Croatia: Leadership Moulded By European Union Is Like New Wine Decanted Into Old Communist Bottles

When history is written, two blunders of Croatia under all Prime Ministers and Presidents particularly since year 2000 to today, that is, almost immediately after Dr. Franjo Tudjman’s death, will stand out for irreparably damaging its long-term interests in developing a fully-functional democracy and validating as most precious for freedom and democracy the thousands of Croatian lives lost in the Homeland War as well as validating as the nation’s united aspirations the 93.24% referendum vote for secession from communist Yugoslavia after which the Serb and Montenegrin aggression against Croatia turned vicious and barbaric. These two irreparably damaging blunders are:

– the underhanded and ruthless helping to bring the former communists to the centre-stage of Croatian politics, and

– compliance with the European Union’s push to include in the government coalition the section of Croatia’s Serb ethnic minority that was involved in the aggression against Croatia, rebel-Serbs or those close to them, and not the section of the Serb minority that fought shoulder to shoulder with Croats to defend Croatia from Serb aggression.

Both of these moves ensured that the central pillar of stability and national unity, Homeland War values, were and are pushed to the brink of insignificance and, hence, the development of a healthy democracy severely disadvantaged. While the European Union might have, erroneously and offensively (to victims of Serb Aggression), thought that such government coalition in Croatia will produce conducive conditions for reconciliation all it did was equate the victim with the aggressor. All it did is push into insignificance the fact that 93.24% of Croat voters voted in 1991 to exit communist Yugoslavia and enter the democratic world similar to that of the so-called Western world.

These two moves also ensured that corruption and nepotism, which were perfected during communist Yugoslavia, in the public administration and government sector thrived on and to this day remain an inveterate canker afflicting the path to a fully functional democracy in Croatia.

Generally, and worldwide, though, one could be forgiven for believing that the age of fully functional democracy has ended. Two massive nations, Russia, and China, have for at least two decades been strongly trending toward one-man rule. The list of countries that have been drifting into autocratic orbits seems to be growing all the time with power being centralised, media controlled, the courts manipulated, and protest squelched.  

Once again, it seems, democracy has a competitor. Strongmen are rising in part because elected governments are struggling to address new challenges: global migration, technological advances, transnational terrorism, international economic unrest. More and more people are willing to try, or tolerate, another approach.

Croatia’s renowned War Minister of Health and former Deputy Prime Minister (December 2003 to February 2005) Prof. Dr. Andrija Hebrang was recently interviewed on 10 November 2023 by journalist Marko Juric for “Project Velebit Podcast” who had the following to say on the matter:

“I was in the government when Brussels ordered a coalition with the Serbs.

For me, the most tragic lie in recent Croatian history is the suppression of Serbian and Montenegrin crimes in the aggression against Croatia. In other nations, the perpetrators of crimes sweep the truth under the carpet, and in Croatia the victims. We ourselves sweep that truth under the carpet. We are the only war that has recorded every civilian victim. Because we have introduced a network of 32 places in Croatia in the health headquarters, where we have appointed experts for identification and all the victims have been identified, compared with the mobilisation lists, so that the list would not show someone in civilian clothes who actually was a soldier, to get a 100% definition of a civilian victim, and on that list we have 7,263 civilian victims. Forbidden data. … the former as well as Ivo Sanader’s entire government (in which I served as Deputy Prime Minister) begged me not to publish this information. Brussels said that since we were entering the European Union as member state, it was not convenient to raise tensions against the Serbs. Because if you announce how many Croats they killed, then you will have instability, and they asked us to form a coalition with the Serbs. The first such coalition emerged during Ivo Sanader’s government, to which I was a witness, as Deputy Prime Minister, a man called Mr. Svoboda came to Croatia in 2004 and said you must go into a coalition with the SDSS (Independent Democratic Serbian Party in Croatia). So, it follows that they won’t allow the truth about Serbian crimes, and they were forcing us into that coalition. There is no logic whatsoever that the former aggressor participates in the government, so Croatia is the only country in the European Union where the aggressor participates in key decision-making. It is known what minorities should do, they should maintain their cultural, historical, and folk customs, but the minority cannot decide on the state budget or key strategic decisions of the government. This is happening only in Croatia. Well, no one else has a ruling minority in the coalition. The Serbs belong to one big bloc headed by Russia, it is one mechanism that controls the world’s atomic weapons, controls the energy, and it controls numerous mineral resources. So, it is about one big entity, and that entity has its own requirements and whom to satisfy so that it can extract certain profits from them. And this is the mechanism why the Serbs were in all international bodies during the Homeland War, and the Croats were nowhere…

Today, the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic decides whether he will enter into coalition with the Serbs or not. Franjo Tudjman faced much bigger pressures than what the governments after his death did and yet, he rejected them all in an instant.   

