Croatia 2030: No Success Without Ruthless Decommunisation Reforms

Pretending to reinvent “sliced bread” all over again would be among the characteristics of a political environment where working on national goals is set aside throughout decades for personal gains of politicians while the country descends into economic chaos, political swamp and living standards depletion for the masses.

Current minority government in Croatia has during the past weeks been boasting of its Croatia 2030 National Development Strategy (NDS) as being the first in history of modern Croatia that for its success uses or depends on participatory and bottom-up approach to finally get Croatia where it should be: prosperous and democratic. The implementation of such plan is heavily dependent on EU funds and given that the widespread corruption at all levels (local and national), particularly public administration and judiciary, in Croatia has not been systematically dealt with one does fret for the success of such a plan that involves participation of the heavily corrupt network.

One thing is certain: without significant and “cut-throat” reforms in Croatia, without decommunising Croatia, no amount of EU or other international funds injected into Croatia will help towards the achievement of this NDS. While this NDS could be seen as an opportunity for a new start the foundations upon which the Plan is hitting the ground running are rotten. Too much corruption and nepotism everywhere.

What a shame the government keeps ignoring the fact that, although in skeleton form, Croatia’s national development strategic plan was actually devised during the Homeland War, announced in Dr Franjo Tudjman’s speech at the inauguration of the Croatian Parliament on 30 May 1990, when he said: “…At the end of this inaugural address, allow me to endeavour and put forward, in the briefest of points, some of the most urgent and immediate tasks that stand before the new democratic government of Croatia…” (pdf link)

Released late January 2021 by the government for parliamentary discussions, under the banner “Croatia 2030”, the 2030 National Development Strategy should steer the development of Croatia until 2030. While broad vision documents were produced by past governments in Croatia, this is the first time that the Government has decided to employ a comprehensive and evidence-based process using a participatory and bottom-up approach. Not unlike the crumbled Communist Yugoslavia used to do in its Five or Ten-Year Plans by the way. Glossy plans through which the communist elites of Yugoslavia got richer and ordinary people poorer and hungrier. Because no changes were made to stamp out corruption and political persecution of those not towing the communist line. Similar environment exists in Croatia today, hence mass exodus of young people during the past decade and thriving corruption is “king”.

The principal role of the World Bank in the process of the preparation of the 2030 NDS has been to provide analytical support. World Bank policy notes aimed to help the authorities recognise the most binding development gaps, define the reform and investment priorities for the country based on the vision and strategic objectives that were set by the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, and identify actions needed to bring the country closer to its 2030 targets.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Croatian Parliament on January 27: “We welcome all Members of Parliament to participate in the debate and hope to reach a consensus on this document today,” reiterating that ten years from now he saw Croatia as a competitive, innovative and safe country of recognisable identity and culture, with preserved resources, good living standards and equal opportunities for all.

The Prime Minister listed the goals to be achieved by 2030. Among them are raising GDP per capita to 75 percent of the EU average, and the share of exports of goods and services from 52 to 70 percent of GDP, significant acceleration of the work of the judiciary, reaching the OECD average, raising the coverage of children in kindergartens above 97 percent and employment to 75 percent, reducing the share of people at risk of poverty, extending the expected number of years of healthy living by six to eight years.

There certainly was no consensus reached in parliament on that day as the MPs in government showered the plan with accolades like ambitious but real and the opposition MPs described it as unambitious, insufficiently clear, coming too late and offering no vision.

Opposition MP Hrvoje Zekanovic (Hrvatski Suverenisti/Croatian Sovereignists), said for the Plan document that it is at the level of High School graduation work and maintains all the woes and misery of Croatian politics, hoping that it will not in the future.

Opposition MP Miroslav Skoro (Domovinski Pokret/Homeland Movement) said that the economy is not in focus in this Plan, because the country is run by people from diplomacy who have never worked in the real sector and do not really know how the economy works. We must create conditions for growth and development, said Skoro, adding that the strategy must give hope for a better future, a vision and help in its realisation.

