About Removing Liberty For Serbia On Croatian Soil

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Washington DC Photo: Screenshot hrt.hr

Croatian President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
in Washington DC
Photo: Screenshot hrt.hr

As Americans grow increasingly weary of involvement in messy overseas conflicts and espionage-flavoured intrigues, foreign dignitaries’ travel to US has in this transition time between two administrations grown increasingly more complicated —and potentially perilous to their political aggregate — as they try to show their foreign policy bona fides to America. For the foreign policy bona fides on show to America or any foreign country, to be seen as genuine it must, usually, be first seen as having been cemented in practice and demonstrated in one’s own country. Otherwise, all kinds of politically unsavoury fallout can and will drop like a hot potato there where it hurts.


Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s unannounced and largely unexplained to the public visit to Washington DC this past week appears to have been a visit where she sought to display her foreign policy bona fides to those associated with the new Donald Trump administration currently being put together. Croatia’s President simply disappeared from the country for a few days and all that the public knew about this was in the note on the Office of the President website, which said: “the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will Sunday (1 January 2017) be going on a visit to the USA where she will remain until 5th January.


In the spirit of the mainstream media’s view that the public has a right to know details of the purpose of the President’s overseas visits, regardless of how biased this mainstream media leans away from the conservative side of the political spectrum from whence the President came, it does strike one rather disquieting and odd that more details as to the purpose of the President’s visit to Washington weren’t forthcoming for days. It can justifiably be assumed that this secrecy regarding the purpose of the visit was responsible for the restless spate of terrible, vicious, insulting media attacks and ridicule against the President within Croatia during the past week.


For optimal success, there’s that crucial and vital thing called risk assessment and risk management we must attend to carefully in what we undertake in various aspects of daily life, in work or politics. It would appear none of that was a part of the considerations flagged at the President’s Office regarding the information the public will have about the Washington visit. Yet another blaring example of hopeless gaping holes in the President’s political and media analytical team. However, if  by some chance there were such a prudent thing, as assessing the risk of not saying anything, then most likely the President would not have copped so many vicious, insulting attacks. The risk would have been managed and or mitigated. But then, denying the public even the basic information about the visit to Washington could actually have been a carefully planned trigger for a public outcry that would paint Croatia politically unstable in the first place (?).


But, as these things usually go, President Grabar-Kitarovic seems to have caved into the pressure and 4th January was filmed for Croatian TV news from Washington telling the nation that “…there’s absolutely nothing secretive about my visit…this was an official visit designed to make use of this time of transition between the two administrations for the purpose of positioning Croatia as a factor that will actively participate in the creation of American foreign politics. I’m especially bothered by the fact that in the Croatian foreign politics we always follow someone, instead of being leaders…we cannot as a country wait around for someone to include us in their agenda, we must impose, we must be here…”

Impose, assert, be proactive…I could not agree more. Generally, an important distinction is made between assertiveness and aggressiveness. To be assertive is to be forthright and firm, but to be aggressive is to be rude and pushy and that often earns enemies more than it does successes. It’s the former the President meant, so thumbs up on that. Asserting ones stand is the stuff of what most would see as good politics.


It’s a shame though that this assertion in foreign politics President Grabar-Kitarovic speaks of has not been noticed when it comes to Croatia’s foreign politics on neighbouring Serbia and its constant abuses and lies against Croatia. If assertion of Croatian rights and interests had been established as the way of carrying out foreign politics, then Serbia’s Prime Minster Aleksanadar Vucic’s representative, or anyone from Serbia, would not dare stand on Croatia’s soil and threaten Croatia or maliciously imply wrongdoing against Serb minority living in Croatia!

Serb Orthodox Christmas reception in Zagreb Croatia 5 January 2017 Vladimir Bozovic (R) representing Serbia's PM Andrej Plenkovic (C) Croatian Prime Minister Milorad Pupovac (L) head of Serb National Council in Croatia and MP

Serb Orthodox Christmas reception
in Zagreb Croatia 5 January 2017
Vladimir Bozovic (R) representing Serbia’s PM
Andrej Plenkovic (C) Croatian Prime Minister
Milorad Pupovac (L) head of
Serb National Council in Croatia and MP


A shattering, terrible, intolerable thing happened in this line of foreign politics smack in the middle of Croatia’s capital Zagreb on Thursday 5th January while the President was still out of the country in Washington. And, the President has not yet reacted to it with even a whiff of that assertion in foreign politics she mentioned in front of TV cameras in Washington. Disappointing to the core!


Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, foreign minister Davor Ivo Stier and most of Croatia’s political leaders attended the Orthodox Christmas reception organised by the Serbian National Council and its head Milorad Pupovac on 5th January. In his speech at the event the guest Vladimir Bozovic from Serbia, representing Serbia’s Prime Minister Vucic, went on to say in a threatening manner and tone: “…to all Serbs and all their institutions in Croatia we send the message of togetherness, unity and increased activity on the realisation of our mission and role with the promise from the homeland state of Serbia that Serbia will defend them with all her available means in all their problems and tribulations, whenever they’re endangered…”


Shock, horror – all that the Croatian leadership could muster by way of reaction was a rather mild criticism and statement of inappropriateness of Bozovic’s message to Croatian citizens of Serb ethnic background, as well as reminding people that Croatia was a victim of Greater Serbia aggression (in the 1990’s)/and not the other way around. No walking out of the room by the Croatian leadership in disgust and protest, or better still – no showing the guest from Serbia where the exit door was. Neither the President, or the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister of Croatia have shown any assertiveness in protecting the Croatian people and nation and state from the persisting abuse that has been coming out of Serbia. It does infuriate and inflict true pain when Serbia’s representatives, acting in promoting Serbia’s quest of denial of their own war crimes, display an ease at going about abusing Croatia and her people on her own soil.

This kind of liberty must be impermissible on Croatia’s soil. This kind of liberty Serbia gives itself on Croatian soil must be removed and denied. No self-respecting country would permit it. Such and other abuses, malicious insinuations and expressions of hatred by Serbia against Croatia, on Croatia’s soil, must come to a stop and surely must fall within the assertion in foreign politics President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic now publicly espouses. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia, Communist Crimes and Fidel Castro’s Death

Cubans on Cuba mourn Fidel Castro's passing Photo: Ramon Espinosa/ Reuters

Cubans on Cuba mourn Fidel Castro’s passing
Photo: Ramon Espinosa/ Reuters


Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who died at the age of 90 on Saturday 26 November 2016, attracted divided views about him throughout his almost six decades in power in one form or another. Most saw him as a ruthless and murderous despot while others hailed him as a revolutionary hero. Of course the communists and former communists or their sympathisers or the left political sphere would hail Castro as a revolutionary hero, e.g. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, France’s Francois Hollande, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro etc. Today, though, we must see and acknowledge that no revolution that takes or took innocent lives or forced political compliance in people through threat of persecution and death can ever produce true heroes.

So far, the reaction from Croatia’s leadership – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has utterly disappointed. All the Croatian public has been told so far is that the President will be sending a telegram of condolences to Fidel Castro’s brother Raul and there has not been even a peep from PM Andrej Plenkovic as far as I could ascertain. To me such silence or staying away from public statements can only mean that both the President and the Prime Minister of Croatia are protecting the legacy of communism as opposed condemning it at this very moment when the whole world watches out for reactions to Castro’s death. Watching Davis Cup tennis finals in Zagreb, Croatia’s foreign minister Davor Ivo Stier commented that Castro was the trademark of communism in Latin America and that now, it’s expected that the transition toward freedom, toward religious freedom and democracy will be accelerated.

Fidel Castro was indeed one of important personalities of the 20th Century but there is no avoiding it: he was a tyrant, he was a dictator, he was a criminal, and he was a thug – nothing more and nothing less. Just count the number of his own people murdered at his or his regime’s behest. Just count the number of people that fled Cuba in fear for their bare lives. Just count the number of Cuban’s who did not succeed in fleeing but ended up rotting away in Castro’s political prisons. And, just take a look at the abject poverty in Cuba that spread like wildfire during Fidel Castro’s regime decades. In all this and more – how can anyone praise that man as hero!

Exuberant Cuban exiles in Miami celebrating Fidel Castro's death Photo:Gaston de Cardenas/ Reuters

Exuberant Cuban exiles in Miami
celebrating Fidel Castro’s death
Photo:Gaston de Cardenas/ Reuters

