Fragmented Body Politic – Symptom Of Lost Control Over Croatia’s Socio-Political Destiny

Photo: Alamy.com/ licensed/copyright (c)

Fragmentation of the so-called patriotic (domoljubne), usually dubbed as right-wing, body politic in Croatia has never been more vigorous than at the present time. All parties and political movements (and there are many) involved proclaim either in words or implications a vigorous critical loyalty to Croatia and, ultimately, to the values of the 1990’s Homeland War. However, regretfully, although all proclaim same or very similar political-social goals, burrows that separate them from each other appear insurmountable.

Fragmented body, say many an academics in the world, symbolises castration anxiety as well as loss of control; in this case over national direction. The emergence and seemingly flourishing on life-support from sections of the electorate of more than 150 political parties in Croatia vying for power, espousing a desperate need for change, may be construed as evidence that control has actually been lost in Croatia especially over the process of full democratisation as espoused in the values of the Homeland War.

In recent years, it has become obvious to all but the willfully blind that much is not well with the Croatian self-determination and ordered liberty to be had in a functional democracy where red tape and corruption are minimised (where detrimental practices inherited from the communist Yugoslavia era are thoroughly weeded out from society and public administration).

The signs that something is seriously wrong are myriad:

  • a degree of political polarisation unprecedented since the era when Croats won the bloody war of Serb aggression in 1990’s through which independence was won – through which Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia
  • a bitter and debilitating culture war between and within both the left-winged (mainly former communists) and right-winged (who pursue decommunisation and Croatian national identity in accordance with Homeland War values) political spectrum that appears to define and/or steer everyday life of even ordinary people;
  • the erosion of the bonds of civic amity and emergence of a civic culture animated by mutual hatred and contempt based on political ideology and directions in which Croatia should develop and assert its place in the democratic world;
  • a pervasive cynicism and a growing crisis of legitimacy of all or any party or movement body politic;
  • the seeming loss of any notion of an overarching common good to which private interests must be subordinated and resultant understanding of politics as a zero-sum game;
  • and what might be called “gridlock” wherein the fragmentation of the national body politic into a plethora of competing interests (more often personal than not) whose conflicting and ever-escalating demands induce something akin to political paralysis. (Most Croatians are acutely and keenly aware that the system is broken, that public institutions are not functioning the way they should in a democracy but seem unsure as to how to fix this.)

Indeed, Croatia (as do some Western countries) seems to be witnessing the rise of what several political scientists call “anomic democracy” in which democratic politics becomes more an arena for the assertion of conflicting interests than the building of common purposes. A common purpose for Croatia, as the values asserted via the 1990’s Homeland War tell us, is that of democratisation and decommunisation. The latter encapsulates the absolute need to rid the country of the totalitarian-like control in all aspects of state authority and expression whether it be in user-friendly legislation that promotes economic growth, an independent judiciary or balanced mainstream media etc.

In fact, so divided does Croatia appear and so dysfunctional has its politics become that it feels like being in the midst a “cold civil war”.  The vitriol that gushes out between people of differing political allegiances is often suffocating. Perhaps herein lies the reason why true national leaders, whom a significant portion of people trust, are practically non-existent or, at least, invisible, or not afforded a chance to shine in the environment of many egocentric or “I know best” players.

Croatia’s critical public consensus regarding secession from communist Yugoslavia was at its peak during 1990’s and the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ led this field of goal-focused national harmony. Then came year 2000 and increased subversive political activities from former communists which resurrected Pro-communist Yugoslavia nostalgia in at least 30% of the Croatian national body politic. This, undoubtedly, led to the collapse of the overwhelmingly widespread consensus as to how Croatia should develop and a disastrous and shameful treatment of war veterans from the Homeland War. The results of such a collapse in consensus is a society that begins to disintegrate into collection of warring tribes. The most striking example of this occurs when a society explodes into bitterly opposed camps that, disagreeing fundamentally on the moral and political principles that should govern public life, are ultimately unable to coexist in peace. It is not rare to come across people in Croatia who believe that nothing bar “gunpowder” will save Croatia, i.e. bring it back to the point of “Croatia above all else” that was in the 1990’s! On a lighter or less dramatic note, as the public philosophy that united Croatian people in the 1990’s gradually disappears, the society splinters into a multitude of hostile groups – a multitude of political tribes, as it were, which far from viewing each other as partners in a common enterprise and exhibiting an attitude of trust or civility toward one another, will instead view each other with hostility, fear and resentment.

