Happy 2014! It’s been a month since I have blogged, partly due to the holidays and partly because December was a crazy month, both in my professional and personal life. 2013 was a great year, and if 2014 could be the exact same, I’ll be blessed. As we start a new year, I’d like to look back at some of the more significant events that happened in Croatia in 2013.
“PIPL MAST TRAST US”
Ingrid Antičević Marinović demonstrated her ‘knowledge’ of the English language as a representative of Croatia in the Euro Parliament. Involved in a debate on the foreign affairs committee of the Euro Parliament, she delivered a speech in such a heavy accent that most of the speech cannot be understood. Not only did this make national headlines, but it also made international news for those now famous words “PIPL MAST TRAS AS” (People must trust us). Although this was hardly newsworthy, many concerned citizens questioned how serious the Croatian government was by sending a representative who has poor knowledge of the English language to represent Croatia in the Euro Parliament. Let’s hope the EU provides funding for basic English knowledge.
Croatia bans sex education in schools
Earlier this year, Croatian Radio Television (HRT), Croatia’s main media entity, cancelled the program ‘Picture of Croatia’ (Slika Hrvatske) and immediately suspended journalist and host Karolina Vidović Krišto for giving counterarguments to government policies and the proposed sex ed program while including excerpts of the “Kinsey Syndrome”, a documentary showing how American Sexologist Alfred Kinsey and his reports have been used to sexualize children and awaken sexuality prematurely. Vidović-Krišto tied the documentary into the approach the government was taking into the 4th module of Croatia’s sex education program which has caused unrest amongst concerned citizens and parents. Proper legal procedure was not followed during installation of the 4th module of the sex education program, so because of this, the supreme court voted against it.
Croatia becomes a member of the EU
On July 1st, Croatia celebrated official entry as a full member of the European Union. Celebrations were held in Croatia’s capital Zagreb, but enthusiasm was dampened by the economic and political situation in Croatia and the Eurozone crisis, even though 2/3 of Croats voted for the accession (29% voter turnout). With high unemployment and the national debt officially classed as junk, some Croatians feel joining an economic bloc with its own serious troubles will do little to improve their prospects. Citizens fear that EU competition is too strong for the Croatian economy. Only time will tell if Croatia will benefit from joining the EU, but when we think about where Croatia was 20 years ago amidst the bloodshed and post war austerity, becoming a member of the EU seems like a good cause for a fireworks show.
EU piles pressure on Croatia over extradition law
Croatia’s centre-left government ignored a deadline set by the European Commission to change a controversial law which exempts crimes committed prior to 2002 from the European Arrest Warrant. The EU legislation breach was highlighted by the case of Lex Perković, who is wanted by Germany for his role in the murder of a Croatian dissident in 1983. (Perković has been captured in recent days). Viviene Reding of the European Commission warned of suspension of European Funds and suggested that Croatia’s membership in the EU’s Schengen area of border-free travel could be delayed.
Croatian Defender Simunic fined for ‘Pro-Nazi” Chant
Croatian defender, Joe Simunić, an Australian born Croat was slapped with a 10 game ban and fine after chanting “Za Dom” during a soccer match between Iceland and Croatia, a qualifying match for the World Cup in Brazil. FIFA officials have deemed “Za Dom” a pro-nazi chant, even though Simunić begged to differ and even though it was proven that this slogan has been used by Croats way before Hitler was born. Because of the 10 game ban, Simunić will not be able to play during the World Cup and this ban may very well be the end of his soccer career.
Croatia outlaws same-sex marriage
On December 1st, Croatia backed ammendments to its constitution that would strictly define the union of marriage to be that of a man and a woman. Although the countries overall attitude has shifted gradually towards gay rights, over 65% of voters voted to keep marriage along traditional lines. The referendum caused a significant divide amongst Croatia’s citizens but the referendum also brought others issues to light – a very one sided government and media.
Croatia’s economic growth was stagnant in 2013 and in 2014 the economy is unlikely to recover as real GDP growth is set to be marginal. Unemployment was at 17.6%, a slight improvement (0.1%) from 2012, and 3.0% increase from 2011.
The population growth rate is negative (-0.11%). Although official numbers have yet to be released for 2013, the number of Croatian citizens that have left Croatia is alarming for the last 4 years. Those numbers are expected to increase as Croatia’s borders are open and citizens can find work elsewhere in the EU.
There is a significant social divide amongst Croatia’s citizens which was witnessed during the events that happened throughout 2013. There is a general dissatisfaction with the government, and the Homeland War continues to haunt the country but mostly the victims. The cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar caused much unrest, and if anything, a national awakening happened in 2013. Democracy was demonstrated by having a first ever referendum and Croatian’s want to take back their country and be able to be true patriots without being called fascists.
My wish for Croatia for 2014 is for prosperity, economic growth and most importantly, democracy! Cheers!