (CWC) with Vinko Sabljo, president. Represented by attorney Mato Knezovic from Zagreb the signatories to the case filed in the Constitutional Court in Croatia include members of HAZUDD Board (Josip Stjepandic [president], Ina Vukic [Vice-president], Emilija Herceg [Secretary]), members of CWC Board (Vinko Sabljo [president], Igor Lackovic [Main Secretary] and Diana Vukusic [Treasurer])  and 24 other Croatians living abroad and in Croatia.

We aim to show the grotesque injustice in Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia:

Article 45: “All Croatian citizens who have reached the age of eighteen years (voters) shall be entitled to universal and equal suffrage in elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament and in decision-making procedures by national referendum, in compliance with law.

In elections for the Croatian Parliament, voters who do not have registered domicile in the Republic of Croatia shall be entitled to elect three representatives in compliance with law.

In elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament and in decision-making procedures by national referendum, suffrage shall be exercised in direct elections by secret ballot, wherein voters who do not have registered domicile in the Republic of Croatia shall vote at polling stations in the premises of diplomatic-consular offices of the Republic of Croatia in the foreign countries in which they reside.

In elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament and in decision-making procedures by national referendum, the Republic of Croatia shall secure exercise of suffrage for its citizens with registered domicile in the Republic of Croatia who are outside of its borders during elections such that they may vote in diplomatic-consular offices of the Republic of Croatia in the foreign countries in which they located or in some other manner as specified by law.”

Press release 20 May 2020 issued by the attorney Mato Knezovic on behalf of the 30 Croatians before the Constitutional Court in Croatia included the following:

“Today, 30 Croatian citizens from 6 European countries, as well as Canada, the USA and Australia, submitted to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia a Proposal for the assessment of Art. 6 and 8 of the Act on the Election of Representatives to the Croatian Parliament with the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, international treaties and EU anti-discrimination provisions.

Among them are leading members of the Croatian World Congress and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in the Diaspora and the homeland.

As is a well-known fact, Croatian citizens who do not reside in the Republic of Croatia have the right to 3 members of the Croatian Parliament, and their polling stations are exclusively diplomatic and consular premises of the Republic of Croatia abroad. The Ministry of Administration has 883,042 registered voters who do not reside in the Republic of Croatia. Their percentage is 19.15%, and they elect only 3 Representatives, or 1.98% of the total number of Representatives.

At the same time, the Czech and Slovak national minorities elected a member of parliament from only 1,590 voters. The proposal, which is based on an expert analysis of three professors of constitutional and public law (Marc Gjidara, Zvonimir Lauc, Mato Palic), points to several decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights on discrimination against these Croatian citizens.

It also shows the illegality and unconstitutionality of other provisions of the said law. Since the said law and constitutional provisions, which limited the number of representatives of the said Croatian citizens to 3, have no basis in the basic constitutional principles and international legal acts, the applicants consider that they are severely discriminated against and that such a law indicates the illegitimacy of the entire electoral process, basic constitutional principles, European acquis communautaire and international treaties to which the Republic of Croatia is a signatory.

By this act, Croatian citizens who do not reside in the territory of the Republic of Croatia show that they are not willing to accept the constant harassment, insult and change of laws to their detriment, but also to the detriment of overall Croatian national interests and rights…”

We hope to succeed in this application to the Constitutional Court in Croatia since HDZ and SDP governments have not moved a finger to remove the grotesque injustices towards Croatians living abroad. Wish us luck! But in any case, we will have a reply from the Constitutional Court as to why if our application is not successful. Then, we can move onto the next platform available within the European Union and pursue justice.  It is not just a matter affecting Croatians living abroad, it is, more to the point, a matter for all Croatian people as Croatia is for years seeking to rely on Croats from abroad to return to Croatia and thus help it become a better place to live in. Ina Vukic

Croatia: Ex-Communist Camp Engages Oppression In Marriage Referendum

In the name of the family referendum citizens initiative logo 2013

In the name of the family
referendum citizens initiative logo
2013

Since the dawn of human society, which includes matrimony, law and church have regulated marriage as a union between a man and a woman, until recently (but in some states/countries only).  Whether one believes that a marriage is an exclusive right to heterosexual couples, between a man and a woman, or that it is a right all, regardless of their sexual preferences and practices, including same sex couples, should enjoy, is a matter of personal and individual conscience. In some this belief is associated with their religious beliefs, while in others it comes down to pure reasoning on a human nature level, which opens the doors to accept relationships between two human beings in any form they personally consider comforting and most meaningful.

It is, therefore, a matter of personal conscience and each and every personal conscience defines our actions, and our societies.

Referendums in a democracy are sanctity, the ultimate expression of ones conscience directed at what society he/she wants to live in.  It is for that reason that referendums must be allowed to proceed without interference from the government, especially, when the desire to hold one has come from the people alone.

My intention was not to write about the impending referendum on definition of marriage in Croatia, due to be held Sunday 1 December 2013, before it is held.

But, I am placed in the situation where I simply must comment, for since the fall of Communism (1990/1991), one has never seen a Croatian politician treating a democratic expression of the electorate’s will (referendum) with such arrogance and oppression as we are seeing in the past couple of weeks.

Recent months in Croatia have seen an incredibly successful citizens’ initiative through which citizens, in view of government plans to introduce new legislation that would greatly expand the rights for gay couples and was seen as a first step towards a full-fledged legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Citizens’ groups petitioned that a referendum take place giving the citizens the opportunity to decide whether an amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman should be added to the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia.
The target to be reached in order to satisfy the benchmark to call a referendum was 450,000 signatures, but the initiative received statements of support from 750.000 citizens within just two weeks – despite systematic harassment by the government, which unsuccessfully appealed to the country’s Constitutional Court to prohibit the initiative on the grounds that it was “discriminatory”. The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that the initiative and the upcoming referendum were not in contradiction to the principle that all citizens are equal before the law.

