Shame on you Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandic

Milan Bandic, Mayor of Zagreb,
and fountain dedicated to Josip Broz Tito
Photo: Bruno Konjecic/Cropix

When it comes to unwanted or unwarranted national symbolism promoted or promulgated via monuments then Zagreb’s Mayor Milan Bandic takes the cake! But it’s a bitter and twisted cake that’s being shoved down the citizens’ throats! When it comes to Zagreb, Bandic continues to place priorities on historic monuments that attempt to uplift the communist era rather than focusing on the absolute essentials of decent living – such as access to public buildings and facilities (if not private) for people with disabilities. He spends obscene amounts of money to raise monuments, fountains etc. dedicated to the memory of the very former communist Yugoslavia regime, which majority of voters fought to get out of in the early 1990’s and the Croatian Homeland War.

So, Bandic has been the Mayor of Zagreb since 2005 and yet wheelchair-bound people are still unable to independently access the cable-car that takes one from city centre to the old city precinct, for example. No disability access ramp to this important city venue that facilitates quick independent access to important places such as government building, the parliament etc. for people with severe physical disabilities. Access to public facilities for people with disabilities in Zagreb, in Croatia, is a picture of neglect and careless disregard. I won’t even go into the many desperate needs in the city of Zagreb for the fixing and refurbishment of public buildings and roads that are a lifeline to its inhabitants. But, Bandic is spending exorbitant amounts of taxpayer money to raise monuments to figures from the communist Yugoslavia era! No surprises here from a former communist but plenty from the lack of force to stop this sinister madness.

Shame on you, Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic.

Zagreb cable-car
No disability access!

Ever since the renaming of the most beautiful Zagreb square from Josip Broz Tito to Republic of Croatia square in August/September 2017 – championed by conservative side of political field in efforts to strip away the symbols of the murderous communist Yugoslavia regime – Bandic has been busy fixing old communist monuments or raising new statues that take one back to that dark era for Croatia! It’s almost like Bandic is on a path of vendetta against people wanting to rid Croatia of the communist mindset! In October 2017 he raised a bust of WWII prominent communist Ivo Lola Ribar but not without loud protests from many citizens and politicians. On Friday 8 June2018 he unveiled a refurbished fountain dedicated to communist Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito, costing the taxpayer some 95,000 euro!

While Bandic has on several occasions expressed his reasons for such monuments to communism as being celebrating antifascism, without which, he states, there would be no independent Croatia of today, the truth is that the communists he celebrates via these monuments were nothing more than thugs and murderers (of all those that opposed communism) who pretended to be allied to true antifascists.

It’s disappointing to see that there is not enough challenging of Bandic’s narrative through public monuments of Croatia’s past since 1941; he pushes the narrative Croatia must not allow itself to remember in the context Bandic is pushing. The narrative Croatia should pursue is that of respect to all victims, especially those of communist crimes; Croatia already has a monument to victims of the Holocaust but not to the victims of communist crimes. Bandic as Mayor of Zagreb should be raising monuments to the multitudes of victims of communism whose remains were found in mass graves even in recent months in the vicinity of his jurisdiction as Mayor. So, one wonders whom or what is propelling the acts of monument remembrance within the City of Zagreb Assembly, which, I gather, votes on budgets and plans!

Tributes and memorials don’t rise on their own as some dispassionate records of history. They are created by people making specific comments about their values. And the things a culture obscures or refuses to recognise say as much about its ideals as the things they do.

Croatia’s so-called antifascists, including Bandic, may go around saying that communist Yugoslavia movement during WWII freed the country from “fascism” and the comparisons between communism and fascism gets its skin depending from which standpoint one looks. But when facts are looked in the eye one only sees that communism was all about itself and not the people; it pursued purges on class and political grounds. It pursued the agenda of communist supremacy – not antifascist one; murdering, torturing, imprisoning, stealing of property to actively pursue the agenda of communist supremacy.

We are only too aware today that memorials and monuments – named buildings, streets, statues, historical markers – say a lot more about the people who erect them than the people they commemorate. Every historic site is in fact a story of two eras. It’s a story of what it’s about and it’s a story of when it went up and these days in Croatia, monuments to the communist era have nothing accurate to say; they obscure and hide the horrors of communist crimes. But, they do tell us accurately about the people that erect them. They do tell us that resistance to move Croatia away from oppressive and murderous communist ideology and mindset is fierce.

To tolerate the erection of communist era monuments says something really significant about the failure in Croatia to confront horrendous communist crimes against humanity and freedom. A society that can’t or won’t look at its full history will continue to make decisions based on inaccurate and incomplete information. This is the outlook for Croatia as it stands now! To highlight one facet of a legacy while rendering its others invisible, as Bandic is doing with his fountain dedicated to Tito, to mythologise at the expense of the truth, perpetrates the original injustice to the people and their reasons for having paid in blood the freedom from communist Yugoslavia they fought for in the 1990’s Homeland War, brought on by Serb aggression and Yugoslav People’s Army aggression.

