Croatia: The Hypocrisy Of Mockery

In the rather prolonged wake of a rancorous presidential election in Croatia, late 2019, a few months of mute, largely ambivalent, anticipation as to what kind of president Zoran Milanovic will be have given rise to an ugly, tumultuous political swamp where the national interests are drowned in fear for the future as personal and political insults between the President and the Prime Minister (Andrej Plenkovic) fly like nothing I’ve seen before. It appears the two are in some kind of mud-slinging, mocking and insult competition that is difficult and sad to watch but one would not be wrong in saying: they fool no one!

Both have not cut their umbilical cords from communist Yugoslavia and its mindset no matter how hard they might try to assassinate each other’s character and authority.

The deterioration of Croatian top-end politics and lack of positive political discourse is dangerous to the health of the Croatian nation, of the independent and democratic Republic. No good arises when people in top positions of the same country identify more with a political self than as a citizen, or a leader in a country they are a part of. 

I take issue with the politics of divisiveness which, by definition and function, fractures the Croatian society through disinformation, deception, hypocrisy, mockery, insult slinging and outright lies and at all times paying mere lip-service to the foundations of the 1990’s Homeland War that ushered in independence and democracy while still embracing in deed and mentality the oppressive symbols and mindset of the criminal communist Yugoslavia regime.

Croatia was a country that should have cut its umbilical cord from communist Yugoslavia way back in 1991 when it declared secession from it by a sweeping 94% vote. The umbilical cord tore away gradually during the 1990’s as tens of thousands of people lost their life in the war of Serb/communist Yugoslavia aggression; hundreds of thousands Croats and non-Serbs – ethnically cleansed. Then, in 2000, the year after President Franjo Tudjman’s death, former communists (who did not want independent Croatia, who did not fight for it) returned at the helm of Croatia with a vengeance. 

When he was named Prime Minister in 2011, Zoran Milanovic was the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and perceived by many as a promising politician, free of the corruption plaguing the rival conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party. But Milanovic’a government failed to implement much-needed reforms, perpetuating widespread patronage of corruption and poor economic trends. His SDP lost power following 2015 elections and Milanovic stepped down as party chief after he failed again in the following year’s snap vote. In his 2019 Presidential campaign, he promised to make Croatia a “normal, decent” liberal democracy, with an equal society and independent judiciary. He defeated HDZ’s candidate, former President Kolinda Granbar Kitarovic and Patriotic Movement’s Miroslav Skoro.

Andrej Plenkovic as Prime Minister did not have good relations with Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, in fact there was a great deal of animosity for a number of years of her mandate and the two were at each other’s proverbial throats much of the time. Grabar Kitarovic had said on several occasions that she had not been able to achieve a working relationship with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and used that as an excuse for not influencing needed reforms in national focus. Had she not sprung from a communist family background perhaps she would have tried harder to establish or force a working relationship so that Croatia could move along with needed reforms and national strategy that would see the crippling corruption weeded out (?).

It’s happening in Croatia again – Andrej Plenkovic has clearly demonstrated that he does not want to work with the new President Zoran Milanovic, either. One must contemplate upon possible motives for that, none of which appear to have Croatia’s national interests (attending to fixing the disastrously failing economy and paralysing corruption, for example) at heart.

The very public rows, public name-calling, mocking and public insults against each other between the two came out of nowhere, or it seems like that to most. Jaws dropped and befuddlement spread contagiously. The media was and is all over it; one does not know whether to laugh or cry. But, one does and must ask: why!?

Generally, in democracies, the public draws distinctions when it comes to the types of speech and behavior they deem acceptable from elected officials. Wide majorities in developed democracies say it is acceptable for elected officials to call their opponent uninformed on the issues and to raise their voice in a debate, but there is much lower tolerance for officials personally mocking or insulting their opponents.

And so, the Prime Minister and the President have not stopped attacking each other, mocking and insulting each other for weeks now. Both of them held press conferences on 23rd October 2020 – first Milanovic, who told Plenkovic that he avoided military service using a false medical diagnosis, and then, about an hour later Plenkovic said that ” a difficult defeat complex in the 2016 elections can be seen in Milanovic.”

The ugly showdown between the two continued.

Zoran Milanovic: “Hundreds of bitterns came under my window at the time when Plenkovic was building his five-penny career. My wife and my children could not leave the apartment, but he grew on that humus and manure.”

Andrej Plenkovic: ” A difficult defeat complex from the 2016 elections is again seen in him, his tone towards me is belittling, and he told a series of lies about me and my career, as well as about our relations.”

Milanovic: “Plenković was a protégé in all regimes. Based on a false diagnosis of anemia, Plenkovic avoided military service. The children of communist leaders could not avoid it (military service), only the privileged could do so.

