Croatia: No Time For Passive Patriotism

“We are fed up with affairs of theft and corruption, we are fed up with the communist government, we are fed up with networked cells and everything. Everyone!” – chanted protesters against the Croatian HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) government on Saturday 10 September 2022, outside the Party headquarters in Zagreb.

The grand theft of about US$107 million from the country’s major oil and gas company “INA” recently uncovered, and dubbed the heist of the century, was without a doubt the trigger for this protest that openly flagged its intention to sack the government. On a visibly large scale in Croatia (as well as in its diaspora, which is economically very important to Croatia) people are sick and tired of the corruption and scandals occurring in the country against which the governments since 2000 have not in earnest waged any real attack – particularly at the grassroots where it counts the most and where real changes to the culture of corruption commence and solidify for the whole nation. This latest eruption of scandalous theft seemed the last straw of tolerance towards the government to quite a few people even if the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had swiftly and ceremoniously, a couple of days before the protest, announced that the funds stolen from INA had been found and secured and that “the money will not be running away anywhere”.  But still, a significant proportion of the Croatian population does not trust Plenkovic or his political party nor do they trust SDP (Socialist Democratic Party) that was also in government from time to time since year 2000.

Zagreb, September 10, 2022, anti-government protest outside the HDZ ruling party headquarters/ Photo: Pixsell/Matija Habljak

What is more alarming in Prime Minister Plenkovic’s reaction to Saturday’s protest, after a 17-year old lad had been arrested for possession of two Molotov Cocktails and an improvised knife, is that he said that in Croatia there are “people who are ready to use force to overthrow the democratically elected government, and that there are people who are organised, arming themselves and trying to change the government by force.” He and his political party have stood behind this blatant threat to freedom of expression and democracy, dressed up as some deserving comment for the good of all. How would the public know that the 17-year-old Molotov-Cocktail-carrying youth was not planted there by the government!? It’s not as if the public can trust the rotten and corrupt police services (led by former communist operatives) to get to the truth of it, especially if that truth points to the government or its associates. But, if it was true that extremist, violent groups exist in Croatia and are organised with intent of toppling the government, even by force, why has there been no such item of the nation’s security program, said members of the parliamentary opposition a few days after the protest!?

 Well, of course there are people everywhere expressing publicly their dissatisfaction with their government, their democracy, and tax-paying, guarantees them that right and obligation. Just look at the human history of mass anti-government protests. One does not try to intimidate all protesters just because one or two are found to have had “weapons”, which could have been planted there for political gain or intimidate the public against future protests of the same goal. One does not cast aspersions of violence or violent intents against a group of concerned citizens demonstrators just because one or two acted badly, independently. But to HDZ it seems that “the son is responsible for the sins of the father”. How tragic for a democracy.

Many, including myself, wish that there were more people that joined the peaceful protest on 10 September, all of them surely have no objection to police dealing with individuals who bring along weapons that could injure or kill people.

The painful truth that must be eradicated in Croatia is that the fight against corruption has been a lot like a cosmetic job whereby only a handful of large lumps of sums stolen from public coffers into private ones of politicians and highly positioned directors of public companies had been pursued for correction and convictions. Overall, court cases for this corruption and theft tend to drag on for a decade or more and somehow most of the money stolen remains mysteriously unaccounted for to the public. Plenkovic as Prime Minister has done absolutely nothing to change this media spinning profile of “corruption fighting” to include fighting corruption at all levels of public administration and services, from the lowest to the highest. 

From living as part of communist Yugoslavia for half a century Croatia inherited a profoundly infectious and destructive disease known as corruption that is heavily laden with nepotism, embezzlement, and theft. Abominably, odious corrupt habits for personal gain at every level of public administration have defined Croatia as a “economic basket case”, heavily reliant on EU handouts for survival. Corruption and nepotism are the number one problem and yet independent audits, and financial controls are largely missing or scandalously ineffective and national standards of service delivery under any legislation are inexistent and certainly not in circulation for purposes of rule of law, checks and balances. The life of ordinary people plunging into increasing poverty as the country’s economy plummets into an abyss of failed companies, thieved companies, failed farmers and fisheries particularly due to EU imposed quotas… the definite feel one gets from it all is that bribes are rampant at every public service counter, at every public service job opening at every appointment with a medical specialist in public health, at every enrolment in public schools of praiseworthy repute…    

