On Sunday, Croats went to the polls in a snap election, returning the ruling nationalist party HDZ as the biggest party, but changing nothing. Just 53% of all Croats voted. With xenophobia and regional tensions on the rise, the EU has to get tough with the new Croatian government – all cultural nods and winks […]
Amid the alleys and ancient churches of Šibenik, Croatia, the late-summer tourists look quizzical as a tough old man harangues a meeting in the public square. “In 1945, people worked for free to build factories, roads, new houses. We wanted to build a better country then,” he says. “Find me five people prepared to do that now.” The speaker is the city’s “last partisan” – a veteran of the anti-Nazi resistance movement. But such idealistic sentiments are not popular in the Croatia of today.
In January, the country’s conservative coalition government appointed as culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, a man described by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre as a “fascist”. He had lionised the country’s pro-Nazi Ustase movement as a student in the 90s and labelled Croatia’s anti-fascist history and culture “an empty phrase” with no constitutional relevance. (Hasanbegovic has since emphasised that his current party is anti-fascist.)
On Sunday, Croats went to the polls in a snap election, returning the ruling nationalist party HDZ as the biggest party, but changing nothing. Just 53% of all Croats voted: the likely outcome is a coalition of the same old “centrist” parties – nationalists and social democrats. On the face of it, the country faces the same old problems. Unemployment at 16%, rising to 40% among the young; debt at 90% of GDP; the coast dependent on tourism, the interior sending migrant workers to Germany and Austria by the coachload.