Croatia: Distancing From Communist Yugoslavia Still Like Having Teeth Pulled Out Without Anaesthetics

Upper left image – removed mural dedicated to victims of Serb aggression/Vukovar, with inscription “People will never forget”

If there is a living example of a miserably painful transition from communism into democracy it is Croatia. At times the moves that those in power make which degrade and offend those who fought or participated by other means in the war for Croatia’s independence during the 1990’s feels to such patriots like having one’s teeth pulled out one by one – without the anaesthetics or pain-numbers!

During the past couple of weeks, the newly elected President of the Supreme Court, Judge Radovan Dobronic, wasted no time to publicly declare that the age-old greeting for Croatian patriots “For Homeland Ready” (“Za dom spremni”) has no place anywhere, must not exist, and that people were killed under that greeting during WWII in Croatia!  Of course, he did not do the same for the communist greeting “Brotherhood and Unity”, or its red star symbol or that many more innocent people were killed under “Brotherhood and Unity” greeting during WWII and after it than under any greeting known to Croatian history!  What Dobronic said was just what the former communists and Yugoslav nostalgics wanted to hear. He omitted completely to say that in 1990’s the people that formed HOS units (Croatian Defence Forces) whose official symbol and greeting was “For Homeland Ready” are owed utter respect as they contributed significantly to today’s freedom and independence. For over a decade there have been cruel attempts to make the greeting “For Homeland Ready” illegal in Croatia in all instances of life and having a Supreme Court head judge whose one of the first public declarations that touches upon national morality undertones certainly signifies that communists and pro-Communists now have a new friend in Croatia that will continue targeting the values fought for during Croatia’s Homeland War in 1990’s.

A few days after Judge Dobronic stated that the Croatian patriotic greeting “For Homeland Ready”, on 27 October 2021, wall murals on the walls of electric power station in the capital city of Zagreb dedicated to Croatia’s Homeland War, Vukovar and Victims of Serb Aggression during that war were painted over; disappeared. Public revolt and protest, against these acts, occurred in some media, not mainstream that is government controlled, and especially in social media. Protest by members of former HOS units occurred as did from politicians from the right side of political spectrum.  

Mural in Zagreb Erased or painted over
Erased Mural in Zagreb dedicated to General Slobodan Praljak and suffering of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina

This depraved act of erasing the patriotic murals can also be compared to the pain of having teeth pulled out without anaesthetics. It signifies pure hatred for the glorious victory Croats had over communist Yugoslavia in 1990. These acts were done by the City of Zagreb administration (via HEP/Croatian Electricity) whose new Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic brought in a leftist administration riddled with communist Yugoslavia nostalgia. Coupled with the fact that on the state level the HDZ government is kept alive by its coalition with Serbs in Croatia who sided with the Serb aggressor against Croatia during the Homeland War there is no doubt in many minds that this act also forms an ongoing plan to keep wearing down Croatian patriotism and the values fought for during separation from communist Yugoslavia. Within a day or two Mayor Tomasevic came out saying that the painting over the murals dedicated to Vukovar, victims of aggression, war, Homeland war was a mistake that the only mural that was meant to be painted over was the one that had the late General Slobodan Praljak’s face on it (Slobodan Praljak was a General in the Croatian Defence Forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s who committed suicide (29 November 2017) in the Hague courtroom of the International Criminal Tribunal insisting he was innocent of war crimes charged with and convicted of.)

Of course, it was only a matter of a day or so after the murals were removed or painted over that new mural on the same walls appeared – thanks to patriotic citizens who were among those abhorred by the act of murals dedicated to Vukovar and Croatian Homeland War being removed.  

New mural dedicated to Vukovar and victims of Serb aggression in Croatia being painted again on same wall by protesting patriots

Often we hear that the sadness of attacks on Croatian patriotism will turn into defiance against current political leadership and into political assertion of values fought for during 1990’s for a free and independent Croatia. This though is proving to be a task of gigantic proportions as former communists or their offspring hold onto their family’s past during which most profited – they still reside in properties stolen from Jews or wealthy pro-Croatian citizens after WWII, they still know that nepotism and corruption is their only ticket to success in life … 

Forty-one years after the death of Josip Broz Tito. The one and only president of former communist Yugoslavia ever. All other presidents were presidents of the Presidency set-up in accordance with his wishes after his death in 1980 so that no other living person could become a lifelong president of Yugoslavia ever.  This Presidency ensured that seeds are planted after Tito’s death among people that would not tolerate, that would hate with a vengeance any expression of national pride or independence from it by any of its republics.