Bandic’s moves with monuments to communist figures of the past do a terrible disservice to history, and to all Croatians who have to make sense of the present using the record of the past and the Homeland War. Ina Vukic

Independents For Croatia – Impress

It’s often been said that if the law won’t do it, the people will! This goes particularly so with matters that dig painfully deep into national pride that comes with victory for independence and installing democracy. After a ten-year determined rallying battles organised by “Circle for City Square” (“Krug za trg”) association from Zagreb, whose main aim is to rid Croatia of all totalitarian regime symbolism in public places the ongoing focus on removing former communist Yugoslavia’s leader’s (Josip Broz Tito/Marshal Tito) name from the most beautiful Zagreb city square gained stronger than ever political impetus during the May 2017 local elections in Croatia, when an “Independents for Croatia” political party and movement (steered by Bruna Esih, Zlatko Hasanbegovic and Zeljko Glasnovic) made it their electoral promise, if the Bruna Esih list won seats for the Zagreb city assembly.

Having won seats at the local elections, Bruna Esih and Zlatko Hasanbegovic offered support to the beleaguered Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic, who needed partners in order to form a majority in Zagreb Assembly, on condition that the Josip Broz Tito square’s name be changed. The populist mayor was re-elected for a sixth term but he struggled to form a majority in the new city assembly. For several years, Bandic refused to change the square’s name and said the issue would be decided at a referendum.

At its long meeting through the night between 31st August and 1st September 2017 the Zagreb City Assembly voted to strip the name of late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito from the prominent opera-house square in the city. An historic vote that has delighted multitudes even though opinions coming from the left wing politics continue to raise protests against the vote. One wouldn’t expect anything else from the die-hard communist-loving lot. Given that 29 deputies voted for, 20 against and 1 abstained from voting it is to be expected that a wielding of red axes will last for some time in the camp of the disgruntled communist lot, hence the political unrest and polarisation within Croatia is set to continue.

But the removal of “Marshal Tito” name from that city square is a mighty lever for the pursuit of lustration in Croatia regardless of divisions and polarisation.

That city square will now be called the Republic of Croatia Square. A symbolism in that new name to the city square carries the very potent trait of freedom from oppression, from communism, that Croatian Homeland War victoriously ushered in 1990’s, having defended and liberated Croatia from the brutal Serb and communist Yugoslav army forces’ aggression.

No street or square in Croatia should bear Josip Broz Tito’s name,” said Zlatko Hasanbegovic before the Zagreb assembly vote.

It’s a small and belated satisfaction to all victims … of Yugoslav communist Titoist terror”, Hasanbegovic said after the voting was done.

Without a doubt, with several hundreds of thousands of innocent people murdered under the communist regime in WWII and post-WWII times Josip Broz Tito rates as one of the worst criminals in Croatia’s history and removing his name from the city square also serves as recognition that the era of communist Yugoslavia was a dark and oppressive age in Croatia’s history. Piles of human bones mark more than 800 communist crimes mass graves in Croatia and Tito and his communist regime organised and oversaw the murders.

To underpin Tito’s legitimacy, Croatia’s communists who wrongfully call themselves antifascists fostered and foster an image of Marshal Tito and the Partisans as humane, heroic liberators of all of Yugoslavia’s people from fascism and nationalism. But when one is confronted with the facts of communist crimes of mass murder, torture and oppression this painting of the communist regime makes the head spin with abhor. With the removal of Tito’s name from the Zagreb city square the political system that’s laden with former communist operatives will no longer be able to hide uninterrupted or justify the horrid truth behind the communist regime. Whether this will lead to a new political instability in Croatia is yet to be seen, but no objective reality-check in the circumstances of a relatively thriving communist mindset still present in Croatia would tell us that lustration will be an easy task to achieve, anyway. Cornering a dog always requires vigilant defences as the dog will attack and bite. And so it is of no wonder that the road to ridding Croatia of the communist mindset and exposing communist crimes has seen an increased labelling of it as neo-fascism or fascist moves.

The above labeling of any lustration attempts in Croatia (which still has not passed a lustration law that would have been a government obligation after Homeland War victory that ushered in democracy and rejected communism) would appear to evidence the fact that the procedural and legal-institutional issues occupy a marginal place in any “official” debate about lustration, and that main sources of discord are more ideological and political than legal. The two main strains within the lustration discourse could well be identified as:

(1) dystopian discourses that paint a frightful picture of a lustrated society and imply that the upheaval of lustration would ruin the chance for democratic evolution, and

(2) affirmative discourses that assert the need for lustration and portray the refusal to implement it as a barrier to successful transition to democracy.

