"Zagreb Is OURS!" A successful new political platform in Croatia

On our manoeuvres this week, we were delighted to bump into a representative of the organisation below, echoing from Croatia the founding principles and practices of The Alternative UK. But they have put themselves to the electoral test, and made advances:

Zagreb is OURS! is a green-left political platform formed in February 2017 by citizens from all walks of life (activists, cultural workers, trade unionists, social entrepreneurs etc., many of whom have been previously active for years in social movements in Zagreb), with the aim of “building a new politics based on the principles of wide participation, inclusiveness and openness”.

Following the example of Barcelona en Comú, the Platform’s policy agenda includes promoting participatory democracy and returning decision-making powers to citizens, democratizing public institutions, safeguarding quality public services such as schools and kindergartens and stopping the privatisation of public utilities such as the waste management system.

The Platform envisions the future development of Zagreb as a socially just, green and multicultural city and openly endorses Zagreb’s LGBT, migrant, Roma and other minority groups.

In April 2017, the Platform formed a coalition with four left and green parties in Zagreb, creating for the first time an alliance of progressive political organizations in Zagreb. In their very first municipal elections held in Zagreb in May 2017, the coalition won 7,6 % of votes (4 seats) in Zagreb City Assembly, 21 seats in city districts and also 41 seats in local councils, with many of the elected representatives being young persons who have previously not been engaged in institutional politics.

This article from Poland's Political Critique (Krytyka Polityczna) puts Zagreb is OURS! in a wider context, marking a shift from civil society to political society (organisations like Demos from Romania are following suit). What is fascinating is the way that cultural and social initiatives laid the groundwork for ZiO!:

People working within social movements and organizations abroad tell me about many years of striving for the current conditions in which their actions can take place. Friends from Croatia managed to create the Kultura Novafoundation, which supports social organizations working in the culture sector. They convinced the Ministry of Culture to support them. In Zagreb, they created Pogon, an independent culture centre which is a non-profit public cultural institution, based on an innovative civil-public partnership model. The founders and managers of Pogon are activists from the union called Operacija:Grad(Operation:City) and the city of Zagreb.

I was so envious of the team from the Croatian capital as they showed me all those organizations and all those independent spaces – such as Jedinstvo – places created to host festivals, debates, expositions by all those who wish to organize one. After a while, it turned out, however, that even though my friends worked themselves to the bone, there was always a risk that a takeover by new authorities could turn all they achieved to dust.

 They told me: “Everything which the artists and cultural sector representatives have accomplished in recent years has been trashed in a matter of just one week”.

So in the spring, I met a friend from Zagreb. Excited, he told me that a team of activists are going to take part in the elections: that it was not enough to ‘do civil society’ anymore. In May Zagreb je naš! (Zagreb is OURS!) got almost 8% of the votes in local elections.

More here.