A Much Needed New Croatian Language Act To Set Standards Of Official Language Use

It is high time that Croatia adopts legislation regarding a tightly and strictly defined official language, as other 178 countries in the world have. The announced delivery of Standards for official and public Croatian language use is crucial to the definition of independent Croatia itself and I trust that the Croatian government will be successful in strict monitoring and checking compliance with Standards at every applicable corner once the newly proposed legislation is passed in parliament.  

For Croatia and her political and public landscape where ethnic minorities, particularly the one that was instrumental in the waging of brutal and genocidal Serb aggression against Croatia and its independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, by using the language and expressions from the language of the foreign country they or their ancestors have come from, have polluted the Croatian public space to such a profound degree that their public speaking often causes pain and hatred.  

Hence, what seems important to me is that the provisions on the official and public use of the Croatian language should finally also solve the issue of speaking minority languages in the Croatian Parliament. Because, almost every day we witness the fact that members of only one minority does not speak Croatian in the Croatian Parliament and that is Serb minority. Of course, that part of Serb minority in Croatia in parliament is not the part of Serb minority that fought arm in arm with Croats in 1990’s to defend Croatia from Serb aggression, but the part that was active in the aggression and its dirty politics. Since Croatia has other minorities What would happen if the Hungarians, Czechs, Albanians or Italians elected into the Croatian parliament to represent their ethnic minority followed the Serb example? Unless official language is legislated for Croatian public space may end up a chaotic marketplace instead of the official body representing the country.  

Public consultation and public submissions have in Croatia regarding the government’s proposal for the new Croatian Language Act is afoot during August 2023. This is the first time that Croatia should get its own law on the Croatian language, and the government wants to enact it because almost all EU members have some kind of legislation on their language. As the ruling HDZ/ Croatian Democratic Union party points out, the Act aims to protect and encourage the development of the Croatian language, as well as ensure its freedom. There will be a Council that will take care of the Croatian language, and its ranks will include university representatives. Also, the Law states that teaching in schools is in the Croatian language and that at least half of the content of Croatian language subjects in schools should be directly focused on language topics.  

“This law is a new step forward in the survival and development of the Croatian language through all these centuries, and it should be understood as a pledge for the preservation and development of the Croatian language in the future,” noted early August 2023 Croatian Minister for Science and Education Radovan Fuchs. He noted that, given the amount of media interest in this Act in recent months, he wants to clearly point out that the Act is not a language police, does not prescribe a language norm, does not contain misdemeanour provisions, has no penalties and is not repressive. “The law is not purist, as many want to present it, but on the contrary, it is a law that should ensure the development of the Croatian language in line with the times and all social circumstances, and at the same time do what is the basic intention, which is the protection and development of the Croatian language,” he emphasised.  

The proposed law is set to regulate the standard Croatian language in public use. And this is very needed as any use of written language or spoken in the Croatian public domain such as government departments, documents, shop names, television, other media … will be required to use original Croatian language words rather than Serbian ones as it occurred in the long extinct Serbo-Croatian language, which is regretfully and annoyingly still used by few in Croatia and around the world.  

The law regulates the standard Croatian language in public use. The place in written culture where the highest standard reigns is – science! Science uses the linguistic minimum, and literature the maximum. The law regulates the minimum, not the maximum. In the scientific language, terminology should be nurtured and the standard should be carefully preserved and developed. And that standard differs from the Serbian language because it contains the history of the entire Croatian culture in encounters with Western and other cultures. The law does not prescribe anything here either, but provides a framework for nurturing standards.“  

Given that Standards to be applied in practice as prescribed pursuant to specific laws by the  government are the backbone of the rule of law in any fully functional democracy it is very pleasing to see that Standards in practice are being considered for enforcement in Croatia. They are and have been the measuring stick for audits, checks and balances a democracy and rule of law require. I do hope Croatia will succeed in enforcing those Standards, otherwise why have them at all!?  

A legislated official Croatian Language is very much needed in Croatia, in the environment where frequent deviations from it have been tolerated for decades now, especially since the death of the first President Franjo Tudjman in ate 1999. Serbian language expressions, words, as used during the former Yugoslavia times as part of the former so-called Serbo-Croatian language have since then somehow crept even into official communications unsanctioned or tolerated and this needs to cease. Croatia must have its own language in all official and public communications prescribed by the law.  

In effect, given that every fully functional democracy in the world has thoroughly legislated for its official language it is high time Croatia does that also.  