The dystopian opposition to lustration is linked with the left-wing political affiliation or self-identification and the affirmative discourse with the right-wing orientation. The taking down of Josip Broz Tito from the Zagreb city square may serve as to open up a new era in Croatia where pursuits to lustration will take a formal and official shape and see all relevant communist Yugoslavia archives open and lustration law finally delivered by the parliament. Having in mind that the prevailing ideological and political resistance by the left to lustration is seeing increased pressure against the ruling centre-right HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union party as well as the centre-left SDP/Social Democratic Party opposition resulting in popularity polls plummet, as they’re both seen as resisting lustration, real progress towards actual lustration may indeed be on the horizon. It is of no wonder that with rather frequent changes of government Croatia has been in a serious and continuous political crisis for over three years in particular and this aura of political unrest yields itself to fresh political forces paving the ground for lustration. That fresh political force could well prove to be in the hands of the emerging “Independents for Croatia” party and political movement. A significant sway of voters to its side would be a prerequisite to success and as the past two decades have shown new political parties and movements are not news to Croatia. However, a new political movement that centres around completing the task Croatian people had set for themselves in 1991 referendum – to rid the country of communism – has the silver lining required to finally bring Croatia out of its dark communist age. Ina Vukic

Croatia: A New Seemingly Reluctant Government Alliance

From left: Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister designate Gordan Jandrokovic, Secretary HDZ Photo:Darko Bandic/AP

From left: Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister designate
Gordan Jandrokovic, Secretary HDZ
Photo:Darko Bandic/AP

The relatively quick clamping together of seemingly partially jumbled-up support to Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ to form a new government led by Andrej PLenkovic is nothing short of miraculous. Whether this was the energising effect of Andrej Plenkovic’s firm resolve to become the PM that set the mood for seemingly smooth negotiations that occurred during past three weeks to form a government, or whether it was that everyone including the minor parties and independents and ethnic minorities’ representatives had become to fear the effects of their own actions in ousting the former government – hence, fearing same could happen to them, is worth keeping an eye on. As smooth as negotiations appeared, certain reluctance did show on several negotiating faces. I did in one of my previous articles say that I thought the resolve and strength of the resolve to be the PM expressed by Plenkovic could well prove a positive force for the negotiations process for new government. However, I also thought that negotiations would be tricky for HDZ and particularly so given the oddball coalitions among various parties in elections.

Somehow the feeling prevailed that negotiations weren’t tricky after all, that quite a few minor parties or independents were quite happy to stand in a queue and wait their turn to talk to Plenkovic and HDZ and offer support. There was some sheepishness and reluctance showing for the support given to HDZ on quite a few faces, though. This perhaps can be explained by the fact that many now supporting HDZ carried strong animosity against the same HDZ only a couple of months ago and find it difficult to explain/justify their change of heart to the public or simply see that a government must function at whatever cost or everyone in parliament is out of a job, themselves included.

Andrej Plenkovic, HDZ, managed to harness 30 signatures of support to form government and with their 61 HDZ has now a 91-seat (out of 151) strong support to govern Croatia. So, why aren’t there more cheers among those 30 supporters than what we saw on their faces and rather forlorn eyes since Monday? 14 signatures from Most/Bridge coalition led by Bozo Petrov are said to be HDZ’s preferred partner in government and yet the same people dug deep pits to bury the former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko on basis of supporting trumped up allegations of conflict of interests because of his wife’s business deals. This time around, MOST/Bridge has even agreed to share the Speaker of Parliament position with HDZ – it will be represented by the MOST alliance for the first two years and then by the HDZ for the second two-year term,” Andrej Plenkovic said.

Then there are 7 of the 8 ethnic minority representatives noticeably wrestling their way in to be in on the game of the new government, even if it was obvious they were eating their own words that sent Tomislav Karamarko and the previous HDZ led government onto the scrap heap. The stench of “backroom” deals particularly with Milorad Pupovac (a leader of Serb minority) and Furio Radin (leader of Italian minority) intoxicated the air many breathed in. Pupovac threatened not to have anything to do with HDZ government if Zlatko Hasanbegovic continues as its minister and then within a day all this was forgotten and Pupovac kept saying that he trusted Plenkovic and whatever his decision will be, he (Pupovac) will respect it. We now need to wait and see whether Hasanbegovic (vilified wrongfully as ultra-nationalist and fascist because he wants justice for victims of communist crimes by many including Pupovac) will remain culture minister or not; whether Pupovac’s turnaround into a meek-and-mild pro-HDZ lamb has come about through some backroom deals to do with Hasanbegovic. Then Furio Radin of the Italian minority was on the same tracks as Pupovac but has suddenly turned a long gloomy face that wants to see what HDZ will do with their “inclusion” – you see, Radin likes inclusion it seems, as if it’s a completely new desirable concept. As if there had been no inclusion occurring in Croatian society at all. Oh dear, what a waste of political space these leaders occupy.