10.09.2022., Zagreb, Croatia – anti-government protest “We dismiss you” / Photo: Matija Habljak/PIXSELL

While there are quite a few people who believe that nothing can be done to rid Croatia of corruption, that it is too deeply rooted into the public administration machinery and culture. Many people who have grown accustomed to perks from a corrupt government that dishes out rewards to those who don’t stir the pot, as it were, tolerate corruption just as many did during the era of communist Yugoslavia. Thankfully, there are also many who feel a strong sense of fidelity to Croatia’s democracy as intended by the War of Independence or Homeland War of the 1990’s. It is to the latter that this predicament of widespread corruption presents greater challenges with intent to eradicate corruption than what it does for those who are willing to abandon or be complacent towards meaningful fight against corruption and are supporting (or tolerating) the governments whose main impetus since 2000 has been to act in concert with the Serb aggressor and its cells in Croatia with view to equate the victim with the aggressor.

Modern Croatia’s founding values are without a doubt those that were set in motion with the overwhelming national determination to secede from communist Yugoslavia and it is almost past the time of reckoning with the extent of damage perpetrated against the Croatian national story by any political party or government since year 2000, strongly laced with communist roots and operations from former Yugoslavia. Hence, protests such as the one that occurred in Zagreb on Saturday 10 September may indeed be a sign of strength in the people rather than a whim of few individuals, would be leaders or politicians. The disabling factor, though, is that there are too many individuals in Croatia who tend to their own handful of followers, form a political party or movement, and claim they, and only they, can “change the world”. A leader must be identified and supported for any joint political force in Croatia that would indeed be successful in “sacking” or dismissing any government that harbours communist Yugoslavia values and morals, that places the aggressor above those who defended the country from that aggressor.

It is a fact that every nation is a unique story upon which its survival depends.

That fact remains regardless of the globalist and leftist push to muddy those individual national stories and blend all into an amorphous mass of subservient people across the globe to a powerful few.

A national story is almost never a simple one. National identity itself, and therefore – prosperity, invariably depend upon how we tell the story of our nation – about our past, our present moment, and our future. Croatian story in essence is the one that tells us that Croatia started as rightful Kingdom of its own in early 10th century, continued independent until 1102 AD to be forced into becoming a subservient nation to various occupying and imperialistic foreign kingdoms, empires, or republics to be finally freed in 1995 because of the victorious Homeland War, defending itself from brutal Serb and Yugoslav forces of aggression. The latter, therefore, is what in its story the Croatian nation must accentuate for the sake of its own survival and prosperity, regardless of the fact it is now an EU member state. Neither the HDZ nor the SDP have shown the capacity to tell the story of the Croatian nation. They both missed or downplayed intentionally the crucial significance of the 1990’s Homeland War for the nation’s story. They insisted and still insist on inflicting pain upon the Croatian nation by collaborating in government not with the Serb minority that fought in the war to defend Croatia from Serb aggression but with the Serb minority directly associated with the anti-Croatia aggression, murders, destruction!

Many national stories are rooted in a particular ethnicity or religion that forms the core of that national identity. In Croatia, as in some other countries around the world, things are more complicated. Since the founding of modern and independent Croatia that sought secession from communist Yugoslavia, Croatia’s national identity has been the story that is constantly poisoned by former communists and their descendants. Be that from the writing of Croatia’s Constitution by former communist operatives just before the Serb and Yugoslav aggression started, to the failure in changing promptly that Constitution once the victory over the aggressor was achieved. At that point in time all references to any communist Yugoslavia “achievements” for independence of Croatia should have been removed from the constitution because communists/partisans in World War Two fought to keep Croatia within Yugoslavia, not to free it from it. But such changes to the Constitution were not made!

There lies the greatest culprit for the boldness of former communists and their descendants for the licence they have written for themselves to underplay the victory in the War of Independence or Homeland War as the centre of the Croatian national story.

The door opened to democracy in Croatia by the Homeland War victory is worth saving indeed. If not via elections (which are reputed to be corrupt) then on the streets with more and more peaceful protests. No government had ever welcomed a protest against it, and it rings so true that if a government told and lived their nation’s story then there would be no protests against it in the sense of bringing it down completely.

Croatian people need to save the soul of Croatia. The soul that achieved its independence in the 1990’s. That was the last time Croatia had a real sense of purpose and that sense was felt nationwide.

