Mate Pavkovic is one of the organizers of this year’s Cro Diaspora Summit, which will be held from 21 to 23 May on the Island Brac.
As he revealed in an interview with Direktno.hr, which I have translated here into English, the aim of this summit is to improve the investments of the Croatian diaspora in the Croatian economy, to work on reducing red tape and problems in terms of economy and investments in Croatia.
As he said, this event will not have much importance in terms of politics – because the goal is economics. Croatia is an independent and good country, but it could also make much better progress.
What is the purpose of your event?
– Honestly, this conference is not only about the topic of emigration, but it will be a trigger for talks and movements that we must not stop. We need to do something for the survival of our homeland, to make Croatia a better country. I, like many other Croats, lived outside our Beautiful, but that is wealth, not weakness. We must use our wealth to improve our homeland. We must unite beyond sports and humanitarian actions; we must unite as one people for a better tomorrow. We will not achieve this only through politics. In Croatia, much is being done through state institutions, which is not the best solution.
We must free the economy of capitalism so that it can develop and grow on its own. We should cooperate economically with the UK, US, Canada, Australia … and not just with neighbouring countries and EU countries. To achieve this, we need to use the resources of our diaspora, that is, the vast knowledge and business experience that exists in the expat community. We can design strategies that will appeal to our people. I think that Croatian citizens in Canada and the US do not expect the government to do something, but, as a rule, do it themselves. And they don’t care who’s a Democrat and who’s a Republican, or who’s a Conservative, and who’s a Liberal. The only thing that matters to them, it is said, is their ability and success in business.
Who will participate?
– This summit will gather Croats from the expat community and will discuss primarily business and finding solutions, not past problems. The intention of this conference is not political, but the solutions that the participants make at the conference will be delivered to government and business institutions to hear the voice of expatriates at the macroeconomic and political levels. Crodiaspora strongly believes that if business and government strategies focus on better measures of dealing with Croats in emigration, the result will affect the return of Croats and their integration with the whole of Croatia, as a single nation.
This summit is something new. I think the conference will be just the beginning of a conversation that, when it starts, will not be able to stop. Through the application Pleme.app, which is a kind of Facebook for Croatians in emigration, we intend to connect all Croats, that is, all Croatian chambers of commerce in the world, and constantly talk and look for solutions and answers to the question: How to make Croatia a better country? The ultimate goal is to connect through business, because that is how we can liberate the economy.
How satisfied are you with the way the Diaspora is involved in socio-political processes in Croatia?
– As Ivan Grbešić stated in his speech at the third session of the Government Council for Croats outside the Republic of Croatia: Although Croatian emigration is the basis of social, political and economic life, the number of Croats in emigration is almost equal to the number of Croats in Croatia, in the Croatian Parliament they have reduced the number of MPs for Croatian emigration from 12 to 3. How can the three MPs represent millions and millions of Croats? I firmly believe in freedom, that we ourselves determine our future.
In Croatia, we know what freedom means in the sense that we have fought for our independence, but we do not yet know what freedom means in the context of the economy. As soon as we learn that we need to reduce the impact of politics in our lives, something we fought in the Homeland War, we will live better. The Croatian government does not need to set up an office for Croats outside the Republic of Croatia, but rather to entice its people to return. This means improved conditions, a legislative framework to attract investment, free up the labour market so that you can hire good and quality people, not through connections. These are things, I hope, that every Croat in the world can agree on.
What have you been doing so far?
– I was employed by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the International Affairs and Investment Attraction Division. Everyone told me to stay there because I got good pay and great security. But I didn’t want to stay. I quit because the entrepreneurial urge made me try to start something myself. In Croatia, much is being done through state institutions, which is not the best solution. We must free the economy of capitalism, for it to develop and grow on its own.
We should cooperate economically with the UK, the US, Canada, Australia… and not just with neighbouring countries and EU countries. To achieve this, we need to use the resources of our diaspora, that is, the vast knowledge and business experience that exists in the expat community. We can design strategies that will appeal to our people. We want to free the economy that expatriate Croats and their descendants can return and do business here.
Are there opportunities for third or fourth generation expatriate Croats to return home and start a business?