When Fidel died on Saturday life stopped on Cuba – mourning everywhere, shock on people’s faces, disbelief and confusion keeping their bewildered eyes wide open…masses shuffling along the streets like lost sheep … 9 days of national morning has been announced for Cuba…Across the waters in the US Fidel Castro’s death prompted joyous celebrations in the streets by Cuban exiles. All this reminded me of early May 1980 when communist Yugoslavia’s dictator and criminal leader Josip Broz Tito died – I was there in Zagreb, Croatia – exactly the same: everything stopped, life stopped, TV screens and movie screens went black, shops closed… At the time of the announcement of Tito’s death I happened to have been in a movie theater, watching a movie with friends – the movie stopped, screen was black, the announcement of death came, the movie-goers filed out of the theater, head down mostly, quietly and joined the shocked, lost hordes along the city streets and squares in disbelief. I was not one of those and noticed a few around me also wincing, not believing in what they were seeing. While communist Yugoslavia wept for Tito, the diaspora was overjoyed at his death. The diaspora knew what equality truly meant for it was living it in democracies across the world and knew that Tito had spoken of equality, brotherhood and unity, but really the only equality, brotherhood and unity was enjoyed by Tito and political operative – the communists – they lived that using other people’s money and other nations’ loans.

Fidel Castro (L) with Josip Broz Tito visiting Croatia's Brijuni 1976. Photo: The Museum of History of Yugoslavia/ Belgrade

Fidel Castro (L) with Josip Broz Tito
visiting Croatia’s Brijuni 1976.
Photo: The Museum of History of Yugoslavia/ Belgrade

Josip Broz Tito and Fidel Castro had their similarities and seemingly some differences. The latter is especially evidenced in the confrontation between Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito and Cuba President Fidel Castro on the direction and leadership of the Third World on the Sixth Conference of Nonaligned Countries in September 1979 in Cuban capital, Havana. One finds that there was an identity crisis among the Third World countries as to whether to maintain their neutrality with the U.S. and the Soviet powers or to side with either superpower particularly with the Soviet camp. At the conference in Havana Tito indirectly accused Castro of moving the Movement closer to the Soviet Union but one can well conclude that such an accusation against Castro was Tito’s lip service in order to appear as not leaning toward communist Moscow, which stance helped him rake in quite a sum of foreign loans and monetary support from the West for some years during the cold war decades. Whether Nonaligned or not, whether publicly or not, both Castro and Tito remained true to the communist block and both were criminals and dictators eliminating hundreds of thousands of their own people just like Stalin and communist Moscow did.
Saturday, 26 November 2016, US President Barack Obama and US President-elect Donald Trump released very different statements on the death of 90-year-old Castro, both of which came under fire on social media. Reactions to these statements have been varied from being labelled as too soft (as in Obama’s statement) or too harsh (as in Trump’s statement).

Cuban exiles in the US celebrate Fidel Castro's death Photo: David Santiago/ El Nueva Herald/ AP

Cuban exiles in the US celebrate Fidel Castro’s death
Photo: David Santiago/ El Nueva Herald/ AP

This is what Barack Obama said from The White House Saturday 26 November 2016:
Statement by the President on the Passing of Fidel Castro
At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.
For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.
Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

President-Elect Donald J. Trump Statement:
Today the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they richly deserve.

Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.”

At this time of US presidency transition one doesn’t expect the outgoing president Obama to make any big waves but he could have done better for victims of communism (of which there are multitudes living in the US)  in his statement regarding Castro’s death. To my view Trump’s statement champions the plight of communist crimes victims. I am utterly disappointed with the lack so far of Croatia’s president’s statement regarding the significance of Fidel Castro’s life and death. Such lack of statement can only suggest lack of commitment to full condemnation of communist crimes. Fidel Castro’s death presents an opportunity for driving yet another nail into the coffin of communism, against which totalitarian and cruel regime Croatia lost many lives both during Tito’s communist regime and during the 1990’s Homeland War when it split from Yugoslavia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia – New Government Appointments Disappoint Masses

From left: Nina Obuljen, Andrej Plenkovic and Zlatko Hasanbegovic Photo: Hanza Media

From left:
Nina Obuljen, Andrej Plenkovic and Zlatko Hasanbegovic
Photo: Hanza Media

We live in times when more often than not we find ourselves among the ever increasing number of people that are dissatisfied with the make-up of their government cabinet or choice of ministers. More often than not there is a huge gap or shortfall between peoples’ expectations of government and what government delivers. Trust in government has been declining fast and certainly gives no room for a new Prime Minister to make steps that are bound to stir up a whole new round of public disappointment and outcries that in many ways make the work of the government more difficult than what it should be.