On Friday 5th February, the Croatian Parliament finally voted on the National Development Strategy of Croatia until 2030. 77 deputies voted for the Croatian National Strategy, 59 were against, 2 abstained. Not a landscape that inspires faith and optimism that this NDS will actually achieve its goals. One must wonder whether that is because the Strategy itself does not enter into the essential pre-requisites for any strategy to succeed? For Croatia that would be decommunisation of public administration aiming at fierce and intense stamping out of corruption and nepotism.

National Development Strategies worldwide exist to set a clear long-term vision for the country providing a strategic guidance to all development policies and lower-ranking strategic planning documents. Additionally, the analytical underpinning prepared for the NDS and the extensive consultation process to prepare the NDS for Croatia chiefly by a team of consultants under the World Bank umbrella has cost Croatian taxpayers 32 million kunas or 4.2 million euro!

In its introductory part of its National Development Strategy 2030 Croatian government mentions absolutely nothing of the strategy or plan laid out at the start of secession from communist Yugoslavia and during the Homeland War that actually made possible today’s Croatia. This may well mean that the government aims to further degrade the foundation upon which today’s democracy was won in rivers of blood, amidst Serb aggression, devastation and despair for freedom from communism. Here is what the introduction to the NDS says (PDF):

In an increasingly globalised world, marked by challenges like the fourth industrial revolution and green transitions, but also numerous threats, such as climate changes, pandemics, geopolitical disturbances or migrations, planning for the future today is perhaps more important than ever before. In this regard, timely recognition of trends, their own strengths and weaknesses are key to turning challenges and new opportunities into development opportunities, but also to strengthen society’s resilience and its greater readiness to deal with the unpredictable circumstances.

To adapt to all these challenges and to exploit all its potentials, to be able to coordinate the efforts of all public policies, Croatia should already today have a clear vision of its future development and define the goals it wants to achieve by 2030. In addition, as a member of the European Union, Croatia has generous European funds at its disposal, which will be an important lever in achieving those goals. This requires a clear framework and quality multi-year planning, so that the benefits of EU membership can be better exploited…

Croatia suffers from a number of constraints for its development as set out in the NDS framework and these are:

  • Corruption in many different sectors of economy. Corruption comes in many forms, including the theft of public funds by politicians and government employees, and the theft and misuse of overseas aid, nepotism within the employment sector. Bribery is also a persistent threat and tends to involve the issuing of government contracts. In former communist Yugoslavia, bribery was the norm, and Croatia had inherited this, had not even seriously attempted to stamp it out and this seriously weakens the operation of strategies towards betterment of the nation.
  • Population is a considerable constraint on economic growth and Croatia’s declining population either due to mass exodus/emigration, relatively low birth rate and inefficiently stimulating climate for the return of Croats living in the diaspora means Croatia is in serious trouble achieving its planned goals or strategies unless significant reforms are undertaken in this field.  
  • Absence of a developed, independent and corruption-fee legal and judiciary system in Croatia has been an eyesore for many over the decades, yet nothing much changes and justice for ordinary citizens depends on the political agenda of courts and judges, even many practicing lawyers.

Given the past and the existing practices in Croatia which at high levels of authority still celebrate the failed communist Yugoslavia laws and public administration immorality there is a real danger that funds coughed up by the EU for this NDS will significantly dissipate into corrupt practices (pockets) and the NDS will, therefore, not be worth the paper it’s written on. I may be proven wrong; however, my assessment and sentiment are shared by many, including parliamentary votes regarding the NDS. To ensure success of such an NDS a political force is needed that would preserve the values of Croatian national identity away from communist past. Positive identity generates pride and pride generates positive energy capable of achieving just about anything put in front of it. Ina Vukic

Nest Of Hate Speech in Croatia – “Croslavia”

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“If there was a university degree for greed, you cunts would all get first class honours,” said in the Australian Parliament in 1985 The Hon. Paul Keating, Treasurer (who became Australian Prime Minister in late 1991), after backbenchers had complained about having to substantiate, for tax purposes, their electoral allowances. Translating that greed into greed for power and control Keating’s quote could well be placed with today’s Croatian government.

