The Croatian Greens are offering a new brand of coalition. Historically, smaller parties have tried to get a foothold into government with a larger party and found they have been suppressed, restricted and then scavenged as the larger parties simply use the coalition as an opportunity to devastate the weaker parties.
There is something be said for being greeted at a train by a Green entourage. All the office staff and volunteers on the train platform waiting for our arrival. Thank heavens we were not late.
And the Croatians repeated the one constant theme. The Greens on this trip are determined to show their country, their city, their culture. There are tours of the city, offerings of local food, the tour of local major landmarks. Impromptu explanations of how the city was developed, who is featured in the park statue, why neighbourhoods developed. There is the explanation of Green politics, issues and concerns, how the party is developing, where there is support - there is such an immense willingness to explain, to bring you in, make you understand, accept, become part of their political life. Sometimes it is a delightful flood of information that my little brain struggles to digest.
Just on that point alone, this trip has been a brilliant opportunity for us at the EGP to expand our scope of interest, not to mention professional and personal contacts. This direct, hands-on, face to face, shaking hands Green-building has been tremendous. And we will get to do it all over again in Athens.
Croatian Greens are slightly schizophrenic. Or, rather, they have divided popularity. They have immense presence at the municipal level and have 30 Green councillors, mostly in Zagreb where they have 24. More elections are coming and they are profiting from the aggressive, controlling politics of the larger parties.
The Croatian Greens are offering a new brand of coalition.
Historically, smaller parties have tried to get a foothold into government with a larger party and found they have been suppressed, restricted and then scavenged as the larger parties simply use the coalition as an opportunity to devastate the weaker parties.
Now the Greens are entering coalitions with smaller parties with an intent to show that coalitions do work and it is not all about power and eliminating the opposition. That parties can enter bona fide coalition structures and benefit from the design. If this works, the Greens in Croatia might be able to create more collaborative structure on various levels.
Nationally, the Greens have less success. With only one percent of the vote, they have not come close to the five percent threshold needed for representation. And, unlike municipal politics where, even with 30 councilors, there is almost no money from the government allocated to the party. Meanwhile the national level is, financially, very supportive for parties. It is representation at the national level that is the financial lifeline for many smaller parties. It does not take much to understand national politics are a gold mine for the larger parties - and is well protected.
The Croatian Greens are struggling with a country that has been financially crippled by less than fair reallocation of employee-run businesses and ongoing corruption. There is a mentality of privatisation at all costs, as if having an industry run by a businessman will bring immediate, positive financial results. Natural resources, like oil and gas, are plentiful and a clear avenue for financial salvation. But the larger share of the benefits are not being felt by the average Croatian. There is poor distribution of resources and the population in the countryside and in smaller towns, are being forced to return to less efficient lifestyles - like having to chop down area tress in order to heat their homes.
While the Greens advocate alternative energies and clean energies, they cannot turn their back on the natural resources question. As long as there is profligate development, foreign ownership, a loss of state resources and income to either private or foreign hands, then the Greens have a role in advocating what is in the best interest of the people. And controlling natural resources has to be addressed in a manner that is best for the Croatian people.
It must seem counter to a lot of Green people that there is a European party that has a voice in natural resources. It seems counter to the Green ideals of alternative energy. That we should end our oil dependance. But the Croatian Greens are clear in their wish to develop alternative energy. But just because the Green party would rather end oil dependence and development, the reality of who owns, who profits, who controls and who benefits, is still an issue that has to be addressed.