Tomislav Karamarko: A good notch above all new candidates for Croatian Democratic Union leadership

Tomislav Karamarko

The Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica/ HDZ), having been the predominant force in national politics in the two decades since Croatia split from Yugoslavia, has been facing a struggle for leadership after steep parliamentary losses (December 2011) and allegations of corruption of individual former leaders or party dignitaries.

A month after  CDU lost at general elections and its leader Jadranka Kosor was replaced as Prime Minister by Zoran Milanovic of the Social Democratic Party (December 2011), five candidates have emerged to challenge Kosor for CDU party leadership.

Contrary to the view one may form from following the Croatian media, this, of course, is a normal event. Everywhere one looks (in developed democratic societies) electoral defeats are assessed; political parties re-grouped, new programs emerge … Every political party in the democratic world undergoes (or should undergo) a major “SWOT” (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) analysis after a defeat at general elections.

Such a “SWOT” analysis is, I guess, best done as a group “brainstorming” effort within a party/organisation. But, proposals made by individuals are also acceptable and indeed can create a refreshing change if changes within a Party or its programs are needed.

Changes to a political party after electoral defeats are those, should be those that reflect the best interests and needs of the people (voters) within the democratic State.

On January 23rd, CDU announced that presidential elections will be May 20th at the party’s 15th general assembly.

Soon after, Jadranka Kosor had announced her candidacy for re-election as leader (president) of CDU and so had five other members of CDU. The five new candidates are: Marko Karamarko (former minister of internal affairs); Milan Kujundzic (medical doctor), Darko Milinovic (former minister of health); Domagoj Milosevic (former deputy prime minister) and Drago Prgomet (member of CDU central committee).

Most candidates for CDU leadership go about building a public profile of themselves – hoping I guess that the information will flow to party members and translate into votes at the general assembly in May.

Some candidates try to impress by “name dropping” of “world VIP’s” they know or who support them (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel) (Kosor), some have announced retirement from politics if they’re not elected (Milinovic), some claim that CDU is sick and needs to be cured and that with the disappearance or weakening of CDU, the Croatian state is also endangered, democracy disappears (Kujundzic), and so on.

Well, there is no way that democracy can disappear from Croatia because it’s well rooted in the political system with many (maybe too many) political parties floating around. CDU as a political movement had made sure of that from the very beginnings of Croatian independence, under the leadership of Franjo Tudjman.

Judging by the fact that there are 6 candidates for its presidency, CDU is in strife.

Change seems imminent if it wants to secure electoral victory for government at the next general elections. Relationships and mechanisms within the party itself don’t interest the public (except members of the party), what interests the public is/ will be: can CDU be a better governing party than the current Kukuriku (Cock-a-doodle-doo) alliance or any other political party/alliance that may emerge as a serious contender at next elections?

Kosor is a “known” quantity and CDU had lost at the general elections miserably, despite her excellent leadership in bringing Croatia to the doorstep of EU membership and not doodling around the fight against organised crime and corruption.

With the dynamic, often confusing and comic commotion created by the mere existence of 6 candidates for the presidency of CDU and the spins the Croatian media churns out on a daily basis, Kosor just might be re-elected. Better the “devil” you know … as the proverb goes. She certainly has the stamina to change CDU internally, give it the facelift it needs in becoming appealing to the electorate again.

From the new 5 candidates for CDU presidency Tomislav Karamarko stands out by miles from the others.

One knows where one stands with Karamarko: he takes his “political” job seriously, dedicates himself in achieving results and outcomes in difficult circumstances – he is a people man.

As police minister he had mounted a determined, hard fight against corruption and organised crime as well as pursuing Communist crimes from WWII and after. He recognised the high importance these issues have to the future well being of the Croatian nation and acted accordingly.

When in February 2011 asked if he had political ambitions Karamarko replied: “Every person who’s within the political sphere must have political ambitions. My ambition is to be useful to this country.”

There are those in Croatia who consider Karamarko too right-wing to be “liked” by EU circles and that as such he would not be accepted.  That’s plain wrong and mere political point scoring. Right-wing political parties, conservatives, are well alive and kicking across the EU and the Western world, even the far-right parties such as the British National Party hold seats in EU Parliament.

One only needs to look at the interactive map produced by the Guardian in UK last year to see how more and more EU countries, faced with economic and immigration problems, are turning conservative.

Croatia needs more of right-wing orientation in order to become stronger as an entity within the international arena, to be recognised as a force that has a great deal to offer and share.

