Heated Parliamentary Debate about Yugoslav Secret Service Archives

By 8 February 2018

ZAGREB, February 8, 2018 - The Bill on Archives and Archival Material, which was discussed by the parliament on Wednesday, only ten months after the MOST party's amendments to the legislation were passed, caused, as expected, a heated debate between MOST and the ruling HDZ party.

The HDZ insisted that the bill would make archival material more available to the public and MOST accused the government of closing the archives, calling its bill 'Lex Colleague', an allusion to recent speculation about senior HDZ official Vladimir Šeks's alleged collaboration with the Yugoslav secret police.

"This bill closes the archives because it gives the government the right to name anything, at its own discretion, confidential information or information of national interest, which eliminates any request for disclosure," said MOST MP Nikola Grmoja, stressing that his party's amendments had ensured the full availability of archival material.

MOST objected to the government's changing the date for the availability of archival material given that its own amendments had ensured making publicly available, without any restrictions, archival material produced by 22 December 1990 and the adoption of the Croatian Constitution, namely 30 years after its making. Bridge's amendments, passed by the parliament in May 2017, also included measures to protect personal data in some cases. The new, government-sponsored bill makes publicly available archival material produced by 30 May 1990.

"Archival material produced up to the Christmas Constitution has been publicly available and that was of most interest to researchers - the process of transition from a communist to a democratic system. Now the Culture Ministry is again classifying what has been declassified," Grmoja objected.

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek claimed that this was not so. "May 30 is a turning point for Croatia, what happened by May 29 belongs to one regime and one time, and on 30 May the first democratic Sabor was elected in democratic elections." In the process of public consultation about the bill, numerous historians proposed May 30 as that was the real turning point, when Croatia transformed from a totalitarian to a democratic society, said Obuljen Koržinek.

The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) sided with MOST in the debate. "I agree that all archives should be opened, let everything be seen, one shouldn't be afraid of anything. It's clear that that does not suit some individuals but they are the ones that pose a burden anyway. (The bill does not cover) the six-month period from May 1990 to the Christmas Constitution. The question is who is being protected now and why? Why has it been made possible for some individuals to ban the opening of some files?" said SDP MP Gordan Maras.

Hrvoje Zekanović of HRAST, a party making up the parliamentary majority, said that the opening of archives would result "in one big nothing." "An occasional possible informant or sympathiser of (Yugoslav secret police) UDBA will be in trouble, but the key people, the power-wielders, will suffer no consequences," he said.

Obuljen Koržinek also said that the government-sponsored bill would enable the digitisation of archives and that unlike the existing law, it would define the creation, transfer and storing of archival material in electronic form.

Conditions are being created to enable the digitisation of archival services, which is the key novelty in relation to the current, outdated Act on Archives and Archival Material, she said.