To achieve such a national sense of purpose the success will require political leadership and the mobilisation of citizens and various sectors of Croatian society—including cultural, media, and business institutions that have often been reticent to engage in debates that drift in the direction of politics. The wielding of political leadership and power achieved via dismal voter turnouts is no real national leadership.

10/09/2022 Zagreb Croatia – Anti Government protest (You have stolen our future, we dismiss you)/ Photo: Cropix/ Dragan Matic

This is no time for passive patriotism!

Croatian democracy will not survive if Croatians lazily assume that enough people will just come to their senses and recognise that it must be saved—that there is something fixed in the national character that ensures people will live decently and have all opportunities for advancement a democracy offers. There’s nothing inevitable at all about the verdict of history because the history depends on the people creating it. The reliance upon government coffers and corrupt practices has given many families in former Yugoslavia an acceptable standard of living – that was simply the political way communism sought to survive; this though cannot last but Croatia is significantly impoverished through corruption and poverty is on the increase. Croatians must fight for their national story to be weaved into their legislation, into their everyday lives and it is becoming very clear that organised massive and peaceful protests in the streets are becoming the only tool available to the promise of success in living the national story for which rivers of Croatian blood were spilled in the 1990’s.  The transition from communism to democracy demands people power. It is everyone’s responsibility and duty to ensure Croatia becomes free of communist Yugoslavia completely. Ina Vukic

Croatia: Poor Levels of Democratisation Continue as Corruption Prevails

Over the past thirty years, Croatia has witnessed democratic transitions take root across all levels of government and society. That was, after all, the choice its people had overwhelmingly made from 1990. Millions of oppressed people in Croatia, who voted in 1991 (94% of voters) to secede from and sever all ties with the totalitarian regime of communist Yugoslavia, are still struggling to realise true freedom and shared opportunity due to deep rooted corruption in governments. The transition from communism to democracy has since year 2000, after President Dr Franjo Tudjman’s death, been teetering on the edge of truly meaningful transition to more free society because former communist high operatives in Yugoslavia took hold of the government and power in their main stations.

Democratic gains made up to year 2000 stalled after that year or even deteriorated as fragile democratic institutions buckled under the enormous challenges of governance that was and is still nurturing corruption and nepotism and equal opportunities and competition on merit rather than political suitability remained the enemy of true progress with democracy.

It is usual to keep asking the question of how far along has Croatia come in developing its democracy after all these years? How does one measure the degree and even the type of democracy Croatia was desirous of developing and for which it spilled rivers of its own blood during the Homeland War of 1990’s?

Despite a vast academic literature on democratisation in the past twenty years in particular, the factors that allow some democratic transitions to succeed as others stall or backslide remain poorly understood by policymakers and, indeed, much of the public or consumers of democracy. And particularly so in Croatia which sees incompetent, often with strong traces of communist indoctrination, people employed in government institutions through family or friendship ties (nepotism) regardless of their abilities to perform the job they are employed to do. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the relative importance of economic development and modernisation, economic structure, inequality, governance and rule of law, civil society and media, structure of government, and education have been exhaustively debated throughout the world and so too in Croatia.

Several civil society and academic organisations have launched projects that measure the health of democracies across the world. Components of measuring democracy and according to three indexes, among many, are as follows:
Freedom House Index:
• Elections • Participation • Functioning of Government • Free Expression
• Organisational Right • Rule of Law • Individual Rights
Economist Intelligence Unit Index: • Elections • Participation • Functioning of Government • Political Culture • Civil Liberties
V-Dem Index: • Elections • Participation • Deliberation • Egalitarianism
• Liberalism (individual rights)

While one would struggle to find a body or institution, or even professional research, in Croatia whose main aim is to provide measures and progress and state of democracy in Croatia it is perhaps most useful to examine the two basic indicators of democratisation that can be used separately to measure the level of democracy, but, because they are assumed to indicate two different dimensions of democratisation, it is reasonable to argue that a combination of them would be a more realistic indicator of democracy than either of them alone. These are Participation and Competition. Participation is as important dimension of democracy as competition. If only a small minority, or barely half of the adult population eligible to vote takes part in elections, the electoral struggle for power is restricted to the upper stratum of the population, and the bulk of the population remains outside national politics and influence for change. In Croatia there has been both dwindling and gradual decline of turnout at elections since year 2000, Parliamentary or National Assembly/Sabor and Presidential elections have followed a similar trajectory of participation reduction.

