Throwing A Hat Into The Ring For Croatia’s Presidency

Presidential candidates for Presidency of Croatia 2019

In a political environment Croatia is finding itself these days, where anything seems possible – where major political parties of either centre, right and left ideological persuasion (who have held governments either in their own right or as minority-governments) are seeing alarming falls in popularity as well as acceleration of infighting within the political parties; where new political parties or movements are popping out of the grassroot public ground like mushrooms after autumn rains; where independent candidates for general or presidential elections pop out of their relative political anonymity randomly like Jack-in-a-box – it seems just about everyone in the country wants to run for the president (elections due late December 2019). So far there are 11 candidates who have announced their candidature and even a fairly conservative list of potential candidates stretches beyond a dozen names as more Pantovcak (Office of the President of Croatia) hopefuls are likely to swell the already ridiculously large and politically erratic and rather politically amorphous heap of candidates.

At this stage of building-up momentum to official election campaigns that start once the official list of candidates is published it is difficult to gauge which individual that has announced his/her candidature is “the real deal” for Croatia and which candidate is just trying to raise their public profile to be utilised at 2020 general elections or is actually serious about running for president. Some perhaps don’t even know where their testing of the waters will lead; for some it is like the proverbial throwing one’s hat in the ring and come what may!

Typically, having strong credentials and success as leader (either in branches of executive government, in strong political parties or movements, having a leading role in active and successful military defence of country, or the corporate or large organisations world and the like) is, one would agree, a good steppingstone to the presidency of one’s country. Being a Mayor of a city or town, being a political activist either as part of specific causes associations or as an individual, being an office-bearer in a political party led by others would not under such standards for a good presidency be considered a key qualification for the presidency.

But there is nothing typical about Croatia 2019! Croatia has a long way to go in lining its socio-political main artery with the values and aims that drove the 1990’s Homeland War and the country’s absolute secession from communism (Yugoslavia).  To achieve this the president of the country must, besides above mentioned qualifications of a leader, possess personal virtues, morality, commensurate with the said values and aims, otherwise the state of perpetual widespread claims that Croatia is not yet free and independent despite its military victory in Homeland War against the Serb aggressor is likely to result in the typical for Croatia actually being the typical of the EU and not the Croatian people who fought for and shed their blood for independence.

And so, together with possessing good qualifications for the presidency, it is widely maintained throughout the developed democracies that a president of a country must possess and must have demonstrated high personal virtue – morality – that is tightly in tune with the people and the direction a country must take in order to be a good place for all the citizens to live in. While some may disagree with the view that moral virtue is important for presidency one would find it difficult in disagreeing with the view that president whose decisions are not grounded in the right sort of ethical values may be less well-equipped to respond well – and, more importantly, might be frighteningly unpredictable in his or her responses.  Political ethicists have emphasised the ways in which democracies can fall apart in the absence of personal virtue. Conservative thinkers throughout developed democracies, in particular, have argued that political institutions can only function when all those who participate within them are capable of compromise and of self-government. Rules, to put it simply, don’t work unless people governed by those rules care about them and voluntarily choose to abide by them.

A true or dedicated leader with high moral values is likely to pay particular attention to the values and mission that have been established in the foundation of the country he/she leads. In Croatia’s case the foundation values, which were underpinned by Franjo Tudjman’s vision of reconciliation between all foes (particularly WWII communists and anti-communists), may be summarised as defending the sovereignty of and democracy in a national Croatian state (made up of Croats as vast majority) and among Croatian people wherever they lived. Tudjman died in December 1999, a mere year after the Homeland War officially ended, and had not lived long enough to complete the task set out in the beginning, when secession from communist Yugoslavia was whole-heartedly supported by 94% of democratic votes at referendum on same issue. And hence, from year 2000, the tables started turning against the very idea of a Croatian democratic and sovereign state as former communists including those who rejected independence movement in the first place or never spent a day on the battlefields for Croatia or never made any type of contribution towards it, increasingly occupied key positions of power. That is, former communist mindset and habits of corruption and nepotism continued thriving as more and more former communists held onto power or were injected into powerful positions on grounds of political suitability. This would have been the ground rather easily cultivated since the very Constitution of the Republic of Croatia lists WWII antifascists (communists) as parts of the foundation for independent Croatia! Yet WWII antifascists fought to keep Croatia within the borders of Yugoslavia, against which multitudes of Croats died and fought against for decades upon decades.

