In Loving Memory of Potemkin

The mayor attempts to cycle down the brand new bike lane…
Photo by Goran Mehkek / Cropix, source:

A few days ago the ambassadors of Denmark and Sweden took part in an opening ceremony of a photo exposition showing how cycling became a fundamental part of Danish culture and life. Exactly one day before the event footways in the area were decorated with a few hundred meters of fresh paint in the form of a bike path. The bike path was so useless and obviously done with no planning to speak of that it immediately became a laughing stock, both for the media and citizens: it was so obviously bad that the mayor felt forced to admit it, to say that that the responsible people will be sanctioned and that the city will have to fix it.

A few weeks ago, a cyclist protest took place in front of a police station: the cyclists were there to demand that the city council and police come to some sort of a solution about bike lanes and driving on footways. When the group of about a thousand cyclists got there, to their surprise, they could see a few hundred meters of what looked like freshly painted bike lanes on the footways in front of the police building. The only difference between the new strips of yellow paint and proper bike lanes was Continue reading “In Loving Memory of Potemkin”


Traffic Police in Search of Something To Do

Croatian Traffic Police at Work
photo by Ivan Šeky Šejić, with the kind permission of

It is probably obvious that any police force has much more work than it could possibly handle: additional officers could write a few more jaywalking tickets, others could be at a radar speed check, one could handle the theft of a few kilograms of flour from the local grocery shop and so on. It is therefore clear that it has to prioritise, evaluate which laws get broken, what kind of impact that has on society and deploy its officers so that it maximises the beneficial effect on society. That is the police’s only purpose.

Now, if the police were to send all its people out into the streets to fine whoever they can catch jaywalking, people would (rightfully) be quite disappointed and frustrated with the way the police force is transforming public money into very little of value. Normally, the police force – including traffic police – is busy with more important work, so they send officers to crash sites, catch speeders on highways and so on, but recently, for reasons only they know, they have decided to regularly, frequently and in large numbers fine cyclists cycling on footways.

Now, the regulation is completely clear and Continue reading “Traffic Police in Search of Something To Do”

To EU, or not to EU

A united Europe is as a pure goal to strive for as any other I can think of. This Sunday, Croatian citizens decide if they want to join the EU. The first thing to make absolutely clear is that the referendum is not some kind of a general question of attitude (like the one expressed in the introductory statement), but acceptance or rejection of very specific and complex package of political and economic changes. Make no mistake, it is complex: if it was not, the Government and all its ministries would not have needed several years to complete the preparations. It defines the split of legislative power between Croatian and EU institutions and sets a large number of very specific constraints on the Croatian economy. Not surprisingly, after (what has generally been seen as) quite a secretive preparation process, people overwhelmingly (87%) say they don’t know enough to make an informed decision.

At the same time, the referendum is not just or not even mainly about Croatia joining the EU. The former Government signed an accord with a group of 5 labour unions which requires the Government to add a second referendum question:

Do you want to make a referendum mandatory if 200 000 [instead of 450 000] registered voters asks for it and their signatures are collected within 30 days [instead of 15]?

This is the most important democracy and governance issue taken up since the country’s independence. It is the main reason why Continue reading “To EU, or not to EU”

Resilience to Reason

The Croatian flagThe Croatian parliamentary elections are over and the party which lead the country for 17 out of 21 years of our independence has been dethroned. I believe a few words of reflection on the past 8 years are in order because they cast a very specific shadow on this election’s results.

The economy is as good a place to start as any. During the last two terms, the party in power (HDZ) made multiple budget rebalances per year common practice, putting Croatia in the company of countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda. This should come as no surprise since the person previously in charge of finance – I.Suker, the former minister of finance – went so far as to lie that he got his economics degree no less than 14 years earlier than he actually managed it. Over the years, the government poured mind-boggling amounts of money – billions of Euro – into our shipyards, none of which still function properly today. The immensity of the mistake is probably best illustrated by the fact that the shipyards would have lost much less money if they simply paid the employees to stay at home and didn’t build anything. What the government was doing was Continue reading “Resilience to Reason”

To the Future Croatian Prime Minister – Part 2

Information and Communication TechnologiesDear Sir/Madam,

as announced in part 1, in this letter I would like to draw your attention to a few country-level, ICT-related issues I have stumbled across over the years. Once more, this is just a sampling of all ICT issues: I am afraid we have amassed many during decades of all but ignoring computing technology. The elections are just around the corner so I better get started…

Allow me to start with education as I cannot overstate its importance in my eyes or my concern with how it appears to be developing. The state has the last (only?) word on which text books can be used in schools (and rightfully so). However, it refuses to let the education system into the 21st century: this is roughly what happens… Continue reading “To the Future Croatian Prime Minister – Part 2”

To the Future Croatian Prime Minister – Part 1

Dear Sir/Madam,

to begin with, it is my sincere hope that you have no problems reading this little wish-list in English as I can’t imagine how you could otherwise keep track of world events, learn from other countries’ experiences and apply the knowledge at home. Normally, I would not make a point of it, but it seems that this requirement is not easily met by all our candidates. Having said that, as a Croatian citizen (and in the sequel, as an IT professional), I would like to draw your attention to some issues we have been having: the list is by no means exhaustive, but could be nutritious food for thought.

It might be frowned upon to digress from the political topics de jour, but it seems to me that while we have a fighting force deployed outside of our borders (on a non-UN mandate, I should add), that is the first thing to address. The immediate withdrawal of our armed forces from what used to be the sovereign country of Afghanistan followed by a sincere apology to the Afghan people would be a sign of a government which considers ethics more than a motive to flash at media to sway a few votes its way. As an aside, we would save over 30 million Euro every year, easily covering the damage done by 25 corruption cases like the one our former minister of defence Rončević was found guilty in.

While we are on the subject of the military, Continue reading “To the Future Croatian Prime Minister – Part 1”