White Paper Prepared by the American Delegation

White Paper Prepared by the American Delegation

Postby Marko » Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:50 pm

‘WHITE PAPER” OF ISSUES PREPARED BY THE AMERICAN DELEGATION TO THE ADVISORY COUNCIL TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA FOR CROATS OUTSIDE OF THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA

ZAGREB 19 DECEMBER – 21 DECEMBER 2013


General Overview. The American delegation welcomes the decision of the Croatian government to establish an Advisory Council as it provides a means for our community to express their concerns and desires.

Our delegation recognizes that Croatia is in the process of deep economic turmoil caused by, among other things, the continued adverse effects of the restructuring of the Croatian economy from a Communist one to a market economy, the Homeland War and corruption. In that connection, we further recognize that Croatia is looking to members of its Diaspora to assist in Croatia’s economic development.

The economic contribution of members of the Diaspora to Croatia is enormous and deserves greater study by Croatian government and economic institutions. In addition to a large amount of remittances, Croatians in the Diaspora directly contribute to economic growth in Croatia by, among other things, purchasing large quantities of Croatian goods (primarily foodstuffs and wine), travelling to and encouraging others to travel to Croatia, settling in Croatia as retirees and causing their pension payments to be sent to Croatia, holding bank deposits in Croatia and generally promoting Croatia among non-Croat members of their respective communities.

Certainly, more can be done, especially in the form of direct investment, but the desire of Croatians living abroad to invest in their Homeland faces many obstacles. It is well known that many members of our community invested in Croatia with tremendous enthusiasm, especially in the early years of democratization. It is also well know that a large number of them were ultimately disappointed.

Croatia needs to re-earn the trust of the members of the Diaspora. In order to do so, we believe that the Croatian government must undertake a number of actions to reflect its concern with the interests of members of the Croatian Diaspora. This requires the government and other institutions to, among other things, end the incessant accusations which have been leveled against members of the Diaspora since the late 1990s. The Diaspora is not the cause of Croatia’s economic ills as some have portrayed but it could be part of the solution.

1. Promotion of Croatian Language and Croatian Language Schools.

a. Promoting knowledge of the Croatian language to children of Croatian immigrants is a necessity to ensure continued ties between future generations and the Homeland.

b. Proper schooling is also required to for those families who plan to return to Croatia.

c. Schooling has for the most part been left as an adjunct to activities of Croatian Roman Catholic parishes. While this is welcome, the system is not under any proper educational supervision and comes with no financial or other support from Croatia.

d. Further, the number of children receiving instruction in such schools is in drastic decline, especially in the United States.

e. There is a need for professionalization of Croatian language schools with proper oversight and training of teachers and the provision of necessary texts and other materials.

f. Professionalization can be achieved using modern technology such as Skype.

2. .The Establishment of Direct and Non-Stop Air Connections Between Overseas Countries and Croatia.

a. During the 1980s, JAT had up to 6 non-stop flights a week which went from New York to Yugoslavia. Others went from other cities in North America and Pan American Airways also had direct routes to the country. It is clear that, by far, the majority of travelers using these flights were: (i) members of the Croatian Diaspora or their families, (ii) pilgrims going the Medjugorje, and (iii) tourists going to the Adriatic Coast.

b. The move to establish a separate Croatian Airlines was in part motivated by the desire of many Croatians for the monies which formerly went to JAT in Belgrade to remain in Croatia (following the lead of Slovenia which had previously established Adria Airways). Members of Croatian immigrant communities were approached to give funds to establish Croatia Airlines and many gave willingly in part on the understanding that the company would have direct flights to Croatia.

c. Direct, non-stop flights are necessary to maintain ties between overseas Croatian communities and the Homeland. The need to engage in multiple transfers leads to substantially increased travel times and, hence, to lowered desires to visit Croatia.

d. Direct, non-stop flights will encourage tourists from North America and elsewhere to visit Croatia – most North Americans have limited vacation times which make direct connections a virtual necessity (we have heard numerous “disaster” stories of people missing connections, not being able to obtain another flight, losing luggage, etc. Such issues discourage non-Croatians from travelling to Croatia).

