Croatia: Democracy (?) And Fear Of Reprisals Culture

Glas hrvatske dijaspore – Australia
Croatian Diasporan Voice – Australia
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One of the crucial fundamentals for a well-functioning democracy lies in tight and transparent Complaints mechanisms across the board; for government, public and private business bodies operating in the state alike. This fact is indisputable in Western democracies and is guarded by state authorities with proverbial iron-fists. Freedom from harassment, reprisals and retaliation resulting from lodging complaints has been and continues to be a closely guarded staple for a functional democracy. Alarmingly not so in Croatia, and as evidenced by the manner of dealing with complaints to do with the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic current official visit to Australia!


Croatia is riddled with legitimate fear of retaliation based on formal lodging of complaints, or even informal discussions in public among people. Fear of retaliation is rife today in Croatia just as it was in communist Yugoslavia, whether tied to complaints in the workplace or complaints about public administration and actions undertaken by state authorities. The culture of generating fear of reprisals in those who dare to complain is palpable on the streets of Croatia, as I have had the unwanted privilege to experience upon my recent visits to Croatia – no different to fear of reprisals that suffocated and oppressed freedom during the times of communist Yugoslavia.

The fear of reprisals culture in Croatia associated with complaints could be defined in an urban dictionary as

“suck it up, don’t report it or it could affect your career and your family”!

One of the recent of the important UN documents referring to the notion of democracy is the 2005 World Summit Outcome, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 24 October 2005, which provides that:
“… democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives … We stress that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.” UNGA Resolution 60/1 (24 October 2005) A/RES/60/1, paragraph 135. (PDF)

Evidently, practices in Croatia to do with individual participation in the development of democracy even via complaints mechanisms that should be available to citizens without the fear of reprisals are a far cry from any UN or even EU resolutions, affirmations, directions… Transparent and law-based mechanisms of accountability for limiting the inherent hazards of political subjection are set up in functional democracies to deal with the fear people justifiably have about the worst that their rulers can do. No doubt, complaints mechanisms are most important in the surrounds of preventing the dangers of political authority over a democratic nation.

The reality that directs to the fact that there is an alarming lack of complaints mechanisms free of fear of reprisals in Croatia evidences an urgent need to decommunise Croatia.

It is universally acknowledged that the right to freedom of expression (which includes complaints) is a foundational human right of the greatest importance. It is a linchpin of democracy, key to the protection of all human rights, and, fundamental to human dignity in its own right. At the same time, it is also universally recognised that it is not an absolute right but the one defined or restricted particularly by provisions of specific laws (e.g. defamation, media regulation and protection of national security) and every democracy has developed some system of limitations on freedom of expression, but not every nation monitors and “polices” effectively the associated practices on the ground, particularly installing independent resolutions of complaints made against a public body. Where the latter does not occur one can confidently conclude that political authority has the upper hand in every day lives of citizens.

My personal experience lately, regarding the apparent undermining of democratic principles to do with complaint handling by the Office of the President of Croatia has deepened my worry about the shocking state of democratic processes in Croatia. To explain and corroborate this concern with facts, I find it essential towards a hope for a better future to demonstrate here the deplorable practices in dealing with citizen complaints within the Office of the President of Croatia.

It so happens that the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, has embarked upon a visit to Australia and New Zealand with official engagements within the Australian Croatian community starting in Sydney on 13th August 2017. A couple of weeks prior to that date her closest advisor and organisers of the visit arrived in Sydney some two weeks prior. Activities of reportedly non-transparent fundraising towards the President’s activities while on her official state visit to Australia and emerging details of grossly limited and unrepresentative of the diaspora public access to welcome her among the Australian Croatians – upon whom she has called many times to return to Croatia – had rightly and with best interests for Croatia emboldened the Australian based Association Croatian Diasporan Voice (Glas hrvatske dijaspore) to write a letter of complaint to president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic ahead of her travel to Australia.

Suffice to say, the Association Croatian Diasporan Voice never received an acknowledgement of receipt of that letter, nor an indication that matters of complaint raised in the letter would duly (and hopefully independently) be investigated, nor asked to provide evidence and other corroboration for the complaints. However, reliable sources, Mr John Davor Ovcaric from Melbourne (a co-signatory of the letter to the President of Croatia), for example, reveal that he had been told that Mr Jozo Brkic, the president’s adviser and one of the organisers of her visiting the Croatian diaspora in Australia, who was one of those implicated in the letter of complaint to the president for apparent activities causing concern, had a copy of the very same letter, which he could only have been given by the president’s office, and showed it to people in Australia. This resulted in insults being waged against the letter writers from several junctures! The culture of fear of reprisals arising from making sincere complaints is alive in the Office of the President of Croatia. It is fortunate that those who wrote the letter of complaint live in Australia and cherish the value of contributing positively to freedom and democracy and are not discouraged by the foul lack of respect towards citizens evidently coming out of the Croatian President’s Office in this instance.