“Enough with deception and reckless trampling on human values without responsibility.” Wrote on his Facebook profile 22-year old Danijel Bezuk from Kutina near Zagreb some 20 minutes before he marched up to the Croatian Government building at St Mark’s Square on Monday 12 October 2020, holding a shotgun and firing from it towards the building, wounding a policeman guarding the government offices, walking away and then fatally shooting himself in the nearby Jabukovac/Tuskanac.

Andrej Plenkovic’s, Croatia’s Prime Minister’s first response to the shooting was that of seemingly utter surprise and saying “we must ask ourselves where does this radicalisation come from?” Suggesting, in no uncertain terms, that this young shooter, that people at large, have no reason to despair, to enter into acts of desperation by shooting at the government building. Then, within hours, Plenkovic announces that the government will do all in its power to locate “the nest of hate speech” from where influence for acts such as young Bezuk’s comes from. Of course, all the while pointing at the parliamentary right wing or Patriotic opposition and in particular the leader of the dr Miroslav Skoro Patriotic Movement (Domovinski Pokret) and its evidently much respected by the public outspoken government critic Member of Parliament Karolina Vidovic Kristo. At the same time Plenkovic lets out his fears that he himself may have been the intended target of young Bezuk’s shooting. Then veterans’ Minister Tomo Medved together with police Minister Davor Bozinovic get on the lynch bandwagon which would see to it that the government investigates, scrolls through social media etc, to look at even the slightest possibility of anything anybody said in public that could have influenced young Bezuk to commit such a crime… The government seems to be using the proverbial fine-tooth comb to run through social media, print media, portals, past public gatherings etc to find what they call “hate speech” that influences or encourages such “radicalism”!  

It is clear that what the government is really looking for is not hate speech but protests against the governments and presidents who have since year 2000 brought Croatia to a life of desperation for multitudes of citizens. But they are set to call protests hate speech regardless of the fact that just about all protests and all criticisms of the government and the presidents have been about lack of democratising Croatia, lack of decommunising Croatia, lack of actions in ridding Croatia of crippling corruption and nepotism, protection of family unit, protection against the Instanbul Convention, etc. In short, it has been the governments themselves that have stopped transition from communism into full democracy in Croatia since year 2000 or since the Independence War fully ended in 1998.

It would seem that Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is staring in the face of the fate minority governments face (his government only got just under 17% of votes when the entire voter body is counted) and refuses to accept the fact that he is leading the government of a country where the majority of people are against the government or have not bothered to even vote in July of this year, which amounts to widespread disillusionment anyway.

Since year 2000, across Croatia, we have witnessed waves of protests against governments that were and are well-padded with former Yugoslav communists and rebel Serbs who attacked Croatia in 1990 when it wanted out of communist Yugoalavia. We have witnessed Presidents of Croatia, since year 2000 i.e., since Franjo Tudjman’s death, criminalising Croatia’s efforts in defending its people and nation during the brutal Serb/Yugoslav aggression in the 1990’s, even standing behind the politically trumped-up UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia charges of joined criminal enterprise against Croatian generals, instead of insisting on their innocence, which innocence was later proven by the ICTY Appeal Tribunal (2012). We have seen since year 2000 corruption and nepotism thrive to the point where hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of young people have left Croatia to seek a better life elsewhere. We have seen since year 2000 an increasing boldness on the streets of Croatia in celebrating the murderous and oppressive Yugoslav communism and trampling over Croatia’s Independence War veterans and their rights and dignity. We have seen since year 2000 an intolerable process of equating the Croatian victim and Serb aggressor from that war.

The list of misfortunes and tragedies that have enveloped the Croatian nation since its glorious victory over communist oppression and corruption could go on but for the purposes of this article the above should suffice, I believe.

Frequently, however, the Croatians protesting against the enduring communist mindset that rules Croatia are being misrepresented and belittled, insulted and often ignored in the news media and protesters dubbed fascists or Ustashas or Nazis. The fact that the Yugoslav communist regime has been declared just as criminal as the Nazi one by the European Parliament about a year ago means nothing to the mainstream media that carries a candle for the communist apparatchiks ruling the country.