It has been thirty years since in 1991 Croatia severed all its ties with communist Yugoslavia, bravely forging its independence through a brutal was of Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression. The later twenty years of those thirty, i.e., from year 2000, after President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman passed away in December 1999, Croatia has proven to be a continuance of the same hunting ground that it was under communist Yugoslavia for any and every sign or display of Croatian patriotism taking hold among the public. More and more people from the communist Yugoslavia “family” breed crept into the power echelons of Croatia, not having spilled a drop of blood for her freedom, not wanting her free and independent in the first place, not having deserved to have power by merit but placed there through communist-bred corruption and nepotism.

If most offspring of former Yugoslav communists did not hold such a commitment to their families’ past, then every public debate about Tito would not still create unrest among Croats and push them into antagonistic opposing sides and conflicts as it occurs even forty years after his death. On the one hand there is an ideologically blinded and noisy group of Croats of Yugoslav orientation, who persistently claim that Tito saved the Croatian people and laid the foundations for the establishment of today’s state of Croatia, and on the other hand, there Croats who reject that and, rightfully so, claim that the 1990’s Homeland War was and is the foundations of today’s modern and independent Croatia.

The absolute truth about Josip Broz Tito and his communist Partisans is that they committed horrendous crimes and genocide against the Croatian people who fought for an independent Croatia, not Yugoslavia, not within Yugoslavia. The absolute truth is that Josip Broz Tito is today counted among top ten mass murderers of the Twentieth century as his state ordered purges ordered many hundreds of thousands of anti-communist citizens (more than 500,000). Thankfully, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, with the appearance of new facts as more than a thousand of mass graves of victims of communist crimes were unearthed, as state archives of historical records were opened, merits and positive opinions about Tito began to decline and today, more than ever, people in Croatia and the world consider him a dictator and a criminal of suspicious ethnic or national origins. But this “more than ever” is not enough to it seems to place communism far far behind those who live in a supposedly democratic Croatia.

Tito used all possible means and methods in the destruction of Croatia and the Croatian people. Unfortunately, along with the Belgrade authorities, Croatian Yugoslavs, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian national minority in Croatia helped him a great deal. The consequences of his long-term policy towards the Serbian minority and bribery of certain members of that minority, whose ancestors in the time of Ante Starcevic were considered Croats of the Orthodox faith, were well felt by the Croatian people in the 1990s in the Greater Serbia aggression.

Today’s Croatia and Croats who wish Croatia well cannot legally or morally deny civil rights to members of minorities living in Croatia, but at the same time the Croatian people rightly expect members of all national minorities to act in accordance with Croatian law, without being required and enjoying special privileges and serving foreign masters. Above all it is expected that minorities in Croatia adhere to and respect the values and significance of the Croatian Homeland War of Independence. But they do not do this, and one would be completely correct in saying that it’s because the governments have not developed the mechanisms that would police and monitor matters of that importance for the nation.

It needs to be kept in mind that with the establishment of communist Yugoslavia, Tito created the conditions for the killing and persecution of Croats and devised a system whose purpose was the biological destruction of the Croatian people. For the killing, imprisonment, and persecution of Croats in Tito’s Yugoslavia, it was enough to declare someone an enemy of the people. So too, it needs to be kept in mind that the victims of Serb aggression against Vukovar, against Croatia bother Mayor of Zagreb Tomasevic and they bother the leftist political parties, including those in power since year 2000. They do not like the fact that Croats fought for and risked their lives for Croatian patriotism and democracy while most of them hid away while the war of aggression against Croatia raged. All of them should have long ago banned the Red star symbol of communism and torn down all monuments to the criminal dicator Tito and his communist Yugoslavia regime. But they did not, they continue hounding Croatian patriots, throwing their dearest symbols into the waters of worthlessness and criminal connotation.

