Croatia: Major Cabinet Reshuffles To Stifle Progress

Zoran Milanovic These glasses are not rosy-coloured, but it sure feels like it! Photo: Goran Mehkek/Cropix

Zoran Milanovic
These glasses are not rosy-coloured,
but it sure feels like it!
Photo: Goran Mehkek/Cropix


The current Social Democrat (SDP) led government started at the end of 2011 with a huge stick of high ambition for serious reforms; they vowed with their so-called “Plan 21” to rid Croatia of the “bad” effects the previous Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had according to them inflicted upon Croatia’s economy; they vowed that they would turn Croatia’s economy around and reduce significantly unemployment rate.

At beginning of June 2014 (referring to its March 2014 paper) the European Commission had handed down its first analysis of Croatian economy, with recommendations, since Croatia became EU member state in July 2013. The Commission’s analysis shows that Croatia (its government) has been dragging its feet when it comes to achieving critical reforms and hence, suggests a need to continue monitoring Croatia’s performance in areas identified with the frame of EU membership. Around the same time an IMF’s assessment said, “Croatia remains stuck in an unusually drawn out recession”.

Croatia’s seemingly strangely deluded Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, who – as if in a state of a trance – often appears as though talking to himself or trying to convince himself of what he’s saying is right, reacted to the Brussels assessment as a “very good” one!


What a fool!

At the same time his relationship with his finance minister Slavko Linic was brewing into a mighty scandal that had the potential of bringing down the government. Milanovic failed and still fails to see that any political bickering and blame game will only deteriorate the country’s perspective to exit from the crisis.

The recent almost manic changes, shuffles and reshuffles within the government, under the guise that these are needed so that the government “can get on with its job, properly” (Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’ words June 2014, Croatia HRT TV news) undoubtedly leads one to scratch one’s head in bitter anger and say: What have (!) you been doing all this time while in office?

Despite the huge efforts SDP had been investing in trying to appear unified and focused on the job of implementing its “Plan 21” roses aren’t blooming from their court for Croatia or for the Party. Indeed, panic and intolerance started to show especially few months back when relations between Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and Finance Minister Slavko Linic poked their ugly face out – under a cloud of corruption allegations the latter was May/June finally ousted from his position as minister as well as from his membership in SDP (Slavko Linic was replaced with Boris Lalovac). Then few days later two other major portfolio ministers are ousted and replaced – albeit under a cloud of incompetence as one could conclude nothing less from the reason given by Milanovic “they are replaced due to their large workload”! (Rajko Ostojic minister for Health replaced with Sinisa Varga and Zeljko Jovanovic Education minister replaced with Vedran Mornar). After his dismissal, Ostojic (who is said to have supported Linic rather than Milanovic in the SD Party room) said he did not at all feel tired, on the contrary – he is full of energy and strength!

As Milanovic suddenly pushes an unconvincing line of wanting to be surrounded by experts rather than politicians it is surely unrealistic to expect groundbreaking reforms in the remaining less than two years of this government; besides the fact that the government obviously lacked and still lacks the expertise it boasted about at the very beginning of its mandate, the country will soon again enter an election phase because of the presidential election later this year.

Actually, Social Democrats have proven this week in the Croatian Parliament to be working hard at diverting the public’s attention from their party’s internal hostilities and visible incompetence at governance to a renewed vigour in pointing the finger of “shame and blame” at the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) as some criminal organisation because its former leader and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was convicted of serious corruption. The current president and a future presidential candidate Ivo Josipovic, an SDP loyal and musician, has labeled this corruption as high treason; playing the tune Social Democrats will undoubtedly dance to during his presidential campaign as well as in regurgitating the mantra from the initial phase of their rise to government, which they hope will get them out of boiling hot waters: it’s HDZ that is to blame for everything!

The way things are looking right now is that the Social Democrats will for sure end up as the government that deals mainly with internal party battles, engaging in political bickering and recriminations against HDZ designed to prop-up Josipovic’s chances at getting a second presidential mandate, while dragging its feet with needed reforms. Indeed, the last couple of days have seen Josipovic unleash a sharp, rather hateful tongue against HDZ who has put forward a tremendous presidential candidate in Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, whose mere presence seems to rattle Josipovic and have him shaking in his boots.

Were Josipovic a president whose main concern is in the delivery of needed boost to the Croatian economy he would steer away from fueling political bickering between the two major parties (HDZ and SDP) and show a way out of the rut Croatia is in, in more ways than one. But, then again, the Social Democrat led political bickering does camouflage incompetence in governance and I trust that the voters will recognise this in both the presidential and, later, in the general elections. Political bickering does leave a sense of abandonment in voters; a sense that nothing is more important to the government than its personal political survival.

