Croatia: Only People Of Integrity Must Vie For Public Office

Croatian National Revival Painting by Vlaho Bukovac 1895

Croatian National Revival
Painting by Vlaho Bukovac 1895

Almost 27 years into its existence and the Croatian Parliament often seems to struggle tolerating or even acknowledging those members who sit in it and who persist in naming policies of priority to be developed and implemented, which the government of the day has failed to address. Initiatives crucially important to the advancement of Croatia’s original goal of a functioning modern democratic state removed from its communist past articulated in the parliament’s chamber are never reciprocated with an intend-to-action or follow-up nod from the parliament’s chair. Regardless of the procedural constraints a parliament or any organisation of that matter may have, which on appearance may justify inaction on important initiatives from the parliament’s chamber, it is a fact, nevertheless, that a parliament exists to manage the State so that it ultimately delivers on its nation’s (people’s) yearnings and striving. And in Croatia, regretfully, one often gets the feeling that those in government think they know best as to how to govern the State and would rather see the whole country ruined than admitting needing assistance from those who actually do know a thing or two about governing particular strands of nation’s priorities. This, of course, is the fodder that feeds senseless and detrimental to the nation power trips of individuals. Somehow, among Croatian government leaders the notion of camaraderie and teamwork with the people is lost and yet it is precisely that element of governance that makes a democracy thrive.

From this, springs to mind the realisation that Croatia has not yet churned out enough true politicians that will deliver on what Croatia started out with delivering in 1990 – a functioning democracy, fair to its past, fair to its today and fair to its future in all aspects.

A well-developed civil society as a functioning arm of a well-developed and well-functioning nation includes the organisations that act in the public’s interest but are not motivated by profit or government. Croatia may from a bird’s point of view appear as a civil society because within it operate various organisations of NGO character as well as churches or workers’ unions (which all form a part of civil society) but in fact, serious issues stare one in the face – seeing that even the meaning of civil society, or rather its components, appear misconstrued or misunderstood in Croatia. For instance, we have often seen and heard the so-called politicians, the so-called highly regarded professionals as well as highly regarded political analysts, as well as journalists, complain about a view or a sermon delivered to the nation by a church and insisting that the State must be secular! Well of course the State is secular, but the church is also an important part of every civil society. Denying the church such a status in Croatia is yet another point in evidence how miserably communist trends still pervade important networks crucial for advancement of a nation there. Yet another example why civil society does not operate as it should in Croatia lies in the many NGO’s apparent close ties to the governing or to the oppositional “persuasion” because such loyalties may hold guarantees of continued financing for the NGO year in and year out; these NGO’s fail miserably at doing their job they are supposed to do – operate outside the government or government’s opposition or their influences, and should, upon review and inspection be disabled through government funding withdrawals or a complete overhaul (even lustration where necessary) of their head honchos.

A properly functioning Civil society may incite citizens to hate or love the people they elected into the parliament, or those they didn’t; it may persuade the people to hate the Parliament, it may persuade the people to change the configuration of representation of their parliament and the parameters of the nation’s Constitution, it may provide the essential jolt to bringing about changes within the society of crucial and progressive nature, but there is no way one can become a policy maker without becoming a politician. Engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers … without functional education and jumping cognitively constrictive barriers usually imposed by long-term pursuits in a particular profession have no adequate capacity to manage a State properly, as managing a State means including in ones management all the grassroots that do or may emerge and that is by its nature a tricky endeavour to achieve. Once professionals in a certain field, focus on effort and functional education, through which a transformation into good politicians is achieved, the State has a great chance of being governed as it deserves or as it should be.

Indeed, politics is the highest calling open to those who have the wisdom, vision, principle, and the courage and skill in managing a State and take the nation’s heartbeat to the heights of its own yearning.

