Zeljko Glasnovic: We Have Tito After Tito

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General Zeljko Glasnovic’s Vote Averts Dissolution Of Croatian Parliament

 

Gordan Jandrokovic (L)
Andrej Plenkovic (R)
Photo: Nah

In developed democracies it’s normal, in fact it’s expected for any government that does not command a majority in the parliament to do deals and make concessions. There’s nothing “dodgy” about it – it is a reality of the political system that has in its nucleus benefits for the people who vote politicians into the parliament. But as politics of deception would have it, Croatia’s Social Democrat led opposition and the now defunct MOST wing of independents that were coalition partners in government attempted Friday 5th May to convince the Croatian public that making deals for the betterment of people’s lives was unacceptable, even fraught with unparliamentary shoddiness, illegalities and personal gains!

It is a blessing that many people in Croatia recognise the fact that lobbying on behalf of the constituency is in fact the desirable product of a democratic system and order and see the Social Democrats’ and MOST’s cries in parliament last Friday as nothing more than a losers’ cry. Indeed, the oppositions’ cries in parliament Friday 5th May were nothing more than peddling of populist rhetoric all day long in order to confuse the people and fuel outrage that has no truth-based standing.

Thankfully, clear policies for the betterment of people’s lives did shine through in the parliament in Zagreb, Friday 5th May. The focus of those policies has everything to do with mitigating or avoiding damaging economic consequences that would arise in the event of a collapse of government at the time when political stability is needed.

Mid last week Croatia’s HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union led government was on the verge of a second collapse with a mere six months’ period and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic found himself in the grips of last ditch efforts to avert the collapse and dissolution of the current Parliament. A political crisis intensified Thursday 4 May and the likelihood of of parliament dissolution followed bysnap general elections hovered dangerously close as HDZ appeared to struggle in finding enough fresh parliamentary partners who would support the election of a new Speaker after Bozo Petrov, of HDZ’s junior partner in coalition government -MOST, resigned and MOST was out of the picture. Friday 5 May arrived and HDZ had the parliamentary majority that would ensure the election of the new Speaker, Gordan Jandrokovic and a collapse averted. HDZ

General Zeljko Glasnovic,
Member of Croatian Parliament
for Croats Living Abroad/ Diaspora
Photo: Goran Mehkek/Cropix

The independent MP General Zeljko Glasnovic provided Friday 5 May the crucial vote that has enabled the election of HDZ’s Gordan Jandrokovic as new Speaker. On the same day Glasnovic had published on his Facebook page the demands he had put forward to the government as a deal for his supporting vote. The demands are in line with Glasnovic’s program as MP and included the payment of debts owed to former HVO (Croatian Defence Council) veterans of 1990’s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, speeding up the parliamentary process the law on Croatian Homeland War veterans, that a plenary meeting be held as soon as possible on issues pertaining to the Croatian diaspora (including Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina) encompassing the scrapping of unnecessary bureaucracy, the speeding up of collating a list of all Croats living in the diaspora, the speeding up/shortening of citizenship process for Croats living abroad, the solving of double-taxation problem on foreign pensions and the development of an action plan to include business people from the diaspora along with legislating for it. His demands met with agreement and the document of demands was signed by the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, the minister for veterans affairs Tomo Medved and the state secretary of ministry of foreign affairs Zdravka Busic.

As indicated above Glasnovic’s demands or bases for negotiating his support in order to avert parliament’s dissolution were met with opposition’s labelling in terms of “influence trading” and Glasnovic was faced with vicious, populist and unfounded attacks hours upon hours in the parliament. But, the day was won and new Speaker elected.

The significance of these events that ensued in the Croatian parliament goes beyond the mere saving of the parliament from dissolution at times when the economy needs stability and many livelihoods are in jeopardy due to failing companies and employment. The significance of the events lies also in that it demonstrated, for all that would look and see, a clear sign that authoritarian rule is in fact, albeit slow, in clear decay, nevertheless, and democratic transition is kicking in all the more. The lobby for constituency benefits is in fact what parliament and democracy are about. Strategic, positive, interactions between the constituency needs, the parliamentary representative and the parliament are abundantly clear in the case of General Glasnovic’s support vote last Friday.