The referendum will pose the question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?”

The path to referendum day has been littered with governmental oppression and fear mongering yet unseen by me, anyway, in the past 20+ years in Croatia.

Mostly ex-communists govern in Croatia at this moment. Their contempt for democracy and efforts to influence votes that are a matter of personal conscience become apparent in a statement by the president Ivo Josipović, who said he had doubts “whether we need such a referendum. I will go to the referendum and vote against”.

The Minister of Social Politics and Youth, Milanka Opacic, said the referendum “ is unnecessary and we will spend almost one month’s worth of social welfare payments on it”.
Minister of foreign affairs Vesna Pusic has said she will vote no! But, she did not stop there, she actually called the referendum “terrorism against same-sex communities”. Well, Minister Pusic, since you bring the concept of terrorism into this referendum, has it occurred to you that perhaps there are members of heterosexual community who feel terrorised by the opinions on marriage held by the same-sex community that threaten their beliefs and values? You would do extremely well to apologise to Croatian voters before Sunday 1 December 2013 and allow everyone, whether gay or heterosexual to vote on the referendum question in accordance with their own conscience. The result is pure then.

The Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic said: “There are no warm intentions in that referendum. Marriage is not jeopardised because of same sex communities but because of the way of life, mad race for money and capital … I hope this is the first and the last time such a referendum will be called …until then I hope we will bring changes …I will attend and vote against.”

In fact the whole of the government is against the referendum and they express that in concert, in public, with the obvious intent to interfere and oppress free will and free democratic expression of the people as individuals, voting according to their personal beliefs and conscience.

Just as a reminder here, in Slovenia, in 2012, a government bill to legislate for same-sex “marriages”, despite having been supported by a strong majority in Parliament, was overturned by a popular referendum. Situation with governmental anti-referendum media outpour was similar as is now in Croatia. Needless to say ex-communists who reject full democratic opportunities, without interference from government, are the culprits.

The debate around so-called “LGBT rights” evidences the growing disconnection between the ruling “elites” and the population. The debate around the so-called “LGBT” rights have seen the government place “minority” rights in front of “majority” rights to the point where the “majority” is blatantly discriminated against. We have seen it in Vukovar, where the “majority” – the victims of brutal war crimes – are discriminated against and trodden upon by the government as opposed to “minority” – Serbs. We see it now in the lead up to the referendum on marriage; to the government representatives (e.g. minister Pusic) the conscience and opinion regarding marriage of the majority is called terrorism against minority (gay members of community)!  To Pusic, expressing ones beliefs through democratic voting constitutes terrorism!

What a sad, sad time for democracy!

The government opposition has not been very vocal as to how they will vote at the referendum and perhaps this is because they respect the right of every citizen to vote in accordance with his/her conscience without the burden of public lynching of their own conscience, to which they have an absolute right, whatever form it takes: for or against the referendum question. Indeed, leader of HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union, Tomislav Karamarko, has caved under media pressure to say something and said: “ I will attend the referendum and circle ‘Yes’. Perhaps I should not be talking about this but I see the President and Mrs Pusic … are saying they’ll circle ‘No’. Why then wouldn’t I say that we, I will circle ‘Yes

Looking at all this it seems to me that the Croatian government is determined to ignore the results of the referendum if “Yes” vote wins. The Minister or Public Administration, Arsen Bauk, has defiantly announced that, in case the referendum is successful (and the introduction of same-sex marriages thus becomes impossible), a new bill will be drawn up to grant homosexual partnerships the same legal rights as marriages.

Alas, arrogance and brazen contempt for democracy are by now known to be the trademarks of the ex-communist lobby now evidently in Croatia coupled with the so-called “LGBT” rights lobby.  I say this regarding “LGBT” lobby without malice, but with the realisation that this lobby seems to have strayed into dangerous and alienating waters, which do not respect nor recognise everybody’s right to conscience and expression of that conscience regardless of its orientation within the realm of society’s nucleus that is “marriage”. This is a sad reality for much could be gained to benefit all, socially, were citizens’ lobby groups independent of government and opposition.

While “LGBT” lobby occurs in primarily NGO forms there are non-funded associations in Croatia and I am of the opinion that no group or organisation should side with government when it comes questions of voting, of referendum They, like the church, are seen as representing citizens and not the government; governments come and governments go – citizens groups remain.

The encouraging thing in all of this awful mess and awful oppression of free will, though, is that multitudes of people at large in Croatia see that it is not right for government to interfere with referendum, to try and influence conscience votes, to try and oppress people from feeling good about expressing their private and personal votes and thus shaping the society. The real civil society is awakening in Croatia, slowly, and this is encouraging for real democracy – but I fret nothing short of a “march on Bastille” will cure Croatia of communist mentality.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

 

“BREAKING NEWS” 25 November 2013: I have just heard (after posting this article) on a Croatian HRT news program that the government of Croatia had produced over the past weekend TV spot to run on television in which each government minister recites their position on referendum question but it has pulled the plug on this. The TV spot will not run. Instead, the government representatives will appear in individual addresses on the issue as representatives of their respective political parties rather than the government. This is a significant shift in the government’s “modus operandi” and one practiced in democracies of the world. So, this is good even if the government has already done much damage in democratic process on referendum issue. One wonders whether an EU lobby group has pulled them into line?!

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