Plenkovic: “The claim that I am the second generation of the red bourgeoisie, and that I was exempted from military service because of that… Articles about it in the media were not accidental, someone reported it to the media, I guess it was him. It is true that I have anaemia, a lot of members of my family have anaemia. There is also my son, several relatives, all who had it were exempted from military service.”

Milanovic: “He was a protégé, a loyal servant of that regime, he mocked Tudjman with all of us, fifty people know that.”

Plenkovic: “He joined the SDP before the change of government in 2000. I did not notice that he was a brave, concerned SDP member until then. He said that 50 people knew that I was mocking Tudjman. I just called a colleague, he said that he did not remember that.”

Milanovic: “I’m trying to remember what is true of all the things that Plenkovic said, except that he can do everything, even that, is not true.”

Plenkovic: “He is certainly not the main cause of radicalism. But it is indicative that the theses he is releasing, the theses about the military doctor, Tudjman’s hater, come from him and his belly fighters. I see that in the far right. It’s mud, banana peel, the pistons he throws at my feet. He gave a fine contribution to hate speech. “

Milanovic: “There was no statement about the Covid at Plenkovic’s press conference. Who triumphantly declared victory over the Covid, did my grandmother shake hands with the infected Đokovic? He dissolved the Parliament, called elections when it suited them, they won those elections with a miserable number of votes. And it’s all according to the rules. But the rules need to be changed, as well as the rules of the Criminal Code. “

Milanovic: “He is a bully. I fought in school playground and protected other children from such people.”

Plenkovic: “I said I would answer him, because everyone else fell silent. Nervousness starts when the case of Gorica, Gradiska, a public company … As Prime Minister, I have no right to remain silent about lies.”

Milanovic also accuses Andrej Plenkovic’s Government of “skipping” him and regulating issues of national security, i.e., those from the common domain reserved for the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic of Croatia, without the President.

And the sorry saga of mudslinging, mocking and insults has no end in sight, it seems. In a country that has so many existential problems and so much to get on with if Croatia is to be a functioning democracy transitioning from the communist regime this scandalous and pathetic charade of supposedly democratic free expression is most likely not accidental. It has been staged with the former President and it is staged with the current one so that the reality and permanency of a successful independent Croatia takes the back seat and communist heritage thrives. I am quite convinced that the hypocrisy, lined with communist nostalgia for both, lies in this

In a world with fewer rules, the only truly effective one is knowing what you can get away with. The answer today in Croatia, it turns out, is quite a lot. The question is: will the people tolerate this much longer?

In their domestic policies, both Andrej Plenkovic and Zoran Milanovic appear to embrace a noxious brew of insincere nationalism and penchant for authoritarianism (the communist Yugoslavia kind); just like Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic did. So that people don’t have a stronghold. One day these leaders defend the fight for independence elevating it to national sovereignty and right to self-determination and, on another day, they act as if that bloody fight never happened nor did it need to happen (because, to their apparent view, all was fine and dandy in Yugoslavia).  One day they vow to attack the widespread endemic corruption within the public sector and on another day, they keep devilishly shtum about the enormous theft of public wealth by individuals. 

Former communists and those who did not want an independent and democratic Croatia are proving once again that there is no limit to what they will do in order to keep Croatia stagnating in the rut of corruption, economic disaster and perpetual divisiveness that paralyses progress. Ina Vukic

Fear And Loathing In Croatia

Croatia's president Ivo Josipovic Does he think, not only dress as Mao Tse Tung or Kim Il Jong?

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic
Does he think, not only dress
as Mao Tse Tung or Kim Il Jong?

 

Politics is a rough game, they say. The current president of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, might have a lead as a favourite presidential candidate at coming elections according to surveys, which at best are left-leaning vessels trying to shape public opinion rather than reflecting the real opinion, but just have a peek into a couple of those anti-Croat independence tropes and symbolism he has dished out.

It was February 2012 when, mean-spirited, he began using the word “snake” in talking about World War II Croatian fight for independence, trying to characterize everyone in that movement as Nazi/fascist driven extermination of Jews. Of course, his hatred for the communist camp he supports, if for nothing else then because his own father/family are said to have headed the Goli Otok (Naked Island) torture and false imprisonment camp Yugoslav communists held for decades to shut out innocent people who did not agree with communism, is nowhere to be seen. His reactions to numerous endeavours for the prosecution of Communist crimes have at best been insignificant. He pinned no “nickname” such as a “snake” to communist criminals even though, judging by the numbers exterminated/murdered by the communists, the word “snake” would be too mild to describe communist crimes. Indeed, he went out of his way to try and stop the recent extradition to Germany of two former communist secret police operatives (Josip Perkovic and Zdravko Mustac), who are to be tried next month in relation to murder of Croatian national in early 1980’s.