The removal or the painting over the patriotic murals in its capital city of Zagreb may continue to remain politically significant and encourage the right-wing patriotic parties and movements to unite into a force that may change Croatia’s political and moral future into that what it should have become after 1998 when the last occupied areas were reintegrated into Croatia. Let’s hope that the protests against this incident of trying to erase the victims of Homeland War from those city walls will not constitute a yet another short-lived protest and become just a point of street-talk for a while, until it dies out with a shrug of the patriotic shoulder. Perhaps we will see much more action that will result in a new Croatia after the next general elections; a new political landscape that cemented the Croatian resolve to defend itself from communist Yugoslavia and Greater Serbia onslaughts.

Retired General and former Member of Croatian Parliament Zeljko Glasnovic

The reactions to the erasing of the patriotic murals were many and one so well and succinctly put (that also demonstrates the political landscape in Croatia at present as related to transitioning from communism) on a Facebook profile was that by retired General and former Member of Croatian Parliament Zeljko Glasnovic on 29 October 2021 and it was as follows:

“Mausoleum of Vukašin Šoškočanin in the middle of Borovo selo – permitted, monuments to partisans all over Croatia – permitted, hundreds of pits full of Croatian bones – permitted, streets and squares named after the biggest mass murderers – permitted, five-pointed stars on buildings and flags – permitted, graffiti of the unrepentant Yugoslavia, bloody locksmiths and communism – permitted, marching through the cities to the beats of ‘White Violet’ (song about Tito) – permitted.

Murals dedicated to Vukovar, the 204th Guards Brigade, General Praljak and Dinamo – not permitted. They made criminals out of heroes and made heroes out of criminals. They made an aggressor out of a victim; they made a victim out of an aggressor. It only exists in Croslavia. To celebrate the executioners and the anniversaries of their monstrous crimes committed against their own people and to humiliate, belittle and degrade their liberators. To live in Croatia and to hate and despise everything that is Croatian. Fight for independence and freedom and sell that same freedom for a couple of silver coins. Frightening. The selective memory of the Croatian people has reached its peak. Apathy, amnesia, and indifference are just some of the characteristics of the average Croat who still sits passive in his home hiding behind his keyboard. And while he is virtually fighting for his country, with popcorn in his hands, he is waiting for the solution and the continuation of his carefree future, which he will not fight for alone. Why would he? He brought these people to power with his indifference. Good night Croatia.” Ina Vukic

Dr Jure Burić – An Interview: “Croatians will continue paying a heavy price until lustration happens!”

Interview by Ina Vukic

October this year will mark 30 years since the beginning of the siege of Dubrovnik and its surroundings and the bombing of its walls and vital structures, which culminated on 6 December 1991; the deaths of civilians and soldiers. You were the war commissioner of the Republic of Croatia at the time when the Yugoslav Chetnik aggression indiscriminately hit the city and its people with its murderous weapons and intentions. How much do you vividly remember those days of the attack on Dubrovnik, and can you tell us what was going through your mind the most at that time?

In summer of 1991 a decision was made by the Municipal Council of the City of Dubrovnik, in fact the then Municipality of Dubrovnik to accept and take in refugees from Vukovar. Our people from Vukovar were offered accommodation and holidays in all our hotels. Other places by the sea did the same, offering free accommodation to a certain number of refugees for a certain period of time. At my suggestion, which was unanimously accepted (I was then leading “social” matters on the Council), we offered all refugees from Vukovar accommodation for an unlimited number of people and for an unlimited period of time – not knowing that we, ourselves, would soon become refugees, and our citizens of Vukovar were shelled once again!

All resources from the Red Cross, Caritas, hotels, associations, … were made available and after the public announcement, we prepared for the reception of numerous refugees. Very soon, several thousand of unfortunate people found themselves in Dubrovnik. We selflessly wanted to help them in their suffering and alleviate the sad fact that their husbands, fathers, brothers, relatives … remained in their city defending it and losing their lives for it.

How profoundly distressing were the testimonies of women and children who escaped from the hell of war and found refuge with us. We organised swimming lessons for them, all kinds of events, sports competitions, to try to at least alleviate a little bit their grief for their fathers and their city. We regularly followed the events in Vukovar and found ourselves slowly preparing for the defence of our city – in case it became necessary.

One part of our people based their defence strategy on the fact that the City would not be attacked (after all, who would dare attacking the Pearl of the World and the UNESCO-protected city!). One part of our people, including myself, based their defence strategy on another fact and that was that our neighbours were not so smart and that there would be attacks.