What is more worrying still, both the government and the mainstream media, by ignoring the messages written by young Bezuk, by labelling healthy and fact-based criticisms of the government’s incompetence as fascism are actually attacking freedom of speech rather than acknowledging it, exercising it, in orde to call for institutional reform so that living in Croatia the way it was envisaged in 1990 and 1991 when Croatia cut its ties with communist Yugoslavia could come to fruition for most people. Institutional reform as dictated by events occurring among the people is the political action of the very kind freedom of speech aims at protecting. Not in Croatia, though.

Its government has during the past week in particular by its reactions to the Bezuk shooting demonstrated that Croatia is in fact Croslavia, as retired general and former member of Croatian Parliament Zeljko Glasnovic has been saying and dubbing Croatia’s stubborn resistance to radical changes needed to exit from communism, for several years now. But he too, is ignored by mainstream media just like multitudes of others who desire and work for Croatia to become a functional democracy.

The notion of freedom of speech is being co-opted by the Croatian government with dominant ex-communist or current pro-communist groups, and distort it to serve their interests, and use it to silence those who are oppressed or marginalised, such as those who actually put their lives on the line during Croatian Homeland War as well as those who dare to criticise the government loudly. All too often, when people depict others as threats to freedom of speech, threats to peace and security, threats to radicalisation, what they really mean is, “Shut up!” and “If you don’t shut up, we will silence you!” Sound familiar, anyone? If not, just roll back to the times of communist Yugoslavia with more than a million Croats escaping from oppression or from not being able to feed the family; hundreds of thousands of Croats purged, mass murdered or imprisoned for political reasons; corruption and large-scale theft of public goods…

Yes, the Croatian Homeland War is not ended yet as many will tell you. The military aggression has stopped but still continues the combat to oust communism and its mind set. The same enemy of independent Croatia exists today as it did in 1990 only today the issue is tragically deeper. The war veterans who fought on war fronts to defend Croatia during the Homeland War have since year 2000 been made redundant or retired while those that spent not a single day defending Croatian people’s lives from Serb aggression, or did not want an independent Croatia at all, or were on the rebel Serb murderers side during the war, have become the internal enemy of Croatian independence and full democracy.

And still, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has the gall to blame the parliamentary patriotic opposition, or individual politicians or academics or political activists for Bezuk’s shooting at the government building on Monday 12th October. He has the gall of labelling clear and needed protest against the government as radicalism. The shooting is indeed a crime under criminal law and must be treated as such but as far as radicalism goes that was the oath and promise Croatian War of independence gave to Croatian people.

In his speeches at the May 1990 inauguration of Croatian Parliament and in October 1991 when that parliament voted to cut legal ties and secede from communist Yugoslavia, President dr. Franjo Tudjman said: “…our most important task for our new democracy is to introduce and implement radical measures for socio-political changes…”! It is more than clear that majority of Croatian people have had enough from their governments and presidents since year 2000 and that any radicalism perceived as such by Andrej Plenkovic’s government is not radicalism but an old promise being finally delivered or being attempted for delivery to the 94% of voters who voted in 1991 in favour of secession from communist Yugoslavia.

And so, it appears to me that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic need not look any further for a nest of hate speech that may have influenced young Bezuk to shoot at the government building – Plenkovic is sitting in that nest. It’s a nest of hate speech against Croatian independence, hate speech against Croatian national identity, hate speech against the glorious values for which a terrible war of defence was fought in 1990’s. Surely, the lot that governs, the lot that spread the government’s propaganda in mainstream media, the lot that supports them, must have done a risk assessment at some point in time and concluded that there will come a time when people will rise against the government that brings no needed changes, implements no needed changes to root out corruption and nepotism, to root out political stacking among public servants and administration, to root out political party associated power at all levels of society. Given the government acts surprised by the shooting on Monday and points the finger of blame against everybody else but itself, it does seem that the lot that governs hasn’t done any such risk assessment, or, they have always had weapons to suppress dissent up their sleeves, such as dictatorship and punishing dissent. Many signs are surfacing for 2021 to be a year of numerous and large protests against the government as the political platform it currently pursues with the degrading of the values of the Homeland War is palpably a political time bomb. Ina Vukic

