Friday, April 30, 2004

Blood Money

Today in Zagreb deputy prime minister Jadranka Kosor met with Gordana Zec and Dušan Zec (Dusan Zec) and announced settlement that is supposed to give some sort of closure to one of the darkest stories of 1991-95 war.

On December 7th 1991 home of Mihajlo Zec, well-to-do Zagreb butcher and ethnic Serb, was visited by a group of reserve policeman. In those days such visits usually ended with people being taken away only to be found executed. Zec apparently tried to escape and was killed. His wife Marija and 12-year old daughter Aleksandra were taken in a police vehicle and later executed.

The perpetrators were relatively quickly arrested and admitted the killings during interrogation. But due to procedural screw-up their confessions were invalid and whole criminal case was dropped. Instead of receiving prison sentences, the killers later received military decorations and pensions.

The killings later served as inspiration for Ovce od gipsa, novel by Jurica Pavičić (Jurica Pavicic), later adapted into controversial movie Svjedoci.

A decade later, Gordana and Dušan, two surviving children, launched a lawsuit demanding financial compensation for their loss. Croatian government at first refused to pay, denying any responsibility for the actions of "policemen acting outside working hours". Public outrage led Sanader to intervene and 1,5 million HRK settlement was reached today in Zagreb.

Needless to say, today's settlement was unimaginable only few years ago. There were people in Croatian establishment that saw nothing wrong in Zec killings. And some were even open about it. Nedjeljko Mihanović (Nedjeljko Mihanovic), Tudjman's Sabor speaker between 1994 and 1995, said that the killing of 12-year old girl was justified under the wartime circumstances.

Only few months ago few people would even dream about former Tudjman's followers going that far in their attempts to cleanse themselves and Croatia from that bloody and embarrassing chapter of national history.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Walking Free

Today Split Municipal Court sentenced 22-year old Jurica Torlak to three years of prison for January 22nd killing of Ivona Lalić (Ivona Lalic), 8-year old pupil of Spinut Elementary School. Girl was hit by Jurica Torlak's motorcycle in in front of her school, in the area banned for motorists. The accident, which occurred in front of Ivona Lalić's father and few hundred pupils and other witnesses, caused outrage in Split. Today the site of the tragedy is surrounded by metal barriers that block access to motor vehicles.

Obviously satisfied with the fact that Torlak is not likely to pull the same stunt at the same place again, Court remained faithful to Mother Theresa school of criminal justice, so popular among Croatian judges. Torlak was released from detention and he would remain at large until the sentence is upheld at appellate court.

Ivona Lalić's father wasn't present at the sentencing. I dare not to imagine how he feels today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Constitutional Court has just issued its verdict. Just as predicted, law that banned shops from being open on Sundays is struck down with 8 judges for and 5 against the decision.

This is another great victory for common sense and, more importantly, victory for the cause of secularism in Croatia.

Imagine Croatia having population with equal shares of Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Muslims. And imagine someone proposing the same kind of legislation and forcing people to invade shops only four out of seven days a week.

Disturbing Images

Kim Jong Il isn't the only man who wants to spare his people of disturbing images or news.

On Sunday Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović (Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic), member of Sabor and one of Croatia's most popular athletes, was supposed to have his fight with Kevin Randleman aired to Croatian viewers. But Filipović's fans had not one but two unpleasant surprises that day. First Filipović got knocked out in the first round, than it turned out that Filipović's manager Zvonimir Lučić (Zvonimir Lucic) banned airing of the fight.

While HRT officials publicly contemplate lawsuit against Filipović and his manager, site has allowed Croatians to watch the fight in all of its glory. The image is not for the squeamish – at the end of the fight Filipović's life was saved by the referee.

Filipović, hailed as true Croatian hero, lost great deal of his fans after his surprise decision to run for Sabor at SDP ticket. He probably even more by refusing to let people see him crushed in the ring.