Karamarko now takes this attitude of being useful to his country into his election campaign for the leadership of CDU. For him, CDU is a mere vessel to “deliver the goods” for all the people of Croatia. And that is what a political party must do.

Karamarko freely and with confidence points to his loyalty to Croatian independence, to paths laid down by Franjo Tudjman – free, sovereign, democratic and prosperous nation that upholds the values of the Homeland war and war veterans.

Recently Karamarko was interviewed on Osijek TV about his candidacy for president of CDU and from about 9.00 min on the televised interview above he said:

My main platform: Economic independence is essential for national independence. We have sovereignty, constitutional, legal…  but it should not remain a dead letter on paper … if we’re not going to have economic independence … the program with which I’m coming out in the coming month, month and a half …  is actually called ‘New Croatian Independence’ where I place an accent on entering European Union, how are we going to be in EU?

 Are we going to be swept away because someone is going to buy out our I would say valuable potentials, economic, natural, water, sea and in the end the potentials of our people, or are we ourselves going to make use of them in adequate and useful ways…in the way that we will offer something to the EU and take something from it.

.…and there in that correlation, that co-existence, one sees I would say a good future.

 What I like to say is that we need to enter the EU with a name and a surname.

We cannot enter it as some breakaway part of former Yugoslavia but as authentic Croatian value with diligent quality people we have… look, our people everywhere in the world in EU function fantastically somehow we function the worst in Croatia but, here, Croatia has neared, entered the EU and there is no reason for us not to achieve those standards while protecting our what I call potentials whether they’re human or natural economic

… see what we can offer, Europe needs to see our values, in reality it already has, and that’s why we’re entering into the EU  but we need to protect that we are the ones who inherit the results of this good position of ours, the geostrategic and everything else that are our potentials”.

There’s no sense in beating around the bush: both the CDU and Croatia are in strife. CDU, rightly so, wants to be in government again – as any serious political party does; Croatia is in economic turmoil with alarming downturns and existential fears spreading like wildfire at the grassroots of its growing numbers of unemployed. To top the latter the sense of “everything will be all right, EU will help us” seems to pervade throughout the Croatian society.

No, EU will not help the people – any help from economically embattled EU would only be makeshift, band-aid. Croatian people simply must turn to themselves and overcome the economic strife they’re in, by utilising more their own great people potentials and those of natural and industrial resources.

Tomislav Karamarko’s program, message, is clear on this and if that means his political orientation is palpably to the right, that can only be good, that can only be right, just as it is in the many countries of EU today.

It’s been over a hundred years when in April 1899, in Chicago, Theodore Roosevelt (US conservative/Republican president 1901-1909) said:

Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness”.

CDU (HDZ) has seen Croatia through more than a tolerable share of difficulties and tragedies, national and personal. The past twenty years have been unkind to Croatia and yet, it has prevailed. One learns by one’s mistakes, and mistakes are an inherent part of development and growth. CDU will overcome this strife, this test of time where many destructive forces within and without Croatia continue trying to destroy the national pride that has sustained Croatian people through centuries of oppression and hardships. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Go Jump In The Lake

The sensational Plitvice Lakes - Croatia - were under Serb occupation 1991 - 1995

I don’t think I’m the only person in the world who gets quite annoyed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chief prosecutors.

I accept that their job is important, but it should not be a job where personal hunches, witch hunting or warped beliefs should have a place in setting the tone and giving way to possible apprehended bias in the court.

Once upon a time (1999-2008) there was Carla Del Ponte who stuck to her warped beliefs that Croatia was hiding General Ante Gotovina from the Hague (where he was wanted on charges of war crimes) for years.

She kept accusing Croatia of hiding alleged war criminals without a single dash of proof, obstructing Croatia’s EU accession talks, wasting huge and precious amounts of money for a country that had no cash to spare on searches and searches; causing distress to decent and honest people. She failed to apologise when Gotovina was arrested in Spain where he’d been for a long time, failing abysmally to see how much damage she had caused, how evilly wrong she was.  ;  ;

On 7 December 2011, Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor (2008 – ) (ICTY) delivered his regular half-yearly report to the UN Security Council on the regional countries’ level of co-operation with the Tribunal.

In it he has expressed concern over Croatian officials’ criticism of the Tribunal’s work.

He said he was “worried” that some Croatian officials have questioned the Tribunal’s work and that others had sent official greetings to generals sentenced for war crimes.

