2020 Croatian Statehood Day: The Only Way Forward is Decommunise And Democratise!

Franjo Tudjman with Croatian people – independence at the doorstep – 1990

“Communism is dead, but nobody has yet seen its corpse,” pronounced the first post-Soviet president of Estonia, Lennart Meri in the early 1990s (Meri 1994). For Croatia, it has taken inordinately and widely insufferably longer compared to its Central and East European counterparts to bury the body of communism. A reason behind this is undoubtedly entailed in what General Zeljko Glasnovic, who was until 18 May 2020 (when the parliament was dissolved pending new General Elections due on 5 July 2020) an Independent Member of the Croatian Parliament for Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in the Diaspora reiterated recently:

“… in Croatian heads the Berlin Wall has not yet fallen, we have Croatia, without Croatian content…!”

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Photo: Cropix

The plight for thorough and ultimate decommunisation in Croatia has become urgently valid. The past two decades of HDZ/SDP governments saw an aggressively increasing surge or resurfacing of celebrating symbols pertaining to former communist Yugoslavia. This has become an excruciatingly painful component to multitudes of Croats throughout the world as such tell-signs devalue and push into the national backburner the reality that between 1991 and 1995 an overwhelming mass of Croats fought a bloody war to achieve independence from communist Yugoslavia. The governments during this period, and indeed since Franjo Tudjman’s death in late 1999, were led by people loyal to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia regardless of whether they were its high operatives or children of those who were; resistant to change which would reveal the ugly face of corruption and theft many are often associated with.

As the Homeland War ended in 1998 (militarily in 1995 and in 1998 as part of peaceful reintegration of the remainder of Croatia’s occupied territory) there were no post-Homeland War reforms in the field of policy of memory; there were no “decommunisation” laws passed nor suggested after Franjo Tudjman’s death, which would have been the only and natural step into democracy! Judging from his speech at the inauguration of Croatia’s Parliament in 1990, had Franjo Tudjman lived after the War had ended long enough, these laws would be a reality today.

There is no doubt about that! Were Croatia’s leaders in government or at the helm of its Presidential Office not either overtly or covertly resistant to change specific Decommunisation laws would be a reality, not still a desired necessity to pursue, today!

Given that Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia after 94% of its voters in April/May 1991 and the bloody war of aggression ensued, one of those decommunisation laws would have been within the realm of condemnation of the communist regime and prohibition of its propaganda symbols such as the red star, such as the portrait of Josip Broz Tito, celebrating WWII Patrisan victories that ensured Croatia a continued place within the disastrous totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia, etc. Other Decommunisation laws would have been in the realm of lustration, which includes the cleansing of the public office of former communist operatives as well as cleaning the public space of Yugoslav-era legacy (e.g. renaming of streets, city squares, parks, buildings …). During the times of Franjo Tudjman’s presidency the communist names of thousands streets, squares … were changed but this was not as part of a distinctly stated decommunisation law; this was a sign of the direction Tudjman intended to take Croatia in (after the War of Independence had ended) but after his death this process was purposefully delayed and even actively thwarted and discouraged as former communists came to power.

Even as hundreds upon hundreds of mass graves with the remains of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of victims of communist crimes were being discovered, and still are being discovered in Croatia, resistance for decommunisation became stronger and stronger. Those politicians and ordinary people who saw decommunisation as an absolutely essential process that would open the way to the process of full democratisation suddenly were labelled as fascists or Ustashas by politicians and various “dignitaries” in Croatia whose personal curriculum vitaes are saturated with connections to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

In a broader perspective decommunisation is defined or seen as the process of rejection of the Communist legacy through the restructuring of the state system (including independent judiciary, checks and balances to ward off or prevent corruption…), and through changing mentality, behaviour and value systems in individual and collective dimensions. A deeper decommunisation consists in its widening of the next field: personal (lustration), educational (uncompromising and critical historical policy of the state regarding the Communist era) and the symbolic (the elimination of figures and events associated with Communism as patrons of localities, streets, squares, institutions and public places).