I stand deeply disappointed and sad in fact, that Croatia’s Prime Minister designate Andrej Plenkovic has in the evening of Tuesday 18 October 2016 announced that Dr Zlatko Hasanbegovic will not serve as minister in his new government but instead, the culture portfolio is given to woman who has been the subject of alarming scandals over past weeks – Nina Obuljen Korzinek – who as member of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre’s management board is said to have been instrumental during the recent past in permitting and supporting the production and the distribution of anti-Croatian films that, according to many, muddy the name and the reputation of the Croatian Homeland War.

From Left: Zeljko Glasnovic and Zorica Greguric Protesting new government appointments Photo: Robert Anic/ Pixsell

From Left: Zeljko Glasnovic and Zorica Greguric
Protesting new government appointments
Photo: Robert Anic/ Pixsell

General Zeljko Glasnovic, member of parliament, has along with Croatian volunteer war veteran Zorica Greguric already protested against this choice for minister Plenkovic has made. “Croatia is morally and economically on its knees, especially culturally on its knees because a ‘cultural Leninist’ is leading her,” stated Glasnovic in Zagreb Croatia.


Governments have traditionally been organised to administer, not to foster and enable. But if increasingly complex challenges call for the government to become an enabler, then it needs to be able to push forward with policy, not just deal with pushback. When it comes to Plenkovic it would seem he has missed the heeding of the former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg’s famous words “In God we trust, everyone else, bring data“, who reiterated through his work those famous words initially attributed to W. Edwards Deming, the father of modern quality management. Bloomberg’s data-driven rationalism reduced crime and allocated resources more efficiently to those who needed them. But data can also be used to rationalise decisions and get public on side. Evidently, even if Plenkovic had data regarding the public’s opinion about Hasanbegovic and about Obuljen, and if Plenkovic had respect and acknowledgement of the data regarding the ceaseless public outcries regarding the lack of adequate attention towards victims of communist crimes, that is a burning divisive issue needing resolution so that Croatia can move on into a better future, then he would not have named a person as minister of culture whose nomination automatically creates bad blood across the very society he says his government will unify or work for towards betterment.

Perhaps Hasanbegovic’s widespread popularity was becoming personally threatening for Plenkovic? Whatever it was that helped him make this decision regarding his new culture minister must be removed from his mindset for it does not appear right. If he was intent on nominating another person instead of Hasanbegovic then, knowing that false allegations against Hasanbegovic to do with alleged neo-fascism or revisionism resurfacing in Croatia, he had the duty to install such a person into that ministry whose very nomination would assist the government in quashing the complex reputation challenges these allegations have brought to the Croatian nation as a whole. But then again, Andrej Plenkovic is no Michael Bloomberg or W. Edwards Deming – sadly. But, there is always time to put ones pride aside and change ones decision even if one is a Prime Minister.


Not a good start for Andrej Plenkovic as Prime Minister even if he may insist on justifying or explaining his decision with the enthusiasm new, fresh faces bring – he would fail miserably in showing that any new, fresh faces must bring novelty and freshness with them – not create bigger wounds of old ones. “When we talk about the new people (in his government), it’s a combination of experience. A notable contribution of people who are in the prime of strength in their energy and experience and some younger people...” Plenkovic said describing his new team.  Oh dear, what new Prime Minister has ever said anything different about his/her chosen government team.


He is not the only minister who worked within a delicate context…Hasanbegovic was the culture minister, he is elected into the Croatian parliament, he will be a member of our parliamentary team, we will find him the most competent position,” said Plenkovic commenting his decision not to appoint Hasanbegovic a minister.

Zlatko Hasanbegovic Photo: Robert Anic/ Pixsell

Zlatko Hasanbegovic
Photo: Robert Anic/ Pixsell

Well frankly, whether Plenkovic or HDZ find anything “most competent” to do for Hasanbegovic or not, the fact remains that Hasanbegovic already has a most competent position on his own merit, without Plenkovic’s “handouts” – Hasanbegovic was elected into parliament at September elections with an overwhelming number of votes from the electorate. Andrej Plenkovic, whose father is said to have been an active communist party of Yugoslavia operative,  has not even been sworn in as the PM yet and prognoses for shaken stability of his new government are already beckoning: watch this space. The fact that Plenkovic has named Davor Ivo Stier, whose grandfather is said to have been a colonel in the WWII Ustashe forces in Croatia, as his foreign minister, will not help a single bit with the public’s anger against Obuljen’s appointment as minister of culture. The issue of Nina Obuljen as utterly unsuitable as culture minister at this time of unrelenting pressure to unite the Croatian society by reconciling its post-WWII history to the full will not go away any time soon for society at large. It will most likely give rise to a serious split in HDZ party ranks as well. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


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