Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Going For The Opinion

Even those resistant to Yugo-nostalgia tend to agree that the former federation used to be much more relaxed place compared to Eastern Bloc. But, it was Communist country nevertheless and some lines were not supposed to be crossed. However, many times officials didn't have specifically clear understanding where that line was. Sometimes they didn't know whether to promote employee who attended Mass every Sunday or not. Sometimes few lines in newspaper article about sorry state of local power grid could have been too annoying to local Party bosses. Or a negative or positive review of certain historically-themed play could have been too damaging to delicate framework of Yugoslav "Brotherhood and Unity".

When in doubt, editors, state company managers and other officials had the way of finding the right answers. They would go to the nearest local Party Committee, present their problem and later get official Party opinion. Phrase "going to Committee for the opinion" entered Yugoslav vocabularies and in the latter stages became widely used to describe unimaginative, servile and spineless people.

With the end of Yugoslavia this phrase disappeared from vocabularies, but not the mentality that had inspired it.

Actually, this mentality exists even today and in the highest ranks of government, at least judging by Bechtel affair.

Like Tudjman's and Račan's (Racan's) government before him, Sanader used services of Bechtel, American construction company to finish monumental project of connecting various cities of Croatia through comprehensive system of modern highways. Until recently there was little fuss about Bechtel operating in Croatia and receiving lucrative contracts.

But the war in Iraq, just like in many other cases, changed all that. When public learned about construction of Dugopolje – Šestanovac (Sestanovac) section of Dalmatina Motorway being given to Bechtel without legal tender, Croatian political scene was suddenly reawakened from its summer siesta. Former and current officials started accusing each other of corruption, while most of Croatian media, firmly on anti-USA bandwagon speculated about highway contract being some sort of compensation for Croatia not sending troops to Iraq.

Sanader reacted to this fuss by throwing few phrases about "Communist mentality" of his accusers and than did something old Yugoslav Communists used to do. He tried to clear the deal by presenting all the facts to European Commission and asking for its opinion.

So, in all those years some things didn't change. In old days they used to go to Committee for the opinion. These days they go to Commission for the opinion.


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