This year Croatia celebrates, on 30th May, 30 years since the constitution of its first multi-party Croatian Parliament and the beginning of transfer of power from Yugoslav communist regime to the independent Croatia although secession from Yugoslavia was voted in by the Croatian people at the 19 May 1991 referendum.  Unlike in other former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe the transfer of power was not peaceful and, indeed, it was thwarted by a bloody war; the transfer of power, the transfer from the communist mental chains continues to experience blockages with ugly reality largely brought on by the judicial system that has not even attempted independence from former communist operatives and associates.

Serious problems remain in Croatia as former communists and their allies render this problem almost invisible to the naked eye by devising and playing a tit-for-tat WWII Pratizans vs Ustashas political game. The reality is that the state does not function as expected by its citizens, basic institutions of administration of justice do not work as they should, the level of corruption is too high and politics while passionate operates rather as a façade, with a great deal of real activity happening behind the scenes and elsewhere. Citizens do not believe in their impact on the political processes (and they should) and plenty of them complain that the institutions of the administration of justice do not act properly – far from it.

Why did Croatia come to this?

While one would not see the reason for this through the controlled and largely biased mainstream media, which gives nor offers due regard to the politicians who constantly beat the drum of decommunisation and democratisation, a substantial number of Croatian citizens living in Croatia and abroad, as well as observers of the affairs of the country, claim that remnants of the communist past, unsatisfactory dealing with legacies from the former regime, are responsible for the contemporary dire state of affairs. Mainstream media has a great deal to answer for in this because it simply does not offer the Croatian public the variety of opinions and pursuits of politicians that people (voters) of every democracy have an absolute right to as part of democracy. It is blatantly clear that the problem of the relations between legality, the rule of law, institution building and dealing with the past in the process of transition from communism is enormous. This problem has grown roots in the failing economy and the declining standard of living despite the fact that Croatia is a member state of the European Union. The intricacies and modes of corruption that defined the former communist Yugoslavia society are deeply interwoven and rooted into the Croatian state system to this day. Safety for orderly basic livelihood with its compulsory existential markers known in developed democracies is nowhere to be seen in Croatia for the ordinary citizen: Courts are not independent, Court cases last years and years, many ten to fifteen years, wages and pensions can mainly be described as alarmingly inadequate even for basic needs for living, red tape for business enterprises is suffocating, unchecked nepotism is flourishing, corruption widespread, electoral system flawed to the point that a voter simply cannot be assured that his/her vote will go the way he/she intended …

I am quite certain that Croatians living in the diaspora or abroad see all this and suffer because of it largely because the leading politicians in the past 20 year have made them redundant for the direction Croatia is taking. Redundant they are not – they helped create the independent Croatia.

Asserting their rights to help shape Croatia into a full democracy has become a non-negotiable element in loving the Croatian homeland for Croats living abroad.

We are entering the 2020 Croatian general elections campaigns period in Croatia and abroad. A time for change is as strong today as it was in 1990. The change, decommunisation with democratisation cannot be brought about by those political parties who in the past 20 years have failed so miserably the plight of the Croatian people for full democracy; for a decent life without fear of corruption. For this I would like to remind all of the speech Franjo Tudjman made on 30 May 1990:

“… The problems facing the new government are many, complex and tangled, from local communities and municipal councils, to the Parliament, the Government and the Presidency. Within a short period, they will parallelly need to solve many problems of life’s importance which other European and Western countries solved half a century ago, or even half a millennium ago. Let’s mention only the important ones: proprietary relationships and economic life; constitutional order of pluralistic civil society with the appropriate government system modelled on countries of the free world; modernisation and revalorisation of public services, especially science and culture, teaching and education, health and social welfare, administrative services and public activities (information, journalism, Radio and TV), etc.

