Scorching heat

After vacation in cooler parts of Europe, Croatia welcomed me with a heatwave. Last week temperatures rose as high as 39 in some parts of the country. This week will be hot too, with 36 degrees expected on Thursday.
When back in Zagreb, first thing I did was getting an electric fan in nearby Getro (my apartment is not air conditioned). It was made in Croatia and packed in a simple, white carton box with no pictures on it. I am always skeptical of Croatian products that you can't eat or drink, but "I believe they know how to make a simple thing like a fan," I can still hear myself saying.
Well, they don't.
The motor and the housing were shaking so much it would make a hammer drill manufacturer jealous. It make noise like a Tupolev taking off.
You can blame me for buying a fan in a supermarket store like Getro, but you should know Croatia hardly has any electronic shops to speak of. The nearest Media Markt is in Budapest or Graz. No Saturn, no Expert, no IKEA either.
I returned the fan and took the air conditioned bus to City Center One, shopping mall of modest size with one shop that offers consumer electronics, Konikom. It sells only one model fan but to my satisfaction it was made in China. "Could you switch it on?" I asked the lady at the counter. "Just to hear if it makes any noise." She kindly set the fan into motion. It was silent so I bought it. "What a difference!" I told the surprised lady.
Sitting a flow of air, I checked what happened in Croatia during my absence. Not much. We still don't know why Sanader quit, only that he's having a great time cruising the Adriatic on somebody's yacht. Vesna Pusić, one of Croatia's few liberal politicians, decided to run for president of Croatia in 2010. If she wins, Croatia will have a female president and a female prime minister. Prime minister Jadranka Kosor announced mayor cuts in spending and extra taxes, but after protests from labor unions she watered everything down. VAT (already 22 percent!) will go up to 23 percent. A crisis tax of 3 percent will be introduced, to be paid by everybody who earns more or has a bigger pension than 3.000 kuna (around 400 euro). Initially the tax would be as high as 8 percent, but unions protested vehemently. Unions here live in a dreamworld, blaming the crisis on "liberalism without concept" in which Croatia has slid away. It reminds me of Texans buying extra guns on the eve of Obama's election, fearing that "he will turn this country into a socialist state." "He's a communist," a man said into the camera, gently stroking his new rifle. Get real! Economic liberalism would be a blessing for the heavily indebted, bureaucratic, inefficient, subsidized Croatian economy.
Other news: Dinamo Zagreb beat Punyik from Armenia and plays Red Bull Salzburg next. A Croatian sports website wrote that if Salzburg's trainer, Dutchman Huub Stevens, had lived in the 1940s Hitler would have made him Field Marshall. (Stevens has also coached Schalke, Hitler's favorite club). Fortunately, incumbent president Stipe Mesić said that his successor "must be an anti-fascist". You see, World War II is always around the corner here.

Croatian Crescent's summer vacation

This is my 100th post on this blog. Time for a beer and a break. I'm going on vacation for two weeks.
I have never had more visitors than the last two days, but almost none of them showed interest for the advertisements on this weblog. I can't even fill up my rent-a-car tank with the money that Google Adsense owes me.
The Croatian Tourist Organization wants us spend our holidays in Croatia. With this spot they are trying to seduce us to get sunburned on the Adriatic coast instead of the Canary Islands, Ibiza or Turkey.
It says: Kad srce kaže ljeto, kaže Hrvatska. Tako lijepo, tako naša (When the heart says summer, it says Croatia. So beautiful, so ours.) There is also a Serbian version: Kad srce kaže leto, kaže Jadran. Jadran means Adriatic, a more neutral term than "Croatia" to appease the Serbs?
Croatia is not mine, but it is for sure beautiful and a great destination to spend your summer vacation. Vidimo se.

Sanader's reasons for stepping down

One and a half day after Croatian prime minister Sanader resigned we know as little about his reason as at the very beginning. Croatian society is taken hostage by Sanader's refusal to say why he stepped down. He said it was for "personal reasons", but immediately added that "thank God" he is not ill. So what is he? Tired? I guess so. But name me one prime minister or president who is not tired. Maybe he was politically worn out. Although he claimed to have achieved everything he wanted to achieve, the truth is that he leaves Croatia behind in a state of despair and in need of repair.
It was great that George Bush came to Zagreb and spoke warm words about the wonderful relationship between Croatia and the United States. It was heartwarming to see Sanader being greeted by his European colleagues in Brussels. It gave the impression that he was one of them, a member of the club. But in the end he isn't. Despite all the hot air about the leading role of Croatia in the region, tiny Slovenia has blocked Croatia's path to EU membership, for six months now. And the end is not in sight. Big dreams - and all dashed by a country the size of Latvia.
If Sanader had remained premier, Croatia would have held scheduled parliamentary elections (2011) as a non-member of the EU. Maybe Sanader could not stand this shame. Despite years of bragging and boasting about Croatia's progress and how important the EU is to Croatia (he wanted me to believe that Croatia is also very important for the EU), Croatia is nowhere. The budget deficit is gigantic, the economy half socialist, hidden unemployment enormous, corruption seems ineradicable.
A surprised journalist asked yesterday why he is leaving, after she (and none of us) understood what "personal reasons" he had. "I explained why," he answered arrogantly, "and I am not going to argue with you." That was it. He thanked the press for their cooperation (irony, if you ask me) and left.
In which country is this possible? Even Fidel Castro admitted he was too ill to lead Cuba. And Kim Jung Il pretends he is still in power, although he is virtually dead.
Meanwhile, everybody says everybody is speculating. But I am honestly surprised that so few realistic reasons were suggested. Croats love conspiracy theories, but Sanader's decision took everybody by surprise. No one has a clue.

