Croatia: renewed cronyism under leftist government – extreme and brazen

Corruption, cronyism, and a general lack of transparency stymied meaningful economic reform, as well as much-needed foreign investment in Croatia during the past decade or so.

Much of the blame for corruption and cronyism has been directed towards Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ as it had up until December 2011 been in government for most of those years. Certainly the now ruling Kukuriku coalition (comprised of political parties that arose out of the former Communist League or former Communist party) has enjoyed a rich feast of electoral success on the back of reported HDZ cronyism and alleged corruption; it won majority seats in the Croatian parliament at December 2011 general elections.

The Croatian voters had demonstrated they were sick and tired of corruption and cronyism that particularly saw severe depletion and impoverishment of public companies, employment discrimination and severe lack of competitive non-politically and non-nepotistic opportunities run rife.

When former Prime Minister (HDZ) Ivo Sanader suddenly resigned his post (2006) and was subsequently arrested on an array of criminal corruption charges, there was an air of optimism in and outside Croatia. Bringing Sanader to criminal trials served as a catalyst that would help social and political transformation closer to what democracy should look like; be like.

Sanader and HDZ were often portrayed in foreign press has having dismantled the country’s democratic institutions.

But the reality is that destruction and dismantlement of Croatia’s democratic institutions has never been worse than what is happening right now, under the Social Democrats/SDP and Croatian Peoples Party/HNS.

Not only is Croatia’s leftist government practicing cronyism but also it has now taken it to the extreme. The embattled First Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic is now pushing for changes to Constitutions of organisations (e.g. Environment Protection Fund) in order to create conditions for employment that fit the personal qualifications of a persons from Social Democratic Party (SDP) he wants to install into high positions.

Despite the fact that such positions already have professional incumbents Cacic says that he’s installing his people because he wants his people in important public companies who will not undermine him. Cacic and the government do not seem to know much about job accountability and how to ensure it without bringing politics into it.

What’s distressing is that Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic is in agreement with Cacic. This is shattering not only because of the ugly face of such brazen cronyism but because he himself recently sought Environment Minister Mirela Holy’s resignation for attempting to secure a job for the wife of an SDP member, and Milanovic should ensure that such zero tolerance of cronyism continues.

Croatian media and Croatian parliamentary opposition (including HDZ) rallying and criticisms against practices of cronyism (such as the latest ones by Cacic) is, sadly, only raising dust that may settle in discomfort but end up ineffective in attempts to rid Croatia of the stymying cronyism for some time yet.

European Commission’s April 2012 Monitoring Report on Croatia’s EU accession preparations concludes, on page 10,

In the field of social policy and employment, attention must be given to further legislative alignment in the fields of anti-discrimination and equal opportunities. Structural weaknesses of the labour market as well as further capacity-building of social partners and further strengthening of administrative capacity across all areas must also be addressed”.

Well, guess what?

It seems the SDP led government in Croatia is paying more attention to “legislative alignment in the fields of anti-discrimination and equal opportunities” – it is, just as Communists did in former Yugoslavia, aligning company Constitutions and bylaws to create conditions of employment that fit the personal characteristics of the specific individual they want to install into positions.

This is truly obscene! This is truly un-democratic. This is truly anti-equal-opportunity.

Having said this, it may, nevertheless, be argued that patronage politics (type of cronyism) is a phenomenon present in every political system, irrespective of the country, whether democratic or not. In fact, in some political systems, endorsement of patronage is an acceptable occurrence at the highest levels of government, where the ruling authorities are entitled to select their cabinet and department heads.

In relatively recent years many governments (e.g. United Kingdom, Canada …) have felt the need to enhance public confidence in the integrity of the political processes around public sector appointments. They have established transparent processes with a high degree of independence, if not also attention to ensuring merit-based appointments.

Milanovic, Cacic and the whole of the Croatia’s current government have been installing their politically suitable individuals on numerous Boards and into leadership of various companies. But now, they’re not talking about departmental Heads or most senior public servants, they’re installing politically suitable people throughout public organisations and companies.

Evidence shows that patronage systems (cronyism) “extending down the organizational chain are susceptible to incompetence, unprofessionalism and corruption” (West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, 2008).