Minority governments are becoming frequent in Croatia as they are elsewhere in the world. Because a minority removes temporal certainty from the picture, all of the essential political roles of government and opposition are speeded up, and the need for electoral readiness replaces certainty and predictability. All parties are in play all the time, and politics and short-term positioning are in the ascendant, because no one knows how long the parliament will last. And virtually every issue ” from the substantive to the minuscule ” becomes an opportunity for short-term partisan advantage.

 

What also results is a confrontation within the basic principles of a democratic system: the government’s “right to govern” and the official opposition’s ”duty to oppose.” No one would deny the right of a minority government to govern; reality demands it. Similarly, no one would gainsay the need for the official opposition to develop its plan for an alternate government. But all three groups ” the government, the official opposition and the other parties and independents ” are subject to another key consideration. That consideration is how to read the public’s take on when the next election ceases to be excessive and unnecessary and becomes an acceptable and logical outcome of a minority having run its course.

Hence we come to the need to ”make Parliament work,” which is a constant of minorities and also an essential. If the various parties never find ways to put some water in their wine, every minority would fall on the presentation of its first Throne Speech or first budget, and we would literally have an election every year until someone scored a majority.

What is different about the current round in Croatia’s parliament is that the opposition in effect ceded their “duty to oppose” aspect by feeding unfounded, populist and deceiving attacks upon a member of the parliament (Glasnovic) and the government for doing their job and duty. Ina Vukic

Of Croatian Blood – Of Foreigner Substance

croatian-border

Foreigner Act and the diaspora: Of Croatian blood – of foreigner substance? Mid to late January 2017 saw readings in the Croatian parliament of evidently EU-driven proposals for amendments to the Foreigners Act 2011 of Croatia (including amendments to it prior to 2016). Foreigners Act is of exceptional importance because it contains definitions of foreigners or aliens within Croatia and many other provisions and regulations tied to entering the country, working, living, family reunion, education, and multitude of other aspects relevant to life in general. The parts of this Act that interest people of Croatian descent living in the diaspora, who do not possess for whatever reason citizenship of the Republic of Croatia, are particularly in Article 2 and specifically Clauses 1 and 2  and the wording of the relevant parts of Article 2 of the Act as it fronts up to the parliament for proposed amendments is:

“Article 2 (OLD VERSION TO BE AMENDED translated into English from source Zakon.hr )

For the purposes of this Act, the particular terms have the meanings as follows:
1. Foreigner means a person who is not a Croatian citizen.
2. Stateless person means a foreigner who is not considered as a citizen of any State under the operation of its law.

The originally submitted proposals of amendments to Foreigners Act by the Ministry of internal affairs (SEE PDF VERSION CLICK HERE) did not contain any proposed amendments that would take into consideration any special provisions for people of Croatian descent and blood living in the diaspora who do not hold the Croatian citizenship. Hence, under the old and amended proposal by the Ministry of Internal Affairs such a person remains an alien, a foreigner, a stranger… while in Croatia. Had all the internal affairs ministry’s recommendations for amendments of the Act remained devoid of any deservedly special consideration or rights of persons of Croatian descent as, say, members of Croatian expats if born abroad to Croatian emigrants or migrants themselves who had not gone through the process of acquiring citizenship of Croatia after the breakup of Yugoslavia, then this amended Act would also spell yet another disaster for the Croatian government’s constant counting on the diaspora to come and invest, to return, etc.

 

At first look, though, it would seem that the Parliamentary committee on Croatians living outside the Republic of Croatia, headed by HDZ’s Bozo Ljubic, have “saved the day” for Croats without Croatian citizenship not to be considered foreigners while in Croatia – but, alarmingly, the final truth may indeed turn out not to be so. That is, the Committee had on its December 2016 meeting formulated its recommendation for the amendment by which it proposes an insertion of a new Clause 3, however that same Clause 3 may end up clashing with the new Clause 1 as far as the definition of foreigner under the Act is concerned. The Committee’s proposed new Clause 3 reads:

Croatians with foreign citizenship or without citizenship are not considered foreigners in the meaning of this Act.”