…When was the fate of Croatia’s future decided?

In the so-called first free elections of 1990, those elections were the result of the awakening of the people and they had to defeat the communists and we defeated them in the elections. However, the communists, experienced by so many decades compared to the rest of us who entered the political forefront for the first time in our lives, quickly found their way and reacted. The elections in many post-communist countries solved the ideology, you have post-communist countries where glorification of communism is prohibited, where the five-pointed star is prohibited, because the communists lost the elections in 1990 in those countries. You have countries where their leaders were liquidated, remember Romania, where they also liquidated their fifth columnists, even those who ruled those countries in the official secret services. This did not happen in Croatia. Why? Because we, the real Croats, non-communists, lost the first democratic elections. Now you will ask how the elections were lost when we won them. We only won for one night. So, after the first round of the first democratic elections, when they saw that the communists were weak, the communist brats headed by Ivica Racan quickly handed over the weapons of the territorial defense intended for the arming of 200,000 Croats to the KOS (Counterintelligence Services of communist Yugoslavia) in Belgrade. Formally, Racan did not oppose it, so it passed. In Slovenia, they stopped the handing over of one third of those weapons and were stronger and met the aggressor armed. We met the aggressor unarmed thanks to the communist Ivica Racan (who by the way became the Prime Minister of Croatia almost immediately after Franjo Tudjman’s death).

Then comes the second round of elections and we win definitively again, but only for one night. Over that night, 98,000 members of the defeated communist party joined the ranks of the victorious HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union party). 98,000 members of the Communist League switched to HDZ. And we, anti-communists from HDZ were already in the minority the next morning. And with that, the future of Croatia was determined…

Every nation decides its own destiny. When the people mature, when they look at Croatian history, when they look at the falsifications of Croatian history and when the people mature and see, then another big step forward, another awakening, will happen… That is to say, nations mature very slowly in order to create their own state and even slower to develop it…”

On both sides of Croatian political spectrum, the so called right and the so-called left, populist leaders and movements have emerged to challenge the political elites ruling over Croatia since year 2000, but more from right, whose commitment is to patriotism and Croatian sovereignty, than the left, whose commitment to open borders holds little appeal for the victims of global economic restructuring. To illustrate the political activism in Croatia, which has undoubtedly arisen from dissatisfaction and disappointment about the way Croatia is being ruled, it is significant to know that in 2021 there were 172 political parties registered in Croatia, which has less than 4 million people. In 2023 that number is either slightly lower, or higher – as the mega election year of 2024 draws nearer those numbers will be known.  Despite the overwhelming number of political parties in Croatia there seems to be little sign of mass intellectual renewal vis-à-vis Croatian historical truth of independence plight, political realignment in accordance with it, and institutional reform that history suggests are the pre-requisites for resolving a national crisis of identity and, with it, the future that was marked and planned for during the Homeland War. The coming general and presidential elections in Croatia, due in 2024, will serve as an indicator as to just how much of the intellectual renewal there has been in Croatia that spills into the ballot boxes and sees at least enough change in the voter preferences to cause the former communists or their children holding power, to feel threatened and their position weakened. Ina Vukic

Croatia: Will The Newly Assembled Electoral Commission Bring Voting Rights Equality To Citizens Living In The Diaspora?

And – they’re off!

Bar it’s head or President a brand-new Croatian Electoral Commission has been sworn in on Thursday last week to meet the most challenging electoral year in Croatia’s modern history. The Electoral Commission will soon face a very rare challenge, and that is the next year, 2024, when Croatia will have triple elections: those for members of the European Parliament, those for the Parliament and those for the President of the Republic. To make the year “more interesting” the Parliamentary elections will be operating under the new Electoral law ordered recently by the Croatian Constitutional Court.

After taking the oath that reads – “I swear on my honour that in the performance of my duties as a member of the State Electoral Commission, I will respect the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Croatia and that I will perform my duties conscientiously and impartially”, the new Vice President of the Electoral Commission, Josip Salapic, an officer of the ministry of justice at the time and former Member of Croatian Parliament,  stated that the newly elected members, who were elected for eight years, shall perform their duties impartially, honourably and fairly.

Along with Salapic, on March 3, the Parliament elected Vesna Fabijancic Krizanic and new members Slaven Hojsko, Ivana Ljulj Cvitanic and Drazenka Pandeka as another vice president of the Elecotoral Commission.

