IPA 2009

Excerpts from the contents of the bulletin “Multi-ethnicity and development” (Bulletin no. 2)

Goran Beus Richembergh, parliamentarian of The Croatian National Party in Croatian National Parliament

(……) Minority-rights on no account should be seen as exclusive, or like some kind of privilege. They are in fact a fuse in building of civil society, and I hope that very soon a time will come when, formally seen, the fuses such as quotas of representatives elected in the National Parliament, the national-minority representatives in local and regional self-government won’t even be needed, because some things will happen automatically, that is, according to a collective sense of responsibility, what should be done and how in order not to endanger the elements of that collective identity. However, while the situation is as it is, and it is among other things fraught with the experience of disrupted human and minority-rights in 1990s, of interethnic conflicts which followed the wars in Croatia as well as in our neighbourhood, we must be considerate and sensitive about that body of questions. And such can be only the responsible political elites which want to build a new atmosphere of coexistence, but not only of coexistence, because the coexistence implicitly includes that two sides put up with each other, but we need a creation of such social, cultural and political environment in which all can be affirmed. Naturally, it is always a minority who invests more energy to prove and show its equality. But when more energy is being invested the results are also better. However, that should not be seen as some kind of social process which should stand in the way of building of a modern society and its institutions, but exactly the opposite, namely as a process which will enrich a society and make it more functional, richer, more diverse and – more democratic.

(......) When it comes to a question whether national minorities are social capital which Croatia does not value enough we must answer affirmatively, but not because Croatia has something special against national minorities, but because Croatian political elites do not at all understand the social capital in nongovernmental sector, nor in its sub-segment such as minority politics. The social capital which lies in civil sector has incredibly developed during the last 20 years. Now it has reached the level on which it can provide the service for the whole range of public needs, and the state in fact does not turn to it. The government and state-institutions do not yet understand the potential of civil society, do not understand that social capital which lies in good will, enthusiasm, knowledge of national-minority, professional and different other interests, and they do not use that enough. It is not the most important just to distribute the money, but to involve those structures, as well as national-minority ones, in solving certain problems. The practice was showing that on one kuna of state-money the social capital of nongovernmental sector can produce five times greater value, and that, on the other hand, those things for which the state must spend a hundred kunas nongovernmental sector is able to produce five times cheaper.

Ankica Mikić, Centre for Peace , Legal Advice and Psychosocial Assistance

The consideration of the return of the persons forced into exile as (possible) factor of economic and social development of local returnee environments, but also of the state in a larger sense, imposes at least two-sided approach to the consideration of that question. Namely, on one side we could ask the question of necessity of the previous creation of appropriate economic and social (but also the others) perspectives as presuppositions for reaching a free decision of the return and its “sustainability”. On the other hand we could ask ourselves whether and in what measure and way the return can influence the future economic and social development of local environments and wider society? Furthermore, it is also opened the question of possibility and way of measuring and evaluating of the return as a factor of economic and social development and, in that sense, the question are there any differences and what are the differences between, for example, “majority” and “minority”, “urban” and “rural”, “self-initiative” and “organized”, “individual” and “group” etc. return?

It seems that on the subject of return (as a factor of economic and social development) is possible to ask a limitless number of mutually connected and interwoven questions, but also that it is not always possible to answer those questions adequately. Namely, even a little bit concreter answers and consideration of the real influence on different spheres of social life demand carrying out of a comprehensive, multi-disciplined research free of every possible nonobjectivity and prejudices that also presents an extremely complex task which still stands in front of us.

(......) Social marginalization of returnees blocks the development

The obstacles to the “minority” return certainly had or could have had a long-standing negative effect on its “sustainability” as well as on its (possible) contribution and influence on different aspects of economic and social development of local returnee environments. In consideration of “sustainability” of the minority return it is interesting to consider the results of already mentioned research of UNHCR from 2011, which points out that in Croatia live every third registered minority returnee of which 83% live in the place of registered return.

However, we must not in no way neglect the fact that the “sustainable” return was or could have been a great challenge for the members of majority also, for Croatian people, especially for those in the returnee areas in which have not been established the more significant perspectives of economic development and employment.

A great underdevelopment and a high level of unemployment in most of mostly rural areas of the return among “minority” as well as among a part of “majority” returnee population, which in some environments, that is, places of return significantly surpasses the state and local average, among others are certainly also conditioned by the age and educational characteristics of the returnees. (……)

Majority people also suffers because of the inefficient return

 (……) Despite the previously described, general and very compressed, challenges of the return, it is impossible to question the fact that the same played a role in the more or less significant economical and social revitalization of the returnee areas which, had there not been the return, would not (or not in that measure) have happen.

For example, in about 15 last years in those areas have been renewed or built more that 146.500 family houses of which 35% are for “minority” returnees (the UNHCR research). Many communities are completely or mostly renewed; the new traffic, energetic and building infrastructure has also been renewed or built; the significant mine-polluted areas have been cleared of mines; in some areas have been started more significant economic initiatives and similar, which effected not only the “sustainability” of the return but also the more significant increase of the quality of life in not insignificant number of returnee areas.

The return has also been encouraging more or less (un)wanted contacts between “majority” and “minority” returnees which, in the course of time, has also influenced the more or less successful building of mutual understanding and strengthening of trust; the encouragement of coexistence, cooperation and dealing with past and, in that way, “normalization of life” in many local communities. (……)