Croatian Watergate – or is it? ‘Allo, ‘allo!

Croatian Vecernji List newspaper dropped a “bomb” on Saturday October 20 as it uncovered a privacy breach scandal dubbed “Croatian Watergate”, spinning the government and the president into top gear of political manoeuvrings designed to take the public’s mind off the real issue: are there/were there serious breaches of privacy in Croatia.

According to the Vecernji List exclusive article Croatian police had, under the political leadership of the minister for internal affairs, Ranko Ostojic, abused the secret data collection system and carried out unauthorised surveillance of heads of the National security agency (SOA) as well as some key people from Agrokor corporation. Unauthorised surveillance included adding to the phone contact lists of those under criminal investigation the phone numbers of persons from SOA and Agrokor.

Who talks to whom, why, who knows who and what no good are they all up to maybe, type of thing.

Thunderbolts as divine weapons can be found in many mythologies and Croatia could really do with one right now even though there’s no mythology about the pathetic mishandling of real issues here. A thunderbolt could at least bring some semblance of agreement on important privacy rights issues between Croatia’s President and its Prime Minister. Once again the gap in opinion and knowledge or important issues between the two is striking and concerning.

Monday 22 October, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and president Ivo Josipovic called a joint press conference on the matter. Well, one knew things are serious when the two top wigs joined in an extraordinary press conference.

Ah yes, but truly disappointing. They were neither clear or synchronised nor unambiguous, writes Dnevno.hr. Josipovic, for example, had emphasised that the fact that SOA chief contacted members of criminal groups does not need to mean that he did something that is illegal, while Milanovic said that SOA chief must not communicate with members of the mafia, not even recreationally.

The thunderclap produced by these clashing statements roared from the minister of internal affairs Ranko Ostojic’s mouth as he explained that surveillance was done because the head of SOA was in contact with members of the mafia!

October 23 – National security (SOA) chief, Petar Misevic, was dismissed from duties by Prime Minister Milanovic and President Josipovic amid media reports of illegal phone call monitoring of officials and businessmen.

To make the matters worse Milanovic was heard saying on Croatian TV news that possessing private lists of phone numbers an individual calls etc is a normal thing! All phone companies have them!

Good old private ‘Allo, allo – now open slather to everyone!

For crying out loud! Of course they have them but they cannot release them or hand them around without police/court authorisation. That’s why privacy legislation exists Mr Prime Minister!

Tomislav Karamarko, president of largest opposition party Croatian Democratic Union, asked: if it’s normal to have such lists why then was the head of SOA sacked. Karamarko, though, has become a handy target for the diversion from the real issues of security and privacy breaches. I.e., having said that he had seen the official report on the matter as it arrived in the office of parliamentary committee on internal affairs and national security questions and innuendos suggested that he may have obtained such a report improperly (as perhaps through lines of contacts within internal affairs which he headed as Minister in the previous government).

Then foreign minister Vesna Pusic jumps in and says that “Nobody from the EU has asked about the secret services affair… the affair is made bigger than what it is and there are problems with professionalism in those services when it comes to information leaks outside official channels of communication.” Pusic too has lost the plot on this one, she completely ignores the fact that such colossal breaches of privacy are a big issue! A really big issue!

Then comes Thursday 25 October and this affair is not as small as Vesna Pusic wanted us to believe. It’s huge! Milanovic has announced war against mafia! Is he serious or is he clutching at straws for political survival?

He said “someone came into possession of documents they had no right to. Someone wanted to evict a fox and instead it’ll be a grizzly bear”.

The parliamentary committee for national security will investigate further, Milanovic said. Josipovic said Misevic’s dismissal was part of an intelligence overhaul that included the recent replacement of the head of the Security and Intelligence Agency, one of the security bodies overseen by the council, which reports to the Prime Minister and the President.

In the meantime things are as usual: a disjointed and uncoordinated intelligence and national security system reigns under this government and under this president. Certainly they could learn a lot from the times under Dr Franjo Tudjman’s leadership when discord between various branches of national security and intelligence was non-existent. Tudjman knew that no political system can survive or operate successfully without a coordinated and fully functional national security system.

As Prime Minister, Milanovic picked-up where Ivica Racan left off in 2003 and Josipovic picked up where Stjepan Mesic left off in 2010 – creating chaos and disorder in the spine of a nation – in National security. They created a situation where clashes and disagreements between various units of the National security services have become rife and procedures (assuming they exist) get forgotten and ignored. It’s like every man for himself within an organisation that’s supposed to work in unison and be coordinated, finely tuned to set procedures that apply across the board. Hence, it seems that no unit does its job, that no one keeps an eye on the effects of foreign intelligence services on Croatian national security.