While reshuffles within a cabinet are not uncommon they are usually done to favour progress. And even if Milanovic says he wants experts in his cabinet it is more than clear that his latest string of reshuffles are primarily serving political survival and not real progress in achieving economic and other needed changes. If he were serious about making progress then his reshuffles would have come earlier (it’s not as if he hasn’t reshuffled before or as if he did not know the job his government was to do before) and would have cast a wider net over available expert talent in the country (and from abroad). Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

European Commission Hot On The Heels Of Croatia’s Rushed Law Preventing Extradition For Communist Crimes

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for justice, fundamental rights  and citizenship   Photo: Reuters

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for justice, fundamental rights
and citizenship Photo: Reuters

It was on June 28 this year when The Croatian Parliament led by Social Democrats rushed to pass the law dubbed as “Lex Perkovic” in accordance with which an EU arrest/extradition warrant will not be applicable to crimes committed before 7 August 2002.

The rush to pass such a law was evidently exacerbated in Croatia by the fact that Germany could at 1 July, when Croatia became an EU member state, without delay serve its warrant for extradition of Josip Perkovic wanted for participation in Communist Crimes (political murder of Croatian nationals/ 1980’s) committed on German soil.

European Commission has acted swiftly in this matter and it’s safe to conclude that its swiftness has surprised Croatian government. Croatia must by 23 August submit to the European Union the exact deadline by which it will adjust its national legislature on the European Arrest Warrant to that of the European Union, Mina Andreeva – the spokeswoman for the European commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship Viviane Reding – told Croatian news agency Hina on Tuesday August 6.

Sources report that a member of German Bundestag sent Viviane Reding a memo alerting her to the fact that Croatia was avoiding to act in accordance with the European arrest warrant and subsequently Reding’s cabinet forward a warning letter to Croatia’s justice minister Orsat Miljenic.

Croatian government has kept silent on the matter, apart from confirming that Reding’s letter has arrived, reports Croatian TV news HRT.

Commissioner Reding sent a letter to Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic in late July saying that what Croatia had done on 28 June by adopting amendments to the law on the European Arrest Warrant was not in line with the European legislation and that it must be corrected, Andreeva told Hina Tuesday August 6.
Commissioner Reding told Miljenic in the letter that Croatia must determine the exact deadlines by which it would implement changes to the law so as to adjust to the European Union acquis communautaire, Andreeva said. We expect an answer by 23 August, she added.

Sadly, twenty years after the fall of Yugoslav communist regime Croatia, to my knowledge, remains the only post-communist country that has not processed or convicted a single communist criminal; and there are plenty of such suspects walking the streets. While it can be understood that while the first steps in the transition from communism into democracy, while the war of aggression raged against Croatia, even a handful of suspected communist criminals and agents of former Yugoslav secret police slipped into high positions in both government and government advisory bodies, it is unacceptable that there have been no serious prosecutions of communist crimes suspects during the past ten years. The obvious explanation for this evasion in processing suspected communist criminals in Croatia lies in the fact that pro-Communists and the so-called antifascists have managed to obstruct justice. Multitudes of Croats are well aware of this, frustrated and appalled – also seeking lustration.

In post-communist countries of Eastern Europe lustration became the term used to signify governments’ policies and practices in checking and scrutinising (vetting) individuals who had served as agents of Communist secret police and services and excluding them from important positions in newly democratically developed governments and public services.  While several former communist countries of Europe have adopted the practices of lustration, lustration as government policy/law still evades Croatia. During the years of Franjo Tudjman’s era (1990’s) lustration stood on the back burner as the war raged in the country and as Tudjman pursued his goal of pan-Croatian reconciliation. Tudjman stood his ground: he wanted the WWII enemies Ustashe and Partisans and their descendants to reconcile, to bury their differences and create a unified Croatia, without the divisive burdens of past political differences and intolerance. The way things were going up till about 1993 Tudjman’s plan of reconciliation worked wonders – it was a brilliant success story in action; almost a miracle given the historical political divide. Then, the die-hard communists headed by Stjepan Mesic started a new trail of destruction and division, labelling Tudjman as Croatian nationalist, sowing seeds of vilification wherever they could it seems – including labelling the whole of Croatian diaspora as nationalistic and fascist despite the fact that the majority of Croatian diaspora had never belonged to nor subscribed to any fascist ideology past or present – they simply did not want to live under communist totalitarian regime and sought a free life abroad.