Numerous very complex problems have accumulated in all of these areas, and without solving them in their reciprocity there can be no exit from the crisis, or real progress…”

It is the 30th of May 2020 and these problems that needed to be solved in their reciprocity (the problems entrenched in the communist Yugoslavia regime) have not been solved. At the coming elections the more Croatian citizens both in Croatia and abroad arm themselves to vote, the better are the prospects for finally removing those problems.

Vote for change! Vote for Croatia!

Vote against those who have proven incapable of holding government that would put Croatia and Homeland War values above all else! That is the duty we all hold for a full democracy and, hence, an orderly and decent living in Croatia for all. Ina Vukic

 

 

 

 

Zeljko Glasnovic MP and “The Lion in Winter”

Zeljko Glasnovic MP in Croatian Parliament 13 Feb 2020
Delivery of anti-corruption speech
Photo: Screenshot

When I watched the live video broadcast of Croatian Parliament sitting on last Thursday, 13 February 2020, while the Parliamentary representative for Croatians living abroad (for the diaspora), retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, it was his usually ardent presentation of the perilous woes that continue afflicting and stifling progress of democracy and, indeed, a society that provides opportunities for all its citizens to better themselves without the fear of nepotism, bribery and political allegiances. Without corruption as mainstay! His speech was about the urgent need to stamp out corruption, which, as he emphasised, even “SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency in Croatia) says represents the biggest danger for the Croatian state”. But, as he said, nothing is being done to actually deal with this debilitating issue; nothing is being done to call the “red directors of companies” (former communists) to account, who have destroyed multitudes of public companies and amassed personal wealth in the process, alarmingly impoverishing Croatia’s public wealth. That is why “there is no money for Croatian Defence Council/HVO, no money for Kindergartens and other critical matters…because at least 30 billion kunas (4.1 billion Euro) are stolen every year and taken out of the country. The left and right wing of the Party (meaning Communist party) are to blame for this. Life is good for them, but why not start with them, when we talk of the provenance of property legislation … what’s with the dossiers of former UDBa (Communist Yugoslavia Secret Police) operatives, some of them sit today in this Parliament…and when I talk about that it is prohibited on HTV (Croatia’s public TV channel), instead we have to watch shows that serve as confessional for those Khmers Rouge and those where their children rule like emperors…that in fact is censorship and we don’t come across discussions about that…What’s with the stolen properties by the Reds  … until academic and other lustration are implemented we will not get far…but that is a taboo topic for HTV.”

Now comes the crunch of the day!

The real and distressing marker for the relatively widespread and repugnant animosity against Croatians living outside Croatia, or émigrés, which is constantly fed to the public by those in Croatia who had profited living under the Communist Yugoslavia regime and circumvented or refused to fight for an independent Croatia in 1990’s once 94% of voters voted at 1991 referendum to secede from Yugoslavia.

Croatian Peasant Party representative in parliament, Zeljko Lenart (otherwise a “torchbearer” for the likes of  Kreso Beljak who says that communists did not kill enough Croats in their purges during and after WWII) stood up protesting against Glasnovic, saying: “…Glasnovic insults me as a parliamentary representative and I would like to say that in my family no one was member of the Party but I will also tell you that we did not flee to Canada and hide in Canada for 30 years like you and now you hold moral sermons and continue insulting …”. Glasnovic then approached Lenart, protesting to Lenart’s ugly provocation, calling him names (monkey, nit/louse…) saying: “I did not flee, you chased us out …”. And that in fact is the truth. Retired general Glasnovic was only 8 years old when in 1962 his family was forced to emigrate to Canada; their sizeable properties stolen by communists, family persecuted, denied the right to work, and members imprisoned as political prisoners in Communist Yugoslavia. His story of emigration is the story of hundreds of thousands of Croats who emigrated from Yugoslavia. But Glasnovic (like many others) returned to Croatia in 1991 to voluntarily join the Croatian defence forces (after having served in Canadian Army for 5 years and then French Foreign Legion/The Gulf War) to defend Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslav/Serb aggression once Croatians voted overwhelmingly to secede from communism and become an independent Croatian state. Croatian communities in the diaspora joined the fight for freedom once those living in Croatia had overwhelmingly voted to secede from Yugoslavia. This was their God-given and moral duty.