This kind of hatred that attempts to equate those who fought for Croatian independence goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology. In its full-blown manifestations, it is akin to what an ophidiophobe feels at the sight of a snake: visceral and existential; categorical and absolute. It turns on the gut certainty that your adversaries aren’t looking just to raise your taxes but to destroy your whole way of life: that they are not only wrongheaded, but preternaturally evil. Comparatively few people experience these feelings on a conscious level, but they lie latent in many more of us than we might suspect and the coin turned to pro-communist symbolism, the danger for Croatian democracy is alarming.

Similarly, his often-found symbolic words or gestures leave no doubt that his message is: you defend communism (or at least communist Yugoslavia) or your life will not really amount to much. Ivo Josipovic has for some months been a busy man in his evident associations with attempts to belittle his opponent Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and even though the official presidential election campaigns have not started (it is anticipated that presidential elections will be held either late December 2014 or January 2015) he has been a busy with fear and loathing of anyone who would stand in his path to a second mandate as president of Croatia.

The attire he chose for his latest visit to flood affected Karlovac (Saturday, 13th September) leaves nothing to the imagination – it was a definite statement of loyalty to communist regimes; it was a definite statement: you like communism or else! Why else would he dress in the way that reminds one of Mao Tse Tung or Kim Il Jong! Surely, even a child would see the symbolism in the clothes he wore during this pre-election campaign time, let alone a grown up who has decided on how he will conduct himself during the election campaign months ago!

When we look at the fact that political loyalties secure jobs and other favours within the Croatian society governed by the Social Democrats, political party Josipovic left as active member as he headed for the presidential office, who sprung out of the Communist Party, his attire in Karlovac sends shudders into the thoughts as to what another mandate under his presidency might mean.

Many argue that the values of democracy and independence are being systematically eroded by political elites in Croatia, especially those who have not, even after more than twenty years since the war of independence from communism, found time and efforts to discard the atrocious past of communist indoctrination. Many argue and protest against the palpable pressure to conform to the political elites and fear for their own well being if they dared to speak against those in political power. And so, the hopes lie with presidential candidates such as Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, who will know where to place and how to deal with Croatia’s unfortunate political rut and raise true values of democracy where they should be.

No matter how this presidential election turns out, the endgame has already begun: Thanks to those who love the Croatian nation and what it stands for, Croatia is becoming more assertive of its rights to independence from communist regime and its corrupt tentacles. But as every hunter knows, a wounded or cornered quarry is the most dangerous. Even as the communist hegemony declines, its backlash politics become more vicious – Croatia has felt this ugly viciousness especially in the “antifascist” efforts to criminalise the war of independence, to defame and degrade Croatia’s first president, Franjo Tudjman with utter lies. These so-called antifascists may succeed in turning back the clock for some time if Croatian voters do not wake up to the ugly truth Josipovic and his politically soaked suit, attire in Karlovac, stand for! It is not just a suit from an ordinary wardrobe Josipovic wore at an important event on Saturday – it is an item of symbolism, either carefully or recklessly chosen but ominous, reflecting fear and loathing whichever way you turn, nevertheless. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Sell Croatian Diplomatic And Consular Missions? No Deal!

dr Franjo Tudjman's Letter March 1992 (Click image to enlarge)

dr Franjo Tudjman’s Letter March 1992 (Click image to enlarge)

One week – it’s on, one week – it’s off! One week we hear that the Croatian government is planning to close some of Croatia’s consular missions in Australia (and elsewhere) and then one week we hear that this is not the case! Certainly, there has been enough in Croatian media over past decade or so suggesting that plans of closures are indeed afoot, if for no other reason then to save money! Such “rumours” as well as statements from left-wing political camp foreign ministers started with Tonino Picula in 2000, lingered, and seem now amplified by Vesna Pusic. While purposeful moves to distance the diaspora from its homeland do not surprise one, as they originate from those who did not want Croatian independence in the first place, it is up to the diaspora to fight against these destructive moves. Particularly in countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South American countries, US – the more distant ones. Since Croatia is a EU member state one can argue that too many diplomatic missions are not necessary across it (?).

Well if the incompetent government wants to save money on operations that are a lifeline to the homeland for its large body of émigrés then, I guess, it has the mandate to do it.

However, the Croatian government must know that most of the properties where the diplomatic and consular missions are established in the “Western” world were actually purchased through dedicated, specific, purposeful charitable fundraising and if the government cannot operate them as intended and promised then it is only reasonable to demand that these properties be handed over to the Croatian communities who donated the funds for their purchase and such properties be utilised for other uses the donor Croatian community needs. I would hate to see the government selling these valuable properties and pocketing the proceeds from the sale to plug holes in the state budget they brought to the brink of bankruptcy through incompetence.

