Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as new “lurking threats” for the HDZ and Croatia

January 4, 2020 3:00 PM


The second round of elections for the President of the Republic of Croatia are due to take place on 5 January 2020. The population of Croatia is in the area of 4.1 million, of which 3,854,747 are eligible voters. Outside the Republic of Croatia, there are 176,843 voters who are diaspora or do not have a residence in Croatia.

The following candidates for the position of the President of the Republic of Croatia qualified for the second round of elections: Zoran Milanović 29.55% (Social Democratic Party of Croatia – SDP), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović 26.65% (Croatian Democratic Union – HDZ).

Croatia is in a deep social crisis. The state is characterized by a high level of organized crime and corruption, poor functioning of the judicial system, strong intelligence underground and potent influence of the Roman Catholic Church (RKC). The first President of the Republic of Croatia was Franjo Tuđman (1991-1999), who is (in)disputably credited for the establishment of the independent Croat state. However, this is only party true, because the states on the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia emerged primarily due to a favorable international context, as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the will of international community. Primarily, the will of superpowers to recognize the newly founded states. Hence, although the states in the region had formally held referendums on independence, they emerged primarily as a result of the will of the international factor. In fact, while there are approximately 900 peoples in the world, there are not as many states. Tuđman’s rule was attributed with numerous insufficiencies. Particularly the autocratic leadership of the state, consequences of which are still present especially in the segment of organized, crime, corruption and the implemented process of “tycoonization” of the Croatian economy.

The second President of the Republic of Croatia Stjepan Mesić (2000-2010) inherited the heavy burden of Tuđman’s political legacy. He had a vision and succeeded in making significant steps forward in affirmation of Croatia in the region and the world and instigating the fight against organized crime and corruption, as well as the intelligence underground. Furthermore, he also managed to end the isolation of Croatia and return it to the path of integration into the European Union and NATO. Mesić also contributed to affirmation of antifascism as one of the fundamental values of modern Croatia. However, he did not manage to completely eliminate the consequences of Tuđman’s rule due to the presence of a significant number of Tuđman’s cadres in Croatian politics, government and the security-intelligence system, who often gave primacy to their parochial or partisan (HDZ) interests over national interest. Ever since Croatia gained its independence, the “criminalization of policy and politicization of crime” has been continuously present.

During his mandate, Ivo Josipović (2010-2015) strived to act in a non-partisan manner. According to analysts, he did not make strategic mistakes but was assessed as indecisive. Just like other Croatian officials, Josipović was criticized for failing to sufficiently capitalize on the opportunities associated with Croatian membership in the EU and NATO, but also neglecting the economic recovery of the state. However, Josipović significantly contributed to regional stability and the international image of Croatia.

During her time in office, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (2015-2020) did not deviate from the HDZ matrix. Although much more was expected from her because she came from the generation of younger Croatian politicians, she often came across as very rigid, unlike any of her predecessors in the position. She attempted to “curry favor” with all segments of the Croatian society and international stakeholders.  Specifically, she tried to be “endearing” to both fascists and antifascists. However, in collaboration with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (HDZ), she only managed to establish closer relations with Russia, despite the sanctions imposed against it by the EU and USA. Grabar-Kitarović did not contribute to regional stability or image of Croatia in the world. Croatia has very poor political relations with all its neighbors. Particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, but also with Slovenia, which is also an EU and NATO member. This will definitely further complicate the situation and cause problems in the context of Croatian chairmanship of the EU with respect to the region.

Serbia and BiH as new “lurking threats” for the HDZ and Croatia

The political landscape is dominated by two political parties that are the two extremes of the Croatian political landscape. One is the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) headed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, which bases its ideology as a national(ist) movement on anti-communism, gaining of independence and the so-called “Serb threat” in Croatia. The communism is long gone, the process of gaining independence was finalized in 1991, while the Serbs have been decimated but are a factor of stability and a test for Croatian democracy, because they have significantly contributed to the process of integration into the EU as a constructive factor. The HDZ constantly strives to take exclusive credit for the results of the gained independence, while ignoring the fact that in addition to the desire of the Croat people to gain independence, the independence was primarily a result of historic international circumstances and favorable international context. Specifically, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR. The HDZ has not managed to decriminalize itself or divorce itself from idealization of Franjo Tuđman. Although Croatia is a separate and independent state, the HDZ still “seeks” adversaries in Serbs, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavs, migrants/refugees, Islamic threat, etc. Anto Nobilo, a renown Croatian attorney at law, stated: “the attacks on Serbs in Croatia are a result of the crawling fascization of society and a logical consequence of politicians’ courting of the NDH /Independent State of Croatia/ and relativization of crimes committed by Ustasha.” The projecting of alleged threats and risks has become a model of political survival. Furthermore, the HDZ in Croatia and VMRO-DPMNE in North Macedonia are the only two right-wing political parties in the region, which had been prosecuted in court and whose former presidents, who also served as prime ministers, Ivo Sanader and Nikola Gruevski respectively, were unappealably sentenced.

The party on the other extreme of the Croatian political landscape is the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), headed by Davor Bernardić. The SDP is the successor of the former Communist Alliance of Croatia. The party is coming out of a crisis and is being transformed into a modern social-democratic party, which is increasingly less burdened with the residues of the past. Croatia and other countries in the region need strong social democratic parties.

The HDZ and SDP are the two parties on the Croatian political landscape that benefit the most from the ideological conflict that devastates Croatia and impedes functioning of the state at its full capacity. The HDZ often fails to understand anti-fascism. If it did understand antifascism, the HDZ would demonstrate ownership over preservation of antifascism and antifascist tradition, and at the same time would not make excesses that can sometimes be assessed as neo-fascist and anti-Semitic.

Analysts believe that, in his/her work, the new President of Croatia will have to pay more attention to the reform of the intelligence-security system, which is systematically working on destabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina and toppling of Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) in Serbia, and is also connected with some Serbian opposition parties involved in the project, International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana writes.


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