The swearing-in was also attended by the President of the Supreme Court, Radovan Dobronic, who by law is the President of the Electoral Commission.

As far as the Electorate 11 is concerned, for the diaspora and Croatian citizen voters residing outside of Croatia, let’s hope that the new make-up of the Electoral Commission will follow the footsteps of the Constitutional Court and revisit the voter and representation formula as the Constitutional Court did for the Electorates in Croatia proper. The access to voting booths within the Electorate 11 has been painfully biased and downright discriminatory. That is, in the Bosnia and Herzegovina part of the Electorate 11 voting booths or polling places were many, scattered fairly across the territory, accessible to all voters. In the rest of the Electoral 11 – Canada, USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Austria etc. – polling booths were limited to Embassy or consular Headquarters! This meant that up to 80% of voters could not access the polling booths and cast their votes because of the unreasonable distance and personal cost to the individual voter. The Electoral law does provide for the Electoral Commission to allocate polling places within all Electorates and since 2010, when the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ government was under Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, not only were the seats in parliament reduced from 12 to 3 for Electorate 11 but many polling places were also cancelled for accessible community-based clubs and centres and left only to Diplomatic-Consular Headquarters!

So, not only is the representation in the Croatian Parliament severely reduced for Croatian citizens living abroad but their access to polling is grotesquely reduced also. Many would need to take a four-hour plane ride, for instance, to cast their vote at General Elections or any other elections!

The result of such deplorable electoral practices in Croatia is that, for instance, the three seats in the parliament for Croats living abroad are filled with representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, because their access to polling places is relatively easy, yielding a much higher number of votes than those from, say, Canada, USA, Australia, Germany… Most Croats in these countries do not even know the names of their supposed parliamentary representatives let alone their needs being represented by them.

Since it is estimated that there is the same number of Croats living in the diaspora, or more, than in Croatia proper, it is to be hoped that the newly assembled Croatian Electoral Commission will revisit its definition of polling places in the diaspora and stay away from the exclusivity of “Headquarters of the Diplomatic-Consular Missions”.  What possible excuse can Croatia have not to bring the polling places closer to where the voters are like it does within Croatia! None, except communist mindset as far as I see. Former Yugoslavia communist and their offspring nurtured a particular hatred and intolerance towards the Croatian diaspora because it is mainly made up of Croats who rejected communism and fled to the West from its oppression. That same diaspora was a large contributor to the successful creation of the independent Croatia, exit from communist Yugoslavia.  This was justly rewarded by President Franjo Tudjman by allocating 12 seats in parliament to Croats in the diaspora from the start of the Constitution of the new independent Croatia I early 1990’s. It took Tudjman’s death in late 1999 and the subsequent influx of former communists or their indoctrinated offspring into the corridors of power in Croatia to keep chipping away at the Croatian diaspora rights.

All HDZ Governments in Croatia, since 2003, have shouted that their priority is the equalisation of all Croatian citizens in terms of voting rights. But they are a far cry from being equal today and during the past decade, at least. Croatian citizens outside the Republic of Croatia form a large population which, unfortunately, today is not equal to all other Croatian citizens, although it should be. This inequality is not just about the mere three seats in parliament, but also about the polling places, because they (Croatian citizens outside the Republic of Croatia) are actually “disabled from voting”. Access to polling is the very backbone of democracy and the Croatian diaspora has been severely disadvantaged, if not banned from voting given that in so many cases casting a vote at election also means prohibitive financial burden for the voter.

Croatian voting rights are regulated by Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia. According to paragraph 1, ” Croatian citizens over the age of 18 (voters) have general and equal voting rights in elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President of the Republic of Croatia and the European Parliament, as well as in the decision-making process at the national referendum, in accordance with the law.”

Therefore, while the Constitution itself evidently aims to provide for equality of voting rights for all citizens the Electoral Commission’s allocation and definition of voting places had since 2010, particularly, severely discriminated against and removed the equality of those voting rights for Croatian citizens living in the diaspora. The latter in particular since equal voting rights would include equal (or reasonable) access to polling booths. This is the principle that every voter’s vote is equally valid.

The question is often heard whether Croatian citizens who do not live in Croatia should have the right to vote at all. In Croatia, these people say that many Croatian citizens living in diaspora do not pay taxes, do not serve in the army and do not have any other obligations, so it is not logical that they are allowed to decide on something. This is countered by the arguments that voting is the constitutional right of all citizens, that emigrants contribute to the economic progress of Croatia with their enormous remittances and investments, that their right to vote is a form of integration of the homeland and expatriate Croatia, and that because official Croatia is calling for the return of Croats from the diaspora they must be given the right and opportunity to shape that return which is also done via parliamentary representation and voting.