The first criticism refers to the Croatian President Ivo Josipovic’s comment during his recent visit with the New York Croatian community where he said that the “wrong people” are in the Hague.

That is a sensitive issue. Unfortunately, there were war crimes in the Homeland War, but Croatia waged a just war of defence. Personally, as a legal expert, I am not satisfied with the outcome of trials in The Hague, not only when it comes to the Croatian side. I’m not sure that the right people from Croatia were tried there either,” Josipovic said.”

The other Brammertz’s criticism refers to Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor’s public greetings (while in Knin /town freed from Serbian occupation 1995/ for Homeland Thanksgiving Day, 5 August 2011) sent to the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac who were sentenced for war crimes in the Hague in April 2010/ now on Appeal. AFP-source:

Croatia’s HINA News Agency & Vecenji List reported 8 December that the Croatian Ambassador to the UN, Ranko Vilovic, has dismissed as unfounded and unacceptable the assessment by the Chief Prosecutor ICTY Serge Brammertz,that high-level Croatian officials continue to glorify illegal war-time conduct and question the impartiality of the court’s judgment (HINA). Croatia is a member state of UN Security Council. (article in Croatian)

Homeland Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in Croatia on 5 August as that day in 1995 the horrible war of Serbian aggression in Croatia ended with the liberation of Croatian Krajina from Serb occupation.

Perhaps Brammertz thinks that Croatia should not have engaged in defending itself from murder and mass expulsions of Croatians from their homes by the Serbs in 1991 – 1993? Perhaps protecting ones territory and life is an illegal war-time conduct for Brammertz? (In this of course, I exclude any actual war crimes that may have been committed by individuals.)

Brammetrz also criticised Croatia for not delivering certain documents to the Hague.

Ostensibly these relate to the so-called artillery-diaries he has claimed for years that Croatia has and which, according to his hunch, will prove unnecessary/excessive shelling used by Croatia over the town of Knin, during the liberating Operation Storm, 1995.

In 2008 Serge Brammertz reported that Croatia was concealing the so-called “artillery-diaries” from the Operation Storm in order to obstruct the court in reaching a conviction against Generals Gotovina, Markac and Cermak.

Chief Judge Alfons Orie declined to entertain this application by Brammertz citing not enough evidence suggesting that Croatia kept such diaries or that they exist. (article in Croatian)

But – like Carla Del Ponte – Serge Brammertz is keeping his warped thrust. There were times during the Gotovina and Markac trial in the Hague when the question of United Nations Military Observers (1995) having kept diaries and that these are to be sought by the court. But, not a single one has arrived as yet and as far as I am aware.

Certainly the landscape and buildings of Knin after Operation Storm did not match any similarity of devastation that excessive shelling usually brings.

It seems that the so called artillery-diaries allegedly being hidden in Croatia may well be Brammertz’s cruel fantasy tale, costing Croatia not only the funds it cannot spare but also justice, just like Carla Del Ponte’s cruel tale that Croatia was hiding General Gotovina.

I wonder why Brammetrtz doesn’t insist on Serbia providing documents that allegedly exist which would demonstrate to the court whether it was Serb’s themselves that left Croatia in August 1995 voluntarily in droves or whether they were expelled by Croatia – the latter is labelled by ICTY as joint criminal enterprise, and is pinned to the convictions of Gotovina and Markac – now on Appeal.

Brammetrz criticises Croatia’s high-ranking officials for criticising or giving an opinion on the court’s work, and for sending regards to Generals Gotovina and Markac, convicted of war crimes in April 2010, now on appeal!

It is truly annoying to say the least that such words can come out of the mouth of the person who represents an institution of justice – court.

Being free to give opinions on public organisations (eg ICTY) and being free to say hello or greet anyone without the fear of being judged or your name smeared with vilifying innuendo should come under basic human rights.

After all it was the Operation Storm that freed Croatia from the tarror that the Homeland War violently imposed upon her.

ICTY prides itself of protecting human rights but in Brammertz’s case that protection seems grossly prejudicial to the point annoyance.

Related post by Ina Vukic:

A Red Carrot Harvest in Croatia

Once upon a time – but still fresh in memory of many – there were jobs for most. The communist rule in former Yugoslavia, with socialist orientation made it their business that everyone of working age and capacity should have an ongoing job without the fear of redundancy.

Productivity and business viability were unimportant in this false economy.