„The time when Serbian linguists declare Dubrovnik literature based on the Štokavian dialect as Serbian cultural heritage, is a matter of cultural aggression. Therefore, the Croatian Language Act is needed today, just as the Declaration on the Name and Position of the Croatian Literary Language was needed in 1967. Genius loci – the spirit of the place – is embedded in the Štokava standard of Dubrovnik literature. And that spirit and that place are not part of Serbian literature or culture. Even this appropriation of the Štokavian dialect and Dubrovnik literature speaks of the need for the Law on the Croatian Language. The law refers only to the standard Croatian language created through the historical development of the linguistic minimum, and not to the various individual, local, functional, unofficial, languages and idiolects that make up the maximum of the Croatian language as an identity phenomenon throughout the centuries. It is the Croatian Language Act and – period!“ Wrote Dubravka Oraic Tolic in her Vecernji List article on 16 August 2023.

It is expected that this proposed Croatian Language Act will reach the voting stage in the parliament during the coming Croatian Autumn/Winter and to my view it is also a law that will protect fundamental human rights, because no one in Croatia should be at a disadvantage because they only know Croatian. Having been in Croatia many times during the past two decades I have personally often wondered how the people who do not speak Serbian, English etc can at all understand much of the wording and expressions used in public space such as advertisement on public television, billboards on the side of the roads, etc. They cannot understand them without the help of an interpreter or foreign language dictionary. Also, as said above, this Act will protect the standard Croatian language as one of the official languages of the European Union, and the identity of the Croatian people will be protected.  

Briefly about the proposed Croatian Language Act:  

• determining the basic rules for the official and public use of the Croatian language  

• systematic and professional care of the Croatian language,  

• similar laws exist in other members of the European Union  

In Croatia, the Croatian standard language called “Croatian language” and the Latin script are in official use.  

The Croatian language in its totality and integrity is a fundamental component of Croatian identity and Croatian culture, which are parts of European identity and European culture.  

• contains a list of priority goals and measures

• covers issues of public and official use of the Croatian language:

‒ its social roles

‒ legal position

‒ promotion of its use

‒ improvement of language technologies

‒ development of terminology

‒ promotion and improvement of learning    

After the text of the Draft Proposal for the new Croatian Language Act was published, both supporters and opponents of the legal regulation of the language issue joined the public debate. Supporters are many from all walks of life while opponents are not as numerous but are rather politically vicious with the intention to smear the official language as a nationalistic, ultra nationalistic move even, and both sarcastically and cynically claim that only true Croats will be able to speak, write and read Croatian. As was to be expected, unfortunately, Yugoslav and pro-communist media such as Index.hr have in relation to this new Croatian Language law already started spinning lies that talk of some revival of the Ustasha laws (World War Two). Index.hr portal journalist Boris Abramović made quite an effort to make fun of the very idea of the Law by using some outdated and newly created words, using bad root spelling.  

The supporters of the proposed new Croatian Language Act all realise, I am sure, that Croatia like 178 other countries in the world, needs to and must have a standardised official language that will be used by the government, taught in schools, used in law courts, in parliament, mainstream media, on public buildings and transport… The only relevant conclusion to the opponents’ political spin such as that in Indeks.hr is that it is high time Croatia told the world that the Serbo-Croatian language had died many decades ago officially, became extinct and no former communist Yugoslavia apologetic should be given the space to deny Croatia what it earned with its own blood in the 1990’s Homeland War – and that is the absolute right to its own identity that includes its own official language. Ina Vukic   

Croatian leftist government – “Monkey see, Monkey do” moral undercurrents as in communist Yugoslavia

Radimir Cacic – Photo source: protest.ba

It was a sex scandal that caused Dominique Strauss-Kahn to resign from his position as managing director of International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 18 May 2011.

Racy emails purporting to show that Bret McGurk (President Barrack Obama’s nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq) had a relationship with an Iraq correspondent for The Wall Street Journal while he was the Bush White House’s top Iraq adviser, that caused Mr McGurk to withdraw from the nomination (18 June 2012).

Alleged electoral overspending against the Canadian Prime Minister’s right-hand Dean Del Mastro is the reason why Del Mastro is being asked to step down as Parliamentary Secretary (7 June 2012).

I could go on and on with examples when persons in important positions that affect the nation are asked to or required to stand down or resign amidst allegations (or judgments) of improper conduct and/or actions carrying criminal loads.

The non-custodial sentence of 1 year 10 months with 3 years probation (which will undoubtedly be appealed) delivered by a Hungarian court on Friday 29 June 2012 against Croatia’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy Radomir Cacic (Croatian Peoples Party/HNS) for causing a car accident that resulted in two fatalities is not a reason for which the Social Democrats (SDP) led government requires Cacic’s resignation or even suspension. Furthermore, Cacic himself has not even contemplated resigning or moving aside even though some months ago he stated that should the court ruling be against him he would withdraw from politics.