At the same time, insofar as decisions on public policy involve the use of means to achieve social goals, the loss of shared purposes make decision-making increasingly difficult, if not impossible. If we can’t agree about where we are trying to go, how are we ever going to agree about – or even rationally discuss – the best means to get there? In short, the groups into which the polity has fragmented will be increasingly unable to reach agreement about public policies, increasingly reluctant to make compromises, and increasingly unwilling to sacrifice their own interests for the good of the community as a whole. Thus, unified action on the part of the community will become increasingly difficult if not impossible and political paralysis increasingly possible. The machinery of democracy continues to operate, but effective governance becomes impossible. The end result is the loss by the state of its legitimacy, its moral authority.

Today in this year of General Elections due around September election platforms are already being formulated and it is not unusual to come across the slogan or rhetoric that goes something like this: ”We will return Croatia to the Croatian People”, “We will return the government to the people”, etc. These emerge from a number of political parties or movements, particularly those who have positioned themselves on the right-wing or conservative side of the political spectrum.

But, how can you have “government by the people,” without having a people?

Surely, the multitudes of political parties and movements – the many personalities vying for the top, result in the scattering of votes (people) that would form that critically needed consensus for the country. Today in Croatia, pluralism has grown to the point where, we’ve reached the stage where we are ceasing to agree even in basic respects on what man is and how he should live, where morally and intellectually we can scarcely be considered one people. This is particularly visible in the shambles and political trade-offs regarding the importance for Croatia’s sovereignty of the Homeland War. The ever-growing loudness of pro-former-communist regime via left-wing parties and political movements, aggravates the critical consensus for national direction to a painful level. Hence, the common body of cultural capital on which Croatia has historically traded is disappearing noticeably, and its political institutions have become increasingly dysfunctional in that they fail to adhere to common good and insert into the “national” the “personal” interests. As for what the future holds, insofar as the prospects for re-establishing some type of substantive consensus any time in the foreseeable future seem slim, it seems likely we’re looking at dysfunction as far as the eye can see. And, that is not, to put it gently, a happy prospect.

Our politically fragmented country, as reflected in the current heated political factions, created an embankment foreclosing the opportunity for the creation of real discourse. The impetus is on us, the citizen, to act as catapults and destroy that wall, and partake in holistic discourse with one another, to push for and stand behind a leader who has not lost sight of why Croatia fought for independence and has the skill and supporting “machinery” to avert the possible disaster of the loss of Croatian identity and will. This thought, or rather wish, leads me to the beginning of this article regarding the fragmentation of the patriotic body politic.

On Sunday March 15th the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ (current major political party holding a coalition government) is holding Party elections, characterised by the split of the party into two evidently viciously warring camps. Current President Andre Plenkovic and his team on one side and Miro Kovac and his team on the other – each asserting that they are the right people to reinvigorate this fragmented party into what it once was – a party to be looked up to by a large proportion of the nation’s population. The implications of this rest on the realisation that even the Croatia’s major political party, that ushered in Croatian independence and secession from communism, has lost the critical consensus regarding where Croatia should go or should be; one faction claiming to be “more Croatian” than the other.  Furthermore, also on the right-wing of politics, there are a number of political parties and movements and independent politicians vying for a similar outcome if elected into government at this year’s General Elections. The leading groups opposing HDZ’s control of the right-winged or patriotic electorate are the Croatian Sovereignists (led by Hrvoje Zekanovic and made up of a number of smaller political parties and individual activists) and their current coalition partners in the Parliamet (Block for Croatia/Zlatko Hasanbegovic and independent MP Zeljko Glasnovic) as well as the newly founded Domoljubni Pokret (Patriotic Movement) headed by Mirislav Skoro.

There does not seem to be much movement on either the left or the right side of the political spectrum to reel into their fold voters from the opposing ideological camps. This of course suggests that nationally, ideological divisions still prevail and, hence, attachments to individual politicians rather than party programs (for all the people regardless of their political ideology). Political ideology defined life during the communist Yugoslavia era and it seems it will take some serious work in order to free the people of this burden, and encourage them to look beyond political personalities when voting. Otherwise, fragmentation of body politic will continue to flourish even though the race to secure a cushy position for the individual politician and not for true representation of voter or constituency needs is obvious, and in essence disliked by the very constituency.

As socio-political actors, it is time when people and politicians need to realise that they are not on a crusade when it comes to Croatia as a legitimate State; rather, that they are, at this time of severe fragmentation of body politic,  on an exploratory expedition to bring Croatia to how it was imagined and fought for during the Homeland War. Croatia is independent, sovereign and as such has the capacity and validity to make its own decisions for national welfare.