– Croatia has huge opportunities. Why do we need to increase the quota of foreign workers in Croatia when Croats from South America are, in some cases, tormented by inequality and lack of opportunity in their countries. We can give our Croats in South America the opportunity to return to Croatia. One famous example is Maria Florencia Celani. Known as a contestant on ‘The Voice Croatia’. Many people who will attend the Crodiaspora Summit have very successfully established world-class companies in Croatia. John Gasparac, PwC Croatia Partner, Joe Basic, Organizer of the Ultra Europe Music Festival, and some who founded big former Croatian companies like Metro – Dennis Rukavina, Darrel Saric, and Michael Prpic (all from Canada), and Marion Duzich, the resort’s owner at which the conference will be held.
How to heal the Croatian economy?
– If Croatia really wants to cure the economy, they need to hear and bring in experts from the Croatian emigration who will repair and execute real solutions. All these returning people sacrificed and did not surrender, for perhaps a more successful life abroad, but they acted as my dad taught me – that Croatia is our homeland and we have no other homeland. What makes Croatia? Land and people. If we don’t have land or people – then we don’t have a homeland!
What is the biggest obstacle for the Croatian emigration?
– The biggest obstacle for expatriates is obtaining citizenship. Even when I acquired my citizenship, I had to change my name from Matija Matthew Pavkovic to Matija Matthew Pavković because my dad would not be able to transfer property in Croatia to me. One of my Chicago friends waited three and a half years just for his Domovnica (certificate of citizenship). These inefficiencies in our state institutions are unacceptable. There are many proud Croats, first, second, third and fourth generations who would love to be official Croats. When I finally acquired Croatian citizenship, after we came to Zagreb and settled all the paperwork for my Domovnica, I still waited three months. It is much better in Croatia now, but not at the world level. Other countries outperform Croatia easily, even though they were once in a worse position …
What other citizenship do you have?
– I recently acquired US citizenship that my mom passed on to me. I received social security, a foreign voting registration, an ID and a passport in less than two weeks. They respect their citizens, they want as many Americans as possible (legally, of course), and that their citizens have the opportunity to contribute to their economy and society. Croatia must be proud of its citizens and people of Croatian roots. You cannot do it in words, but in deeds. If business and government strategies focus on better measures of dealing with Croats in emigration, the result will affect the return of Croats and their integration with the whole of Croatia, as a single nation.
How can the Diaspora help Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), many of whom came from that country?
– I am a proud Croat but I am a very proud Herzegovinian. From a young age, I always consider that Croats in BiH are not only part of our society, but also part of my homeland. We Croats from BiH are not just votes and political points. We are a capable nation and a prosperous nation. If a Herzegovinian Victor Dodig can be CEO and President of Canada’s largest bank, it is a sign of courage and self-determination. We must encourage our Croats to negotiate for better conditions and, as in Croatia, reduce the impact of politics on daily life. We live in a time where we can make money in our homes, villages, anywhere in the world …
Rescue is not just in one industry, but Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia need to work towards a freer economy. This means diversifying the economy that if one industry crashes, we can rely on other industries and reintegrate the unemployed into the job market.
What do you think about today’s emigration?
– I want to emphasize that it is not a bad thing for people to leave Croatia. That’s our strength. We have to be like the United Arab Emirates. They intentionally sent their smartest students to the best universities. While they were gaining experience and knowledge from other countries, people in the UAE were preparing the conditions for their return. We are ready to return, but we must create the conditions for the return of our esteemed Croats from abroad. Now is the time to create better conditions, to create and determine our future ourselves, and to show the world that Croatia, BiH, Croats … are not only hosts and good in tourism, but we are a capable people.
Otherwise, this summit will gather Croats from the expat community and will discuss primarily business and finding solutions, not past problems.
The purpose of this conference is not political, but the solutions that the participants make at the conference will be delivered to Government and business institutions in order to hear the voice of emigration at the macroeconomic and political levels – the organizers said.
Translated from the Croatian language by Ina Vukic
Excerpt from Crodiaspora website regarding registration and tickets for the May 2020 Summit on the beautiful Island of Brac in Croatia:
Source: // Croatia, the War, and the Future
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