In spring of last year, Mislav Kotarac went public with allegations of widespread corruption and misconduct within Croatia’s Energy Efficiency and Environmental Protection Fund. He had repeatedly told Croatian authorities – to no avail – about fraud, abuse of authority, recruitment irregularities, conflicts of interest, and the improper spending of public funds to influence parliamentary elections.
The Fund’s director retaliated against Kotarac by issuing this threat: “I will literally decapitate your head.” Kotarac tape-recorded the conversation, which was released to the public and led to the director’s dismissal.
Kotarac missed more than a year of work due to persistent threats and harrassment. He is now back at work at the Fund, a public agency that finances renewable energy and conservation projects.
In his first public interview in English, Kotarac talks about his way back and his way forward:
The departure of the corrupt and violent director created the conditions for my return. I am back working at the same position. I do my job professionally. I mentor new colleagues. Nobody bothers me at the moment. The colleagues who falsely reported and abused me on orders from the dismissed director have been transferred. Corrupt people know that I have reported on them and that I have the evidence, so they will not harass me at work.
But after seven years, they still prevent me from any form of promotion. No matter. Dignity and my personal and professional integrity cannot be taken away from me.
It is a sad fact, however, that the person who is closely associated with the perpetrators of crime and corruption has been promoted. She is now the chief adviser to the new director and the official in charge of receiving reports of irregularities. Tragedy. A total conflict of interest.
The Workers’ Council, which I headed, was dissolved. A new one was formed that does not represent the interests of the workers, but the interests of politics. Namely, the Council’s members are in the same political party as the dismissed director. So they work according to the dictates of politics.
Everything is set up to make it impossible to fight political corruption. The main bearers of political corruption and violence remain at the Fund. The corrupt have absolute power in the Republic of Croatia. It cannot be worse for democracy Nothing has changed.
The fight continues in silence. The hope for a better tomorrow dies last. Without positive thinking and commitment to ourselves, our neighbors, homeland and fellow citizens, we have no better future. I can’t get out of my skin. I will always be an incorrigible enemy of corruption, nepotism and non-transparency.
We live one life, and if we do not fight for a better present on our own, we will leave our children with a catastrophic future. Corruption is the main problem and a brake on the development of this society and it needs to be resisted and denounced on a daily basis. Otherwise we will go backwards and young people will go abroad in search of happiness and a better future.