When on Easter Sunday 1991(31 March) the war of Serb aggression against Croatia began, the initial shock that struck hard within Croatian communities across the world (there are were/are as many Croats living outside Croatia as there are in Croatia itself) swiftly turned into actions of solidarity with the Croatian homeland, with the plight of democracy and secession from communist Yugoslavia. Almost overnight, countless new associations of Croatian ex-patriots emerged – everywhere, across all six continents where Croats lived, whose mission was to collect humanitarian aid (goods and money) and send it to assist Croatia. The clubs, churches and associations that had already existed joined the efforts and Croatian diaspora was mobilised in helping. Without the solidarity from its diaspora Croatia would not have emerged as an independent and democratic country in those days when Yugoslav institutions and communist controls still existed from Belgrade (Serbia) with the sole purpose of quashing with extreme brutality of murder, rape, ethnic cleansing, wanton destruction, plunder… the will of the people for democracy in Croatia

Having achieved widespread international recognition as an independent country by February 1992 the time came for Croatia to establish its own diplomatic and consular missions across the world, Serbs took hold of the properties where the embassy and consulates of Yugoslavia had been as if they were their own! So, “penniless” and still defending itself in the war of Serb aggression, Croatia had no adequate financial means to set up its diplomatic and consular missions abroad. In came the initiative from the diaspora to set up special-purpose Funds that would raise charitable funds among émigrés, which would be used for the sole purpose of purchasing properties that would house Croatian embassies and consulates.

As the laws in “Western” countries where Croats fundraised dictate, charitable funds and assets must only be used in furtherance of the purposes the funds were raised. And so, by the end of 1992 to about March 1993 Croats across the world raised enough funds to purchase the needed properties and equip the diplomatic and consular missions with all and necessary equipment and tools needed. In Australia the results were as amazing as everywhere else in the world. Australian Croats had purchased valuable properties in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth for consular offices and in Canberra they commenced building a grand building that would house the Croatian Embassy.

On hearing about the plan Croats living abroad had to raise funds for the purchase and establishment of Croatian diplomatic and consular missions Franjo Tudjman, Croatia’s first president, wrote letters to Croatian communities abroad applauding their efforts and thanking them. In his letter to Australian Croats in March 1992 he wrote:

To the Croats in Australia
With great satisfaction, I have received the information that you wish to collect charitable funds with view to giving Croatia the buildings for diplomatic and consular missions in Australia.
As the president of all Croats, I support and highly respect the intention that the fundraising action for this purpose be all-Croatian and that it gathers together as many of our émigrés as possible, regardless of political or other association.
At the same time, I would like to inform you of my intention and my great wish to, if at all possible, visit Australia for the occasion of the opening of the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Australia.
Signed: Franjo Tudjman, President of the Republic of Croatia, 13 March 1992 Ref. PA12-7/3-92”.

In just over twenty years of Croatian diplomatic and consular missions in operations across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, South America…there has been very little achieved in that “gathering” of diaspora Croats towards a better, stronger and optimally fruitful and dynamic connection with the homeland. If anything, since the death of Franjo Tudjman in 1999, the close and benevolent connection that existed then, and had the potential of significant contribution towards building a full democracy in Croatia, targeting in particular issues associated with transition from communism, had been systematically eroded. Purposefully perhaps?

And so, having been centrally and significantly involved in the early 1990’s fundraising drives for the establishment of Croatian diplomatic and consular missions in Australia, I sit here and ponder, with an uneasy and heavy heart. Should we allow an incompetent government in Croatia tear apart that which the community secured with charitable funds? Should we keep quiet until it’s too late and the properties we purchased for specific purposes, with charitably donated funds – are sold off by the government? I think not! But if the government sells the properties anyway, then it should be stopped in squandering the money from the proceeds of sale in plugging budgetary holes. The properties or the proceeds of sale should remain in the function for which they were purchased and if that is not possible then their function must remain in the greater use and benefit of the diaspora community, which donated the funds to establish them. Certainly, there are ample records kept of the history of the sources of funding for ‘the bricks and mortar’ and how these diplomatic and consular missions were established.
When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty” said one of the American founding fathers Thomas Jefferson long ago.

 

And I resist and rebel against the sale of the properties purchased specifically for Croatian diplomatic and consular missions with charitable donations. If the Croatian government comes to the decision to ‘get rid’ of these properties then I do expect that the Croatian community in the diaspora will know how to protest and stop such madness and unjust actions and assert once again its rights over these properties. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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