Croatian society, like all others, is made up of factions with varied interests, aspirations, and value systems. The various factions don’t normally have equal influence, power, knowledge or wisdom. It is the regulation of these various interests that forms the principal task of modern, relevant legislation, and, therefore, good governance. A good government is one that sees itself as an arbiter, mediating the varying interests of the various groups whose actions may undermine the legitimate interests of any of the groups or the common interests of all through its various institutions, including the Parliament.

The widely present perception that politics is a dirty game is simply unfortunate. Politics may be a difficult game, fraught with dangers, but it doesn’t have to be dirty. What makes politics look dirty are big interests or lobbies bent on hijacking influence to advance their goals, which for the most part are injurious to national interest. And, Croatia is fraught with such dirty games where politics of the powerful protect even the most unacceptable, the most destructive forces inherited from its communist past such as nepotism, corruption and political elitism. Where fraud, nepotism and corruption lingering from communist days continue poisoning much of the progress Croatia should by now have made in its laboured path to a fair, just, modern democratic nation.

Politics is not something that intelligent, heroic and knowledgeable citizens should avoid. If there is any time that Croatia needs functionally educated, courageous people to represent the bone marrow of its independent existence – that time is now.

Croatia is in a desperate need for good politicians who will keep on task in delivering, or attempting to deliver, on major issues plaguing Croatia’s progress into a modern and solid nation that takes care of and guarantees a decent living for its people. Croatia is in a desperate need of politicians who will join all Croats into one functioning, breathing in unison and perfect accord, nation – those that live in Croatia and those that live abroad. Every Croat, everywhere, is in a position of responsibility and, in the final analysis the kind of government, the kind of politicians Croatia gets depends on how all Croats fulfill those responsibilities. Croatia, as with all other countries, will always get the political leadership, be it good or bad, that its people demand or deserve. Settling for second best, after Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999, seems to have been the way because the best simply did not emerge or did not exist.

Politics need not be dirty, as often portrayed for whatever reason. Croats simply cannot afford keeping away from participating in politics either as voters, opinion leaders and policy makers. This I say in observation of a rather widespread opinion in Croatia and abroad that there’s no use doing anything because the prevailing “liberal” (read pro-communist in Croatia’s case) forces have suffocated any hope or trace of hope for the originally planned freedom, prosperity and democracy in Croatia. An overwhelming air of helplessness and surrender to apathy is dangerous for every one of us and for a nation – perilous! To get rid of dirty politicians, only people of integrity must vie for public office in Croatia and that integrity is the quality defined by the people and it must include the strength of endeavours to rid everyday Croatia of its communist past, of course, political parties do their damage through various modes of pressure and fear-mongering at this level, but – still – there is tomorrow!



General Zeljko Glasnovic Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Member of Croatian Parliament
for the Diaspora

Because of its relevancy to the point made in this article that politics need not be a dirty game but should be pursued by all who care about their nation, at this point I extract a question directed to General Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, by Slobodna Dalmacija journalist Snjezana Setka in August 2016 and his answer:

“Question: Are Croatian threatened with disappearance if they don’t get actively involved in politics?

Answer: If you tire of politics, that does not mean the end of politics, that means the end of that nation. You need time for a mental set to change. Look, in America you have more sects in one city than in the whole of Croatia. But the deadliest sect in which people were imprisoned for 50 years since the 19th century was Marxism-Leninism. And they have not come out of it. And you cannot move forward unless you accept certain things…

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Appraising Croatia As Nation In Transit From Communism

Referendums in Croatia

On its website, the US based “Freedom House” says about itself that it “is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world”.

Whether Freedom House is an independent organisation is an issue that is best judged by individuals at large; while its research figures and scales upon which it measures progress in freedom can be considered reliable and valid, its commentary may not be. Individuals who may or may not be politically biased usually produce commentaries.

When it comes to transitioning from totalitarian communist regime to democracy, such as the case is in Croatia, nobody who is democratically-minded would argue against having as many watchdogs as possible. Keeping a sharp eye on the progress of democratic reform in both law and daily living is a must, especially given that no one loyal to or having been a part of the communist regime will admit to having done anything wrong within the spheres to freedom and human rights. That, at the end of the day, is a failing of human nature, but human nature nevertheless. Watchdogs, therefore, need partners on the ground that will, in case the government fails, act in the interests of achieving freedom and democracy for the people.

