“Government Hampering Civil Society Activities”

Total Croatia News

Harsh criticism from head of government’s Council for Civil Society Development.

Emina Bužinkić, the president of the government’s new Council for Civil Society Development, a body which aims to develop cooperation between the government and civil society, expressed her concern about the attitude of government towards civil society and said that government’s position is supported by “a political agenda which tries to keep a part of civil society from operating,” reports h-alter.org on April 9, 2017.

In their relations with the Council, the authorities are avoiding established democratic procedures, government Office for NGOs has been without a head for more than a year, and the National Foundation for Civil Society Development has long been subjected to marginalization attempts, said Bužinkić.

She pointed out that the civil society is being subjected to reduced government funding, and there are attempts to portray it as an unnecessary burden on the society, although NGOs fund a large part of their activities from other sources.

None of the previous governments have really cared about civil society, although there were individuals in them who to at least some extent understood why it was important and put its development on the agenda, said Bužinkić. But, in recent years there are attempts to revitalize old HDZ’s slogans about national unity, and all those who do not support it are put under pressure, she said, adding that this is happening despite the fact that the current Prime Minister Andrej Plenković used to be a member of the Board of the National Foundation.

She admitted that there has been a “watering down” taking place in civil society organizations, as well as bureaucratisation, which is largely caused by conditions defined in public competitions and tenders. We are now in a situation that every day we spend a few hours dealing with administration and paperwork, which means that we are dealing less with people, she explained.

“There must be a civil society which will warn when politicians exit the democratic framework. Without that, there is no democracy, and these NGOs which have been for many years involved in supervision and criticism of government policies are today creating headaches for one part of political spectrum,” concluded Bužinkić.


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