Croatians fight for their rights

This is called Raw Video of Croatian Protest and Police Clashes.

As this blog noted before: the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt do not just influence other Arab countries.

By Markus Salzmann:

Protests continue in Croatia

22 March 2011

Since late February, continual protests involving thousands of people have been waged in many cities and towns throughout Croatia. Young people, in particular, are demanding the resignation of the right-wing government led by Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor. Workers and farmers are protesting against low wages, horrific working conditions and the precarious situation in the former Yugoslav autonomous republic.

Underlying the protests is the deteriorating social situation. Croatia was hit hard by the financial crisis, which the Kosor government met with a brutal austerity programme involving a drastic reduction in wages and benefits. The economy shrank by 1.4 percent in 2010, and the unemployment rate reached 19.6 percent. The unions say the wages of 70,000 employees are not being paid.

Demonstrations were held in several Croatian cities on Saturday, March 5. About 1,500 participants assembled in the northern Croatian town of Varazdin, according to the Hina news agency. The co-organiser of the protest, Denis Mladenovic, said, “We do not want a state in which the workers work without getting paid, in which they end up on the street after working for their firm for 20 years, and in which young people are left with no perspective.”

On March 6, more than 8,000 people gathered in the country’s capital, Zagreb, to hold the biggest demonstration so far. It was led by women workers from the Kamensko textile factory, who have been denied wages for months and are now out of work. The reason they have no job is because the company was forced into bankruptcy after its corrupt management was shown to have exploited close ties with the government.

The situation at the Kamensko factory reveals why the protests are spreading throughout the country. The company was lavishly subsidised by the government, but the money disappeared into dubious channels and it went bankrupt, while the workers went without wages for months.

On March 10, thousands of demonstrators amassed in front of banks and politicians’ homes, as well as the party and union headquarters in the Croatian capital. They chanted slogans against the government and the opposition parties.

Resentment is also directed against Croatia’s Catholic Church, whose representatives are closely associated with the political parties, and regularly spout nationalistic and chauvinist poison from the pulpit. “Priests are thieves!” shouted the crowd in front of a cathedral in Zagreb. “Down with the child molesters!”

Some demonstrators wore masks bearing the image of the former prime minister, Ivo Sanader, who is currently awaiting extradition in an Austrian detention centre. The long-time head of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), who operated with his party stalwarts to systematically plunder state institutions and companies, is seen by the population as a symbol of a thoroughly corrupt and rotten system.

Sanader was arrested on the Tauern motorway near Salzburg in December 2010 and immediately placed in detention, pending extradition. According to the arrest warrant, the Croatian judiciary accused the former prime minister of abusing his office and setting up a criminal consortium. He is said to have defrauded the Croatian state budget of €6 million via the dubious transactions of companies closely related to him. It is believed that the money ended up in the secret funds of the HDZ and elsewhere. He is also accused of involvement in the Carinthian Hypo-Alpe Adria bank affair, and suspected of participating in a money-laundering operation in Austria.

The Croatian anti-corruption prosecution office, the USKOK, is also investigating Sanader in relation to a new case. It accuses him and Croatian businessman Robert Jezic of intention to use Jezic’s petrochemical firm, Dioki, to hive off about €10 million from the JANAF state oil company. In doing so, Sanader again committed an abuse of office, according to the authorities.

It is believed that he pushed through the sale of a land site for oil storage tanks—supplied by Jezic—in Zagreb in 2008 and 2009. The site’s price of €28 million was overvalued by €10 million. The meeting between representatives of JANAF and Jezic is said to have been organised by the former economics minister, Damir Polancec, who is already in custody awaiting trial for abuse of authority. When JANAF initially refused to go along with the deal, Sanader personally argued for the purchase of the property at a meeting with the firm.

Sanader denies the charges against him, claiming they were politically motivated. He opposes extradition to Croatia on the grounds that he cannot be expected to receive a fair trial there, although the country is ruled by a fellow member of his party, Jadranka Kosor, whose career he cultivated for many years.

The wave of protests is being supported by broad sections of the population. A survey released by the Croatian state television channel HTV showed that 70 percent of Croats support the protests. Only 21 percent are against it and 9 percent are undecided. One in three of those questioned is planning to participate in future demonstrations.

See also here.

Serbian scientists campaign to save science ministry: here.

Political and social unrest has increased in the Balkan region during the past weeks and months: here.

5 thoughts on “Croatians fight for their rights

  1. Arab uprisings inspire Croatian anti-government protests

    Inspired by the Egyptian revolution, Croatians of different political groups unite against corruption, calling for new elections

    AFP, Thursday 17 Mar 2011

    Uprisings in the Arab world have also shaken Croatia, inspiring thousands of its dissatisfied citizens to protest nearly every night for the past three weeks to demand the government quits.