In its supporting arguments for this amendment recommendation the Committee states: “Within the rights to enter, move around, residence and work, persons of Croatian nationality should be made equal to Croatian citizens because that is of demographic and economic interest for the Republic of Croatia as well as its Constitutional responsibility.”

That Constitutional responsibility spills in the Article 89 of the Croatian Parliament Procedures, which regulates the scope of work of the Committee for Croatians living outside the Republic of Croatia …”

The above recommended provision under new Article 3 is, according to the Committee, “in accord with the laws of the EU member states with which the status of the members of the indigenous (parent) people without a citizenship and foreigners intending to settle, seek residency, citizenship or simply want a work permit and stay are regulated with the receiving country.”

While this recommendation is commendable and in much – ideal, until one gets his/her citizenship in order while in Croatia, it does only cover the rights while in Croatia, not necessarily in EU. It will be interesting to see whether this recommendation will actually be voted into the amended Foreigners Act and, more importantly, whether – even if it is voted in – there will be a clash and interference with the newly formulated Clause 1 of Article 2, which under the Ministry of Internal Affairs now reads:

 

A foreigner is a person who is not a Croatian citizen, but has the citizenship of a member state of EEA, Swiss Confederation, citizenship of a third country or is a stateless person.

 

It would appear that the Parliamentary Committee’s on Croatians living outside the Republic of Croatia proposed amendment to Article 2 – adding of new Clause 3 – clashes seriously with Clause 1 of Article 2 amendment as proposed by the Ministry of Internal affairs. Unless, of course, if the Committee’s amendment is accepted and then new Clause 1 is re-worded automatically to accommodate the meaning of the new Clause 3. But then again, why would the Parliamentary Committee recommend a whole new Clause 3 if its proposal could well fit into re-defining the “foreigner” status in Clause 1 for the purposes of the Act (?). Perhaps the Committees proposed Clause 3 could be merged into Clause 1?

 

I’m really quite intrigued to see how the parliament will solve this apparent confusion and source of concern for many when it comes to the definition of foreigner and its relationship to Croatian nationals without sorted Croatian citizenship. If all recommended amendments go through as recommended (incompatible foreigner definitions contained in two separate recommended amendment Clauses), will for the sake of defining “foreigner” Clause 1 of Article 2 take precedence over the Committee’s Clause 3 or vice versa? Can you have a definition (of foreigner) and a counter or an incompatible definition (of foreigner) under the same Article of the same Act, or in the same Act for that matter! Which Clause, if any, will in the end define whether a Croat without Croatian citizenship is a foreigner while in Croatia under the Act if both recommendations are accepted? Will Croats of Croatian blood remain foreigners while in Croatia regardless of new amendments to Foreigners Act being ushered through the parliament as a matter of urgency?

 

Why didn’t the Parliamentary Committee for Croats abroad pursue a different line of recommendation that would bring closer to realisation the right of Croatian people to Croatian citizenship? Why didn’t the Parliamentary Committee recommend an amendment that would not only give Croatians without Croatian citizenship the right to be treated (without the confusion between Clauses in Article 2 regarding the definition of Foreigner) as Croatian citizens while in Croatia but also the right to receive Croatian citizenship under special conditions say after 3 months living in the country or something like this? – And then, attend to amending the Citizenship Act – a.s.a.p! As I read the proposed amendments to the Foreigners Act looks like Croats of Croatian blood without Croatian citizenship may continue to enjoy the status of losers when it comes to special rights under ethnicity for citizenship, which – by the way – several countries already practice around the world. It is a fact that multitudes never got around to sorting the paperwork for transfer from Yugoslav citizenship to the Croatian one after the breakup of Yugoslavia because the Croatian bureaucracy and laws and regulations and communist habits made it all too hard for many to get their citizenship. So, if you’re out there, of Croatian descent and would like the citizenship, do go for it, insist and persist – you will be proud in the end! Foreigner or no foreigner under the Foreigners Act! Ina Vukic

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