Before the fight Filipović was preoccupied with the shooting of Ultimate 7, his first feature film. In his interviews he said that because of that he was "only 70 % ready for the fight".

Let's hope that Ultimate 7 is worthy of such pain and embarassment.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Croatia Felix

Jonathan Edelstein writes about Cyprus referendum and says that Turkish Cyprus should be recognised by international community.

That reminded me of an article written by one Slovenian military analyst in early Spring of 1992, published in Croatian Danas magazine. In the article the author compared situation in Cyprus (Cypriot Turkish minority, backed by their ethnic brethren from Turkey proper, snatched some 30 % of territory and maintained status quo with the help of UN peacekeeping) with situation in Croatia and drew some disturbing parallels (Croatian Serb minority, backed by their ethnic brethren from Serbia proper, snatched some 30 % of territory and maintained status quo with the help of UN peacekeeping).

Needless to say, when that analysis was published, it looked very disturbing to Croatian readers. Thankfully for Croatia, war erupted few weeks later in Bosnia and changed the equation completely. Serbian hold on much of their 1991-92 conquests became untenable in the long run and the only issue was when rather than if Croatian forces would retake "Krajina".

With Bosnia remaining peaceful, either as formal part of rump Yugoslavia or Serbian de facto ally, Croatians would have to face dilemmas very similar to those of Greek Cypriots.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The Best Films on Poor Little Rich TV Network

RTL Televizija hasn't started airing their regular program, but they are using their channel to advertise their future shows. Judging by the clips, Croatians are hardly going to see anything new. The remarkable thing about those clips is huge amount of money invested in them, usually the bad omen for all those yearning for more quality television. The more money is spent on advertising, the less quality the product has.

But especially revealing are the movies RTL Televizija are going to air. Advertised as The Best Movies are such titles as Godzilla, Sphere and Assassins.

If those titles are the best movies we are going to see on RTL Televizija, I can hardly imagine what kind of horror awaits their loyal viewers.

Bad Boys of Croatian Television

Josip Katalenić (Josip Katalenic), aspiring young singer and member of jury for Nova TV's Story Supernova Juniors music talents show, has recently got plenty of bad publicity. Reports of traffic accidents and gun-wielding in the streets were followed by dramatic statement from Katalenić's father. He claims that the young Croatian star recently suffered "nervous breakdown", "lost 11 kilograms of body weight" and is currently being treated by psychiatrist.

This news is followed with the report of Rene Bitorajac, actor best known for his role of Serbian soldier in Oscar-awarded No Man's Land, breaking the arm of parking attendant. Bitorajac is currently hosting Coca Cola Music Stars talent show on HRT. I didn't see yesterday's instalment, but there is talk about Bitorajac being suspended by HRT.

Friday, April 23, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] New Blogroll Addition

Histologion added to blogroll.

Sunday Shopping Ban Update

On Tuesday Constitutional Court decided to postpone its verdict. I guess that they are waiting for the summer. During tourist seasons shops are going to be opened on Sundays. Striking the law down in that particular time won't look so conspicuous and won't hurt sentiments of Catholic Church officials that much.


Due to certain hardware problems, blogging is going to be light in next couple of days.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Quote for the Day

"Politics is very profitable activity."
Miroslav Buličić (Miroslav Bulicic), mayor of Split in an interview conducted a year ago

In spite of all predictions, Buličić remained in office. On today's session of Split City Council, motion for his removal was supported by 11 right-wing opposition councilmen, 12 belonging to "left-centre" coalition rejected it and 2 abstained.

There would be a lot of cynicism when media starts trying to find explanation why 2 councilmen belonging to opposition changed their mind at the last moment. Regardless of the way it was the reached, the result of today's vote is a victory of common sense. Citizens of Split should be spared of having to spend their tax money on pointless elections and administration that would have only six months to do anything.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

RTL – Disappointment in the Making?

One of the most awaited events in the history of Croatian media – start of new national TV station owned by RTL – is slowly turning into one major disappointment.