Croatian Parliament 13 Feb 2020
Zeljko Lenart MP (L), Zeljko Glasnovic MP (C), Miro Bulj MP (R)
Photo: Screenshot

Lenart, to my opinion rightly called “a nit” from political perspective that affects a nation struggling to implement that for which it fought and gave blood, has the gall to provoke Glasnovic with such malicious lies! Lenart has proven beyond any doubt that Croatia has indeed much to attend to if it is to decommunise and become a fair-for-all country. Instead of supporting Glasnovic’s speech and standing behind the need to stamp out corruption, Lenart attacks with provocation the man who advocates blanket and decisive actions to rid Croatia of corruption – the cancer that has all but chomped away the opportunities for many to make a decent living in Croatia. Croatia finds itself periled by mass exodus of young people, who have and are leaving the country in droves in order to earn a decent living abroad. Even if it were true that no one from Lenart’s family was in the communist party during the times of Yugoslavia, one thing stands out like a sore thumb: they must have sucked-up to or tolerated/supported communists for personal gain. The fact that he stands behind Kreso Beljak, instead of being abhorred by the murders of innocent Croats by the communists, for which Beljak says there weren’t enough killed, is an unshakeable indication that the latter must have been the case for Lenart’s family.

Croatian media had in its usual biased manner reported this incident from Croatian Parliament on Thursday 13 February as an incident where Glasnovic called Lenart by seemingly derogatory names! There was nothing about the real and critical issues for Croatia Glasnovic was talking about to which Lenart responded with provocation, and none that I could come across sought Glasnovic’s comments afterwards. All this is very symptomatic of the dire problems Croatia has and about which Glasnovic talks loudly: the absolute need to stamp out corruption and delve into the provenance of the wealth amassed through corruption and theft by many former communists, many of whom, or their descendants, are currently in positions of power in the country.

What became painfully obvious from Lenart’s malicious provocations is that it serves as proof of  a vicious war going on in Croatia for the survival without repercussions of those who have illegally and through corruption amassed wealth by being in power, and/or who have participated in or shut their eyes to the mass murders of innocent Croatian people by communists during and after WWII. The battle for power between the former communists and most of their like-minded descendants and those who actually and with much sacrifice fought for an independent and democratic Croatia during 1990’s has reached the stage where possibilities do not exclude a justifiably brutal reckoning for the political trajectory Croatia will take.

The ugly resistance by communist (or former Yugoslavia) sympathisers to delve into real combat against corruption reminds one, in a way, of the political backdrop in James Goldman’s 1960’s acclaimed play “The Lion in Winter”, an intended political comedy about politics in the Middle Ages that transforms contemporary battles for political survival into often tragic consequences for a nation.  Questions about the battle for succession and the demands of leadership have never felt more pertinent to me. What makes the messages from The Lion in Winter feel so immediate and fresh is how it bridges great political posturing and intense personal and domestic intrigue. The play is overwhelmingly about the battle over succession. After Croatia’s Homeland War ended completely in 1998 and after Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999, those who placed their own life at independence’s disposal (the war veterans) and those who worked alongside them ensuring political lobby and financial backing as well as providing combatants to defend Croatia from aggression (the Croats in the diaspora) were the natural successors who would see Croatia rid itself of communism and its corrupt ways. Those who would preserve Croatia as independent and develop it into a full democracy. But, after Tudjman’s death the former communists would do anything to ensure that Tudjman’s and Homeland War’s natural successors were run into the ground and even pronounced the Homeland War as a criminal enterprise. It took 12 years for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague to acquit in 2012 Croatian Generals of “Joint Criminal Enterprise” (politically-driven) indictments.

