Saturday

13th Apr 2024

Opinion

Croatia joins EU's illiberal democracy club

  • Two and a half years after accession, and Croatia is moving further away from Brussels (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

I usually enjoy reading EUobserver.

But a recent op-ed, entitled, Business-minded PM could transform Croatia, by Natko Vlahovic, a lobbyist, made me wonder if I’d eaten something bad for lunch.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Oreskovic (r) used to work for Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals (Photo: Croatian PM office)

It’s subservient to the government to a degree I’ve never seen before, even in Western Balkans press. It’s also wrong at so many levels, I hardly know where to begin.

The new Croatian prime minister, Tihomir Oreskovic, might be a decent chap and a competent manager. But he’s no more than a puppet, controlled by two deputy premiers, Tomislav Karamarko and Bozo Petrov.

Prior to his elevation, Oreskovic spent just two years in Croatia (in his youth). He barely speaks the language.

He has publicly admitted that he first met most of his ministers after they were appointed, from a list put forward by Karamarko-Petrov.

So who are Oreskovic’s masters?

Pulling strings

Let’s start with Karamarko. He’s a former head of Croatia’s intelligence service, whose time in the job was marked by mass-scale surveillance of journalists and by human rights abuses.

After becoming the head of the HDZ party, the largest in Croatia, and a member of the EPP group in Brussels, he pushed it way right of centre.

Karamarko himself said he aspires to rule the country in the manner of HDZ’s founder, former president Franjo Tudjman, who would have ended up in The Hague on war crimes charges if he hadn’t died first.

During HDZ’s recent election campaign, Karamarko also promised to prosecute, on criminal charges, anybody who criticises Croatia’s conduct in the Yugoslav wars.

“Anybody can think and say whatever they want within their four walls or backyard, but in the public domain, this won’t be tolerated,” he said.

Meanwhile, Petrov’s party, Most, is a newbie on the scene.

Motley crew

It's a motley crew of, mostly, small-town politicians, some left-leaning, some right, and others who are simply opportunists.

Petrov himself is a former Roman Catholic cleric. He’s heavily influenced by cardinal Bozanic, who’s about as far right as a Catholic prelate can be.

In Petrov's first day in the HDZ-Most coalition government, holy water was sprinkled on the premises of the ministry of health and a crucifix was put in every office. Other government premises are expected to follow suit.

Moving on: The new minister for culture, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, used to be a member of the Croatian Liberation Movement (HOP), a neo-Nazi group established by Ante Pavelic, a real Nazi, who fled to Argentina after World War II. Hasanbegovic later joined the extreme-right HCSP party.

The minister of veteran affairs, Mijo Crnoja, is cut from similar cloth.

He wants to remove the term “anti-fascist” from Croatia’s constitution, on grounds that it's communism in disguise.

Register of Traitors

He also called for the creation of a “Register of Traitors” - in order to lustrate anyone who, by word or deed, “worked against Croatia's national interests since 1990.”

The project was retracted on Tuesday (26 January) after a public outcry: More than 7,000 people, including Jadranka Kosor, a former HDZ prime minister, volunteered to register as “traitors.”

The minister of health, Dario Nakic, was recently sacked from his post at a hospital after the exposure of mass-scale embezzlement.

The minister of justice, Ante Sprlje, has less than five years experience as a lawyer. He was, until 2013, an intern in a provincial court. The list goes on …

The only reason why Oreskovic, the new PM, got the job is because HDZ and Most couldn’t agree on it, so they brought in an outsider.

EU club

Oreskovic has no democratic legitimacy. He didn’t take part in the election campaign. Most people don’t know who he is.

If one thing is clear, it’s that he will have zero autonomy. My friends in Croatia are very worried.

The Karamarko-Petrov government in Croatia is, in reality, about as pro-European as the Jaroslaw Kaczynski government in Poland, or the Viktor Orban government in Hungary.

I have no doubt they’ll get on like a house on fire, because Croatia is about to become a new member of the EU’s illiberal democracy club.

Dejan Anastasijevic is an award-winning Serb journalist, who writes for the Vreme weekly

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Business-minded PM could transform Croatia

Croatia's new PM, Tihomir Oreskovic, raised in Canada with a background in business, presents his country with a unique chance to transform its government and economy.

Croatia vote ends in stalemate

Croatia's conservative opposition looked set to return to power, but latest results show the bloc led by the Social Democrats edging back in the country's first election, on Sunday, since EU membership and since the migrant crisis.

Croatia government close to implosion

Deputy prime minister Tomislav Karamarko is filing a no-confidence motion against the prime minister, fighting of an attack on his own position.

The problem of corruption in Ukraine — and a solution

Sunlight is the best disinfectant— so in a way, it is encouraging to see corruption scandals coming to the fore, as this may deter potential future graft, a key prerequisite for Kyiv's eventual EU accession.

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us