So nothing is really changing in Croatia when it comes to reducing opportunities for corruption, cronyism and incompetence. In fact, things are getting worse despite public, media and parliamentary opposition outcries.

A turnaround back to the oppressive and discriminatory employment tactics of communist Yugoslavia is more than visible – it’s becoming a brazen practice.

Instead of stamping it out, cronyism, it seems, will continue to affect every facet of government functionaries, every company or organisation where the government has shares or direct involvement, leading to gross inefficiencies in service delivery and increased corruption, most likely with private sector connivance with public officials to dupe government of taxes and revenues.

In the past week the government has succeeded in getting it’s bill through the parliament that will see names of individuals and companies with tax debts posted on publicly displayed lists (pillar of shame!) – except those who succeed in postponing the payment of their tax debt or have it struck out. One doesn’t need too much imagination to realise that conniving with politically installed public officials will run rife when it comes to tax evasion. It’ll happen elsewhere and the power of belonging to a political party will rule life and “decent” existence. The same as it did in communist Yugoslavia.

Cronyism and corruption stymied foreign investment before and it will, undoubtedly, continue to do so under this climate of extreme and brazen cronyism.

But then, the leftist government may not be worried about this – their arrogance could well be fed by a “sure” promise of EU development funding.

Croatia seems to be the “darling” of EU and NATO at the moment (probably due to Croatia’s geopolitical strategic position in influencing EU expansion into the rest of former Yugoslavia eastern states and therefore, lessening Russia’s influence in the region?) and, alarmingly, standards it needs to achieve in areas of EU accession monitoring may become compromised.

In March 2012, when Croatia’s leftist government was still in its honeymoon period, the very Radimir Cacic (who is also the Minister for Economy) expressed his position on the economic crisis:

Only jumping out of Socialism can pull us out of the crisis. I’m for the privatization of public companies because I think that Croatian politicians are very bad owners. Give them a toy and they will abuse it. With the privatization the companies will cease to be political and media marionettes”.

Now, in this July of 2012, not only are public companies in Croatia marionettes of the Social Democrats led government but also the people at large. The parliamentary opposition and the media must ensure that such trends are rooted out before it’s too late – before Croatian nation, once again, becomes a hostage to oppressive communism/socialism it lost thousands of lives to escape from. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian leftist government – “Monkey see, Monkey do” moral undercurrents as in communist Yugoslavia

Radimir Cacic – Photo source:

It was a sex scandal that caused Dominique Strauss-Kahn to resign from his position as managing director of International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 18 May 2011.

Racy emails purporting to show that Bret McGurk (President Barrack Obama’s nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq) had a relationship with an Iraq correspondent for The Wall Street Journal while he was the Bush White House’s top Iraq adviser, that caused Mr McGurk to withdraw from the nomination (18 June 2012).

Alleged electoral overspending against the Canadian Prime Minister’s right-hand Dean Del Mastro is the reason why Del Mastro is being asked to step down as Parliamentary Secretary (7 June 2012).

I could go on and on with examples when persons in important positions that affect the nation are asked to or required to stand down or resign amidst allegations (or judgments) of improper conduct and/or actions carrying criminal loads.

The non-custodial sentence of 1 year 10 months with 3 years probation (which will undoubtedly be appealed) delivered by a Hungarian court on Friday 29 June 2012 against Croatia’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy Radomir Cacic (Croatian Peoples Party/HNS) for causing a car accident that resulted in two fatalities is not a reason for which the Social Democrats (SDP) led government requires Cacic’s resignation or even suspension. Furthermore, Cacic himself has not even contemplated resigning or moving aside even though some months ago he stated that should the court ruling be against him he would withdraw from politics.

Cacic is staying put and threatens anyone who says that he had caused the deaths of two people with legal proceedings!

Certainly, Cacic, Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, Croatia’s Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic and the whole of the leftist government, whose protagonists still, palpably, carry a burning torch for the communist regime Croatia left twenty years ago, obviously have no concern for the moral edification Croatia so desperately needs.