Then, the past three weeks of negotiations to form new government saw the Croatian Peasant Party/ HSS with its 5 seats doing somersaults, backflips, and all the contortions of a trapeze artist in order to weasel out of its formerly unwavering strong coalition with centre-left Social Democrats (HDZ’s staunch enemy) and start stroking down the conservative HDZ’s winning streaks. First it was said they’d only give HDZ government 100 days of benefit of their support and then withdraw it and go back into a fierce opposition, and now, well it seems HSS feels cozy tagging behind HDZ for as long as necessary for the HSS to actually survive as a political party with its current leadership. And then Milan Bandic (current Zagreb mayor and a person desirous of a prime minister-ship mandate) and his party’s 3 seats, naturally left-leaning lot, are also supporting HDZ for government. So, all in all the full circle of minority government and its support in Croatia could well end up one motley crew where the old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” comes alive.

While conservative HDZ was a thorn in the eye of many of these coalition partners only one month ago it all looks now as though it’s hip to be with HDZ once again. So why aren’t there more smiling faces around? There is a feeling that the coalition is rather brittle and lacks confidence and strength – as though the minor partners are putting HDZ to the test and if test not passed Croatia could see more of what occurred in June this year with the toppling of the previous HDZ-led government. Generally, if one paid attention there was reluctance and lack of vigour on the leading faces of HDZ’s partners (MOST/Bridge, Ethnic Minorities, HSS …) when they spoke of their support of HDZ for new government. Which made me think that the support came at a cost. I hope that the cost, if it exists, will not be detrimental to the Croatian national being.
HDZ has yet to put out the new government’s program and given the significant support in numbers it has achieved without a program, things are looking up for Andrej Plenkovic. Well done.

Economy, jobs, legal security and demographic renewal will be the new government’s priorities,” Plenkovic told reporters after receiving the nomination. “Together with our partners, we will also work on creating an inclusive, tolerant society.”


Nothing we haven’t heard before but the fact that it was Plenkovic who said it this time, rather than anybody else, could make all the difference. The prospect of a new government led by Plenkovic may end political turmoil that has prevailed since the June collapse of the previous government, also composed of HDZ and Bridge, in a conflict-of-interest scandal surrounding former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko. The cabinet’s collapse delayed a planned administrative overhaul and threatened to impede recovery from the longest recession on record in Croatia.

Under Plenkovic’s leadership, HDZ has pledged to cut income and value added taxes/GST. Plenkovic has also vowed to reduce public debt, which reached 87% of gross domestic product.

Whether reluctant or not the support Andrej Plenkovic received for form a government is amazing – he will “control” almost two-thirds of the parliament and such support has not been seen in Croatia since 1990’s and year 2000. This would seem to dictate that he must achieve or be seen as achieving most iof the needed reforms within his first three to six months in office. If he does not achieve this then, given that 2017 is the year of local government elections in Croatia, HDZ stands to lose ground across Croatia. The likely key to Plenkovic’s success will be his relationship with MOST/Bridge’s Bozo Petrov and one hopes it will not deteriorate as it did in the previous government. But Plenkovic has another ace up his sleeve – if Petrov gets difficult there are always the other minor parties or representatives in the HDZ support mix that can save a day or two before its government slips back into instability.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic hands new prime minister mandate to Andrej PLenkovic Croatia 10 October 2016 Photo: office of president of Croatia

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
hands new prime minister mandate to
Andrej Plenkovic
Croatia 10 October 2016
Photo: office of president of Croatia


A month to the day since September elections Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic appointed Monday 10 October Andrej Plenkovic of the conservative Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ prime minister designate, setting the stage for a new government to be named within a week, for sure. A new government that will end months of uncertainty and staged scandals that threatened to undermine economic recovery.

We all want the new government to be stable, constructive and efficient,” said President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. “I believe we are entering a new phase of political life … when we will start dealing with important existential issues.”

All that Plenkovic has promised his government will do has been promised before. The parliament is more or less made up of same people, give or take a dozen or so new faces, but nothing that is truly significant. So it must be that the will to cooperate by minor parties and independents is actually quite heavily associated this time to HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic and not to HDZ as party. The risk of that for HDZ is that if Plenkovic does not deliver in the eyes of the conservative voters it, the party, is likely to suffer enormous exodus of voter support at next elections; and perhaps a new conservative stronghold will emerge on the political map of Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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