Most of Croatian expected that the events following the sale of Croatian state television's third channel would go smoothly. RTL Croatia (or HRTL, as it was supposed to be known) was supposed to start airing on January 1st 2004.

But on January 1st HRT 3 continued to operate like nothing had happened. Apparently, RTL Croatia failed to finish technical and logistic operations for taking over frequency. That allowed HRT 3 three more months to phase out its programme and replace it with satellite/cable channel known as HRT Plus.

HRT Plus started operating yesterday. Programme is so far not very attractive and it represents combination of pop music concerts and regional news.

In the meantime, HRTL, which changed its name into RTL Televizija, still didn't finished paperwork. The programme was supposed to replace HRT 3 on April 1st. This didn't happen.

The latest reports mention April 30th as the date when RTL Televizija should start airing.

But when Croatian public finally sees the programme, it might realise that all that wait was for nothing. Details of RTL future programme, leaked to Jutarnji list, show that the most attractive American and other foreign TV shows had been already poached by HRT and Nova TV. RTL is left with second class material like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and TV shows produced in Germany.

Monday, April 19, 2004

From Fallujah With Love

For many people in Arab world (and even in some circles that could hardly be called Arab or Islamist) Fallujah is symbol of noble resistance, fight for freedom and defiance to technologically superior oppresors.

However, it seems that Fallujah serves as another kind of role model, judging by this incident in Madrid.

This incident was probably connected with Zapatero's decision to pull out from Iraq. It is sore remainder for Spaniards that they aren't off the hook yet and that they have long roads to travel before placating the crowd behind 11-3 bombings.

Needless to say, that road is going to end in the Pyreneans – with average Spaniard having to cross mountains carrying all his or her possessions in a small plastic bag.

HDZ Juggernaut

Yesterday extraordinary local elections were held in cities of Šibenik (Sibenik) and Biograd. Judging by their results, HDZ is going to establish total domination in Croatian local governments following next years' round of regular local elections.

In Šibenik, home town of Goran Višnjić (Goran Visnjic), HDZ won 15 out of 25 seats in City Council. This represents unprecedented success for Sanader's party. In previous years Šibenik was known as SDP stronghold – place where HDZ, like in most of urban communities and unlike the rest of mainly rural Šibenik County, never fared that well. But SDP, like almost any other party in almost any local assembly, had to rely on coalition partners to form government. In case of Šibenik, that coalition proved to be inefficient and plagued by factional infighting. Its apparent collapse led to new elections.

Of course, turnout was abysmal. Most people saw little point in going to polls only to elect caretaking city government. But 15% of votes in Šibenik is bad omen for SDP. This might look like exegeration, but Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) might easily suffer the same fate as Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa).

In the neighbouring Biograd, HDZ, allied with far right HSP party, won 50.77 % of the vote. Conservative HSS won 16 % and SDP with its allies won around 8 %.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Sunday Is For The Man… Just Like Any Other Day?

Next Tuesday is going to be very interesting day for future of Croatia. Constitutional Court is supposed to publish its verdict on the ammendemnts to Commerce Act – piece of legislation that banned shops from working on Sundays.

Few weeks ago Croatian media speculated about Constitutional Court deciding to strike down that particular law and allowing shops to be open on Sundays. Speculations were based on four Court justices of right-wing persuasion expressing their displeasure with the verdict. It was speculated that Court postponed its verdict in order not to anger Catholic Church - law's main proponent – during Easter holidays.

In the meantime, Church raised the ante by issuing document Nedjelja radi čovjeka (Nedjelja radi čovjeka) – "Sunday Is For The Man" - that suggests Sunday work ban should be broadened to caffes, bars and sport institutions.

It is going to be very interesting to see how would Sanader's government react to the verdict. On one hand, the law is unpopular, retail business is 30% down, thousands people lost their jobs. On the other hand, Sanader needs support of Church for his project of "kinder and gentler" HDZ to be accepted by more right-wing segments of his electorate.