In the first multi-party elections in 1990, at the dawn of wanting secession from communist Yugoslavia, three parliamentary chambers were elected in a two-round majoritarian system: the Social-Political Council, the Council of Municipalities and the Council of Associated Labour. Turnout for the election each chamber varied. It was as follows: Social-Political council (84.5% in first round in all constituencies, 74.82% in second round in 51 of 80 constituencies), Council of Municipalities, which was abolished in 2001, (84.1% in first round, 74.6% in second round) and Council of Associated Labour (76.5% in first round in all constituencies, 66% in second round in 103 of 160 constituencies).

In 1991 the referendum for secession from Yugoslavia, the Croatian Independence Referendum, saw a staggering 93.24% electoral turnout and participation.
In 1992 General Elections for Parliament or National Assembly saw an admirable 75.6% turnout,
1995 elections saw 68.8% turnout,
2000 elections saw 70.5% turnout,
2003 saw 61.7% turnout,
2007 elections saw 59.5%,
2011 elections saw 54.3% turnout,
2015 elections saw 60.8% turnout,
2016 elections saw 52.6% turnout,
2020 elections saw 46.4% turnout.

Similar pattern of dwindling and reducing participation was seen at Presidential elections in Croatia and referendums during the same decades.

One may say that reducing voter turnout is a pattern seen in many democracies across the world. For Croatia, though, a country that was so highly determined to exit the communist regime voter turnouts were expected to remain high for several decades as transition into full democracy continues. But former communists made sure such a transition was not to be smooth or thorough! Sadly! The exceptional will to fight for a fully democratic Croatia we witnessed in the 1990’s Homeland War in Croatia appears weakened and intimidated, just as it used to be during the life of communist Yugoslavia that saw progress into freedom and autonomy cruelly crushed. Today, the crushing is done in sophisticated and stealth ways.

Power sharing is then certainly more superficial in societies where voter turnout at elections that are competitive with multiple parties running is low and significant proportion of voters do not participate in deciding who and how the new governments will move forward than in societies where most of the adult population takes part in elections. Both dimensions, participation and competition, are equally important and necessary for democratisation. Political competition in Croatia has been strong with almost too many political parties and independents competing. It is often heard that comparing to its voting population (around 3.6 million) the existence of some 170 political parties, many of which compete at general elections, is a nightmare of its own. It suggests wide distrust in existing political parties and political leaders as well as the hopeless notion that just about anyone can be a politician and successfully lead the country. But does such a relatively high level of competition compensate for the relative lack of participation in the democratic processes in Croatia is a question the answer to which is obviously no. Just as a high level of participation cannot compensate for a low level of competition. While closely associated with the level of democratisation each of these two dimensions contain factors and facets that are equally important if democracy will thrive.

The level of democratisation is considered high if both participation and competition variables are high. While competition is high in Croatia its value for democratisation is low because elections have since year 2000 become not free elections but rather marred by justified distrust in the electoral commission, in vote counts and corrupt practices. Hence, competition at elections in Croatia means very little as the overt healthy competition does not end up with healthy or trusted true results of voter choice. Votes stolen or falsified, or suspected of being stolen and fabricated, is a scandal that had blanketed all general elections in Croatia since year 2000.

Gradually, over the past two decades in Croatia voter distrust has become the main culprit for relatively low participation. The justified fear of unwanted communist mindset and practices having crept into Croatia’s power corridors has influenced significant disappointment and distrust in the electoral procedures and democracy itself, which led to significant voter abstinence during elections. One often hears in Croatia ‘what’s the use of voting when the election results have been determined or fixed in advance’! In more than two decades Croatian authorities have failed miserably in building people’s trust in the electoral system and have in this way also contributed to a relatively poor level of democratisation. Croatia has failed miserably at providing for proper and due access to polling stations for all its voters and voters living abroad, which are many due to massive emigration, suffer the gravest discrimination and denial of voting right through lack of reasonable access to polling.

