On Saturday 9 October 2019 the 3rd meeting of Government’s Advisory Council for Croats living outside of Croatia was held in the town of Varazdin. The Advisory is made up of some fifty-five Croats from all over the world (9 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 17 from Croatian minorities in European countries and 29 from countries outside Europe/diaspora/emigration) that are said to be representing their local Croatian communities and this is its third four-year mandate. However, it is actually very questionable whether the diaspora representatives represent their local communities in a great deal of cases given that they are drawn from individual clubs or organisations that do not necessarily work with the entire communities nor is it essential for them to demonstrate that they consult their local communities when it comes to accountabilities to the Croatian government’s Central office or Croats living outside Croatia! The fact that most Croatian communities around the world are not consulted about matters taken to Zagreb by their “representatives” has become a source of discontent in those communities, if not a source of withdrawal from actively participating in the process of asserting the rights of Croatian citizens living abroad. Many say they are yet to experience their “representative” asking them about what concerns them about Croatia and its relations with its diaspora, about what they would like to see changed in order to optimise this relationship between the Homeland and the Diaspora. Due respect to those “representatives” that actively and publicly consult with their communities across the world but thumbs down to those that act alone and formulate their own personal input to the Advisory under the pretence of representing their local communities abroad.
The president of this Advisory body to the government, Mr Ivan Grbesic from Canada, on Saturday 9 November, delivered an excellent opening speech at the meeting which was televised by Croatian HRT television live and it could have not been clearer that dissatisfaction and disappointment about changes needed in Croatia in order to improve relations between the Homeland and Croats living abroad, in order to adjust legislation to needs, etc., is widespread throughout Croatian diaspora. Whether points on these matters of concern were articulated in Mr Grbesic’s speech or whether they were encompassed in and clearly implied by the questions he asked is not the issue here. The issue is that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in his addressing speech chose to tun a deaf ear to Mr Grbesic’s questions and their significance. Surely, any prudent and sensitive and considerate leader would at least take on board the concerns from the diaspora articulated in Mr Grbesic’s speech!? But, instead of acknowledging the concerns, instead of seeing further explanation or details, Plenkovic’s speech was patronising and in parts offensive towards the diaspora, while boasting how much his government has done for the diaspora! That’s the same diaspora that was crucially important with its contributions in the creation of modern Croatian state in 1990’s.
Clearly, as far as Plenkovic’s government is concerned the Croatian diaspora has a long way to go before its rights and responsibilities are treated as equal to those of Croats living in Croatia.
Ivan Grbesic, President of Advisory Council to Croatian government representing Croats living outside Croatia
Ivan Grbesic, President of the governments Advisory for Croats living outside Croatia, among other things said:
“Several questions went through my mind before this meeting and according to many talks I have had I know I am not alone:
Is Croatia afraid of its diaspora? It’s obvious that someone is afraid or has been afraid because the Ministry of Emigration had been closed, and after that the Ministry of Return in year 2000. Barriers have been imposed in relation to voting with changes to the Constitution in 2010 so that Croatian citizens living outside Croatia can only realise their voting rights in places where Diplomatic-Consular Missions are. And then the number of parliamentary seats designated to represent the diaspora had been reduced from 12 seats to 3 in 2011.
Is Croatia ashamed of its diaspora? I hope not. We are not ashamed of our parents, grandfathers, great grandfathers who left their homes and families for personal reasons, either political or economic. Most of them without education, without money in their pockets, without blood relatives in the foreign land – we respect them and are grateful to them not just because they are our parents but because they had a dream to preserve their identity in a foreign land and that a free and independent Croatia be created. And they fought for that dream, which was realised thanks to joint efforts of Croats in the Homeland and Croats outside it…
Is Croatian diaspora non-essential for Croatia? Every year a huge number of Croats from all over the world come to Croatia to spend their holidays and their money there… It’s estimated that from financial point of view from 1991 to 2011 more that 100 billion dollars has entered Croatia from the diaspora and that today more than 2 billion euro annually comes to Croatia from the diaspora, which is some 10% of Croatia’s government annual budget…and then there are investments…
Does Croatia not wish to make use of the additional potential offered to it by its diaspora? It’s obvious that something is pressing onto the brakes. Something is not right or simply the diaspora potential is not a priority among other problems Croatia is confronted with. As far as the diaspora is concerned, regretfully most are disappointed with Croatia and that’s not just now but for a string of years. And after six years of work of this Advisory the diaspora is disappointed with the results… perhaps it is needed to add new resources and set up a Ministry of emigration, not to be able to say that we have another Ministry but for it to be an institution with resources that would have working targets in order to maximise the contribution of émigrés to the homeland and stronger relations between the homeland and the emigration.