Fear and unrest were felt in the City. An interesting event took place at a larger gathering (a full cinema hall right in the centre of the old town). Speakers lined up and each in their own way “analysed the situation” and fearing the fate of Vukovar. At one point of such fear and uncertainty, my compatriot from Velja Međa-Andrija Oberan, came up to the podium.

What will he say now – I’m really interested, I thought.

And Oberan began:

‘My people, I came to this city in torn trousers twenty years ago – following my belly for bread. I didn’t really have much schooling and I applied for work on a building site. The first morning I saw people around me making some agreement between them and collecting money, so I asked what it was about and if I could participate as well?’ ‘You can, Vlach,’ they told me. ‘We are collecting money for brunch’! ‘And what is a brunch?’

‘Well, it’s something like your breakfast, you Vlach.’

‘Okay, here’s the money, and what will be for that brunch’

‘White kidneys,’ they replied.

After a while, a car comes in and a large pot was taken out of the trunk, and I approached to see what the white kidneys were! I lift the lid and see – well, my people, these are testicles!

Now, whoever has balls, let him not be afraid of war, and who has white kidneys – I can’t help him! – That was the shortest and best speech I heard in those times!

Bombing of Dubrovnik, December 1991

In your opinion, what was your role in the fight for freedom, for the independence of Croatia?

It was felt that the war would not bypass us either. The Government of the Republic of Croatia had appointed me as the “War Commissioner for Southern Croatia” – one of six War Commissioners in the country!

And? On October 1, 1991, in the early morning hours, the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik.

On the same date, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) began with the ritual burning of my birth house in Ravno (Herzegovina), which was, of course, thoroughly looted by Serbs and Montenegrins before that. As it was then – so it is today – unrestored and without a roof. However, “journalists” have long ago renovated it and luxuriously equipped it – so much about our objective “journalism”!

So that is the date of the beginning of the war in BiH, and not the few months later as Alija Izetbegović said – when the shelling of Sarajevo began!

It is interesting that in Dubrovnik, the first victim of the Serbian grenades was one

honest and good man in his home Miličević- a Serb! Civilian of course!

Were the people around you, and you, fully committed to the goal of Croatian independence?

In all this difficult time of hopelessness, there was still hope. We trusted our President Franjo Tudjman and our brave defenders. We knew that we would defend and organise our Homeland in the way that befits a Croatian person. In a report for HTV, I told the deceitful and inconsistent world: with your eyes on the Croats, you remain deaf and blind and dumb, but know that these tortured old men and hungry children will not give you peace, and the public will condemn you that you could have prevented this war – and you did not!”

And a message to the aggressors – Serbs and Montenegrins:

“When you think that you killed the last man from the ruins, the hand of the Croatian defender will be raised, and he will spoil your plans”!

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of the 1990’s?

The Croatian spirit in those difficult times was constant, strong, unbreakable. It drew its strength from the fact that we were getting stronger every day and increasingly armed despite the will of the world. Thomson’s “Čavoglave” was sung by both old and young, fuelled by strength and hope for our better tomorrow in togetherness. We extended a hand of reconciliation to our former persecutors, following President Tudjman’s advice that we must all be one, because that is the only recipe for success.

I caved in, inside, and extended my hand to the man whose hand beat my late friend Bruno Busic, because he was now a true Croatian defender who was ashamed of his unreasonable act. And everything somehow “was in tune” until the former communists, seeing that nothing bad would happen to them, got stronger.

Then they spat on that outstretched hand, and they still spit on it today.

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of today?

I wrote this poem at the time of the strongest Serbo-Chetnik and Montenegrin aggression against Croatia, when the “Red Army Barracks” threatened Osijek, and General Branimir Glavas awakened hope, when they killed Vukovar and the heroic defenders led by General Blago Zadro, when they destroyed Dubrovnik … while General Mirko Norac defended Gospić, when the five-pointed star polluted our Blue Adriatic …… autumn 1991.

THE SAME MESSAGE WAS VALID THEN AND IS VALID TODAY !!! – TO US AND TO THEM!

WE ARE ALL READY FOR CROATIA!

