Pavo Barisic, a former Assistant Minister of Science in HDZ government led by then Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, was confirmed as the New Minister of Science and Education on Wednesday. Many members of the academic and scientific community, especially from Barišić’s scientific field (philosophy), claim that he is completely unacceptable as a minister, since ten years ago he was dismissed as assistant minister due to several scandals, report Jutarnji List and Index.hr on October 20, 2016.
Some of them even unsuccessfully tried to actively lobby against him in the days before the confirmation. Prior to his appointment, Pavo Barišić was a scientific advisor at the Institute of Philosophy in Zagreb and professor at the University of Split. In a series of posts which he held is also the presidency of the Croatian Pan-European Union. According to sources, Barišić is very close to Vladimir Šeks, whom some describe as mentor to Croatia’s new Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.
“He is a person who as assistant minister used his position for a series of immoral activities. One of these was when he misused his powers in order to, after the application period officially ended, modify the application form for his own research project. The second example is when he travelled with his assistant to a symposium in Dubrovnik and took the travel expenses and per diems from two sources: the Ministry and the symposium organizers”, said Tomislav Bracanović from the Department of Philosophy of the Croatian Studies in Zagreb.
He thinks that it is unbelievable that a person who was dismissed now returns to the Ministry as a minister. “That is highly inappropriate in a country which is expected to adhere to certain European standards and values, especially in the field of science and higher education”, he said.
“Such person cannot create science and education policies of Croatia. This is simply unacceptable. If we continue to allow such standards, we will never become a healthy country”, said Stipe Kutleša, scientific adviser at the Institute of Philosophy. Asked about reactions of other employees at the Institute where Barišić worked, Kutleša answered: “Their reactions are three times worse than mine.”
According to Tomislav Janović from the Department of Philosophy of the Croatian Studies, it is incredible that HDZ has no better person than the dismissed former assistant minister.
Another former Assistant Minister of Science, and philosophy professor at the University of Zadar, Jure Zovko also disagrees with the selection of the minister. “He is certainly not a good candidate to be a minister. It is not a sensible solution”, said Zovko.
“Pavo Barišić – insignificant philosopher, proven plotter, insatiable academic peddler, a proven double-dipper and occasional persecutor of journalists who dare to report on him – he is the new Croatian Minister of Science and Education”, wrote on Facebook Boris Lenhard, professor and head of the computational biology working group at the prestigious Imperial College London.
One of allegations against Barišić is that, in order to increase his income, he worked as a professor simultaneously at four universities – in Split, Zagreb, Osijek and Zadar – teaching as many as 19 courses. He allegedly worked 450 hours per semester, while the average workload is 150 hours per semester.