Could it be that the biggest mafia in Croatia is seated within government institutions and that’s why corruption and large-scale theft have not been rooted out yet? It is these that jeopardise the national security?

Things smell of political point scoring rather than getting down to rooting out of corruption and organised crime. EU monitoring does include measures in dealing with organised crime and corruption and Milanovic’s government say they mean business. But indications are that they mean to create a great deal of hoo-ha  and little results for stemming out corruption.

The minister for internal affairs Ranko Ostojic (who is now under special police guard) has let this cat out the bag. He said October 25 “… shortly said, we are executing a political purge.”  That goes rather well with President Josipovic’s utterance: “we uncovered weaknesses (in national security) and we must remove them”. A perfect match under the Social Democrat tent.

Why on earth do weaknesses in procedural matters of doing a job need political purges? Wouldn’t one go about affirming procedures, ensuring staff follow them and comply with relevant legislation, such as the Privacy one, while at the same time enforcing staff disciplinary measures where needed. It’s of course understandable that the head of such an organisation (national security) where serious breaches have been uncovered gets the axe, but political purging pulsating throughout!? This only confirms that the old communist ways of political appointments (protecting the interests of the Party) are alive and well under the Social Democrat led government. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Croatian government: suffering from Alice in Wonderland syndrome

A portrait, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic (left); First bDeputy Prime Minister Radomir Cacic (Right) and Mihael Zmajlovic, new Croatian minister for environment (Middle)

The plot around the resignation of Croatian minister for environment and nature resources Mirela Holy  has gathered diversity and steam that lead one to believe Croatia’s government is suffering from the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AWS). When one suffers from AWS one’s perceptual reality is distorted; one doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not.

Croatia’s centre-left government is still (almost seven months after being elected) looking for its identity, hiding its failures and inabilities to deal with real problems in economy, behind some weird and bizarre shrubs or parading as “Mad Hatters” – stuck on stalling with real issues.

A couple of “Mad Hatters” are ex-minister Holy and first deputy prime minister Radomir Cacic.

Reading the Croatian press about the Holy affair – now dubbed Holygate – must be what Alice in Wonderland experienced when she first crawled through the rabbit hole. She entered a world of crazy where up is down and down is up and not much made sense unless you were flying high on magic mushrooms or crystal meth. Nothing wrong with a little crazy now and then until you reach the point where crazy becomes the norm.

  • Holy’s morally corrupt email goes public;
  • Holy resigns as minister and prime minister Zoran Milanovic accepts the resignation saying such behavior cannot be tolerated;
  • Milanovic publicizes his statement regarding Holy’s resignation from Emil Tedeschi (one of the leading Croatian tycoons) holiday luxury villa, far from the capital, thus diverting public attention away from critical current issues being addressed in the capital (negotiations with labour syndicates on workers rights that are being diminished at this time of 19.1% unemployment);
  • Minister of internal affairs Ranko Ostojic advises Holy to mount criminal charges against whoever leaked the email;
  • Holy says she was threatened by “garbage mafia”: “We will recycle you, throw you in a furnace and incinerate you”;
  • The letter with these threats has reportedly been handed to the police but the faces within this “garbage mafia” are faceless – perfectly fitting into Alice’s Wonderland;
  • Holy files charges with state prosecutor for breach of privacy against unknown person/s;
  • Holy suspects Cacic’s PR adviser Ankica Mamic is involved in email leaking (Mamic had coffee with Croatian television station HTV editor the day before he ran the email scandal as an exclusive);
  • Cacic, in the company of prime minister Zoran Milanovic, jumps with statement that Mamic was his longtime friend, his PR adviser and that he knew nothing of the email;
  • Cacic announces the Ombla and Plomin multibillion Euro projects will go ahead despite negative feasibility ecological studies (these projects are in the field of electricity generating plants);
  • One of the feasibility studies (done without costs to the government) that gave a negative assessment was done by Goran Mazija, an expert for geology, hydrogeology, ecology and protection of waters; Mazija is the husband of the woman for whose job Holy intervened with her morally corrupt email;
  • Daily t-portal blogger Zoran Sprajc (demoted HTV news anchor who had been linked to the disgraceful doctoring of phone conversations about Vukovar  that prime minister Milanovic had forced Holy to resign as minister and yet he supports Cacic who continues to make hollow promises of a better future and new investments that will improve the state of the economy.
  • June 12, Cacic says: “Whenever something is free of charge (referring to feasibility study), I find it very suspicious. There cannot be ‘a green study’, free of charge, for an HRK 900 million, it indicates that either nothing is well done or someone’s interest is at stake.”                                                                                                                                                      The president of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Leader of Opposition Tomislav Karamarko, said June 12 that “the case was now entering the phase of scheming, when it is trying to be established who read emails and why. By doing so, (the government) is trying to avoid addressing the merit of the problem, namely the issue of jockeying for positions”, adding that “this was the main characteristic of this government”.

