Smear campaigns

I woke up this morning with Croatian Radio 1 playing Fleetwood Mac's "Little lies". A little later an angry sounding man started to talk about some American of Croatian descent who's all the time trying to blacken Croatia in the foreign press. This frustrated American-Croatian unsuccessfully tried to buy some real estate and directed his anger against Croatia by writing about corruption in our beautiful homeland. Or something like that, I was half asleep.
Now I understand why the HR1 (Hrvatski radio - prvi program) speaker was so upset. The Wall Street Journal Europa featured an unfavorable article about Croatia. A few quotes:
"Croatia remains wracked by corruption, smuggling and organized crime. If it is a model for the Balkans, then the whole region is condemned to failure."
"Given Croatia's dismal performance, it's hard to see why it deserves the EU's praise. In Croatia, it has become quite dangerous for journalists, political opponents and entrepreneurs to raise the issue of political corruption."
"Instead of continuing to send cash, it might be a better idea for the EU to send judges and prosecutors who can assist in strengthening the rule of law and an independent judiciary."
"[T]he EU now risks importing the treacherous Balkan Route and its trappings of organized crime and corruption into the world's largest trading block."
What should I say about this? It's probably true. As far as I can understand (my Croatian is not fluent) something is wrong with the political culture here. You can see it in the details. Yesterday, prime minister Ivo Sanader refused to answer questions from MP's, for example, how many students actually pay a tuition fee. Instead he congratulated the opposition with its miserable elections results. In Britain Sanader's refusal the play the democratic game would be called contempt of parliament, but in Croatia all eyes are focused on the second round of the local elections (31 May).
The good news is that Natasha Srdoc, author of the WSJ article, is still around. She runs the moribund Adriatic Institute for Public Policy, which offers little more than links to some (mostly old) newspaper articles written by others. In a half-socialist country like Croatia the Adriatic Institute could promote the free market, liberty, free trade and so on. It could take a stance against the "let me study forever at your expense" students that block the faculties. It could tell ordinary Croatian consumers that they pay way too much for everyday products because of the unholy alliance between the government and (big) businesses. It could...
Let me end with a positive note. "President Mahinda Rajapaksa met Croatian President Stjepan Mesic on the sidelines of the Group of Eleven (G-11) Meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan last Saturday. The two leaders agreed to further consolidate economic cooperation between Sri Lanka and Croatia. They agreed that much potential exists for cooperation in the fields of port development and shipbuilding. They also referred to the long-standing bilateral relations existing between the two countries emanating from the friendly relations established between Sri Lanka and former Yugoslavia within the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement. They pledged their commitment to expand these historic relations into new areas of cooperation in the future." I know a "new area": a Sri Lankan restaurant in Zagreb. Spice us up!

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