CROATIAN GOVERNMENT ADVISORY COUNCIL FOR CROATS ABROAD – REPORT ON ITS FIRST MEETING
1. I returned recently from Europe where I participated in the First Meeting of the Advisory Council to the Government of the Republic of Croatia for Croats Living Abroad, which was held in Zagreb
2. The Council was established by law in 2012 and it is formed by representatives of Croatians from around the globe.
3. We are 55 members proposed by Croatian communities in the different countries and nominated by the Government.
4. In the case of Argentina we are two members, that were elected in November 2012 by all the Croatian Associations and Groups in Argentina (more than 45)
5. There were 17 candidates and the most voted were magister Joza Vrljicak, editor-in-chief of the journal Studia Croatica and Mrs. Vjera Bulat Petrosic, president of the charity Caritas Croata Cardenal Stepinac.
6. They are Vice-president and President respectively of the Union of Croatian Associations in Argentina – Međudruštveni Odbor Hrvatskih Udruga i Ustanova u Argentini.
7. The other members of the Council for Latin America are Marco Buzolic B. (from Antofagasta) and Franco Ferrera Cvitanovic (from Santiago, who could not come to the Zagreb meeting) for Chile, Dubravka Sidonija Suto (from Sao Paulo) for Brazil, and Robert Jakubek (from Santa Cruz de la Sierra) for Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.
8. Besides the 55 designated members representing the Croatians from all over the world, participated at the Meeting members by their positions (ex officio) representing the Academy, the Croatian Pastoral for Croatians Abroad, several ministeries, the National and University Library and several institutions that have to do with Croatian living abroad such as the Croatian Heritage Foundation (HMI) and the Institute for Migration and Ethnicity. And of course preset at the Meeting were officials of the State Office for Croatians Abroad.
9. The Meeting took place in Zagreb on the 18 to 20th December 2013.
10. Wednesday the 18th started our activity with a visit to the Prime Minister of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic at his residence, in the Old Town (Gornji Grad).
11. Afterward we went to the Parliament of Croatia building –the Sabor, where we were received by his President, Josip Leko. There, a dinner was served.
12. On Thursday the activity started with the registration of the participants and then followed the Meeting itself.
13. Firstly addressed the Meeting the Director of the State Office for Croatian abroad, mr.sc. Daria Krsticevic.
14. In the second place spoke Mrs. Vjera Bulat Petrosic, who was presiding the session until the election of the President of the Advisory Council. Mrs. Bulat presided as the eldest member of the Council.
15. The next item on the agenda was the election of the President and the four Vice-presidents. The Law considers four groupings of Croatians outside the Republic of Croatia, namely: Croatians in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatian Minorities in countries near Croatia (some of these minorities have more than 500 years in these countries), the third grouping are the Croatians who live in Europe (recent migrations) and, finally, the Transoceanic Croatians), including those living in North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
16. For the position of President, two candidates where presented, one for Bosnia-Herzegovina (dr. Nevenko Herceg, professor and directive of the University of Mostar) and the well known musician and composer Nenad Bach, who lives in New York.
17. For the positions of Vice-presidents there were several candidates for the four grouping.
18. For the Transocean Croatian, the two most voted candidates in the first round were John Peter Kraljic (from New York) and Jose Maria –Joza- Vrljicak, from Buenos Aires.
19. Finally, after all the candidates addressed the Meeting to present themselves and to expose their ideas and proposals, the final voting took place, resulting in the following persons being elected:
a. Nevenko Herceg (from Bosnia-Herzegovina), President of the Advisory Council.
b. Ilija Nakic, Vice-President for the Bosnia-Herzegovina Croatians
c. Tomislav Zigmanov (from Subotica, Vojvodina) for the Croatian Minorities
d. Luka Krilic (from Rome, Italy) for the Croatians of Europe
e. John Peter Kraljic (from New York) for the Transocean Croatians.
20. It become clear to everybody that the Croatians of Latin America and the ones in Australia and New Zealand were under-represented at the Vice-Presidential level and the idea was put forward that these two regions should have a Vice-President each.
21. As this is not possible under the law as it is right now, a consensus was reached that there is going to be two informal Vice-Presidents, and a request should be put forward to the Sabor in order that the law be amended to have the two Vice-Presidents, one for Latin America and the other for AusNZ.
22. In Thursday evening we had a soiree with the presence of the president of the Republic, Ivo Josipovic. Firstly we assisted to a concert by the Tamburitzas Orchestra of the HRT – Radio Television of Croatia. After that, a gala dinner was served.
23. On Friday the 20th, the plenary Meeting took place. It started with the introductory words by the President Nevenko Herceg. Afterwards we heard the report by the Director of the State Office for Croatians Living Abroad, reporting on the activities of the Office since its creation to date.
24. A project of declaration was approved while the Presidency (that if the President and the four Vice-Presidents) was entrusted with the task of writing the final version of the Declaration.
25. Also, the Presidency has to designate and conform the 4 to 5 working committees which will work during the next months until the next Meeting, and which will use the new technologies for their work and communications.
26. As the final point of the programme, the elected members of the Presidency addressed the Meeting, as well as a number of members of the Advisory Council. For Latin America talked Joza Vrljicak and Robert Jakubek.
27. Joza Vrljicak mentioned, among other concepts, that the Croatians of Latin America are and feel far away, and that because three reasons:
a. The physical distance. It is true that Australia and New Zealand are even farther, but the remoteness of South America is not small.
b. The language. Most Croatians in Latin America don´t speak Croatian, neither do they speak English, thus they feel even farther.
c. The economic situation. Many countries in Latin America do not enjoy good economic standings. Thus to travel to Croatia requires a much greater effort.
28. It is true that there is little we can do about this reality, but we want that the Croatians of the world know and understand these facts and situation.
29. In the presidential election won the idea that due to the endangered situation faced by the Croatian nation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it would be better that the President be from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
30. Croatian all over the world understand the situation of Bosnia-Herzegovina Croatians, yet some were of the opinion that it would help more if the President was from some other region, for example the United States.
31. Anyhow, the elected President, Nevenko Herceg, in his address before the Council, stated several times that he will devote his efforts to all the Croatian in the world, not only the ones from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
32. He also expressed his position that two additional Vice-Presidencies should be created, one for the Croatians in Latin America and the other for the Croatians in AusNZ.
33. This need for a better representation for these two regions was expressed also by several members of the Council in their closing addresses.
34. In many of the public addresses as well as in informal conversations held these days the following points were expressed:
a. The satisfaction and congratulations for the excellent work done by the State Office for Croatians Abroad, lead by her Director, Daria Krsticevic.
b. We all have the felling that we were living an historic moment, since that was the first time that a body of that type met, representing Croatians from all over the world, invited by the Government of Croatia.
c. That the most important achievement was the fact that we have met and known personally and that we are now in contact, and that we will continue working in favour of the Croatians around the world.
Joza Vrljicak, M.A.
Croatian Government Advisory Council for Croatians Abroad, Member