Jadranka Kosor, Croatia's new face

This is the new face of Croatia. Or old face, because Jadranka Kosor was always by Sanader's side. This is the bio of his most faithful supporter, from the website of the Croatian government.

* Date of birth: 1st July 1953 in Pakrac

* Graduated at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb
* Elementary School and High School completed in Lipik

Professional career
* 1991-1995 As a journalist of Croatian Radio she prepared radio shows for refugees of the Homeland War and she covered this sector for the Informative Program of Croatian Radio
* 1972 Journalist – correspondent for Večernji list, Radio Zagreb

Political career
* 2003 appointed Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Family, Veterans' Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity
* 2002 Elected Deputy President of the HDZ at the 7th General HDZ Convention
* 1995-2002 Elected Vice-President of the HDZ
* 1998-2002 President of the HDZ Women Association «Katarina Zrinski»
* 1995-2000 Member of Parliament and Vice-President of the House of Representatives
* 2000 Elected representative in the 5th election unit

* Award “Zlatno pero” of the Croatian Journalist Association
* Award of the European Community for Humanitarian Work
* Award “Europski krug” of the Croatian European House
* Life Achievement Award “Ivan Šibl” Croatian National TV
* Honorary Membership in the Association of Parents of Deceased War Veterans
* Honorary Vice President of the Deaf and Blind Association “Dodir”
* Published four books (two with the topic related to Homeland War and two poetry books)

Foreign languages
* English - fluent
* German - passive

* Music, dancing, reading

So much for the official CV. There is more (how she acquired her apartment, why she quarrels with many war veterens), to which I'll get later.

Sanader's resignation

An overview of the reactions and consequences after Croatian prime minister Sanader announced his resignation today. Sanader also stepped down as president of the ruling HDZ party. He won a second term in office less than two years ago.
Main opposition leader Zoran Milanović (SDP) said that Croatia needs new elections. Ljubo Jurčić, a foremost economist and half-hearted SPD member, thinks that Sanader's resignation will lead to "tectonic changes" in the HDZ party as Sanader was "more than half of HDZ". Jurčić was mentioned as SPD candidate for prime minister prior to the 2008 general elections, but in the end Milanović thought he himself was the better candidate for the post. A post he eventually didn't get because Sanader managed to form a cabinet for the second time.
Zagreb Stock Exchange CROBEX plunged 4,5 percent after the press conference. Currently CROBEX is down 6,1 percent. Also down is Croatian GDP. The Croatian economy shrank with 6,7 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
Current Minister of Family, Veterans and Intergenerational Solidarity Jadranka Kosor will succeed Sanadar if the Sabor (Croatian parliament) agrees. Already on Friday this week the Sabor will give or not give its vote of confidence and vote for Kosor as Croatia's first female president. According to the constitution a new government should be formed within 30 days. Friday's parliamentary session is likely to be no more than a formality since Sanader has already collected 83 supporters for the new government - a majority. HDZ also needs to find a new Minister of Eduction, as current minister Dragan Primorac decided to resign.

Prime minister Ivo Sanader steps down

Update: Asked for the reason of his resignation, Sanader stated that "I can't say that my resignation is not related to those problems", referring to the Slovenian blockade of Croatia's negotiations with the European Union.

I turned on the TV to watch the tennis match between Roger Federer and Ivo Karlović on HRT2. Match of the year, the commentator told us yesterday. Instead, the news of the day - and the year maybe - is that Ivo Sanader, Croatia's prime minister, announced half an hour ago to step down. Immediately, as of today, for "personal reasons" which we don't know except that is is "not a disease".
It was widely thought that Sanader would have a great change of succeeding incumbent Croatian president Stipe Mesić. Sanader himself revealed last year that he had the ambition to become president of Croatia, but today he said he won't be a candidate. Not for president, nor any other political function, not in Zagreb nor in Brussels. According to Sanader he resigns because he achieved what he wanted to achieve. "I am leaving satisfied, because the strategic aims are realized. Croatia has become a member of NATO, the UN Security Council and is on the threshold of the EU." We can forgive him his misplaced optimism about his political legacy on his last day, but the truth is that the threshold has turned into an almost impassable mountain range.
Sanader's successor is most probably going to be Jadranka Kosor. If chosen, she will be the first female Croatian prime minister.
Later more...