However, the term “Croatian citizens who do not have a residence in the Republic of Croatia” does not only refer to the diaspora, i.e., to those who previously lived in Croatia and then emigrated, but also to those who have never lived in Croatia. According to some data, Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina make up more than 70 percent of registered voters in the constituency for “diaspora” (Electorate 11).

There is no exact data on Croatian voters in the diaspora. It is clear, however, that the Croatian diaspora is growing and expanding continuously, but still shows little interest in voting at elections for the Croatian Parliament, the President, or European Parliament Member. This is understandable once one looks at the electoral rules and practices via which voters must register beforehand and they can only cast their vote in person at a Croatian consular representation, and that ultimately, they can only elect three representatives.

It seems to me that the newly assembled Electoral Commission in Croatia can much improve access to polling, and therefore equality, in the diaspora by simply redefining the polling places. Failing that, postal and electronic voting would immensely boost the voting equality of Croatian citizens living in the diaspora. The latter has been a topic of much voter pleas for at least a decade, and nothing has been done. One feels that one has been talking into a deaf telephone on this. So frustrating in this age when rights and equality are on every politician’s lips and yet steps towards achieving them are so painful and slow. Not acceptable! Ina Vukic

Croatia: Tough Nut Communist Mindset

Images from Left: Ursula von der Leyen, Josip Broz Tito, Matija Gubec, Tomislav Karamarko

To my knowledge, which is relatively substantial by the way, nobody like the communists used and abused history to serve their own purposes for control and power. The European Parliament has become the arena where this culminates. This, one may say, is unsavoury but not surprising to a democratically minded individual since there are former communists or communist sympathisers from various EU member countries in high EUP and EC positions who are relatively unknown to the public and who held positions in countries that have in essence failed in providing for decent living of their people and were and are incapable of rooting out economic and political corruption that has plagued the countries they functioned in prior to rising to EUP or EC. Nevertheless, not every Member of Parliament wants to play historian but those that are “heard” most in public do!

I turn to the Facebook post, dated 14 February 2023, by Tomislav Karamarko, who among other high roles is former Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia (from January to June 2016) and former Minister of Internal Affairs of Croatia (October 2008 to December 2011), who strongly acted in efforts to prosecute communist crimes in former Yugoslavia, Croatia, and paid dearly for that with his distinguished and most promising career in politics and leadership in 2016. One can safely assume that lustration or at least a functional class of lustration would have been on his agenda for Croatia were he not cut down by the political machinery that wheeled and dealt communist mindset and actions.

“Ursula von der Leyen is the president of the European Commission and Ognian Zlatev is the head of the European Commission’s representative office in Croatia, so I dedicate this Facebook post to them and their consciences. I don’t expect anything from local Europeans anyway, because most of them have a conflict of interest in relation to the topic I’m initiating.

Namely, on February 10, 2023, published an article entitled ‘Did you know that there are 28 places with squares and streets that proudly bear the name of Marshal Tito in Croatia.’

So much materialisation and concrete mention of JB Tito, one of the biggest criminals of the 20th century, communist dictator, and henchman…

Can you stoop any lower and poorer, my homeland?

On September 19, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution called ‘The Importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe’, which condemned and equated Nazi and communist crimes, and calls on all EU member states to carry out a clear and principled review of the crimes and acts of aggression they committed. totalitarian communist regimes and the Nazi regime. The Resolution also expresses concern because ‘in the public spaces of some member states (parks, squares, streets, etc.) there are still monuments glorifying totalitarian regimes.’

Could it be any clearer?

That is why I am publicly asking Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen and Mr. Ognian Zlatev, since nothing has been done to date (in Croatia), what are they doing so that the resolution of the European Parliament entitled ‘The Importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe’ of September 19, 2019, is finally implemented in the Republic of Croatia.

Isn’t it time for this mental-communist contamination to end…”

But its not only in public spaces that the underhanded and mean operations of communist Yugoslavia still exist in Croatia. There is also no effort whatsoever to correct the wrongs committed even with national symbols or heroes of Croatian freedom fight that spotted many centuries.

