Aque & Terre 1/2002
Miroslav Tudjman's new Croatia
by Simone Marzaroli and Ezio Benedetti
With elections drawing near, Croatia is getting ready to face a new and difficult political season, especially given that there is an ongoing domestic crisis due to problems connected with the national identity This issue created many difficulties in the past, and the late President Tudjman managed to solve them in his own personal style during his years as president. Now the domestic scene has changed and the political players who won the previous elections must compete with the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) which, however, seems to have found a new lease of life following the recent developments concerning the International Criminal Tribunal.
The new political Party, presented in this interview, is the brainchild of the late president's son, Professor Miroslav Tudjman. As a former head of the secret services in Croatia he enjoyed excellent relations with Western countries, and set up a profitable exchange of intelligence with the United States.
- Professor Tudjman could you illustrate the reasons that led you to create a new political Party on the already very varied Croatian political scene?
`The movement to develop the Croatian identity and prosperity (HIP) first came to public attention in December 2000, and then began its activities in the early 2001. The main reason we created a movement of this kind was to halt the progressive destruction of national values underlying the modern Croatian State and guaranteed by the Constitution. In our opinion the defence of the Croat national identity goes hand in hand with the creation of a modern Croat State. We stood as a movement for the first time in the administrative elections in May 2001. A few months after creating the movement, we won ten per cent of the votes in the municipal elections for Zagreb, when we stood as an independent civic list (given that Croatian electoral law only allows political movements in the form of Parties to stand at elections). We must point out, however, that only three other Parties (the SDP, HDZ and HSLS) together with ourselves managed to win seats in the city council.
In July 2001 there was a very heated political debate in the Croat Parliament (Sabor) about handing over the Generals Gotovina and Ademij to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia. On that occasion our movement forcefully pointed out for the first time that there is no kind of consensus concerning the protection of national Croat interests among the political Parties. And this is despite the fact that the coalition government, the Prime Minister Racan and the opposition held very similar views on the subject. This suggests that neither the government, nor the Prime Minister, had the courage and political strength to explain these views to the Tribunal or the Procurator Carla Del Ponte.
This is why we felt the need to set up a process to transform the movement into a Party in order to create a new political force able to speak about the future of Croatia in a new and different way. This brings us up to October 2001, when we registered the Party, with the same emblem, but changing the wording into `True Croat Rebirth' (Hrvatski Istinski Preporod). The official registration of the Party, however, only took effect recently, on January 10 this year'.
- What are the main guidelines of your Party and especially as regards the HDZ, of which your father was a founder?
`When this government came to power eighteen months ago, it had to face a serious economic crisis to which it actually managed to add a crisis of national values by calling into question the ideals underlying the modern Croat State. These ideals were deeply felt by the people and expressed politically by President Dr Franjo Tudjman and the Party he created, i. e. the HDZ. The basic problem for my Party was the new hegemony of the former Communist Party, which rose to power as a member of a much larger coalition with the intention of taking on the lead role. This involved a de facto structural dependence on the old Communist Party, and especially its ways of working and political debating within the coalition. In fact we witnessed a return not so much to ideological values, as to decisionmaking processes and operational modes typical of the old communist Yugoslavia. But here are the policy guidelines of our Party: protection of the national interests; development of a modern Croatia characterised by a healthy fair society, a strong economy and much higher living standards than at present. Our priorities include: developing the motorway network and other main communications (trains and airports); developing telecommunications and introducing information technology into the public administration; research and development; the creation of a new industrial structure with much closer integration between research, industry, banks and SMES; university reform, bearing in mind that technology is synonymous with development and knowledge coincides with development; and lastly, social policies designed for the weaker sections of the society and aid for economically underdeveloped areas.
We must point out, however, that the traditional political elites are ageing. Over the last ten years very few new politicians have emerged. And if we look at the SDP (the majority Party), on average its members are even older. We, on the other hand, are a young Party which appeals not only to the young but all people who have not been involved in politics in the last ten years, but have contributed to creating an independent Croatia either as jurists, professionals, or leading players in Croat culture and sport in the world. That average age of our card-holding members is very young (24). And it is especially the young who must see the factor of novelty and change. They are our main target. If I may be allowed a metaphor, I would say that the HDZ doesn't have problems so much with the body as with the head. It failed to successfully translate into practice the objectives of development that we have proposed and also suffers from internal strife. What I should stress is that people see us as individuals who have not only contributed to the creation of the new Croatia. They also view us as those who have not lived or live for politics and power: In short, we are mainly people with experience and professional backgrounds enabling us to discuss medium- and long-term programmes on the basis of our expertise. Moreover we don't aim to appeal principally to the traditional HDZ electorate, at present around thirty per cent and never more than forty per cent of votes, but to a much wider and representative electorate of the Croat people which on two occasions voted for the late President Franjo Tudjman with percentages ranging from seventy to eighty per cent. These votes were won on the basis of a national programme, and this is exactly what we are trying to create. In this sense we can safely claim there is a political continuity between my Party and the policy of President Tudjman rather than that of the HDZ. Ultimately, we aim to reconcile the forty per cent of the Croatian population which abstains with politics. We are thus an atypical Party. We shun rhetoric. We don't like making promises to the masses, but prefer to speak to the people in a simple direct way insisting on the importance of programmes, thus completely eschewing demagogy.