And so we come to this day and the political environment in Croatia where it is imperative for the progress of democracy and living standards to shed decisively the remnants in legislation and public administration and practice all that defined the communist Yugoslavia regime. But the leaders of Croatia in positions of power fail miserably in condemning the totalitarian communist regime of the past while condemning the WWII Ustasha regime. At times the lunacy in this is painfully transparent: it’s as though the same leaders hold the view that by condemning the communist regime (which purged hundreds of thousands innocent Croats) they would be seen as some kind of historical revisionists who are on the trail of minimising the crimes that are said to have been committed by the WWII Independent State of Croatia. And yet, if one asks the people of today one would find that majority believe both regimes should be condemned or brushed off with the same brush when it comes to victims; all victims should be recognised as such and Croatia to open a new slate for a healthy future.  But no, this is not of interest particularly to the hordes aligning themselves with the justifiers of communist crimes in particular (given that crimes pinned to the Ustashi regime have been and continue to be addressed openly if not politically twisted).

Among the current candidates who have their eyes set on future presidency there are three individuals whose platforms, opinions, reactions etc. are constantly present in the mainstream and other media like a revolving door that slaps important national issues into a ridiculous circus so that the people never really get a grip on what and how an individual candidate will fix things for a country on steep economic and demographic decline and how the values of the Homeland War will again be brought into the national focus.

The three candidates that are receiving most media attention are Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic (current president), Zoran Milanovic (former Prime Minister, former League of Communists operative and former leader of Social Democratic Party) and Miroslav Skoro (a popular musician and singer, a businessman, former member of parliament and diplomat from the HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union Party from which he has estranged himself as member in recent years). Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic continues to appear as a personality whose opinions on important matters are adjusted to the audience she is addressing at any one moment; she talks of returning Croatia to the values set by the first president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman and yet fails to spell those values out or lay out the plan of action, at least roughly. Zoran Milanovic is hotting-up the waters for continued animosities and recriminations between former communists and former anti-communists, leaning favourably to the former communist beat; nothing good for Croatia can come out of this just as nothing good came out from his Prime Ministership out of which he exited with a shattering political demise within his own party.  Miroslav Skoro for the time being reminds one of the “Lone Ranger” except for the fact that he appears as actually having no strong convictions regarding the credence of the values of Homeland War and may like the above two play for all teams (left and right and centre). None of these candidates give the impression that the crisis Croatia has been in for the past few years (economic, demographic, ideological…) has sunk in. None of them offer any concrete steps they would undertake as president to fix things. As for the other candidates so far in the race there is a mixture of the above but all, without exception, want to “save Croatia!”. It’s time Croatia stops acting as a victim, which it was, and starts decisively implementing the values of the Homeland War, which by the way, are succinctly contained in Franjo Tudjman’s 30 May 1990 speech at the Inaugural Assembly of Croatian Parliament in which he listed the crucial tasks to be done in order for a democratic and independent state of Croatia to function! Nothing else or different will save Croatia! Ina Vukic

 

 

 

 

Croatia: BABS Forum Takes Charge Of Central-Eastern Europe Destiny

BABS Forum Dubrovnik 2016 From left: Presidents of Hungary Janos Ader, Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite, Poland Andrzej Duda, Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and Slovenia Borut Pahor Photo: HINA

BABS Forum Dubrovnik 2016
From left First Row: Presidents of Hungary Janos Ader,
Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite,
Poland Andrzej Duda, Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic,
Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and Slovenia Borut Pahor
Photo: HINA

 

The area of the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea is Europe’s lifeblood and around 50 billion Euros investment will be needed for its future development”, said the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic at the opening of the Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea (BABS) Forum 2016 with her Polish colleague Andrzej Duda in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on Thursday, 25th of August.

Twelve EU member countries– Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia surrounded by the three seas have had great opportunities to strengthen cooperation that would benefit not only these twelve EU country members but the whole European Union”, emphasised Grabar Kitarovic.

The presidents attending the round table debate called “The Three Seas Initiative” in Dubrovnik adopted a declaration constituting a political framework for support to concrete projects designed to help Central and Eastern Europe develop to the level of other EU countries.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic at BABS 2016 opening Dubrovnik 25 - 26 August 2016 Photo: Dubrovnik Times

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at BABS 2016 opening
Dubrovnik 25 – 26 August 2016
Photo: Dubrovnik Times