3. Promotion of Croatia Among Teenagers and Young Adults.

a. Croatia should review Israeli models as a guide to how to approach teenagers and young adults (Taglit-Birthright - http://www.birthrightisrael.com/Pages/Default.aspx) where Jewish teenagers and young adults are brought to Israel for free for 10 days.

b. Matica Iseljenika has a summer program which can also be used as a model but it is limited in scope.

4. Promotion of Business in Croatia.

a. There have been many failed attempts at connecting the numerous successful business, professional and educational leaders in the Diaspora with their counterparts in the Homeland.

b. These failures, compounded by numerous anecdotal stories about the horrors some Diaspora businessmen and women have gone through in their desires to invest in Croatia, have led many members of the Croatian Diaspora business community to turn their backs on looking to Croatia as a place where they would wish to risk any investment.

c. As an initial step, advisory councils or chambers of commerce need to be formed which would have as their goal: (i) promoting investment in Croatia among the Diaspora, (ii) promoting the sale of Croatian goods and services abroad, and (iii) providing advice to Croatia in connection with establishing a positive climate which welcomes businessmen and women fro the Croatian Diaspora.

d. Croatian needs to promote micro-investment in the country. Small investments can have enormous impacts on the Croatian economy and quality of life. For example, a program can be structured to allow small investments of under $20,000 in solar panels could lead to benefits for investors and energy independence for Croatia.

e. The government should also institute a program allowing for small investments in companies such as INA and HAC.

5. Promotion of Croatia Among Retirees.

a. The increase in living costs has made the prospect of retiring abroad for many Americans.

b. Croatia should explore how it can promote itself as a retirement destination among the members of the Croatian Diaspora. This would require reviewing such matters as building and operating senior living facilities, nursing homes and hospices which are geared toward the needs and desires of members of the Diaspora.

6. Promoting Croatia In General.

a. Croatia has never seriously undertaken a promotional campaign aimed at Western, English-speaking elites. Most such work has been exclusively the result of a handful of volunteers.

b. Croatia needs to engage professional lobbyists and others to better promote Croatia. This involves not only promoting Croatia as a tourist destination but is needed to burnish its image which has been gravely distorted during the Homeland War.

c. Culture remains a primary means by which a country can promote itself. During the period of the SFRY, Yugoslavia established Cultural and Information Centers (CICs) in a number of locations (e.g., New York). Each CIC generally contained a library and exhibition space and their staff engaged in promoting the works of many cultural workers from then Yugoslavia (e.g., writers, painters, film makers, sculptors) either through stand alone exhibitions at the Centers or in conjunction with local cultural institutions (e.g., a portion of the exhibit Jews of Yugoslavia, initially exhibited in Zagreb in 1986, subsequently appeared in New York City at a prominent synagogue through the efforts of the CIC).

d. Similar cultural centers have been established by many countries, including by a number of governments in Zagreb itself where they have played a significant part in the cultural activities of the Croatian capital.

e. For Croatian culture to be promoted in a serious and professional manner, Croatian Culture Centers need to be established in leading global metropolises (e.g., New York, London, Paris). Such Centers can serve, in among other capacities, as a clearing house not only for individual artists and writers but for Croatian cultural institutions as well.

