At the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Croatian centre-right party HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) Women’s Association, Croatian President Mrs Kolinda Grabar Kitarović said that all successful Croatian women are both conservative and members of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). The claim turns out to be false.
The Croatian Democratic Union is currently the biggest conservative political party in the country, holding the majority in the Croatian Parliament. The elected President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović was a candidate from this party. At the previously mentioned celebration in November 2019, the President was invited as a guest of honour.
In the speech she said: “In fact, Croatian women who are successful and who have gained international recognition – such as Marija Pejčinović Burić, Dubravka Šuica, Ivana Maletić, including myself in my previous career when I was in NATO – interestingly, all of them are members of the HDZ party. All of them are conservative.”
For background, Mrs Pejčinović Burić is the present Secretary General of the Council of Europe, while Mrs Šuica and Mrs Maletić are members of the European Parliament. All three are appointed to their positions being representatives of the HDZ, party which belongs to the majority group in the European Parliament – EPP.
Kitarović’s statement did not go unnoticed in the Croatian media. We decided to check the validity of President’s statement.
First, many Croatian women who are active politicians are not members of the HDZ party, and even more of them do not share conservative beliefs. The person who individually won the highest number of votes in the recent European elections, Mrs Ruža Tomašić, is conservative, but she is not (and never was) member of the mentioned party. Furthermore, Mrs Biljana Borzan, who was chosen for the second time as a Croatian member of the European Parliament, is member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (centre-left political position).
More important, it is easy to identify Croatian women who have received international recognition for professional success outside politics. Mrs Caroline Spivak, founder of Croatian Women’s Network, said: “It is true what the President said that the three women she mentioned are HDZ members. However, if you look at the broader context, it is also true that many successful Croatian women can be found in various areas of social life – in every profession, but also in every political party, both conservative and not conservative.”
Each year the Network honours successful Croatian women who live either in Croatia or abroad, and who have made a difference in Croatian society or in communities of Croatians abroad. For example, as part of Croatian Women of Influence Award 2020, the chosen women are artists, businesswomen, scientists or sportswomen.
That being said, the real questions that remain open are: Is there any real correlation between being successful and being conservative? What does it mean to be successful anyway? Mrs Ivana Radić, president of the International women’s business network commented: “I think that to be successful, being conservative or liberal is not crucial. For example, business has no borders and is built where there is interest and necessity for it. I think that the President’s statement is personal, or perhaps she moves mostly in conservative circles so that is her perception. But different individuals have different wishes and perceive success differently.”
Dr Brigita Miloš from the Croatian Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of Rijeka said that this statement is typical conservative rhetoric. “All attributions that conservativism traditionally correlates with femininity are, in this concrete case, also connected with career self-realisation. Also, conservative politics, in particular, is rarely in agreement with the idea of complete gender equality or the idea of women emancipation”, added Dr Miloš.
In conclusion, the President’s statement was suitable for the occasion, but it was not based on truth or facts, but either a personal perception of success or part of a speech modelled for a specific target audience –female members of the HDZ party.
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RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Lara Lender and Ante Milkovic, University of Zagreb