Despite our unique nature, however, the political situation in Croatia forces us to seek coalitions with other Parties; and not only with the extreme right, given that we are not a Party of the extreme right Coalitions are made on the basis of programmes and not with the sole goal of overturning the current government nothing is built by simply destroying.
We must not forget, however, that the present government has undermined fundamental democratic rights by pursuing two proposals to change the Constitution, totally ignoring the opposition in the process'.
- In your opinion, what is the worst thing and the best thing done by the present government?
'As you know, Croatia is undergoing a deep economic crisis. This government has managed to increase foreign debt, unemployment and the public deficit, thus incurring the wrath of the International Monetary Fund. Foreign and other investments are at a standstill. My opinion on the government's economic policy can only be completely negative, since it has no integrated strategy for the country.
The government simply indulges in demagogic talk. We might say it's good at marketing, but is going nowhere! Moreover, one of the worst things is that the national crisis has been aggravated in the country and the government has successfully spread the idea that the Croatian State grew out of crime. They have undermined the State and accused its founders (including the army). They have managed to sow discord between the various social players (church; army; workers and trade unions) and solidarity has disappeared at a time when development based on solidarity is the only way forward. The nation must be mobilised to share a number of common objectives. But the links with Croats living abroad (more than 5.2 million) have been broken, thus losing the assistance and aid the Latter could have given, and consequently destroying the premises for a brighter future.
In political terms the best thing they have done is to achieve full status in the International community, changing the image of the country abroad and taking us into the WTO and CEFTA, as well as signing association agreements with the European Union, the Partnership For Peace and the Stability Pact'.
- What is your position on the separatist claims of some regional Parties?
'I believe it's right and normal that there should be regional Parties created to solve problems at local and regional level. The difficulty arises when these Parties begin to move and take sides at international level. For all countries in transition and Croatia is certainly one of them - this is dangerous. There is a risk of being perceived by the International community at two different levels. Regional co-operation is definitely important but the objectives and players must change. In short co-operation must be developed by the individual municipalities and not by the regions'.
- What is your position on Croatia and the International Criminal Court and the European Union?
'First of all, it must be said that no one in Croatia is against punishing the real culprits of war crimes. But as a Party, we are against the strategic political manipulation of events. Croatia had a toll of I5, 000 deaths of which two-thirds were civilians, and it has never been recognised as a State that was attacked Moreover, General Gotovina is not accused of having ordered or cowering up war crimes. He is simply accused of not being able to foresee events, and for me this is a juridical disgrace! We are not against the Court at the Hague as an institution, but rather against the political use made of it.
As far as the Milosevic trial is concerned, Croatia is interested in stressing that his crimes were committed while under attack from a third State. The Hague does not see this political position. It fails to seek the political responsibilities and only considers personal responsibilities. The Court is in a position of having to confirm the existing prejudices about Croatia. Before judgement is passed on events and their leading players, they must be analysed from a historical and political point of view.
As regards the European Union, I do not have a clear idea of its future, that is there is no clear concept-of the eastern enlargement of the Union, and various solutions are being explored (for example, that of giving two votes to founder States). Moreover, the European Union sets over-rigid political conditions that even its own members are not able to meet today. And I obviously don't mean economic criteria. As regards the association treaty with the European Union, I believe it should be signed but not according to the schedule and modalities pursued by the current government. In this sense, confusion reigns sovereign!'.
- What is your view of the new ongoing dialogue between Yugoslavia and Croatia?
In January 1998, following the Erdut Agreements, Croatia was given back control over its territory and so for us the situation was politically and historically settled. There are still social, economic and psychological problems (and there is said to be still 1,400 people missing. Dialogue should serve the purpose of solving these problems, but you don't end a war by minimising or forgetting the problems. Our motto is forgive but don't forget!'.
- What contacts does your Party have at international level?
As 1 said earlier, our movement was only officially registered as a political Party a few weeks ago, therefore we have no official contacts with other Parties and movements. We only have personal contacts and testimonies from various countries, However, I am the chief editor of a threemonthly review dealing with national security and intelligence which collaborates with foreign experts and professionals and regularly publishes articles by leading political figures, also from Italy'.
* Simone Marzaroli and Ezio Benedetti are consultants of South-East European Countries of the company lntman s.r.l., Gorizia