I am not saying here that the person/s implicated in a letter of complaint don’t have a right to see such a letter with view to contributing to a resolution of the complaint, but to use the letter with view to discrediting and insulting those who wrote the complaint and ignoring the writers of the complaint completely, is utterly despicable; on both the democracy and human sides. This is only one example of the vast pits of democracy in Croatia and showing them up is a duty of all citizens who strive to live in and contribute to full democracy. Those who know the beauty of democracy practiced via complaints mechanisms know or should know only too well that complaints may or may not be resolved to the complainant’s favour. The results of investigating specific matters in a complaint are an individual matter but the complaint’s mechanisms are a national one and of national importance. It would seem that the Office of the President of Croatia fails to recognise that fact of democracy and one wonders why? To protect the individuals serving as advisors, perhaps, regardless of the fact that their actions may be against the national interests of installing and practicing that which is a linchpin of democracy: freedom from fear of reprisals! Ina Vukic


Croatia: Lustration To Stop Sinking Deeper Into Mediocrity


General Zeljko Glasnovic
Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora

I have lost count of the number of times General Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, has emphasised and warned in his public and parliamentary appearances that the Croatian diaspora is purposefully excluded from Croatian social, economic and political life and development…and that this must be rectified in order for Croatia to move forward. “Unfortunately, we live in a country taken over by Yugonationalists, and they treat it as a feudal property and with that, they prevent the return of our people (from the diaspora to Croatia),” he said in an interview last year.

A clear and disturbing example, albeit camouflaged in the president’s welcoming speeches about great love for the diaspora, of how those “Yugonationalists”, communist die-hards, operate in excluding the Croatian diaspora from Croatia’s life unfolded during the past week before our very eyes during the president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s official state visit to Australia, Sydney. It struck me, and multitudes of other Croats in Sydney, for an nth time how those close to the president of Croatia organising her visit to Australia and New Zealand have “refined” their communist ways of ignoring and hiding the impressive wealth of Croatian masses from sight by not giving everyone the opportunity to show up and greet their homeland country’s president.

Sydney, for instance, has over 60,000 people of Croatian descent and loyalty and, yet, the Croatian president’s closest advisers and organisers booked only one public venue where the public could come greet and welcome the president and that venue could only fit 2.5 to 3.0 thousand people. Public announcements of the president’s public appearances were not widely made in order to secure attention of all, those (more than 70% of the Croatian Sydney community) that do not frequent clubs or churches or read Croatian newspapers or listen to Croatian radio on a regular basis were excluded. When the first Croatian president dr. Franjo Tudjman visited Sydney in 1995, the situation was entirely different; the public venue where he came to greet the Sydney Croatians carried 20,000 places and was filled with Croats, completely.

Whether president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic had foreknowledge of this organisational disgrace and insult by exclusion to Croatians in the diaspora is a question the answer to which lies beyond my knowledge. One thing that is painfully obvious, though, is that such organisation, excluding the vast majority from being able to come and greet the president, was done purposefully and, in line with how communist-minded as well as Yugoslav Secret Police (UDBA) had operated before and operate in Croatia now. The ugly brazenness of such organisers whose aim is to divide and alienate from the homeland the bulk of the Croatian diaspora calls for new efforts on the part of the Croatian diaspora to stand united for Croatia and contribute to lustration, the fight against the communist beast that stands in the way of progress to full democracy and a functional Croatian national state. When one remembers that the Croatian Diaspora gave enormous financial and political lobby as well as military generals, officers and soldiers contribution to the creation of independent Croatian state in the 1990’s then renewed unity is an absolute essential in order to achieve lustration in Croatia and complete the goal for Croatia set in 1990: to create an independent, democratic and prosperous state, far far away from communist Yugoslavia totalitarian regime.

President of Croatia
Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic
in Sydney, 13 August 2017

The word “lustration” has its roots in Latin—the verb lustrare means to “purify” or “illumine.” To the citizens of former communist countries in Europe, lustration refers to the process in which the abuses of former communist regimes are revealed, implicating perpetrators as well as victims. Lustration in countries that have so far embraced it in the former European communist countries, which regretfully does not yet include Croatia, has encompassed ensuring former highly positioned people or those in communist secret services are not afforded key positions in the government or key positions in country, opening and making various types of files public—regardless if it is reading the books of the secret police or exposing compromised politicians, the process is sensitive and, at times, painful for people who for decades lived oppressed lives under oppressive communist regimes.