While the end-goal of electoral politics is winning, it should also be more about the advancement of certain programmes and policies. In a democracy it is the latter that brings in votes. And when faced with the reality of electoral or body politic fragmentation arrived at through personal ambitions of individual politicians, unless critical consensus is reached between them, leading to programme-framed and managed coalition – victory is poor, if at all existent. An interesting six-month period for Croatia and its progress into full democratisation and national identity – coming to your door! Play your part for Croatia! Ina Vukic

 

Rehashing Croatian Citizenship Act – Croatian Diaspora Takes A Spotlight

Zeljko Glasnovic, MP Croatian Parliament for Diaspora
January 31, 2019
Photo: screenshot

 

In its legal formulation, citizenship is a fundamental expression of membership in a nation! Automatic right to citizenship by descent/ancestry is far valuable for the Croatian national goal of having as many Croats return than what citizenship by naturalisation is. No question about that!

If I hear once more a Croatian government representative, or the President of the country for that matter, chivalrously (as they do) invite Croats living in the diaspora to return to Croatia, I fear I won’t be able to contain my outrage much longer! Why, you may ask – indeed. Well, all that the Croatian diaspora has been hearing from the political elites in power since about 1995 (when the Homeland War ended in military operations sense) is how Croats are welcome to return, how they should return to their homeland, how this, how that – all along those lines – and yet Croatia’s powers that be have done absolutely nothing to ensure that the process of receiving citizenship truly matches their invitations for return. That is, that citizenship is awarded to people of Croatian national descent living abroad who want to return or migrate to live in Croatia with minimal delay, if any!

One gets this bitter and irritating taste of something gone alarmingly wrong within this evidently national goal (and constant invitations for return have given a sense of national goal – i.e. succeeding in getting as many Croats as possible answer to the call [invite] for return) and pathetically incongruous means to achieve it, so far. Certainly, amending the existing Citizenship Act would represent one of the key means/strategies to achieve the goal of return. But, the highest of honours bestowed upon citizenship, an automatic entitlement to Croatian citizenship by descent (if one was/is born in the diaspora) is still locked to the condition that at least (only) one parent is a Croatian citizenship at time of birth of the child outside Croatia! This, of course, cuts out from that honour roll millions of people of Croatian descent living abroad. And those powers that be in Croatia are aware of this – some, especially those who show no desire for Croatia to be and grow strong, most likely prefer things to stay that way.

During the past week the Croatian Parliament agenda included discussions, presentations and suggestions from various parties about amendments to the Citizenship Act and those, bar one or two, gave no sense at all that what was afoot is a critical chance to ensure that the national goal of attracting as many as possible Croats from the diaspora to return to Croatia is actually addressed via amendments to the Act, including criteria for automatic right to citizenship. Representatives from the major party in government (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ), such as Milian Brkic, Davor Ivo Stier, Ivan Suker and others kept waffling on about how their government is now bringing in the amendments that would make it much easier for Croats to become citizens of Croatia!

Front row: Zeljko Reiner (L), Milijan Brkic (R)
Photo: Hina

“This is a small step for Croatia, but a big one for Croatian emigration,” Milijan Brkic , HDZ Vice-President and Deputy Speaker Croatian Parliament, emphasised, accentuating the enormous potential and significance of the Croatian emigration.

With this we are sending out the message to the émigrés that our doors are open to them and that we are extending our hand to them for eventual return, and the first step is reception into the Croatian citizenship, and that we are extending our hand to them for investment into Croatia,” he said.

Well, well, well (!) – they are not pulling any wool over my eyes with this!

Firstly, Croatian diaspora gets deeply offended by such attitudes from Croatia that imply Croatia is not their homeland too. It is and it has always been so – the diaspora is part of Croatian nation! What does it feel like when people living in Croatia say “we extend our hand, open our door…to Croats from diaspora” ?! People say that such attitudes are pathetic, unproductive and have no place for a nation desirous of living with its diaspora.

Secondly, with their amendments they’re still keeping millions of people of Croatian national descent living in the diaspora who wish to return to Croatia, become citizens, in the less-important category of receiving citizenship through naturalisation! And that is no jackpot for Croats in the diaspora despite it being sold as such by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)!

Citizenship by descent means an automatic right to citizenship, whether one exercises that right or not.

Citizenship by naturalisation means that you pass the relevant requirements to become a citizen of a country that you weren’t previously a citizen of. This is the part about which the Croatian Democratic Union boasts – they say they will make this process easier, quicker for people who prove Croatian descent or belonging to the Croatian people.

Naturalisation is not an automatic right to citizenship and the Croatian diaspora needs to fight hard to achieve a widening of criteria for automatic citizenship right – at least those who want to return or emigrate (if they were born abroad) into Croatia.