Some in Croatia have associated lustration with the case of Josip Perkovic and argue that lustration should not start with him, that he also served as one of Franjo Tudjman’s advisors in early 1990’s.  They’re merely trying to confuse the issue, to divert public attention and opinion away from the fact that Josip Perkovic is a criminal suspect under German criminal law. It’s not far fetched to say that the die-hard communists of Croatia do not want Josip Perkovic to face a German court for communist crimes perpetrated under the banner of Yugoslav secret police because if he does this also means that the door to processing communist crimes will finally be opened as far as Croatia is concerned. They do not want that. They still pretend that communists were righteous in everything they did including murder of innocent people.

Croatian government has 16 days to respond to the European Commission demand for action in the case of Josip Perkovic arrest warrant sought by Germany. I, for one, will be watching the developments very closely – I, for one, want justice for the innocent victims of communist crimes because they, more than any other victims of Croatian history, have been almost forgotten, trodden upon and almost dehumanised through the vitriol of antifascist/communist propaganda. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croat To Be Appointed As EU Commissioner For Consumer Protection

Neven Mimica    Photo: dpa

Neven Mimica Photo: dpa

Croatia is set to enter the European Union as 28th member state on 1 July. Practically just days ahead of that date, the EU has been busy interviewing for a new member in its executive machinery. Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Integration, Neven Mimica, has evidently passed the interrogating interviewing session with flying colours. On 1 July 2013 he is to occupy his new position as Commissioner for Consumer Protection of the European Commission.
He had little if any competition for this position from Croatia as his nomination and support comes from Croatia’s government wings but, nevertheless, he satisfied the standards EC looks for. Generally, by European Law, every member state must have a member in the Commission.

Mr.Mimica will be in charge of Costumer Protection, which is a huge responsibility considering that the Eurozone is one of the largest trading areas in the world, with millions of potential consumers. Mimica held a meeting on the 4th June in front of the Internal market and Public Health Committees of the EU, in which he outlined his program: removing barriers to online shopping, highlighting issues of interest to consumers and enforcing the stability of the Eurozone market.
The new member will help the Commission tackle the crisis in Europe, which, according to a recent short-term forecast of the European Central Bank, will be predictably negative for all this year.
Mentioning the crisis goes without saying but what was not expected is the recent Trade War between Europe and China. The European Commission, which was accused of protectionism by the Chinese policymakers after Brussels imposed duties on solar panels made in China, setting Beijing over the edge. The response was immediate: the country led by Xi Jinping responded by undergoing an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation on European wines.
Both countries accuse each other of “dumping”, that means exporting at a lower price other than the production one.
This happened just few days after the new composition of the European Commission was unveiled. It will be interesting to see what happens next”, writes Ian Ssali of the Global Oyster

In another turn of the media, the British seem to have just discovered Neven Mimica’s communist past and appear uneasy about it, when it comes to an occupant of an important position such as EC Commissioner for Consumer Protection.

“PS With Croatia about to join the EU, stand by for its politicians — some of whom were apparatchiks in communist Yugoslavia — becoming top dogs in Brussels. One such is Neven Mimica, who is set to become EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, a highly influential job and one with an effect on our lives here.
In 1977, Mimica joined ASTRA, a Yugoslav foreign-trade enterprise regarded by some as a nest of Belgrade spies. Then came the Socialist Republic of Croatia Committee for Foreign Relations, where he rose to be ‘Comrade Deputy President’.  In 1987, he became a ‘trade attaché’ at the Yugoslav embassy in Cairo where he was described as a ‘diligent’ servant of the communist regime.  Now he will be swishing round Brussels with a motorcade, telling us all what to do”, writes Richard Kay, The Daily Mail

Given the above, the obvious question to ask would be: Who are the real and the hidden consumers needing protection in the European Union machinery – the politicians and their agendas or the people at large among whom there are close to 20 million unemployed in the EU!? If political agenda drives consumer protection and all the wheeling and the dealing that goes on within this portfolio in order to stave off the inevitable rattling and breaking apart of the increasingly weak economy and weak measures so far placed into practice, to try and save the boat from drowning and breaking into pieces, then someone who may have grown a rigid skin via communist indoctrination might actually be what the “doctor” ordered. Experience has demonstrated that nothing frazzles a communist or pro-communist from pursuing his/her political focus and goal! Mimica’s appointment will according to some sources be for 12 months. New EU Parliament elections are due in 2014 and the new parliament may seek to elect new Commissioners. While Mimica is not an elected member of EU Parliament for Croatia, one imagines he will need to work extra hard in proving himself worthy of securing his continuance as Commissioner if the new generation of EU parliamentarians of 2014 are to go about choosing new blood in EC executive organs. Undoubtedly, if it comes to that, Croatian government will nominate him again for the position.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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