The Lion in Winter” political agendas translated into today’s Croatia, would see the plot where with the fate of their ideal country (communist Yugoslavia) at stake – forever – there are many former communists and their followers or descendants who are willing to survive by any means necessary and thus prevent the ultimate demise of the communist regime, threads of which still perilously remain ingrained in Croatia’s public administration and society. In these times of heightened attacks against those who fought and fight against communism, questions about the battle for succession and the demands of leadership have never felt more pertinent for Croatia.Those who are among the natural successors, including retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, continue to have a fight on their hands that needs to bring about the real positive consequence and values of the Homeland War come “rain, hail or shine”: to decommunise the country and usher in real or functional democracy to the streets (not the one on paper only) by any means necessary. Many in the political arena, though, fail miserably at recognising leadership, support it actively; it’s the old woe of egomania palpable in many. Regretful as this is, it is not insurmountable. This is the time to draw the battle against communism to a close and bring the combatants against it together to a conclusion. Will Croatian combatants against corruption know how to do that, how to join forces against the enemy, once again? Ina Vukic

 

 

 

Croatia: Winning Votes Requires A “Cluster-Bomb” Approach

Croatian Presidential Candidates 2019

The imminent Presidential elections in Croatia set for 22 December 2019 are shaping up as a three-horse race, possibly a four-horse race, despite there being 11 candidates who qualified for the running. According to polls three frontrunners are Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (the current incumbent backed by the struggling in popularity stakes ruling political party HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union whose popularity has plummeted with apocalyptic speed in the past couple of years), Miroslav Skoro (a well-known figure in Croatia as long-standing popular musician, former member of Croatian Democratic Union with a seat in 2008 Croatian Parliament,  businessman with a Doctorate in Economics who is running as an independent candidate with an expressed intention to topple the current HDZ-led government after he wins office, asking the party’s many members to defect and vote for him) and Zoran Milanovic (former Prime Minister, Social Democrat, with an atrocious record in leading the government of the country, which led to his demise as the leader of his own party in late 2016). The fourth candidate that keeps popping up as having a fairly good chance of winning is Mislav Kolakusic (a lawyer and former court judge who has become known as a politician with his platform to rid Croatia of corruption even though he provides no real or detailed solutions as to how he would free Croatia from that heavy plague).

All in all, all candidates promise big things of changes coming if they win, however, one needs to take a step back in order to see that some changes being promised are not possible under the current powers of the President of the country! But they are all trying to compete who is a bigger and better Tudjmanist!

Miroslav Skoro is the only candidate seeking to increase the president’s powers because he also thinks that the president with current constitutional powers cannot bring change to a society that is seeking change. Presidential powers that Tudjman had were cut and made almost impotent when it comes to leading the nation to the needed transformation from communism into democracy. The president of the republic is elected directly by popular vote for a period of five years and is limited to two terms.

The 1990 constitution originally granted the president very broad powers; the president could dismiss the prime minister, who was nominally responsible to both the parliament and the president but was actually directly dependent on the president. Constitutional amendments in 2000, under the leadership of former communists Stjepan Mesic (then president) and Ivica Racan (the prime minister) reduced the importance of the president of the country, who thenceforth served solely as head of state, and increased the power of the parliament and of the prime minister, who assumed the role of head of government. The president continues to nominate the prime minister, but the parliament must confirm the appointment. With a majority in today’s parliament being former communists, still refusing to denounce the criminal former communist regime, one needs to wonder whether Skoro’s plans to bring about such significant change will end up nothing more than electoral rhetoric. Certainly, it’s difficult to see at this stage that he has the necessary political and practical knowhow support to be able to achieve the turnaround. While Skoro enjoys support of a number of sovereignist political parties and individual politicians of note, the seeking of voter defection should have been directed at all the culprits (both HDZ and SDP) for the critical economic and democratic state Croatia is currently in. Any other approach, singling out one and not the other, would seem to validate an idea that double standards in national politics are acceptable; and they are not. Both HDZ and SDP are almost equally responsible for the current state that cries for change so that mass emigration of valuable workforce, prevalence of corruption and nepotism in public administration and public companies could be stopped or slowed down.