Freedom House has just released its 2014 Report: Nations in Transit 2014—the 18th edition of Freedom House’s comprehensive report on post-communist democratic governance—highlights recent setbacks to democracy across Eurasia and the Balkans, as well as in Central Europe.

The Key Findings in this report include:
• “The Balkans registered some positive developments during the year, including Croatia’s EU accession and a historic agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but dysfunctional governments continued to drive down democracy scores in the region overall”.

Judging by this report, among the 29 countries rated Croatia rates among the bottom lot for democratic progress, with a decline in Electoral Process and Judicial Framework/Independence.

The scores pinned to Croatia in this Report suggest inadequate democratic progress in corruption fighting, in media independence, in local and state governance, in independence of judiciary and in electoral process while the category “Civil Society” has according to it just passed the mid-way point towards the positive mark.

It’s a given that Croatia needs many more “drastic” changes and positive moves in order to achieve a fuller, a meaningful democracy. There have been many barriers and obstacles in this path during the past two decades, particularly those that have seen the former communists’ reluctance to let go off the communist past and condemn its dark and freedom obstructing sides. There’s no doubt that the current Social Democrats led government as well as the communism loyal presidents since year 2000 have contributed alarmingly to a disturbing stale-mate in the democratisation of Croatia.

Civil Society is considered a positive facet of democracy; it reflects the aggregate of non-governmental organisations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens. Freedom House report acknowledges this as a positive progress in Croatian democracy and yet it characterises citizens’ initiatives for referendum as an effort of “a broader rise in activism by ultra-conservative groups within Croatian society, many of which are nationalist in orientation…”.

Hence, it would seem that while considering Civil Society as healthy democracy in its aforementioned Report Freedom House tends to label those elements of Civil Society that are fighting for democracy in Croatia against the communist leaning powers as “ultra-nationalistic”! It seems democracy-hungry Croats cannot win, whatever they do –  they are undeservedly often labelled with negative connotations (?).

What a shame for democracy! This appalling wind of labels blows from left-wing politics -which in this case are seen as pro-communist – given that it lacks criticism of high-handed, controlling government, when it comes to achieving progress with democracy.

No wonder, then, that Croatia has seen a strong rise in organised citizens’ groups seeking democratic changes and progress in respecting the will of the citizens. The current government and the president of Croatia seem to be “surprised” at the intensity some citizens’ organisations are attempting to have their views heard; one could hear from the Prime Minster Zoran Milanovic’s lips words such as “this referendum will never pass while I am the Prime Minister” – and that was in relation to the highly successful collection of signatures organised by the Headquarters for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar for a referendum on the Cyrillic script on public buildings in Vukovar. Although all conditions for a referendum have been met by the citizens (enough verified signatures on petition etc.) the government still doesn’t know what to do with this reality – i.e., its actively denying or heavy-handedly stalling the citizens in holding a referendum, implementing a constitutional right.

The latest “Civil Society” moves in Croatia include steps taken for a referendum on matters of the electoral process, which is, by the way, given a relatively low score for democratic progress by Freedom House. Also, moves by Trade Unions for a referendum against the government announced privatisation or outsourcing of government ancillary services (cleaning etc.) and one can almost feel a new issue surfacing for a referendum: against retirement age of 67…

All in all, the citizens are “on the streets” in Croatia because the democratic and consultative process on major issues affecting its citizens is at standstill, leaning backwards! And backwards is towards communist-like oppression.

And so, let the Freedom House label Croatian citizens’ initiatives for democratic change as “ultra-nationalistic” as much as it likes, I will, for one, heed the suggestion of the Croatian Cultural Council’s journalist contributor Ivan Miklenic: “In line of this, all the citizens’ initiatives should be greeted, supported and joined”.

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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