If the answer to all four of these questions is ‘no’ … then we need to invest more efforts in order to attract and make use of the potential of our émigrés, their capital, their life and work experience, their connections and links, and their differing perspectives from the world. Why are the rights of our émigrés being denied, Constitutional rights, why is such a long time needed to introduce new or change existing laws? Is it not in the interest of Croatia and Croatian people to cooperate with their own emigrants, with their own brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents from across the world? If the answer to this question is ‘no’, that it is not in Croatia’s interest to collaborate in unity with its own people across the world, that our country, our Croatia be like the one our ancestors, our parents have dreamed of, then we need to ask ourselves: whose interests are being served? Perhaps only personal or those of foreigners.
I want to publicly commend the recent government and parliament’s decision…regarding changes to the Citizenship Act. Is this law for citizenship an ideal solution, for some it is not, but at the same time it’s hard for anyone to say that it’s not a significant step in the right direction, to contribute to the return of trust between Croats outside of Croatia and the official Zagreb and to reduce the disappointment felt by most in emigration connected to the homeland relationship with its emigration …”
Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister of Croatia
And then came Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi’c speech:
“ … let me first refer to the question put by Mr Grbesic ‘Is Croatia ashamed of its diaspora’, I think this is a question wrongly put, Croatia is proud of its diaspora, proud of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, proud of all Croats in the countries around Croatia, of Croats throughout the world … the importance of this Advisory body…in its yearly meetings this Advisory body is for us a platform where we must listen well to your recommendations, constate that which we do well, see what we can do better, define some themes upon which you correctly expect greater facilitation, speed and performance of institutions…to us the key element has always been inclusion, protection of rights … it’s important for us to create encouraging conditions for return of our émigrés to the Homeland…we have increased access for Croatian emigration of financial supports, in the last 3 years we have financed 1537 projects throughout the world to the value of 115 million kunas. We have improved communication, this structured form is exceptionally important as I consider that it’s important to hear this Advisory’s messages and to meet their requests as much as we can…as far as out attitudes towards the totalitarian regimes they are strong and clear and I would ask you to attentively listen to that which is really truth, because besides all the good being done by Croatian World Congress and Matica Iseljenika you are often met with information, which is not verified and correct. And so I appeal to all of you to filtrate well that which you read on the internet, every source is not correct, we live in times of fake news, lies and disinformation and a large portion of that is directed at you so that you could have the feeling that there is something wrong here (in Croatia) or that this Croatian government does not take care of the diaspora. When you read that I say that some 95% of that is an intentional political manipulation…check the sources and authors who are telling you that just like those who go to various meetings do and show Croatia the way it is not…”
3rd Meeting of Croatian Government’s Advisory Council
for Croats living outside Croatia i Varazdin 9 November 2019
Photo: Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/Pixsell
Well, what can one say in wrapping up an article about all this? Mr Ivan Grbesic mixed no words in making it clear to the government that not all is well and rosy with Croats living abroad when it comes to their relationship and mutual respect with the Homeland. Kudos to Mr Grbesic! The Prime Minister Plenkovic, on the other hand, turned a deaf ear to these messages even though he stated that the government’s task is to hear them, boasted about financial supports to projects (most of which have been in existence, in one way or another without the government’s help long prior to 1990’s in the diaspora) only to end up insulting the intelligence of Croats living in the diaspora by telling them to be careful of what they read in some media (probably meaning the media not controlled by his government)! The fact that a great majority of Croats from the diaspora visit Croatia often and experience it on the ground, so to speak; the fact that they are capable of making realistic conclusions from accessing both the mainstream and non-mainstream media mean nothing to Plenkovic, it seems! I am not infuriated by such a patronising attitude towards Croats living outside Croatia; Plenkovic is temporary and Croatia is forever! Ina Vukic
Source: // Croatia, the War, and the Future
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