When at dawn the first ray,

Caresses the blue sea

And it illuminates your rivers

The golden fields of your mountain

When it awakes the Lika wolf

Herceg Bosna angry snake

And a pirate from the Neretva

Let them in if they can.

Vucedol dove

Zrinjski Castle, Senj Tower

Sinj Alkar calls the Fortress

If they are allowed, let them in

From Velebit the fairy is calling

I greet you, Dubrovnik

Beautiful Istria and the Littoral

Slavonia and Zagorje

Posavina, Dalmatia

Wake them all up

He sang a song of paradise

We are all READY FOR CROATIA!

You were the County Prefect (Župan) and you were a member of the Croatian Parliament, and as far as I remember, among other important things, you once asked for the termination of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, at least temporarily. Your request was not implemented, can you tell us something about that?

I served as the first prefect (župan) of Dubrovnik-Neretva County – honourably and responsibly trying to respect all people, and to those from the international community who visited me very often and insisted on reconciliation with the aggressor, I made clear what kind of reconciliation was possible.

I would tell them that, when the time came, Croats would forgive, but know that they will never forgive themselves if they allow something similar happen to them in the future.

On one occasion I asked them if they had heard of the “school of democracy” in Dubrovnik founded at the very beginning of the war. Of course they had not heard of it, and they remained amazed. Then I told them – on the day when the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik, we founded that school and we were professors, not students, because there were Serbs in the same shelter with us – probably relatives of those who sent us those grenades, and that not a hair fell from their heads, while their property remained intact. Find me just one example of such warfare in the whole world?!

And when they told me that they were worried about how the Serbs from Trebinje would feel one day on Stradun (Main street in Dubrovnik), I answered them very vividly: I guarantee you much better and more comfortably than the Germans in Paris ten years after the end of the Second World War!

This is where communication would usually end, and I would report it to my President Tudjman at the earliest opportunity – just in case. The President would not be angry with me – on the contrary, he was glad that someone could say something, and he for understandable reasons could not.

Dubrovnik, December 1991

You were an important member of HDZ Party from its conception until 2018, when you withdrew from membership, and the Croatian media published, among other things, one of your messages to HDZ, which read “You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.” Please tell us something about your decision to leave the party into whose fabric you been woven for decades.

In those times I couldn’t even dream that the Cyrillic alphabet would return to Vukovar, that we will ratify the Istanbul Convention, because of which I withdrew from the HDZ party in 2018. That we would silently send our generals to The Hague, believing that this court will be fair! But in fact, The Hague was for The Hague! By joining the HDS (Croatian National Assembly – that was its official name at the time), I only continued to fight for the national interests of my people.

In the meantime, the STATE one got lost?! Why? Realising all the ugliness of the court in The Hague, I asked for the termination of cooperation with such a court. I also demanded a ban on the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet in two cities in Croatia – Knin and Vukovar, because of all the evil that had happened to the Croatian man in those cities. Unsuccessful of course.

This is what I wrote to the HDZ leadership in 2018 as my resignation from membership:

“I would like to be wrong, but I already see that the Istanbul Convention will be ratified by the Croatian National Parliament, and so that I do not wait for this joke to play out, which in fact is a tragedy – I am honestly sad that you forced me to this act, I have decided:

I, Jure Burić, a retired doctor and politician, and my wife Ljiljana Burić, a proud Croatian mother of five of our children with an address in Dubrovnik, no longer want to be members of the HDZ party.

We do not want to be your co-chairs, because you are no longer followers of its founder, Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

I came into politics from the position of head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Cervicofacial Surgery at the Hospital in Dubrovnik.

While the late President was still alive, I performed many honourable duties in the Croatian state. First as a War Commissioner (one of six in Croatia) for Southern Dalmatia, then the chief of war ambulance for the same area, the first mayor of Dubrovnik-Neretva and finally a representative in the Croatian State Parliament – that’s what Parliament used to be called!

We leave the party because we are

Ashamed of

your arrogance,

your hypocrisy,

your contempt,

your inconsistencies,

your servitude,

your cowardice,

your greed for positions,

your waiver of

GOD’S LAWS.

You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.

WE ARE ASHAMED BECAUSE YOU HAVE LOST SHAME!