In other words, nothing short of lustration and decommunisation will do! To achieve this voter defection from HDZ and SDP is needed in great numbers.

On Sunday 8 December, at his campaign launch in the large concert hall Lisinski in Zagreb, Miroslav Skoro, whose election slogan is “Now or Never”, declared that he would be the next president of Croatia, and would resume and inherit Franjo Tudjman’s policy, claiming that “today’s HDZ has nothing to do with the HDZ from the time of that first Croatian president”.

That claim angered the incumbent President of HDZ, current Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, and other relatively highly positioned HDZ members, who claim they are the only heirs to Tudjman. “Today’s HDZ is firmly on the path outlined by Tudjman,” President Grabar-Kitarovic said, also, on Tuesday 11 December while visiting Veliko Trgovisce, Tudjman’s birthplace.

Franjo Tudjman led Croatia into independence and that task was a national effort that took enormous sacrifice, dedication and collaboration with Tudjman’s leadership in creating an independent state from multitudes – individuals who were and those who were not members of Tudjman’s HDZ political party as well as other political parties. Hence, it is nothing short of stupidity, disrespect, repulsion and arrogance for Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and HDZ to claim that “HDZ is the only heir to Tudjman”! The fact is that the entire independence fighting movement and its strong participators are the only heirs to Tudjman and that movement was widespread during the Homeland War of the 1990’s and continues to be widespread today. It was not only members of HDZ that fought for an independent Croatia but, indeed, many others outside HDZ “walls”.

The Social Democratic candidate, former prime minister Zoran Milanovic, has also showed respect and consideration for Tudjman in his campaign. “He was ready to spend time in prison for Croatia… He was not often right, but, in important things at the time, he was right – and many Croatian citizens recognised that,” Milanovic told N1 television on Tuesday 10 December.

This competition as to which one is a better Tudjmanist while in many respects may not be taken seriously by various groups and individuals, may indeed be seen by many others as a strong turning point when the period of de-Tudjmanisation of Croatia (commenced a couple of decades ago under the ormer communists’ pursuits to falsely criminalise Croatian Homeland War and, hence, the legitimacy of its independence struggle) is experiencing an end. And real values, those of full democracy and freedom, are elevated to the point of real progress.

Psychology of voters is basically aligned with psychology of individual and personal choices either on basis of political ideology or personal welfare interests or both. To get enough voters to defect their usual voting preferences is an exercise that is deep, personal and must provide visible benefits for all who may decide to defect from being loyal to one political party for decades. Indeed, if the major changes needed for Croatia are to be successful then defection is needed not only from HDZ echelons but also from SDP (Social Democrats) ones.

Winning someone’s vote in modern democratic societies requires a kind of cluster-bomb approach on the part of political parties. With communication these days (and mainstream media being controlled by major parties) being such a multi-faceted thing, and the opinion polls so either tight or non-dependable, every method — from leaflet dropping, social media to the old-fashioned landline phone — must be harnessed by any candidate serious about breaking the stale mould of voter behaviour that has seen Croatia floating in perpetual bickering and recriminations. The message for the need for change has been put out there but skills for managing that change require much more than any of the candidates have left the impression of possessing or being able to organise. And voters need both the message and the how, otherwise voter behaviour is unlikely to change to an impactful degree for the nation. If anything, these presidential election campaigns have made it clear that Croatia desperately needs changes – changes away from old communist mindset and that is in my view a great thing. The voters should, therefore, give their vote to the one who has the biggest determination for changes and, hence, the biggest likelihood in at least commencing with the changes if not achieving them during the next presidential mandate. Ina Vukic

 

 

 

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