Citizens of Dubrovnik showed clear message of how to be a good citizen

Dubrovnik, 16.04.2013 - Ministarstvo pomorstva prometa i infrastrukture proslijedilo je putnièkim dubrovaèkim agencijama dopis kojim se oèituje o njihovom upitu o zakonitosti odluke o plaæanju naknade za prekomjernu upotrebu gradskih prometnica koju je uveo grad Dubrovnik 1. sijeènja ove godine, u kojem stoji da grad nije nadležan za odreðivanje te naplate. Arhivska fotografija od 07.05.2006 prikazuje panoramu Dubrovnika. foto FaH/ Damir SENÈAR/ ik

In a democratic society, it is legitimate to fail with an initiative, but it is much more dangerous for a democracy to lack initiatives and people who fight for the common good and public interest. The Dubrovnik referendum has brought up hundreds of people who are willing to dedicate their time, knowledge and experience fighting for the common good – It was pointed out in the public discussion, entitled “Dubrovnik Referendum – First Referendum at the Request of Citizens, the Success or Failure?” which was held to mark the one year anniversary of Dubrovnik’s Referendum, which was the first referendum on the request of the citizens.

“What was happening around the referendum in Dubrovnik is a paradigmatic example on the micro-level. We live in a post-democratic capitalist society where economy takes precedence over politics and social issues. A characteristic of a post-democratic capitalist society is that the interests of powerful minorities have become more important than the interests of citizens. With the strong role of the media who service these relationships, citizens’ apathy and frustration is understandable. Given that politics is here only to enforce what investors, businesses, and the economy is looking for, the question is what can ordinary citizens do, should they engage, and is politics still a meaningful activity?  The message that is sent from Dubrovnik through a referendum on Srđ and later protests in front of City Hall, is that citizens should participate in politics through various channels, which are not merely the elections and civic initiatives,” said Berto Salaj, Professor Faculty of Political Science, and added that there is a strong message about the power of citizens.

Journalist Luko Brailo recalled uncritical cheering most of the media in favor of the project on Srđ and showed a series of articles presenting the project to Srđ as a necessity whose justification does not review. The culmination of these campaigns was the Mayor of Dubrovnik’s invitation to citizens not to vote in the referendum. On the day the referendum was held, the largest newspaper in Croatia had a front cover with investors telling citizens that the project will continue regardless of the outcome of the referendum. “When the government ‘crushes’ Dubrovnik, the only question is when it will happen to others,” said Brailo, and added, “cracking down on City opened rooms for the pushing of 400 major investment projects from Istria to Konavli; ninety of which are in Dubrovnik area.  In the realization of these projects, the question is what we are going to do with public spaces, what will happen with the interest of citizens, and who will pay for the infrastructure and the implementation of these projects?”

“It is important that the initiative was launched. You are the ones who run it, you have shown the responsibility of the city and animate people whatever they ultimately voted. Citizens of Dubrovnik showed clear message of how to be a good citizen,” said Dragan Zelić, executive director of GONG. “Although the decision on the referendum was not binding, the referendum was very important for democratization and creating good and active citizens.  The legislative framework referendum is disorganized and GONG is committed to detailed regulation of this area in order to create a framework for the active participation of citizens in decision-making, and GONG advocates for the introduction of civic education in schools in order to create responsible citizens.”

According to the Initiative “Srđ is ours”, the Tribune concluded that the referendum in Dubrovnik was a big success that has made a significant contribution to the long-term process of democratization in Dubrovnik, but also in Croatia.