The false economy served as a vessel for brainwashing the population into thinking how good communism/socialism were. Printing money and borrowing heavily was the government’s way of financing deficits in the budget. By late-1980’s almost 95% of employers/companies relied heavily on loans to pay wages. The country’s inflation/hyperinflation (consumer prices) reached over 2,700%.

Corruption and pilfering ran amuck at all levels of government backed businesses, organisations, public service, which encompassed an overwhelming majority of jobs.

A culture of personal irresponsibility for country’s economy almost became a second nature. As long as one got paid one did not care how and from where.

Nostalgia for those “good old days” hadn’t left the lips of many in Croatia during the last 20 years as Croatia marched on with independence and democratic reforms in all aspects of life.

Voters ousted Croatia’s ruling conservatives (HDZ) on Sunday 4th December handing the centre-left opposition a strong mandate to overhaul the flagging economy before the republic joins the European Union in 2013.

By Monday 5th December vote count, the opposition alliance Kukuriku (‘cock-a-doodle-doo’), won 80 seats in the 151-seat parliament, HDZ was second with 47 seats. 24 seats distributed between 17 minor parties/alliances including ethnic minorities.

It seems HDZ has now been punished by voters for a string of corruption cases in courts from its midst, brought to courts by the ruling HDZ itself, rising unemployment and pursuit against communist crimes from WWII.

HDZ’s election campaign pursued economic stability, anti-corruption hardline as well as determination to process all crimes including organised and communist war crimes.

The Kukuriku bloc is led by 45-year-old former diplomat Zoran Milanovic of the Social Democrats (SDP)[The party was established in November 1990 by the social democratic faction of the former League of Communists of Croatia (SKH), the regional branch of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ)].

Zoran Milanovic, leads the "cock-a-doodle-doo" coalition into electoral victory

The Kukuriku election campaign speeches did not emphasise anti-corruption and organised crime. They stuck to economic reforms and job creation – the latter being the red carrot that draws out the hungry in droves. In fact their “Plan 21” election platform placed “society without corruption” at number 18!

Not a very high-priority  spot for a country apparently riddled with corrupt individuals in powerful places of past and present.

Given that war against corruption was a high-priority task imposed upon Croatia by EU in the past couple of years HDZ, rightly so, placed it high on their agenda.

(The EU Treaty that Croatia is about to sign this week stipulates areas of EU monitoring as a condition of Croatia actually securing the final step into EU territory in July 2013; fight against corruption is one of those areas).

But people don’t really want that it seems? Or are too many too afraid that USKOK (The Bureau for Combating Corruption and Organised Crime) might come knocking on their door?

There are too many influential antifascists/communists around asserting that Communist crimes must not be processed or punished because, they say, these were committed for freedom!

At hearing the good news of the Kukuriku bloc electoral windfall Milanovic repeated to Croatians his election campaign’s phrase that they will have to work “more, harder, longer” to turn the economy around before the country of 4.3 million people becomes a full member of EU in July 2013. The fact that the imminent referendum on this issue is yet to come seems to have given his mind a slip.

This is all fine and dandy to say. Those who actually have a job would probably not argue against an opportunity to work more, harder and longer as that in itself suggests more income.

The hundreds of thousands of unemployed would truly welcome the opportunity to work “more, harder, longer”.

But in the current climate of global economic turmoil and downturns it almost seems irresponsible of a leading politician to come out with such statements and electoral promises, in such confident force, to the desperate multitude of unemployed in a country with minimal economic growth in sight.

But, let’s not fret, it’s early days. Let’s see what hat-tricks Milanovic and his coalition colleagues have in store to pull that one off.

The Kukuriku alliance, led by Mr Milanovic’s Social Democrats, has promised austerity measures and steps to revive industry and attract foreign investment.

Jadranka Kosor (HDZ) has refused to approach the IMF for a loan, but Mr Milanovic said he would not rule it out as a “last resort”.

The Kukuriku bloc just might borrow Tito’s hat, the one that former Yugoslavia also wore after his death in 1980 only to bring the country to ruin by 1989. Loans, more loans and money printing were the order of the day.

It’s interesting to see that the electorates where conservative HDZ held onto the majority of seats are those areas of Croatia that suffered the most during the 1991 – 1995 war of Serbian aggression. In fact, much of the former self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia remains blue-winged. A significance in this could point to a conclusion that the war scars are still fresh in Croatia? Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd).

Self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina within Croatia 1991-1995

General elections 2011 results in Croatia. Red= majority seats won by centre-left "Cock-a-doodle-doo" Kukuriku alliance. Blue = majority seats won by conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)

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