“ … Perhaps one of the most important laws in modern history of Croatia is before us … for 28 years we gave been watching a Greek Tragedy … It’s a tragedy that the Croatian diaspora has become, I would say, Shudra in its own country, in the meaning of social castes in far India, they are there somewhere at the bottom … after all that they have given … this is a strategic question for the Republic of Croatia…we are constantly talking about the demographic plague … are we going to talk about the potential of the Croatian diaspora for the next three decades or are we going to finish this job … Independents for Croatia club will intercede to make things simpler…that law is still unclear…there are still smoke screens in it …in Article 6 for instance there are some 45 days for administrative purposes, which can block the process …well wait, the administration must complete its job as fast as possible … clarity and shortening of process …” said on 31 January 2019 in his presentation Zeljko Glasnovic, Independent Member of Parliament for the Croatian Diaspora. Video Link to his speech (in Croatian language) in Parliament on the Citizenship Act is presented below and well worth paying close attention to.

 

The important thing in Glasnovic’s presentation is that it contains inclinations towards possibilities of a special status in right to citizenship to be provided by the Act for people of Croatian national descent, including those whose ancestors have been living outside Croatia for many decades, whose families may have been deported or had fled e.g. post WWII, and are returning to live in Croatia.

Certainly, shining a special spotlight at the descendants of Croatian people returning to Croatia or emigrating into it is critical to the strategies of achieving the national goal of Croats returning to Croatia. No naturalisation process, no matter how short it is made, can ever replace in value for Croatia the automatic right to citizenship by descent. Descent meaning a descendant of Croatian people not Croatian citizens – the difference is paramount and enormous. I hope those in HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) will get to understand this difference and stop boasting about its new proposals to make naturalisation easier for Croats from diaspora and get on the wagon that is about automatic right to citizenship for descendants of Croatian people. Ina Vukic

On High Alert – Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Slaven Raguz
President
Croatian Republican Party
Bosnia and Herzegovina

With October 7th general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) approaching fast, preparations have entered into their final phase after all running political parties and independents have submitted their full candidates’ lists to the Central Election Commission (CIK), which among other things verifies candidates. This election comes in the middle of the country’s worst crisis since the 1992-1995 war and may not even lead to the establishment of new governments on all levels due to the broken election law and the competition among local political rivals is fierce, perhaps more fierce than ever.

Given that the BiH Constitution guarantees composition of BiH as a conglomerate of equals, i.e. three constitutional ethnic peoples (Bosniak, Croat and Serbs) and given that the equality status has not so far in practice been afforded to or asserted by the Croats the fierceness of electoral competition naturally takes the battle of asserting Croat’s rights to the highest of levels. It is also a justified high level as Bosniaks keep pursuing the lines of electing Croat representatives «for Croats», clearly towards the agenda of keeping Bosniak superiority over Croats to the level of keeping alive the possibility of renewed conflict. Then, senior officials from the Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) entity are still denying the federation’s statehood and advocating eventual secession.

The backdrop to BiH crisis and asserting the ethnic equality guaranteed by its Constitution is charged with strong political currents within BiH when it comes to international influence. On the one hand, there is the current espousing of Russia’s prominence in BiH and while Russia’s encroachment in the Balkans is widespread, it’s most pronounced in Republika Srpska, where denial of its 1990’s genocide remains a prominent political weapon. But, regretfully, the Federation (made up of Bosniaks and Croats) also shows strong leaning towards Russia. Current Croat leader in Presidency of BiH, Dragan Covic of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party is aligning himself with Russia and Republika Srpska. Although campaigning for Croats’ asserting equal power in BiH, Covic seems to have taken his rhetoric to the extreme nationalist levels that appears a convenient (to him) lip service, instead of sticking to equality of all peoples as a measure of justice; the only measure for future success of BiH. The Bosniaks are and have been pressing on with their allegiance to Turkey and other Muslim forces, thereby significantly increasing Turkey’s involvement in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants Bosniaks to recall that their country was once part of the Ottoman Empire!

Personally, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan have oscillated between warm friendship and heated rivalry over the 15 years the two men have held power in Moscow and Ankara. What they now share is resentment of the West − Mr. Putin’s Kremlin has been locked in a sanctions war with the United States and the EU, while Mr. Erdogan believes some Western leaders supported a 2016 coup plot against him − as well as a desire to redraw the international order.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has become their “new” playground and the matter of equality of Croats there is their “sacrificial lamb”. It’s all about their own power and influence, it’s not about enforcing the BiH Constitution and spirit and deed of the 1995 Dayton Accords.

Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, still in a subordinate position to the Bosniaks in the Federation, are at these upcoming general elections, once again, in the sharp focus of disappearance or oblivion.

On the street level, the rational reasoning that prevails is that the country must be organised so that it can stimulate the enhanced culture and education that are important for the identity of each of the three ethnic components.

If the concept and backbone of Dayton Accords are to survive, the building of such a Bosnia-Herzegovina is a moral imperative for all its people and nations seeking to remove existing iniquities and realise their individual and common good. International help, especially from the United States and the European Union, would appear indispensable for the realisation of this aim at this time of crisis and foreign interference from Russia and Turkey.

More than 70 parties and scores of independent candidates are set to take a part in the run for positions in the next parliament to be moulded through the results of October 7 general elections. The old worn out phrase when it comes to general elections race there that “the greatest surprise is that there is no surprises” could in fact be toppled this time around when it comes to political parties/candidates representing Croats of BiH.

Croatian Republican Party BiH logo

The Croatian Republican Party, formed in 2014 and mainly active on local government levels has now registered some 70 candidates across different cantons/electoral districts.

Acting with Christian-democratic and right-centre principles the Croatian Republican Party (HRS) of Bosnia and Herzegovina is headed by Slaven Raguz; a seasoned politician determined to achieve that for which HRS is advocating: respect for the legitimacy of the will of all people, not only the Croat but of people from all ethnic backgrounds who live in BiH. Furthermore, the HRS drives home the determination that only Croats have the right to elect their own representatives, even if they choose their representatives wrongly.

In a published statement, August 6, 2018, Slaven Raguz, among other things states: “The exclusive aim of our politics is the entry into the system of government so that, within 4 years, we can send onto the scrap heap of history all of you mental communists who have dispersed us all over the world with your arrogant, greedy, selfish and blind politics. We are not certain if we will succeed, as you have privatised even the electoral process, but one thing is certain – despite everything we will not stray from our course.

These are the kind of determination and dedication to Croats’ rights in BiH that are needed – absolutely. A great deal of the current sub-ordinance suffered by Croats in BiH and shocking inequalities are due to the fact that Croat official leaders in BiH have been and are deeply brushed with the communist mindset that has no room for full assertion of Croats’ rights. It’s akin to a “Men’s Club” for favours and deals which have everything to do with the individual leader and nothing with the people/nation.

The position of the Croat member of the BiH Presidency, Dragan Covic, has triggered in past months a lot of discussion about changes to the Electoral Law (as found necessary by the Constitutional Court some 20 months ago). The problem is that Bosniak voters elect the Croat member and this needs to change. Covic (HDZ) is a candidate in these elections, however, his campaigning for Croat rights and equality appears more like an agenda with ulterior motives than a true dedication to the status of Croats in BiH. Judging by his past performance, his allegiance to Russia and friendship with Serbian Republic’s Milorad Dodik he cannot be trusted to deliver for Croats.

The current political climate in BiH when it comes to Croats appears not to be about Croats or the HDZ in BiH, despite Covic’s loud rhetoric about Croats’ rights, but about Dragan Covic and ensuring there can never be another challenge to him. It appears as a personality cult building assisted by Russia and Serbian Republic.

This is an incumbency agenda masquerading as a collective rights protection agenda. The same stuff communist Yugoslavia was awash with!

Furthermore, the other loud candidate for Croats in BiH in the Democratic Front’s leader Zeljko Komsic whose scandalous history with Social Democrats, former communists, and allegiance with Bosniaks, on whose votes he appears to depend significantly, also leaves no trust nor hope for Croat equality rights in BiH.

With Covic and Komsic in the electoral matrix one can clearly see Russia and Turkey competing for power and influence in BiH and its future.

The question that could be asked is whether the current political impasse in Bosnia and Herzegovina has the potential to become the ultimate litmus test for the fragile political setup and lead to an outbreak of renewed hostilities. Certainly, if a new government is not formed after the elections the scenario would lend itself to a total breakdown of the social and political system. The physical prelude to such a breakdown would inevitably be the inability to pass the budget (due end of March 2019), which in turn would lead to inability to pay out pensions and public sector salaries… What mechanisms and skills would be needed to prevent such a breakdown may yet be a plot that’s unfamiliar to all.

It does appear, though, that if the seats delegated to Croats are won by “right wing” parties, particularly those truly dedicated to Croats’ rights of equality as well as the rights of other Constitutional ethnic groups, placing each on equal footing, who, like the Croatian Republican Party, oppose the political trails Covic and Komsic are taking, there won’t be a conflict or an exacerbation of its possibility in BiH. Ina Vukic

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