Croatia And Psychological Importance of History And Its Facts

 

Psychological importance of history and truth
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National identity is the pillar of individual affiliation with a state or nation. It is the catalyst that drives people to do their best for the sake of the homeland, including sacrificing their lives in support of a country and protecting its achievements. In this strong affiliation lies, absolutely, the success of Croatian people’s magnificent victory over the brutal and genocidal Serb-led aggressor in the 1990’s.

It is without doubt that national identity plays a vital role in guaranteeing progress, prosperity, security and stability of any country. It is a homeland that, in its truest sense, safeguards human dignity, ensures happiness and a decent livelihood for its citizens, who, wherever they go, have pride in belonging to that homeland, which, in turn, is proud of its people. Globalisation has contributed to changes in both the notion and nature of national identity across the world. With technology and communication advances and freedom of movement, with globalisation came the so-called global society but this new global society is no alternative to national identity.  It bears no hallmarks of individual sacrifice for greater good, it bears no sense of belonging, which is one of the basic needs human beings have in life.

But, in Croatia, things have gone terribly wrong especially since the minority governments started forming governments with Croatian Serb minority leaders who did not (during the 1990’s Croatian War of Independence) and still do not see Croatia as their homeland but rather see Serbia as their homeland. Hence, even the age-old Croatian greeting and salute “For Homeland Ready” (Za Dom Spremni) has been the target of vicious attacks, constant bombardments and barrages of humiliation and bullying aimed at Croatian people who hold their homeland dear; these bombardments come and came through historical lies devised by no other than the Serb-led communists of Former communist Yugoslavia.

At this time in particular, when the Croatian government has evidently dropped the superior importance of Croatian homeland for Croatian national identity and callously works hand-in-hand with the Serb minority leaders in Croatia to run to the ground the very positive and elating emotion in loving the homeland that had preserved and saved from perish the Croatian nation through centuries and particularly the 20th century, it is good to remind ourselves of the importance of knowing our true history.

Serbia has not given up its sights on access to the sea – the Adriatic Sea! Since 1918, when it managed to create a Kingdom that would include Croatian territory even though the Croatian Parliament never wanted nor ratified that it be joined to Serbia in the kingdom, through WWII and after it, when it held wielding power within the Yugoslav Army and ruling communist party and in 1990’s when it brutally attacked Croatia because Croats wanted out of Yugoslavia – Serbia has demonstrated over and over again that it would do anything and everything to have access to the Adriatic and retain command over the fate of Croats in Croatia (and in Bosnia and Herzegovina).

As human beings progress through life building social attachments in order to fulfil their basic needs developmental theories such as those of Jean Piaget suggest that children undergo a socialisation process that moves from the egocentric to the sociocentric. From the perspective of a nation the group satisfies and fulfils sociocultural, economic, and political needs, giving individuals a sense of security, a feeling of belonging, and, of course, prestige. We find that Psychology’s leading theorists (e.g. Abraham Maslow, B,F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud …) agree that the need to belong is a fundamental human motivation; national attachment can fulfil that need and help individuals construct their identity. Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory suggests that a person’s identity is based in part on his or her group (nation), so a group’s status and importance affect the individual’s own. In other words, you want to view your nation as being superior to others to increase your own self-esteem, creating “in-group favouritism” that drives enthusiasm for life and work (example: the classic “U! S! A!” chant; for Croatia “Za Dom Spremni” [For Homeland Ready]).