Persistently beyond all reason and even though the Holy Father Pope Francis, Kaptol, Croatian bishops, the Croatian people together with their respected Croatian intellectual sons, members of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, who have CLEARLY decided AGAINST THE RATIFICATION OF THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION you still claim that it is a ‘deeply Christian act’ and that you are on the same side as the church?

AND, ratifying the Istanbul Convention with a gender ideology is a SATAN job and NOT a Christian act, which offends every follower of Jesus and an honourable Croat.

You are persistent in claiming that your ‘interpretation’ gives security to the Istanbul Convention from non-implementation of gender ideology, and you know that it is an ordinary pamphlet, a legally worthless paper with which you only rub people’s eyes (after all, why distance yourself from something – what is missing ?!)

Well, you will not anoint ours and that is why with this act we stop being members of a party that has nothing to do with its founder, the late President Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

God enlighten your mind!

One day, when, with God’s help, Tudjman’s honourable follower does come, if we are still alive, he can count on us.”

Bombing of Dubrovnik 1991

Do you think that the composition of the Croatian Parliament has changed since you left it and if so how?

With the death of President Tudjman, everything turned upside down. The people have chosen the people who will lead the state and state policy from the ranks of former communists who never had love for the Croatian state.

They don’t even have it today!

Because had they had it, they would not have passed such laws and they would never have ratified the Istanbul Convention, from which, by the way, Istanbul itself has recently withdrawn!

Why do my people accept the abnormal as normal – it’s not clear to me nor will it ever be!

Do you think that Croatian politicians in the functions of the legislative and other authorities were and remain irresponsible towards Croatia and the values ​​of the Homeland War after it completely ended with the peaceful reintegration of eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia in 1998?

Have we accepted the Brussels dictatorship in place of the Belgrade dictatorship? Have we lost our national pride and common sense?!

Why don’t we look up to the Hungarian President Orban and the Poles. Why do we reject our faith and our nation?

Why are we again “good servants of bad masters”!

We did something wrong in these “Lead times”. I know what!

We had to implement LUSTRATION at all costs after the end of the war (since we couldn’t or were not permitted to do before!). Yes – lustration – so, that way, it could not happen that our politics is run by people from the former communist system. Every, even the smallest cooperation with UDBA needed to prevent such “minds” from participating in the government of the Croatian state!

We didn’t do that, and we are paying the price and will continue paying a heavy price until the moment lustration happens!

Another evil that is equally important is theft.

Theft that has crept into all the pores of our lives. Both political and economic ones.

People no longer have human shame and God’s fear. All that matters is money, and how to get it – who cares. Handcuffs around the wrists of our political leaders and respected fellow citizens are becoming something that seems normal, and no one is surprised anymore at such sights.

Have these people ever gone to church and listened to sermons. I also bear a grudge towards the people of the Church. They are not consistent, they have ceased to be Stepinac’s followers, and how could they not be when their chief asks for the opinion of Bishop Irinej on Stepinac’s holiness. God forbid that this chief was there instead of St. John Paul II, because he too would perhaps ask that Bishop if he can and should he recognise the independence of Croatia.

There is no authority in the Church, no authority in the State, people’s memories removed, and, regardless of this, I still trust in God’s providence and His intervention, and hence, I do not lose hope and believe in a more certain future of my Croatian people!

When it comes to Croats, what do you dream about?

I no longer have dreams. I have dreamed all my dreams. Thanks be to God, I have received my beloved Croatia, healthy and in my mind. Stipe or Ivo can lead her … anyone, but they must know and confront the fact that it is mine, not their Croatia, that it was created in the blood and unseen love of her best sons! I want to keep her like that in my mind and with such a desire one day stand before the Lord!

———————–

ABOUT: DR. JURE BURIĆ – Born 1946 to Croatian parents in Ravno, Bosnia and Herzegovina; studied Medicine at University of Zagreb, Croatia; specialised in Otorhinolaryngology; participated in the Croatian Spring uprise of early 1970’s for greater autonomy and freedoms of Croatia within Yugoslavia; Former Mayor of Dubrovnik, Former Croatian War Commissioner for Southern Croatia during Croatia’s Homeland War; Chief of Crisis Headquarters for Dubrovnik; First and Former District Prefect (Župan) for Dubrovnik and Neretva Region of Croatia; former Member of Croatian Parliament.

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

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