7. Issues Related to Internal Affairs in Croatia That Are of Concern to the Diaspora.

a. Voting and other citizenship rights for members of the Diaspora
(i) The voting rights of members of the Diaspora have been subjected to a continued diminution since 2000. This is contrary to the trend in numerous EU states which have large numbers of non-resident citizens (e.g., Hungary, Italy). The number of Diaspora representatives in the Sabor has declined over time to only three. The number of Diaspora representatives needs to be increased to fairly reflect the number of Croatians who live outside the Homeland.
(ii) There should be one or more separate designated representatives in the Sabor for members of the Diaspora residing outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. The prior and current voting system for Diaspora representation gives very little weight to those living in non-historically Croatian populated regions.
(iii) Voting stations need to be expanded beyond consulates which are often hundreds of miles from Croatian communities in the Diaspora. A system to allow voting by mail or via the internet needs to be implemented.
(iv) Becoming a citizen of Croatia has become impossibly difficult for many as a result of the introduction of extensive testing requirements. Given its current demographic situation, Croatia should be easing citizenship requirements rather than making them more difficult.
(v) Croatia had had a Minster for Emigrants which was subsequently abolished. There should be a suitably ranked official who will be designated as being responsible for issues related to the Croatian Diaspora. This could be on a ministerial level or a new “ombudsman” position could be created with such individual having responsibility for assisting immigrants with the myriad problems they encounter, from problems related to inheritance to issues related to returning to Croatia.
(vi) Croatia should create a passport for Honorary Citizens of the Republic of Croatia. While such passports would not have legal validity, they would allow Croatia to build emotional connections with its friends throughout the world and could be tied to the provision of benefits (e.g., free public transportation, hotel and store discounts, etc.).

b. Excessive red-tape for businesses and property ownership.

c. Easing restrictions on the ability of Diaspora members to obtain mortgages and other credit in Croatia
(i) Members of the Diaspora have difficulty obtaining mortgages and other credit in Croatia. This acts as a brake on their ability to purchase a home if they wish to return or to otherwise to invest in the country.
(ii) The Croatian government needs to undertake steps to modify current regulations to ease the flow of credit to members of the Diaspora.

d. Allowing members of the Diaspora to obtain a “permanent” mobile cell numbers.
(i) Many Croatian Americans coming to Croatia during the summer months obtain cell phones. However, the cell numbers obtained require periodic “reactivation” to remain active. If one wishes to keep his or her cell number, this requires obtaining someone’s help to undertake the reactivation for him or her.
(ii) The “reactivation” requirement appears completely unnecessary and it should either be eliminated or, if a reactivation policy is required, the length of time needs to be increased to 18 months.

e. Instituting student visa program for foreign students studying in Croatia.
(i) Croatian Universities have recently begun vigorous promotional campaigns to encourage Diaspora members and others to study in Croatia.
(ii) Croatia has no student visa program. As a result, students are required to obtain temporary residence visas which are overly complicated and time consuming, often causing many students to simply not obtain the necessary visas.
(iii) A student visa program would allow the Croatian government to “police” its borders while providing students with an easier method of obtaining necessary documentation to remain in Croatia.

8. Issues Related to Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

a. The status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a recognized constituent nation must be protected at all costs. Without limitation, this needs to include an examination as to whether a “third” entity for Bosnian Croats should be established to further protect their rights.

b. Croatia needs to continue to question the status of the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

9. Issues Related to the Past.

a. There is a lack of resolution concerning various crimes which had been committed by members of Yugoslavia’s secret police forces against members of the Diaspora. The Croatian government should energetically work on uncovering the truth behind these crimes and undertake appropriate legal action with respect to same.
I am a Croat. My forefathers were warriors. Their son is a warrior...From my people I take nothing. I am the maker of my own fortune. - adapted from Tecumseh
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Re: White Paper Prepared by the American Delegation

Postby stecak » Sun Nov 24, 2013 2:55 pm

I think we should also work to network with Croat minorities from Italy (Molise), Austria (Burgenland), Hungary, Slovakia and Romania (Karasevo) who are living in the Diapsora. I'd be willing to bet there are small groups of them in places like New York, Chicago, etc and maybe it might be beneficial to all if we work with them and invite them to be a part of our communities.
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Re: White Paper Prepared by the American Delegation

Postby Snjezana » Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:51 pm

U kratkim crtama sve lijepo stavljeno na papir! Ja još uvijek radim na mojem "white paper"-u, čekam još sugestije i prijedloge nekih hr. udruga (rok je do kraja tjedna),a onda ću ga i ja postirati "white paper". Nadam se da će u međuvremenu profunkcionirati forum na CROWN-u i da će veći dio delegacija odraditi isto.
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