It would be, therefore, justified to say that we all as human beings have an existential interest in history. Compare a nation which has no interest in its own past with one which has a very pronounced interest in its history and the conclusion usually reached is that the latter may be humanly progressive while the former cannot truthfully be so designated. The knowledge of the past is not only of critical value to the fundamental needs of human beings but also to dealing with the modern problems human beings encounter, for if history does not repeat itself, there are undoubtedly some very striking analogies. If experience is the best teacher for an individual, the same may be said to apply for a nation, which is only an aggregate of individuals. Whether in classrooms or within family unit or on the streets education and knowledge we gather on the history of our and other nations impact significantly on personality and character development of each individual, and, therefore, the nation. If that knowledge is healthy, if it is commensurate with the sense of justice, which all human beings possess albeit in myriad ways or nuances, then a sense of pride is that harmony that defines a progressive nation that satisfies the basic needs of a just and good life each individual within it has.

The English historian Edward Augustus Freeman defined history as “Politics of the past” and Sir John Seeley extended the concept into saying that “History is past politics; and politics present history.” In the case of May 1945 Bleiburg massacres, as well as massacres and murders of multitudes of Croatian people who fought for or were associated with the efforts for an Independent State of Croatia by Yugoslavia’s communists after World War Two, the fact that often vocalised reasons for these mass murders and massacres remain to this day uncondemned on a national level speaks volumes into the truth behind Freeman’s and Seeley’s above mentioned phrase. By the end of the 20th century there was much talk worldwide of the decline of the nation-state: the institutions that had once defined politics appeared to have been bypassed and undermined by ‘globalisation’ on the one hand and consumerist, empowered individuals on the other. It is in this that I argue there is, in this period of the 21st century, significant potential for the “people” to be active in the making of their nation’s history.

We have already experienced the use of the word “revisionism” in a negative, reprimandable, sense when any scientific researcher attempts to look into the history with view to either confirm existing historical records or to disprove them – to set the record right as the popular phrase would say. For the case of a great percentage of Croatian people (who either fought for or yearned for an independent Croatia as the most important parameter defining lasting happiness of Croatian people) revision or research into the history is not only paramount for the Croatian human spiritual and existential importance of truth and facts but also for refusal to live a lie. Limiting history to the 20th century in this article, Croatian people thriving on pride arising from being seen as Croatian nation have suffered greatly, whether by being unwillingly pushed into a union of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia or whether subsequently being persecuted and oppressed by Yugoslavia’s communist regime. As the European Parliament has declared (September 2019) that the Communist regime was criminal regime (as well as Nazism) it is absolutely necessary and essential to research the history of Croatian suffering because it is a fact that hundreds of mass graves of communist crimes victims, hidden and denied by the communists during Yugoslavia era, have been discovered since 1991, i.e. since Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia.

Revision and research of history is vital for and meaningful particularly to a nation that has spent the 20th century being denied historical truth and fact. World War Two Jasenovac and Bleiburg massacres have divided the Croatian nation during that century and continue to divide it in the 21st largely because the presented truth and available facts are not something people can safely rely on in formulating or planning for a better future. Put in terms of psychological factors of individuals making up the nation the sense of belonging to a nation is dichotomous; the sense of belonging under one umbrella – Croatian nation – is difficult to develop a sense of belonging when one part of that nation does not see the other as one of their own, and vice versa. This dichotomy within the same nation of people can easily be attributed to the fact that much of the official history of 20th century Croatia has been written with political pen and fabrications and lies, and as such taught at schools and in life. Mixed with home or non-mainstream teachings (teachings by family members of a child, of an offspring or by activists in society) that either differ from, or are same as the claimed official version of the history are a consideration towards a national harmony in belonging for the Croatian nation, indeed, for all former communist countries undergoing transition towards actual truth, whether historical or current.

Challenging the historical events and accounts by Yugoslav/Croatian communists isn’t just an academic issue but has profound implications for the way a Croatian person understands his/her own nationhood. The decades of commemorations of mass murders of Croatian people by Yugoslav communists, the decades of discovering new mass graves of communist crime victims – a thousand of these so far and only a few days ago another one was discovered, the decades of commemorations of thousands fallen at the hands of Serb aggression for the Croatian homeland are our courage and strength to pursue the truth of history and reject the deceit in it injected by the Greater Serbia politics and die hard communists of Yugoslavia/Croatia. Ina Vukic

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