More on Kosovo Shooting

The incident is probably not going to get much attention on blogosphere. This is partly due to being overshadowed by more important events, like the killing of Rantissi, and partly due to story making both sides in Iraq debate look bad.

Pro-war crowd is going to ignore the shootout because it shows that the events in Middle East managed to emotionally affect even people who are supposed to dedicated professionals. And if the shooter was Islamic militant infiltrated into UNMIK police contingent, that puts into question War on Terror – bombing and invading countries is useless when it takes one individual on right place to wreak havoc.

Anti-war crowd – at least those sections who insist on US occupation of Iraq being replaced by some sort of UN protectorate – is also going to ignore this story. If US occupation force is replaced by something resembling military and police forces at UNMIK disposal, incidents like this are very likely to happen in Iraq.

But the biggest losers, are, of course, people of Kosovo. Little legitimacy UNMIK has for its protectorate over the province is drawn from the idea of international authority made of enlightened and unbiased professional who are supposed to cure Kosovo people of their tribalism and ethnic chauvinism and teach them values of modern democracy and tolerance. With UNMIK itself succumbing to tribal and chauvinistic instinct, it is hard to see how it could serve as a role model.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Americans Killed in Kosovo?

According to this, at least three UN policemen, including two American women, were killed in prison shootout in Kosovska Mitrovica, troubled city in Serbian renegade province. It seems that the shooting happened between UN policemen themselves and that four Jordanians shot their American colleagues.

Terrorism that haunts Europe found the way to rear its ugly head in former Yugoslavia.

Bin Laden's Tape

As expected, offer of truce on the tape allegedly made by Osama Bin Laden has brought nothing by scorn by all of relevant European politicians. Some optimists, like Instapundit, view this Bin Laden's initiative as failure.

I don't think such optimism is grounded in reality. Bin Laden's tape was actually nothing short of excellent diplomatic coup. By offering truce, Bin Laden presented himself as someone resembling serious "proper" politician and his terrorist campaign became something other than fundamentalist lunacy.

Between the lines, most Europeans would see this initiative as a proof that Bin Laden is shrewd, reasonable and intelligent man with a Plan. Something that Bush definitely is not.

His tape is going to sound comforting to Europeans, just like the proofs of Islamist participation in Madrid bombing were comforting in their own way. In both cases Europeans feel more secure by facing an enemy with a clear agenda. Europe finally has some clue how to avoid terrorist atrocities – by turning its back on America and Bush. This is the easy way out, adopted by Spanish voters and seriously contemplated by most of European governments.

Only few weeks ago people were ridiculing Mo Mowlam for suggesting negotiations between Bin Laden and US government. They aren't going to ridicule her now. She only expressed something most of Europeans think but dare not speak, including all those European dignitaries lambasting Bin Laden's tape.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Age of On-Screen Violence

Few nights ago Croatian state television aired Mad Max II. Croatians fans of that legendary film soon discovered that the version being aired was different from the version being shown on the very same state television only few years ago. Some of the most memorable scenes were missing, including those depicting imaginative use of boomerang. It turned out that Croatian state television took the noble example of German network stations and erased all the scenes depicting graphic violence.

However, if the Croatian state television is serious about protecting its young viewers from straying to the path of evil, it should try a little bit harder. And the attention shouldn't be paid exclusively on violent films, at least according to this study.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Randy McDonald's Post

Many people in blogosphere are talking about this excellent and thought-provoking piece about Muslim demographic and future of Europe by Randy McDonald. It is quoted even by some of the mainstream media (Economist).

You may or may not agree with the piece, but Randy McDonald raises some interesting points.

UPDATE: Apparently, I made a serious error while recommending McDonald's post. It wasn't mentioned in mainstream media.

But it should have been.

Sanader's Best Move?

Sanader's government has announced something that is most probably going to be their best move. They are going to change legislation dealing with local administration and allow mayors and county governors to be elected on the polls rather than indirectly by local and county assemblies.