President Grabar Kitarovic’s visit to Australia and New Zealand is cementing the divisional and destructive processes installed and employed by former communists with view to ensuring an alienation of the Diaspora from its Croatian homeland. Grabar Kitarovic as president has called upon the Croatian Diaspora many many times to return to Croatia and help it prop-up its failing economy and plummeting demographic reality. And then she arrives in that diaspora on a visit and does not ask why is only 5% of this diaspora here to greet me!? Where is everybody!? Her speech to a mere couple of thousand, instead of say at least fifteen, sugarcoated with love and openness towards Croats in the diaspora. The organisation of her visit was a closed-door affair; openness is simply not the word that can describe it in any shape or form.

The questions, recently also posted on the Voice of the Croatian Diaspora Facebook page, which masses from the excluded-from-greeting-the-president Croatian diaspora would have put to the president had they had a chance and opportunity to do would have been as follows:
1. What’s happening with the establishment of Minister for immigration/diaspora affairs?
2. What’s happening with regard to installing postal and/or electronic voting system and why is it not utilised for the Croatian diaspora given that the platform already exists, e.g. E-citizens?
3. What’s happening regarding the new Electoral Act, how is it possible that the Croatian diaspora is excluded from the political life of Croatia and reduced to mere three diaspora representative seats in Parliament?
4. Demand for the abolishment of socialist-communist bureaucracy.
5. Most questionable government “Advisory body for Croats living outside Croatia”. Who are these people, what have they achieved so far, what do they do?
6. Why are people who were part of UDBA and KOS (communist Yugoslavia Secret Police and Counter-Intelligence services) posted into the Croatian diplomatic and consular missions and posts?
7. Who and in what manner chooses the President’s advisers – for example the first adviser to the President is Jozo Brkic, brother to highly positioned in HDZ Milijan Brkic, and chief organiser of the President’s visit to Australia – what are the criteria for choosing advisers?
8. When will decommunisation of Croatia commence?

The mediocrity of life is what communists nurtured during the times of former Yugoslavia; most people had just enough means to stay above the poverty line, waiting unrequited for the promise of a better future under the guiding hands of the promise-making communist party to kick-in. The exceptionalism, the promise and fight for prosperity in Croatia that accompanied every single, bloody but victorious 1990’s Homeland War battle for freedom from communist Yugoslavia afforded Croatia the time to convince itself and its original liberation movement HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union (that backed Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic as presidential candidate) couldn’t possibly ever become a “lame duck” when it comes to installing a full democracy and clearing the key posts in society and authority of communists that held important positions in Yugoslavia. HDZ in its fight for independence also fought against mediocrity and for prosperity in life. Today, in reality, HDZ has become the same as SDP (Social Democratic Party) – the latter didn’t want independent Croatia in the first place, and the former does “bugger all” to clean-up the oppressive, incompetent and arrogant public administration, service provision and bureaucracy. In the meantime, Presidents gallivant around the globe with grandstanding rhetoric for needed reforms but matching actions simply never eventuate to the degree that sweeps in the reforms, particularly in the area of returning into the body of the Croatian national state the status of the Croatian diaspora, to which they passionately, rhetorically, pin Croatia’s deliverance from ruin.

Heraclitus — “the obscure philosopher,” the pre-Socratic thinker, is best known as the man who said that you cannot put your foot into the same river twice. “The river/ where you set/ your foot just now/ is gone — /those waters/ giving way to this,/ now this.” (“Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus,” Viking). Letting opportunities go by without implementing lustration that would rid the budding democracy from the inherited communist mindset, laws and practices has led to the feeling one gets about Croatia that many people appear uninspired or lack the energy to rid their community of mediocrities and idiot intoxications communist mindset injects, whether in form of nepotism in employment or whether in getting away with theft and corruption… Given the enemy defined by communist-era mindset and habits, inherited by modern Croatia, a time for the commencement of effective lustration only comes once! It’s just like Heraclitus said “you cannot put your foot into the same river twice”.

When people attack critical voices against communist heritage that must be purged from Croatian democracy, they are accommodating mediocrity. I, for one, do not wish to live in mediocrity – I want Croatia to succeed in achieving its original goal for independence and democratic prosperity and that means it must: thoroughly rid itself from communism and its UDBA, its bloodsuckers. It must lustrate! Ina Vukic

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