In order to achieve the average of the European Union we must face a number of challenges, underlined President Grabar-Kitarović. Speaking about the challenges, the President referred to the demographic situation and issue of large scale emigration of young people, the new security challenges that face this part of Europe, the challenge of Brexit and centrifugal forces and fragmentation that can be felt in the European Union. ‘We have to prove to our citizens that the EU delivers on the issues vital to them: jobs, mobility and security. I would dare to claim that this Initiative can deliver on all the mentioned issues,’ emphasized President Grabar-Kitarović.
In that sense, the President emphasised key points of the Three Seas Initiative, an informal platform to strengthen the overall political, economic, infrastructure and security cooperation in authentic Central Europe. She spoke of the goals of the Initiative – to establish a framework for decisive action in securing political support for specific cross-border strategic projects of interest to the States involved, without creating a parallel structure to the existing European and transatlantic associations and mechanisms of cooperation. Further goals of the Initiative are to facilitate intergovernmental coordination and cooperation along the corridor Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea and attract the proactive engagement of the business community for innovations and investments,” says this extract of the Office of President Grabar-Kitarovic website write-up on the Dubrovnik Forum.
‘The Three Seas Initiative is an informal one, but endorsed nevertheless by those that hold ultimate influence in the region. Its purpose is, according to Grabar-Kitarovic, not disassociation from the EU but removing differences between the EU members that have enjoyed the benefits of democracy, freedom and free market for decades and those that joined the EU later.

The Dubrovnik conference also discussed challenges faced by the EU such as Brexit and global challenges such as the migrant crisis, security and Russia’s influence.

Dubrovnik Forum Three Seas Initiative discussion Photo: Screenshot Office of President of CRoatia

Dubrovnik Forum
Three Seas Initiative discussion
Photo: Screenshot Office of President of Croatia

This Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea (BABS) 2016 forum brought together an impressive gathering of power and decision-makers – six presidents and high-ranking government officials from 12 EU countries located between the three seas (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) and also during the proceedings joined by non-EU countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. A panel discussion at the “Strengthening European energy security” looked at the benefits of energy cooperation in BABS and the role of LNG terminals linking north and south Europe.

Connecting the LNG terminal in Poland with one planned on the island of Krk in Croatia is among the energy projects that BABS region countries want to implement in order to boost competitiveness and development, Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, said addressing forum at the opening ceremony August 25.

 

President Duda pointed out the importance of energy connections. “The dominance of a single supplier for the region is harmful and dangerous”, he said adding that development of the gas corridor between the north and the south, as well as the LNG terminal on the island of Krk are important.

The next meeting of BABS will take place in Wroclaw in June 2017.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite at Dubrovnik Forum Photo: Visegradpost.com

Lithuanian President
Dalia Grybauskaite
at Dubrovnik Forum
Photo: Visegradpost.com

Chinese and American speakers were also present at this Dubrovnik Forum. Chinese Ministerial Assistant for Foreign Affairs Liu Haixing in charge of Central and Eastern Europe region recalled that China was very interested in the development of the area. China believes it will serve her project of New Silk Road.

American General James L. Jones, president of Jones Group International and former adviser for the National Security of President Obama said that the development of the Three Seas Initiative must be an element not only for European development but also for security. General Jones stressed the use by Russia of her position as an energy supplier to increase her economic influence and to strengthen her geopolitical goals.

During the days of BABS Forum in Dubrovnik four countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro signed a memorandum of understanding with the executives of Azerbaijani oil and gas company SOCAR, which relates to the development of the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP)/ Trans-Adriatic-Pipeline (TAP) designed to bring gas from Shah Deniz 2 field in the Caspian Sea to EU through the so-called Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) after 2020.
Croatia’s economy minister Tomislav Panenic said that the future pipeline would provide gas supplies for south-eastern Europe. “We have defined our joint initiative for the development of the Ionian-Adriatic gas pipeline as a route that will make sure that these markets are provided with gas. We hope that this route will be a connection between the north and the south and that this may pave the way for a full liberalisation of the gas market in Europe,” he said, Croatian news agency Hina reported.

Dugopolje-Split Gas Pipeline works Photo: EVN/Seenews

Dugopolje-Split Croatia Gas Pipeline works
Photo: EVN/Seenews

In 2007, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania signed a declaration on the IAP, which is planned to carry natural gas from Albania’s Fier via Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Split in Croatia. IAP would be connected with the 870-kilometre Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which should transport gas from Shah Deniz II, Azerbaijan, via Greece and Albania and the Adriatic Sea, to Italy. The IAP gas pipeline, with a length of 516 kilometers, is planned to have a capacity of five billion cubic meters annually.
Serbia, although in the region in question where or around which these gas supplies into Europe are to pass, was not represented at this BABS Forum in Dubrovnik. Most media would like us to think that Serbia’s absence from this important forum was associated with the recently soured relations and political tensions between Serbia and Croatia due to recent vicious political attacks by Serbian leadership against Croatia. But I reckon, given that Serbia is and always will be very close to Russia – it did not hurt Serbia’s political arithmetic not to attend Dubrovnik Forum where matters on the agenda such as gas supplies posed direct threats to sizeable Russian gas supplies to Europe, in the foreseeable future. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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