    “People are desperate and angry,” said Vjekoslav Skreblin, a cook who is a regular at the growing demonstrations in the streets of the capital Zagreb and other major towns, organised via Facebook.

    “Croatia needs immediate elections,” insisted Skreblin ahead of Thursday evening’s gathering, with one on Saturday expected to the biggest yet, drawing more than 10,000 people.

    Inspired by the Middle East protests that drove out Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on 11 February, the man behind Croatia’s wave of demonstrations — Ivan Pernar — called his first Facebook demonstration on 22 February.

    Only 300 people showed up, but since then the numbers have kept growing.

    “Our politics serve only as a smokescreen for criminal acts,” said Skreblin, a 55-year-old cook who regularly shows up at the protests with his wife Zvjezdana.

    “What we can see is only the top of a pyramid that is deeply plunged into crime,” he charged.

    “The Street Has Decided: Elections Now,” read a banner he wielded at a march in downtown Zagreb last week.

    An election would create a “new political scene, bring new people with healthy thinking,” he told AFP.

    Students, pensioners, veterans from the 1991-1995 war, unemployed workers and intellectuals, leftist liberals and rightwingers, Europhobes and Europhiles — all join ranks during the several-hour-long marches through Zagreb.

    What they have in common is one demand: for the government of Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor to resign and call early elections.

    Blowing whistles, the demonstrators chant: “Everyone come out on the streets!” “Jadranka go away!” and “Thieves!”

    They hold banners saying: “I Love Croatia, No to EU”. Other placards call for the nationalisation of banks or proclaim more moderately “Not left, nor right but straight forward”.

    Elections are due this year or in early 2012. Kosor has pledged to hold them by the end of this year but says calling polls now would jeopardise Croatia’s bid to join the European Union, with talks in their final stages.

    Recent surveys show that 70 per cent of Croatians back the anti-government protests, while the support for government has dropped to a record low of 13.7 per cent.

    But while the demonstrations “stem from deep general social discontent, [they] have no common ideology,” sociologist Drazen Lalic told AFP.

    Croatia won independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991-1995 war that, with fraudulent privatisation in the 1990s, deeply hurt its economy.

    It was later hit hard by the global downturn, with unemployment now at an eight-year high of around 20 per cent.

    Revelations of corruption reaching the top levels in politics, including Kosor’s predecessor Ivo Sanader, fuel public discontent.

    Kosor took over in 2009 when Sanader, detained in Austria on suspicion of corruption, stepped down. She boosted the anti-graft fight but her ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is still seen as a den of corruption.

    The protests are a “kind of spiritual awakening”, said another regular, Darija Kosuta, holding a banner listing the government’s alleged broken promises.

    “All moral and other values have been destroyed. This is the only thing that we can offer to our youngsters,” the 50-year-old unemployed professor said.

    Added Lela Knezevic, a national television journalist who joined the marches: “The fact that radical rightists and students of the faculty of philosophy march side by side reflects the hideousness of this government.”

    “We aspired to democracy but we got wild capitalism,” Knezevic told AFP.


  2. 10,000 Serbian public sector workers protest in the capital

    More than 10,000 teachers, doctors, and other public sector workers protested March 25 in Belgrade, demanding pay rises and improved working conditions.

    Initially called by three out of four education unions, whose members have been on strike since late January, other unions joined the protest to demand urgent talks with the government on increasing wages.

    The average net wage paid in February in Serbia was 35,538 dinars (around €350).

    Serbia has been dramatically reducing public costs and freezing public salaries. The government has agreed with the International Monetary Fund to a budget deficit of 4.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, down from 4.8 percent last year.

    The protestors marched along main streets in the capital Belgrade to the government building, to hand in their written demands to the office of Serbian President Boris Tadic. Among the demands were requests for all delayed wages to be paid by March 28, a revision of April salaries and another one by the end of 2011, as well as a change of the existing law on education by the start of the next school year in September.


  3. Ex-PM accused of taking £9m bribe

    CROATIA: Former prime minister Ivo Sanader has been charged with taking a €10 million (£8.7m) bribe in 2008 in return for granting Hungarian energy company Mol a dominant position in the Croatian market.

    Prosecutors said yesterday that Mr Sanader received the commission a year before agreeing a deal with Mol in 2009 which saw the firm get a 47.46 per cent stake in Croatia’s oil and gas company INA.

    Mr Sanader and Mol deny any wrongdoing.


  4. Pingback: Social unrest in Greece, other countries, in 2014? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Harsh European Union austerity in Croatia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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