Cacic is staying put and threatens anyone who says that he had caused the deaths of two people with legal proceedings!

Certainly, Cacic, Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, Croatia’s Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic and the whole of the leftist government, whose protagonists still, palpably, carry a burning torch for the communist regime Croatia left twenty years ago, obviously have no concern for the moral edification Croatia so desperately needs.

While Cacic and his governmental colleagues might think that causing a fatal accident is, after all, an accident that can happen to anybody – and therefore not a compelling reason for him to step down from his high governmental office – the fact is that Cacic caused the accident by driving his car with excessive speed given that weather conditions were reportedly those of only 40 metre visibility (fog?). Cacic’s defence claims he drove at 125 km per hour in a 130 km per hour speed limit zone while some court expert reports mentioned the possibility that Cacic may have been driving at the speed between 130 and 160 km per hour. Even if Cacic drove at 125 km per hour in such less than safe for high-speed weather conditions, it can be said that he drove irresponsibly, recklessly and dangerously. The latter must be a compelling reason for him to step down, if fatalities aren’t. Inferences, at least, about Cacic’s character can safely be drawn from such a car-driving record and such characters surely cannot in the normal world be trusted to deliver a sound government.  He is no teenager towards whom such reckless driving could arguably be looked upon forgivingly.

Croatian media has relentlessly sought for Cacic to resign his post as first prime minister and minister for economy; representatives of parliamentary opposition parties have sought the same. But, the governing Kukuriku (Cock-a-doodle-doo) coalition is digging its heels firmly into the ground, supporting Cacic to stay on. What’s even more concerning is that prime minister Milanovic says “only few people have so much energy and desire to change something like Cacic has”.

Oh Lord! Let’s hope that Cacic’s energy doesn’t cause a fatality of Croatian economy!

Setting and maintaining high standards of morality in a democratic society is a job that is never done; it requires continuous efforts by individuals from all walks of life and particularly so from members of the government.

While morality is in many ways captioned by laws and regulations, individual interpretations of these can differ as night and day. Some interpretations cause unrest among citizens, and some don’t – depending on how deeply they offend the sense of human decency.

Croatia, in 1991, began its path into democracy. It carried with it the heavy, heavy load of communists’ moral high ground. In simple terms, this means that during the prior 45 + years the communists in authority molded a prevalent standard of morality within the society that most often had little if anything to do with human decency. That is, individual “officials” – whether governmental, judicial, educational, of work force and employment … often made their own subjective rules and behaved accordingly. The ordinary citizens had little to go on in the realm of clear moral standards expected of society, except the idea that being a member of the communist party, or at least be seen to agree with it, is great. It became almost existential to be a follower without questioning. And, hence, respect and heeding of laws and court decisions widely disintegrated into social wastebaskets. With a good connection to the communist party or with bribe money, one could achieve almost anything, bugger the consequences.

I psychological terms “Monkey see, monkey do” has a great deal to do with observational learning, imitation…and certainly, the moral standards within the society are to a great extent a replica of those practiced by authority figures and their mimicking within the society.

Hence, a crucial reason why in a developed democratic society where authority figures represent the people of the society, improper conduct by an authority figure is the sure ticket to dismissal, standing down, suspension, resignation…  Decency must be maintained if humanistic society is to survive. High positions in society are the ones who set and maintain the moral standards for imitation via rigorous application of those standards.

Not when it comes to Cacic today, not in former communist Yugoslavia, though.

To make matters more distressing, most of the Croatian media, most of the parliamentary opposition see that edification, uplifting of social morality through decency of government and other authority figures must take precedence, if Croatia is to reach the levels of highly functioning democracy, but the government does not see this. If it did, then it wouldn’t close ranks around defending and justifying Cacic in the maintenance of the morally untenable.

With the implicated improper driving conduct that led to fatal consequences Cacic has, to my belief, no place in the government.

Continuing his mandate as if nothing happened (reportedly he also failed to properly apologise to the widow of one of the people who died as a result of the car accident), suggests haughtiness that has absolutely no place in any parliament, let alone in the parliament of a country that is trying to shed such stand-over, high-ground “morality” that communists had plagued the society with.

It’s clear that the few “energetic and capable” people Prime Minister Milanovic talks about when counting Cacic among them is a product of his disastrous shortsightedness.

If he looks beyond the tip of his nose he would see that Croatia is filled with positively energised people who want changes, real and meaningful changes. But, Milanovic still remains blind to the needs of moral edification of the ruling elite (at least), he and his government still subscribe to the insulting communist run “Monkey see, monkey do” shaping of morality where people at large were not required to understand either behavior or its consequences (like Monkeys?) – the only requirement: follow the leaders, do as leaders say and you’ll be O.K.

