Monday, May 19, 2003

Tough Decisions Ahead

When Račan (Racan) has to go to Presidential Palace and meet his arch-nemesis Mesić (Mesic) Croatia is usually confronted with really big problems. Latest of them is US government's request that Croatia, just like Bosnia, signs treaty that would protect US citizens on Croatian soil from being arrested and extradited to International Criminal Court. The deadline for Croatian government to decide is July 1st.

On the very same day pro-government daily Slobodna Dalmacija has published an article which claimed that HDZ leader Ivo Sanader had informed Americans of his willingness to sign such or similar treaty when he becomes Croatia's next prime minister. According to article, Sanader did it very discreetly, which makes sense, considering strong anti-American feelings in Croatia after the war in Iraq. Furthermore, his willingness to keep Americans from being prosecuted for war crimes wouldn't sit very well in Croatian public, at least not without some kind of reciprocity. Until now, US government has very publicly demanded that Croatia, just like Serbia and any other ex-YU nation, co-operate with Hague Tribunal, even when it meant sending its top generals and war heroes to Scheveningen dungeons. For USA to demand that from little Balkan countries while refusing to do the same represents the policy beyond the limits of good taste. Croatian politicians who publicly accept such American stand risk being viewed as American puppets.

On the other hand, Sanader and other right-wingers hope that USA would reward Croatian co-operative stand with something more than 19 million US$ of military aid (mostly second-rate equipment). USA would, in exchange for Croatian non-cooperation with ICC, pull the plug out of Hague Tribunal and thus prevent Croatian generals and each of 1991-95 war veteran from having to worry about possible war crimes indictments. That explains why some rabid Croatian right-wingers, even those who had burned US flags in front of American embassy in Zagreb few years ago, supported American attack on Iraq with such enthusiasm.

Croatian government, on the other hand, awaits what EU would say. With this year's tourist season being wrecked by Iraq War, governing coalition's hopes for victory in upcoming elections lie in Sanader making major mistake (which he did in case of Iraq) and EU giving impression of admitting Croatia during Račan's (Racan's) second term in office. And since it takes only one EU vote to block Croatia's admission, Račan's (Racan's) only hope is in "Old" and "New Europe" finding some compromise on the issue and thus saving Račan (Racan) from something he hates the most – making far-reaching and tough decisions.


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