The Advisory Council includes five representatives from the United States of America, all members of the Association of Croatian American Professionals, including President Marko Zoretic and Treasurer Maria Sentic.
ZAGREB, CROATIA – The newly formed Advisory Council of the Government of the Republic of Croatia for Croats outside of the Republic of Croatia held their first meeting December 18 and 19, 2017, in Zagreb, Croatia. The meeting was organized and hosted by the State Office for Croats Abroad.
The Advisory Council is comprised of 55 representatives from Croatian communities worldwide, along with representatives from institutions within the Croatian government and other relevant non-government organizations. Together, they provide advice and guidance to the government of Croatia on politics, activities and programs that relate to Croats in the diaspora.
The Advisory Council has five representatives from the United States, who were confirmed and announced by the Croatian government in September 2017. Those representatives are: Joseph Brajevich (Los Angeles, CA), Davorka Kirincic (Chicago, IL), Boris Miketic (New York City, NY), Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) Treasurer Maria Sentic (Chicago, IL), and ACAP President Marko Zoretic (Los Angeles, CA). All American Representatives on the Advisory Council are ACAP members.
The official meeting opened on December 18 with an address from Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, who stated that the government of Croatia wants to unite the Croatian people, regardless of where they live.
Prime Minister Plenkovic defined three priorities of the Croatian government in regards to the diaspora: obtaining Croatian citizenship, realizing the right to vote, and promoting Croatian culture, education, heritage, language and identity.
Ivan Grbesic, a representative from Canada, was voted President of the Advisory Council, with Vice Presidents representing various geographical areas as follows: Miljana Glamuzina (from Bosnia and Herzegovina; representing Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina), Ivan Gugan, (from Hungary; representing Croat minority populations), Luka Budak (from Australia; representing Croats from overseas countries), and Ruza Studer Babic (from Switzerland; representing Croats from Europe).
The President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, welcomed the Advisory Council to the Presidential Palace and expressed her support for stronger relations between Croats abroad and the homeland Croatia, which she called a “global Croatia.”
Topics of interest to Croats living outside of Croatia were discussed during the second day of the Advisory Council meeting. Concrete recommendations for improving and easing the process of obtaining citizenship were provided by the council. A lengthy discussion on the voting process, and possibilities for absentee ballot and online voting followed. A suggestion was given, and affirmed, for the creation of a register of all Croats living abroad, to aid in absentee or online voting in the future.
One of the most important goals that the Advisory Council previously identified was the preservation and promotion of Croatian identity through culture, history and language. Concrete steps, that the State Office for Croats Abroad has taken, were discussed, including project “Korijeni” or “Roots” that connected schoolchildren from Vukovar, Croatia, Siroki Brijeg, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Chicago, IL; a quota of 100 student stipends at the University of Zagreb for Croats living abroad; and free online Croatian language education through a new e-learning platform.
Kazimir Bacic, editor-in-chief of Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT), a Croatian public broadcasting company, provided information on HRT5, a new channel that will stream free content in multiple languages for Croats living abroad.
The Advisory Council spoke further regarding the problem of double taxation – a topic brought up by Boris Miketic. Maria Sentic discussed the success of ACAP’s networking and educational platform as a possible model for other countries.
Another important topic that was discussed were the needs of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina where their political and social situation is at risk – this was a recurrent theme with representatives from various countries expressing their support.
Throughout the two-day meeting, the Advisory Council members expressed positivity and willingness to work together on the issues important to Croats living abroad.
Photo credit: „Ured Predsjednice RH, Vinko Jovanovac“