Measuring democratisation of Croatia has not, as I said, been pursued in Croatia with any vigour, regularity, credibility, or reliability. Perhaps that is because the government is not in the business of either measuring its democracy itself or funding NGO’s or institutions to do the measuring of progress. Perhaps also because of fear of reprisals from the government in case any such measure inevitably means criticism of the government. It is not unusual in Croatia to see government critics and opponents being ostracised, ignored, or blackened purposefully. But thankfully external organisations across the world who monitor democracy and democratisation have produced ample reports and studies on the state of democracy in Croatia and while some may be biased on political grounds many provide solid guiding information. For example, in 2020 Freedom House has in its ‘Nations In Transit’ report among other things said the following about democracy in Croatia:

“The year 2020 saw no real improvement in Croatia’s democracy… In 2020, the Croatian judiciary convicted former prime minister and HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) leader Ivo Sanader, as well as the HDZ itself, on corruption and money-laundering charges. These convictions came more than 10 years after the crimes were committed and may yet be appealed. Sanader and the HDZ had previously been convicted in 2014, but those sentences were later overturned.

The year was marked by notable cases of grand corruption, including a major pre-election scandal involving the high-ranking HDZ official and former Knin mayor Josipa Rimac. Alongside a dozen other important political figures, Rimac stood accused of favouritism in assigning a lucrative wind farm contract. An illegal private club in Zagreb frequented during the COVID-19 lockdown by politicians (including the president) was run by Dragan Kovacevic, former CEO of the state-owned oil transport company JANAF. Under his leadership, JANAF mismanaged public procurements, and Kovacevic was found to have personally accepted large bribes. These and other instances demonstrated a pattern: unless scandals come to the surface through journalistic investigations or other means, Croatian institutions do not wholeheartedly pursue inquiries into grand corruption…

The relatively large electoral competition in Croatia has seen during the past five years increased electoral campaign-finance laws passed that have increased transparency but, also, have failed to close several loopholes. Political influence over the media is strong, with reporters who criticise the government subject to dismissal, and defamation suits often used to intimidate or harass journalists. Media pluralism is quite limited. Hence, high competition hides low competition as access to mainstream media by all competitors is selective and discriminatory.

Regulations are sometimes inconsistent and subject to frequent change. Courts lack independence, and a significant case backlog persists. High-profile politicians and public figures have been indicted, but many prominent individuals have been acquitted after interference by powerful interests.”

The state of democratisation in Croatia has not changed since 2020, which saw the lowest turnout at presidential and general elections in the history of Croatian independence and secession from communist Yugoslavia. Participation, therefore, as a key variable in the level of democracy is dangerously low and with grand corruption (corruption at all levels of society and economy whether by theft, nepotism or bribery) plaguing the country still serious political crises loom. In February of this 2022 year Croatian construction minister Darko Horvat was arrested in a corruption probe and investigations continue into his alleged abuse of power while in office. In March of this year, former Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Marina Lovric Mercel was sentenced by the Zagreb County Court to seven years in prison for a series of corrupt practices while running one of Croatia’s poorest counties.

Until a different path is taken by the country’s leadership, the government first and foremost, it is unlikely that Croatia’s democracy will fundamentally improve. It is likely that the communist mindset will continue ruling; it is likely that corruption and thievery will hold their front of co-dependency within the leadership and power corridors unless, of course, drastic measures are taken by the people that have at their helm a steel determination to rid Croatian power lines of communists and communist Yugoslavia high operative’s children and grandchildren whose mindset and behaviour have been shaped by communism.

It is said that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! It is impossible to make something very successful or of high quality out of something which is unsuccessful or of poor quality. Yugoslav communists knew ‘sod all’ about democracy and they did not care for true democracy and power sharing; egotistic pursuits were the threads in the fabric of Yugoslav communist pursuits. Since year 2000 Croatian leadership has been saturated with the proverbial sows! People in positions because of their political weight and personal association with those already in power and not because of professional merit. Democratisation in Croatia maintains a cosmetic mask – Croatia’s leaders keep associating themselves and their policies with those of the European Union. But, in fact, the application and practice of those policies are at pathetic level ruled by corrupt practices on the ground. Ina Vukic

Croatia, Corruption, and Serb Ethnic Minority Terror

Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic (Front); Back row from Left to Right: Deputy Prime Minister Boris MIlosevic, Minister for Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Alardovic, (former) Minister for Construction and Public Property Darko Horvat (arrested), former minister for Agriculture Tomislav Tolusic