450 years ago, the great Croatian–Slovene Peasant Revolt ended. On February 15, 1573, the uprising’s leader Matija Gubec was brutally, torturously executed in the main square of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, which at the time was part of the Habsburg Empire. During centuries that followed, the Peasant Revolt of 1573 continued to serve as a beacon of hope for change for the better, inspiring numerous pro-freedom actions, initiatives and movements in the region and beyond. While the Croatians fighting for an independent Croatia during World War Two embraced, naturally, Matija Gubec as their idol who symbolised their plights for freedom from the installed oppressive Yugoslavia conglomerate since 1918,  Yugoslav communists (who fought for Croatia to remain within a Yugoslavia and subservient to Serbs), pretending to be on a saving and liberating mission of Croats, had the gall to take the name of Matija Gubec for two of their fighting brigades in World War Two; one in Croatia and one in Slovenia! Given that Gubec was a symbol of fight for freedom in both Croatia and Slovenia the communists stole him from Croats as their idol in battle to continue the enslavement of both Croatia and Slovenia by Serb-leadership-saturated communist Yugoslavia!

Since Gubec was seen almost exclusively as a fighter for the Croatian state, the right to a state was denied by the communists, considered to be simply minions of Russia/Stalin to co-opt him as a symbol of a leftist revolution had cut bitter anger and resentment in Croatian patriots. 

As communists in Yugoslavia, not Croatian independence fighters, won the Second World War their control over Matija Gubec legacy was tightened and they pursued further changes in the interpretation of symbolism Matija Gubec represented. Their interpretation of Gubec as a social revolutionary (not freedom fighter) became the only version, and the history of the Communist Party of Croatia as part of Yugoslavia was written with the 1573 rebellion as the beginnings of a revolutionary movement leading to the Partisan triumph in 1945. Gubec became a chapter in the Partisan myth, and in 1973, the 400th anniversary of the peasant rebellion became an occasion not only to celebrate Gubec, but to reinforce the legitimacy of communist regime as (falsely) a people’s regime that liberated.

Looking back to 1990’s when Croatia fought to become independent from communist Yugoslavia, it is almost impossible to know the exact number of communists and former communists who favoured or opposed independence. Judging by what has developed politically and leadership-wise since year 2000 in Croatia it is, however, possible to know that many of those communists who did not oppose Croatia’s independence in 1990’s did so by hiding their greed for power and communist indoctrination at the time. Post 1991 independence referendum where almost 94% of Croatian voters voted favourably for secession from communist Yugoslavia it is widely believed that one third of Croatia’s communists favoured an independent Croatia, one third opposed it, and one third were undecided but went along with it. This stems from an estimate made by general elections results and various public statements, omissions to prosecute communist crimes and ongoing display of communist symbolism for which there is no legislative ban as there is for the WWII independence fighting Ustashe regime.

With the end of communism and the collapse of Yugoslavia, Gubec lost the political symbolism that had once inspired so-called revolutionaries to fight under his banner even outside Croatia. Under Croatia’s first democratically elected president, Franjo Tudjman, who was also from the Zagorje region, the cult of Gubec faded away. Gubec had essentially become a communist symbol and thus could not immediately be incorporated into the body of new (or renewed) political symbols that were required by an anti-communist and newly independent Croatia. In January 2004, the Zagorje district where the 1573 battle took place could not even raise enough money to fund anniversary activities to commemorate the event, which included a 3.5 kilometre walk from Gubec’s Linden Tree (where the peasant leaders allegedly met) to the site of the museum and a re-enactment of the trials of Franjo Tahy and Matija Gubec. Since then though the celebration of the anniversary of the uprising is done locally in Donja Stubica via a re-enactment of the unique and important battle and this year such celebration marked its 15th year.

Re-enactment of the 1573 Battle of Stubica, Peasant Revolt, Croatia (Photo: Screenshot)

One may say indeed, if it weren’t for the former communists or their indoctrinated descendants in government and in the presidential office since year 2000 Matija Gubec would have long ago been rehabilitated to his rightful place in history – as a hero of freedom fights of and for Croatian people.

Thankfully, the memory of Matija Gubec has not died out, even if the localised celebrations by way of re-enactments of the Battle of Stubica and cruel death keep the remembrance away from the national level.  Since the main goal of this 16th century uprising was equality among human beings through the abolition of feudalism and an end to institutionalised corruption, including unreasonable taxation and abuse of women it has quite significant similarity with the Croatian fight for Independence during World War Two as well as the Croatian 1990’s Homeland War battles that ensued after most of the Croatian people were no longer willing to suffer oppression by Serb-led communists in power. It’s not an easy feat to return to its rightful glory that which has been desecrated by communists, such as the symbol of Gubec. Widespread corruption (and unwillingness to confront and disable it) and communist mindset are evidently too strong at the leadership of Croatia for things to change to better even within the next decade. But if eligible voters get smart enough, they could draw the start line for real change even as early as next year. Ina Vukic  

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