People disquiet about the Cacic affair in Croatia sends strong messages that people want democracy to work even if the current government does not. That is potent!  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation hacked phones, Croatian TV doctored story on fall of Vukovar

The well publicised scandal of the discovery of phone hacking practices (July 2011) within some of Rupert Murdoch owned News Corporation media outlets unleashed a string of inquiries in the United Kingdom. Similar inquiries were announced in the USA and Australia.

Murdoch swiftly killed-off the News of the World newspaper where first phone hacking practices were discovered.

The United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron promptly announced to parliament that a public government inquiry would convene to further investigate the affair. He named Lord Justice Leveson as chairman of the inquiry, with a remit to look into the specific claims about phone hacking, the initial police inquiry and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press, and a second inquiry to review the general culture and ethics of the British media.

Leaving aside some concerns about the impact of state media regulation on the free press that such public inquiries may have, one needs to observe that the governments of the above countries (and others) may in fact consider themselves the guardians of the old journalistic maxim: Get it first. But, first, get it right.

Doctoring stories or assembling video or audio tapes in order to present to the public a journalistic piece designed to deceive, spread hatred, half-truths, untruths, or political gain doesn’t in my opinion fall far from phone hacking found within the Murdoch media.

Croatian TV HRT had in its main news in November 2011, during the days of the 2oth Anniversary of the tragic and horrible fall of Vukovar and General Elections campaigns released a story on the 1991 Fall of Vukovar.

The audio part to the story was, the news anchor/editor Zoran Sprajc said, a taped telephone conversation from 1991 between the late President Dr. Franjo Tudjman and Vukovar’s Croatian commander Mile Dedakovic Jasterb.

In the televised conversation, Tudjman refuses Dedakovic’s requests to withdraw civilians and children from Vukovar, giving the Croatian public “evidence” that Tudjman sacrificed Vukovar in order to show the world how brutal the Serbs were, or to speed up international recognition of Croatian independence.

Of course, a public outcry of disenchantment and anger at Tudjman (and his HDZ party running in November 2011 elections for another term in government) followed.

The conservative politicians (HDZ) protested against the televised story and sought the suspension of Zoran Sprajc as anchor/editor of the TV news program. HRT did just that, quickly.

The Programming Council of HRT had assessed the televised conversation story as inclinatory, malicious, and assembled elsewhere. It reiterated that TV was a public media and must present the truth and do so objectively.

The destiny of suspension from duties that Sprajc experienced is nothing out of the ordinary – suspension from duties while serious complaints inquiries are carried out is a normal practice in the just world. Not in all Croatia it seems?

Some public rallies in support of Sprajc appeared on the streets. The Croatian journalists’ association criticized the suspension, and human rights watchdog Documenta expressed “deep concern with the persecution of journalists because of their broadcasting of the truth.” Former president Stjepan Mesic (left wing politics) also stepped in, criticising the measures demanded by the conservatives (HDZ etc).

Vukovar November 1991

Come January 2012, and in relation to the said TV news story, sources reveal that:

(a) Dedakovic was not in Vukovar at the time of the dramatised “desperate call to Tudjman for help” as HRT piece claimed;

(b) the HRT piece was assembled from parts of several phone conversations some of which were made by Tudjman (HRT claimed Dedakovic phoned Tudjman);

(c) HRT piece showed that Tudjman absolutely rejected to evacuate children from Vukovar but omitted to broadcast the fact that the Serbs and Serb led Yugoslav Army did not allow evacuation of civilians including children without Vukovar capitulating first!

So far, there has been no public statement from the Croatian journalists association, from the Documenta human rights watchdog, from former or current presidents of Croatia nor from the current government regarding the latest revelation that points to gross and malicious deception of the Croatian public through story doctoring and assembling of audio tapes in order to serve the public with lies that wound deeply the very soul of Croatian Homeland War.

Certainly, there hasn’t been even an inkling of a suggestion in Croatian media that the government may set up inquiries into journalistic practices. It would seem that all the protestors against Sprajc’s suspension are happy to sweep the truth under the carpet and together with the government allow the unsavory, unethical, politically corrupt journalistic practices to thrive?

No one it seems has asked: where and how else in the Croatian media is the public being deceived and why?

Had a look on the Croatia’s parliament website and there are a number of sessions to be held this month. Perhaps some member of parliament, if not the government’s president, will stand up during one of these meetings and demand an independent government funded inquiry into journalistic practices in Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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