Identifying and processing corruption in Croatia that defined Croatia under communist Yugoslavia as well as all these past thirty years since the secession from communism still yields the impression of governments playing peekaboo or hide and seek game. Whether it be the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) or SDP (Social Democratic Party) led government, fighting corruption had not been consistent nor determined. Undoubtedly, the reason for this lies in the fact that many former communists and their family members had indulged in corruption and theft of public goods or the practice of either hiding the crimes of corruption and theft or being heavily involved in it continued. And so, every once in a while, the Croatian government had seemingly gladly permitted the processing by public prosecutor, government attorney, or anti-corruption authority of crimes perpetrated by some current or ex-high-government functionary so as to leave the (false) impression how the government is serious about fighting corruption. However, the office of public prosecutor has evidently never in the past thirty years been independent of government in its activities of pursuing processing of crimes and suspected crimes just as this was the case under the communist party regime in former Yugoslavia.

Everyone will agree that to successfully transition from communism into democracy (or any totalitarian regime for that matter) it is essential to shed habits and behaviours practiced especially by authorities and their collaborators at all levels – local, regional, and national – that were shaped and condoned under the communist regime. Croatia has failed miserably at this, and the failure appears purposeful. Too many people in important or powerful positions or their family members have had, and still have, their fingers stuck in the proverbial cookie jar. Corruption exists in all countries, however, in the developed democracies it does not define a nation and its governments like it does Croatia – still.

On Saturday 19 February, another case of corruption probes surfaced in Croatia when the police began searching the apartment of the government minister for Construction and Public Property Darko Horvat in Donja Dubrava, Zagreb. Furthermore, and at the same time, the police broke into his house in Medjimurje County (North of Zagreb) due to suspicions of his connection with the abuse of power by his former assistant, and now the suspect in crimes of corruption – Ana Mandac. According to Croatian media Horvat is suspected of 2.6 million kuna in illegal incentives. Reportedly Horvat requested funds (non-refundable) from the program ‘Development of small and medium enterprises and crafts in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities’, i.e., to benefit some companies and people who were not entitled to those funds, this time of Serb ethnicity.

Soon after the search of Minister Darko Horvat’s house he was arrested and taken away by the police for further questioning. Almost immediately, Horvat reportedly requested from the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic that he be removed from his duties as government minister and Plenkovic did relieve Horvat of his ministerial duties late Saturday afternoon 19th February.

“If someone is arrested, he cannot be a minister, it is clear as day. Especially if he stays there,” Plenkovic said at a press conference in Banski dvori Government Offices convened over Horvat’s arrest and an investigation into several other current and former state officials. Officials, including some ministers…Someone had a motive for this timing to be right now. To me, that timing doesn’t seem neutral. Neither the State Attorney’s Office nor anyone else will overthrow the Government, but this is interesting,” Plenkovic said.

Well, it is evident that the current government in Croatia is all about timing and control of corruption revelation and processing of those crimes. Why else would Prime Minister question the timing of these arrests!? Did he, himself, in fact know of possible corrupt practices but did nothing about them because “it was not the right time”!? Or is Plenkovic so odiously arrogant that he dares to question the timing of arrests for suspected crimes or is he sinking further into a political mudslide that will see him disappear into oblivion of power-hold.

Shady and unsavoury business of politics indeed.

In addition to Horvat, the Croatian mainstream media reports that the police and USKOK (Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime) also hold suspicions against the current Minister of Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrovic, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic and former Minister of Agriculture Tomislav Tolusic. Aladrovic is suspected of suspicious employment in the period from 2017 to 2019, when he was the director of the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute. Milosevic and Tolusic are suspected of awarding grants to small and medium-sized enterprises in 2017 and 2018, while Ana Mandac was Horvat’s assistant, and they both allegedly lobbied for Serbian entrepreneurs who had no right of access to these funds.

Whether Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic reaction to his minister Horvat’s arrest and suspicions of corruption being aired against two of his other ministers and a former one is associated with his fear that his HDZ-led government is experiencing fatal crumbling is not clear. There are strong indications that his, HDZ’s, coalition as minority government with the SDSS (Independent Democratic Serb Party in Croatia) is experiencing continued heavy blows from the public or voter body, including within HDZ party itself. A coalition with Serb minority party would most likely never have been a problem had that Serb party in Croatia been made up of Serbs living in Croatia who fought with Croatians (not against) to defend it from Serb aggression in the 1990’s Homeland War but SDSS is closely and personally associated with the 1990’s rebel Serbs and those Serbs who committed horrendous crimes against Croatia and its people. The fact that, say, a brother or sister or niece of a rebel and murderous Serbs are part of current government coalition in Croatia is simply unthinkable and unacceptable to most people. Besides heavily damaging and thwarting the implementation of Homeland War values such a coalition increases the chances of successful equating of victim with the aggressor. This simply cannot be permitted for a nation that lost rivers of blood in defending itself from Serb and communist Yugoslavia aggression.

