Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Major Elements in the First in Croatia Election Campaign for European Parliament

Adelina Marini, April 8, 2013

A little less than a week remains until the first in Croatia election for members of the European Parliament which will take place on April 14th. In the competition take part 27 parties and coalitions among which there is a Pirate party as well. But the parties that have the biggest chances, according to opinion polls, are three: the coalition of the governing parties (the Social Democrats of Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, PES, the People's Party of Vesna Pusic, ALDE, and the party of pensioners), according to the latest polls will get 26.3% of the votes; the opposition coalition between the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, EPP, led by Tomislav Karamarko and the other pensioners' party - Block of the Pensioners Together - is expected to get 18.4% of the votes; and third is the Workers' Party - Croatian Labourists for whom 10 per cent of the voters are expected to vote. However, these results are under the condition than voter turnout is 65% as many people have stated they would go to vote, according to the Ipsos poll of the Nova TV news programme Dnevnik.

Who proposes what?

The platform of the ruling coalition has a special new website [in Croatian language], but it communicates hard with the audience on the Internet. On Facebook they do not have a dedicated page, but they regularly tweet. Their programme is quite general and only a few are the concrete elements in it. A focus in the programme is a kind of a contradiction. It says that some in the EU believe that austerity is the only answer to recession and that only a drastic decline of standard of living would lead to the exit of the crisis. These conservative political options will significantly weaken our state, the platform says. As of last year, Croatia is forced by law to cut public spending by 1% annually until it balances the budget. Moreover, the government led by the Socialist and defining himself as a Calvinist, Zoran Milanovic, earlier this year announced a new portion of public wage cuts, including his own, by 3%.

In general, the Socialists and Liberals (narodnyaks as the HNS is called here) point out in their platform for the European elections that in today's interconnected world a single country cannot solve global issues on its own. According to them, it is key the EU to act jointly. The candidates for MEPs promise to fight for a Europe that will enhance the member states and will solve global issues with local actions. The slogan of the coalition is "For a Strong Europe". Some of the candidates of the coalition between the SDP, the HNS and the HSU are well known faces and currently are observes in the Europarliament. But others are entirely new faces. At the top of the list is Tonino Picula from SDP who has a long political career. He is followed by Biljana Borzan who, as well, has experience and is a member of the presidency board of the SDP. The rest are much more inexperienced.

The coalition partner, HNS, which since recently is led by the first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign and European affairs of Croatia, Ms Vesna Pusic, proposes strong candidates who, though, have no political but very rich European experience. Such a candidate, for instance, is Vedrana Gujic, who comes from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs where she was an adviser to the minister. She is from the youth wing of the party.

The second largest coalition - between the Croatian Democratic Union (the so called Tudjman party after the 1st president of independent Croatia) and the pensioner block is much more "communicative". They are active on Facebook and on Twitter, where the 12 candidates of the coalition are presented in much a detail, including by 3-minute long videos in which every candidate present him- or herself and their ambitions as MEPs. The platform [in Croatian] is much more specific than that of the ruling coalition. The candidates are very strong, too. The slogan of the coalition is "Strong European Croatia". The centre-right coalition believes that the EU should not be a negative to the national states, but an environment for development of the member states in today's globalised economy.

The candidates of the coalition will strive for social market economy as "an alternative to the failed socialistic utopias and of neo-liberal policies that have led to the global crisis". They will also defend private initiative and entrepreneurship and will demand from the state to ensure solidarity and responsibility of capital. In order to ensure economic growth, it is necessary reforms to continue in the banking sector to restore the funding of production and the opening of new jobs.

HDZ and the pensioners' block have outlined five key measures that will be at the centre of their work in the Europarliament: development of the economy and all Croatian regions by absorbing EU funds and also by promoting solidarity in Europe; active European employment policy, especially among the young people, family protection; support for agriculture and fisheries as strategic sectors of the Croatian and the European economies; infrastructural interconnectedness and protection for the environment; promotion of the Croatian culture and language, preservation of the Croatian identity as a basis for development.

A special focus in the platform of the hadezayans (as they are called in Croatia) will be support for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The HDZ MEPs will conduct a European policy that "will finally recognise the issue and will put an end to the unequal situation of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina". The centre-right wingers pay special attention to cohesion policy as well, believing it is a key for the development of European regions. According to them, this is an investment policy that ensures growth and jobs. One of the candidates at the top of the list is the current observer in the European Parliament Andrej Plenkovic with whom euinside spoke recently about Croatia's voluntary participation in the European semester in 2013.

At the top of the list is Dubravka Suica who has been a member of Croatia's parliament (Sabor) for three terms. Another interesting face on the hadezayan list is Davor Ivo Stier who is a son of emmigrants and is born in Argentina. Through the years he was strongly criticised for being an "alien". But he has a solid diplomatic career - a deputy chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Sabor, he worked in the embassy of Croatia in Washington as a deputy to the head of Croatia's mission to NATO. Another interesting candidate is Zeljana Zovko who is born in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is the international secretary of the HDZ in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was the federation's ambassador in France and Spain, and also a permanent representative in UNESCO.

The third power - the Workers' Party - Croatian Labourists - is quite non-'communicative" for someone trying to find their platform or what the candidates will strive for. I was unable to find the platform, but from their activity on the party's web page on Facebook it could be judged that the main approach in their campaign is criticism against the governing parties and predominantly national topics. Hitherto, it was precisely to avoid national issues in the European elections that the ruling parties insisted on a separate date for the European elections and not as the opposition insisted on combining the local and European elections in a single day - May 19th.

From the interviews of individual candidates it becomes clear that what the Labourists will strive for in the Europarliament is the same as what they fight for in the Sabor - workers. According to the Labourists, fewer and fewer workers earn decent wages from their labour. They will strive for social justice and fair distribution of wealth, as well as against the trend a few people to get richer for the sake of the impoverishment of broader layers of society. The Labourists are also against any privatisation.

Two are the interesting candidates on their list. One is interesting because in his CV on the party's website are mentioned his ambitions in the European Parliament and the other is interesting for his personal admissions. Stipe Drmic, a medical doctor, states that he will actively work in the European Parliament for the interests of the Croatian citizens who live from their labour and will also fight to ensure accessible health care and social care for the citizens. He will also defend social democracy.

And Damir Hrsak is the first candidate who openly admits he is gay which is why he got the support of British MEP Michael Cashman. Hrsak is born in 1969 in Krapina, a town very close to Zagreb. He graduated from the metallurgic faculty at the Zagreb university where he works now.

For the first time in this election, the Croats will have the possibility to rearrange the lists according to their preferences. The Ipsos/Dnevnik poll suggests that 63.7% of respondents will use the preferential option, while only for the list have claimed to be planning to vote 21 per cent. Quite high is the number of those who never thought about it. Given the above mentioned polls, the ruling coalition is set to get 6 seats in the European Parliament (out of 12 for Croatia), the hadezayans will get 4 and the Labourists 2.

What is impressive is that on the list of the ruling coalition cannot be found the name of Ingrid Anticevic Marinovic who became famous with her statement in the European Parliament that revealed her very bad knowledge of English. Currently she is an observer from the SDP. Her statement toured the entire country and media dealt continuously with the issue by even holding interviews in English with potential candidates to make sure that the next who will represent Croatia in Strasbourg or Brussels will not harm the country. For this reason or in general, but all candidates on all lists have pointed their language skills. 

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