I totally agree with Karamarko, and as Lewis Carroll (the author of Alice in Wonderland) would understand only too well: “Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision,” (The Mock Turtle, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) is what the Cock-a-doodle-doo (Kukuriku) Social Democrat led Croatian government is doing. It thinks that it has led the Croatian public though the rabbit hole where in the land of wonder Holy’s corruption isn’t important, perhaps because there’s so much of it that a single case becomes invisible, hard and professional volunteers’ (“free of charge”) work (so often depended on in many areas of life in the civilised world) is only for idiots, while projects intended for the boosting of the ailing economy end up as fodder for a Mad Tea Party.

The Cock-a-doodle-doo government should climb out of the rabbit hole and deal with reality of corruption, unemployment and struggling economy without distorting it with fairytales. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Croatia: violent clashes involving Europe’s ultra-nationalists imminent

Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

As I sensed in my previous post, Croatia’s minister of interior affairs, Ranko Ostojic, has Thursday 12 April banned International nationalists’ conference and rally that were organised by Croatian Pure Party of Rights.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic confirmed the ban and stressed that the reasons for the ban had to do with one’s view of the world and political positions.

Those who in their platforms call for destruction of Croatia’s constitutional order and lay claims to parts of Croatia’s territory – and such people have been announced as participants (in the gatherings) – they can visit Croatia as tourists, but they cannot come here as political opponents,” Milanovic said.

Milanovic said that the government had a responsibility towards its citizens to oppose such ideologies.

Such things won’t be tolerated, not now and not ever,” he said.

Milanovic referred to the Hungarian ultra-right Jobbik party which has announced its arrival in Zagreb for the gathering and has publicly stated it wants to annex parts of Croatian territory to Hungary.

Such attitude could be believed if the situation was clear-cut. But it’s not.

To pour oil onto the already burning issue the Croatian Civilisation movement (Hrvatski uljudbeni pokret), right-wing political orientation, is attempting to playing a dangerous game it seems. It wants to hold a rally in Zagreb’s central Ban Jelacic Square around the same time when the banned rally was supposed to be held. It has received permission from the police to do so!

They’ve published Zagreb’s police permission, dated 11 April, to hold a gathering on Friday 13 April for “distribution of political material and expression of political views”.

While the international conference and rally organised by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights is banned, the rally being organised by the Croatian Civilisation movement is allowed!

Zagreb’s police reasons for denying the holding of the International nationalists conference and rally was that persons that engage in inciting violence were to attend (most likely meaning ultra-right parties and movements from other European countries), and Croatian law forbids such gatherings.

That’s understandable, but given that representatives from those European ultra-right wingers are going to be in Zagreb as planned, now merely as “tourists” as their events have been banned, there is every likelihood that they will be present at the rally organised by Croatian Civilisation Movement on Friday 13 April. Given that Citizens’ actions groups are geared up to hold their “Fascism – not in my city” rally the world can expect a rapid combustion of ugly proportions.

One frets that the world will not see these events in Croatia as free expressions of political views but rather as evidence, albeit warped, that fascism is still alive and kicking in Croatia.

Croatian government it seems has not thought this whole saga through, or perhaps they have? Perhaps the former communists want the ugly nationalistic scenes to occur in Croatia, to feed their rhetoric of antifascist righteousness?

And if the rally gets ugly and the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, currently in the Appeals Chamber at the ICTY, are mentioned there, one can bet one’s last dollar that at least some of the world news headlines will not be kind to them even if they played no role in the rally nor have any control over it.

If Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic is truly serious about his statement that ultra-right gatherings will never be tolerated in Croatia then he has the responsibility to ban all gatherings where there is even a minute chance of violence occurring, ultra-right nationalists joining even as by-standers.

If he does not do that then he has failed to protect Croatia’s reputation as a country that upholds its laws that ban violence. There are oodles of signs that clashes are imminent between the ultra-right and leftists on Ban Jelacic Square in Zagreb on the evening Friday 13 April, and it’s not as if Milanovic could say “I didn’t know”. If he does nothing to stop any of the announced rallies his actions can justifiably be described as reprehensible – through and through. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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