Having the above bitter reality in mind, minister Horvat’s arrest pending further investigation into corruption is a heavy blow to both the government and HDZ Party; it may rattle and shatter both to the core. Reported suspicions of influencing government subsidy funding to companies owned by members of Serb minority population in Croatia who had no right even to apply for such funding, the fact that Boris Milosevic. Deputy Prime Minister of Serb minority extraction in parliament, is suspected of favouring certain persons during the awarding of grants from the program “Development of small and medium enterprises and crafts in areas inhabited by members of national minorities” – corruption and nepotism favouring Serbs associated with rebel Serb politics during Serb aggression against Croatia in the 1990’s is enough to make one both ill and angry, as well as bitter. Such outpours of corrupt politics have been known in history to ignite people to (political) arms.

Obviously HDZ as the leading political party in government will need to reinvent its governing strategies and its coalition choices very quickly if it intends on surviving this time. Post minister Horvat’s arrest some opposition parties are calling upon Prime Minister Plenkovic to disband his government and call for new general elections. It is close to mid-term in its government mandate and HDZ constantly continues to experience and/or generate scandals that have the capacity of paralysing the nation into political crises, one after another. These scandals and crises bring about not only possible new elections, shakedown of government coalitions and loyalties but also the likelihood of causing more voter fatigue, which always brings about further reduction of voters turning up at next elections. Of course, the electoral legislation in Croatia needs changes but its current and past panorama has seen an ever-decreasing number of voters turning up to cast their vote. In such a climate some party has and will always win a relative majority, but such lack of voter number strength creates significant illegitimacy of representation within the nation and deeper insecurities for livelihood and living within it. Minorities, including the Serb one in Croatia, simply do not have strong potential of contributing to increasing decisively voter numbers in Croatia. On the other hand, other “right wing” or conservative political milieu has those potential numbers which could strengthen HDZ chances at winning minority government in the next elections. I say this because it is, to the regret of many, still not possible to even imagine the “right wing” or conservative political milieu to win the next government without HDZ being a part in that winning formula, however seemingly leftward HDZ may have drifted. Relatively narrow spans and directions of political activities engaged in by these smaller patriotic political parties on the right are the reason why perhaps they scrape into the parliament with a limited number of seats that, even if joined, could not form a government, not even a minority one. If things will shift away from the current HDZ politics in government, it is essential for HDZ party itself to shift its internal politics towards working with patriotic right-wing parties and not parties that condone Serb aggression and actively engage in any form of equating victim with the aggressor.

Obviously, the Serb minority leadership in Croatia, in coalition with HDZ government is heavily compromised with these new revelations of possible corrupt and criminal activities syphoning government funds to benefit Serbs in Croatia that have no right of access to such government funds. It is a form of sheer and intolerable corruption. One would see it logical for HDZ at this time to recalibrate its weapons of ideological political values and rid itself of the coalition with the SDSS, that is so directly associated with politics against independent Croatia in recent past.

There is no doubt in my mind that HDZ would do well to consider “changing horses midstream” at this time – extinguish its coalition with SDSS and enter a new one from the pool of patriotic political parties represented in the parliament. Otherwise, all that Croatians have to look forward to, for the remainder of this government’s mandate, is more poison being fed into the values of Croatian Homeland War and standard of living generally. The imminent entry into the Eurozone in January 2023 when Croatia plans to swap its kuna currency with the euro will dawn with distressing political crises and thousands more living below the poverty line.

Certainly, the terror over the Croatian nation caused by ethnic minorities having parliamentary representation seats, needs to stop. It is unnatural, it is damaging. Instead of allocating seats in the parliament (where a seat can be earned at elections with merely a few dozen of votes) government departments/offices ensuring ethnic minority rights and services as is the practice in fully functioning democracies should be opened to cater for minority needs. Ina Vukic

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