While Cacic and his governmental colleagues might think that causing a fatal accident is, after all, an accident that can happen to anybody – and therefore not a compelling reason for him to step down from his high governmental office – the fact is that Cacic caused the accident by driving his car with excessive speed given that weather conditions were reportedly those of only 40 metre visibility (fog?). Cacic’s defence claims he drove at 125 km per hour in a 130 km per hour speed limit zone while some court expert reports mentioned the possibility that Cacic may have been driving at the speed between 130 and 160 km per hour. Even if Cacic drove at 125 km per hour in such less than safe for high-speed weather conditions, it can be said that he drove irresponsibly, recklessly and dangerously. The latter must be a compelling reason for him to step down, if fatalities aren’t. Inferences, at least, about Cacic’s character can safely be drawn from such a car-driving record and such characters surely cannot in the normal world be trusted to deliver a sound government.  He is no teenager towards whom such reckless driving could arguably be looked upon forgivingly.

Croatian media has relentlessly sought for Cacic to resign his post as first prime minister and minister for economy; representatives of parliamentary opposition parties have sought the same. But, the governing Kukuriku (Cock-a-doodle-doo) coalition is digging its heels firmly into the ground, supporting Cacic to stay on. What’s even more concerning is that prime minister Milanovic says “only few people have so much energy and desire to change something like Cacic has”.

Oh Lord! Let’s hope that Cacic’s energy doesn’t cause a fatality of Croatian economy!

Setting and maintaining high standards of morality in a democratic society is a job that is never done; it requires continuous efforts by individuals from all walks of life and particularly so from members of the government.

While morality is in many ways captioned by laws and regulations, individual interpretations of these can differ as night and day. Some interpretations cause unrest among citizens, and some don’t – depending on how deeply they offend the sense of human decency.

Croatia, in 1991, began its path into democracy. It carried with it the heavy, heavy load of communists’ moral high ground. In simple terms, this means that during the prior 45 + years the communists in authority molded a prevalent standard of morality within the society that most often had little if anything to do with human decency. That is, individual “officials” – whether governmental, judicial, educational, of work force and employment … often made their own subjective rules and behaved accordingly. The ordinary citizens had little to go on in the realm of clear moral standards expected of society, except the idea that being a member of the communist party, or at least be seen to agree with it, is great. It became almost existential to be a follower without questioning. And, hence, respect and heeding of laws and court decisions widely disintegrated into social wastebaskets. With a good connection to the communist party or with bribe money, one could achieve almost anything, bugger the consequences.

I psychological terms “Monkey see, monkey do” has a great deal to do with observational learning, imitation…and certainly, the moral standards within the society are to a great extent a replica of those practiced by authority figures and their mimicking within the society.

Hence, a crucial reason why in a developed democratic society where authority figures represent the people of the society, improper conduct by an authority figure is the sure ticket to dismissal, standing down, suspension, resignation…  Decency must be maintained if humanistic society is to survive. High positions in society are the ones who set and maintain the moral standards for imitation via rigorous application of those standards.

Not when it comes to Cacic today, not in former communist Yugoslavia, though.

To make matters more distressing, most of the Croatian media, most of the parliamentary opposition see that edification, uplifting of social morality through decency of government and other authority figures must take precedence, if Croatia is to reach the levels of highly functioning democracy, but the government does not see this. If it did, then it wouldn’t close ranks around defending and justifying Cacic in the maintenance of the morally untenable.

With the implicated improper driving conduct that led to fatal consequences Cacic has, to my belief, no place in the government.

Continuing his mandate as if nothing happened (reportedly he also failed to properly apologise to the widow of one of the people who died as a result of the car accident), suggests haughtiness that has absolutely no place in any parliament, let alone in the parliament of a country that is trying to shed such stand-over, high-ground “morality” that communists had plagued the society with.

It’s clear that the few “energetic and capable” people Prime Minister Milanovic talks about when counting Cacic among them is a product of his disastrous shortsightedness.

If he looks beyond the tip of his nose he would see that Croatia is filled with positively energised people who want changes, real and meaningful changes. But, Milanovic still remains blind to the needs of moral edification of the ruling elite (at least), he and his government still subscribe to the insulting communist run “Monkey see, monkey do” shaping of morality where people at large were not required to understand either behavior or its consequences (like Monkeys?) – the only requirement: follow the leaders, do as leaders say and you’ll be O.K.

People disquiet about the Cacic affair in Croatia sends strong messages that people want democracy to work even if the current government does not. That is potent!  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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