This move by HDZ is easy to explain with political necessity. Due to local election laws, according to which Ľ of all assemblymen are elected in FPTP districts and ľ proportionally, it is rare for single party to win outright majority of seats. In many cases the only way for HDZ to have its own mayors and county governors is through coalition, and due to specific political circumstances in many regions of Croatia, those coalitions are often based more on tribal line and business interests than ideological similarities. For HDZ that means that their local coalitions are often bizarre (and embarrassing) compared with the coalition on national level – in some areas HDZ has to share power with far right party like HSP, in others with Serb nationalists while in some areas even with their national rivals like HNS.

New rules should put stop to that. With mayors being elected directly HDZ is more likely to broaden his influence over local affairs, because HDZ candidates are most likely to be elected (although new rules might, especially in isolated rural areas, benefit independent candidates) and not depend on minor league parties. Furthermore, directly elected mayors are less likely to be brought down by the collapse of local assembly coalitions.

Split might be a town to benefit from this. Most of our citizens are awaiting Split City Assembly session on April 22nd to find out whether mayor Miroslav Buličiă (Miroslav Bulicic) is going to be brought down. This would result in new elections in Split and the city administration to result from them is going to last less than a year, because Split, just like all of Croatia, is going to have local elections in Spring of 2005.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Beauty and Politics

Short time ago I remembered reading few left-leaning American blogs. A story about Uma Thurman, Reese Whiterspoon and other prominent Hollywood actresses was followed by comments like "Democrats – Party of Hot Chicks".

Now it seems that Republicans have a hot chick of their own.

Experiences in Croatia tell that there isn't much of a correlation between someone's beauty (which is always in the eyes of the beholder) and someone's political views (even more so).

Fani Ćapalija (Fani Capalija), Miss Croatia 1993, was briefly a member of HDZ, Croatia's ruling hard-line nationalist party. Ćapalija later left HDZ, and rumours explained entry to Tudjman's party as a favour for lifelong friend and HDZ activist.

Branka Bebić (Branka Bebic), Miss Croatia 1994, joined HSLS, at a time rather left-of-centre party.

In both cases beauty queens' memberships in certain political parties had next to zero effect on those parties' popularity or election results. I guess the same thing would happen in USA. Celebrity endorsements might make nice PR or serve as a moral-booster for the party faithful, but an average voters is likely to cast his or her ballot based on their his/her own rather than some airhead's opinion.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Another Axis of Evil?

Following Miro Kučić (Miro Kucic) in Slobodna Dalmacija, Drago Pilsel of is another respected Croatian columnist to be affected by BDS – Bush Derangment Syndrome.

In his latest piece, Pilsel accuses Mel Gibson of being in cahoots with Bush. According to Pilsel, Passion helps Bush by mobilising conservative Christians in America and giving them opportunity to show their strength; violence in the movie justifies violence in Iraq and the movie supports Manichaean worldview very much like the one that Bush used to justify War on Terror.

Of course, Pilsel fails to mention interview in which Gibson expressed his doubts about Bush.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Something to Think About

Perhaps that article was right. Perhaps alternative history is really the exclusive domain of right-wingers.

This exercise in counterfactuals is, nevertheless, thought-provoking read (via Vodkapundit).

Iraqi Vukovar

When I watch the news coverage of the events in Fallujah, I can't shake the feeling that I heard similar news and saw similar images before.

Similarities between events in Iraq today and events in Croatia thirteen years ago are good reason why so many Croatians rooted for Saddam's forces one year ago and why many root for Iraqi insurgents now.

Fallujah fits the pattern of Vukovar almost perfectly. Fallujah is, just like Vukovar, city situated in plain. It is surrounded by overwhelmingly superior military force. It is defended by small bands of lightly armed but effective militia. The urban combat is messy and costly for invaders. Huge numbers of civilians die. Carnage is interrupted with ceasefires and arrivals of food/aid convoys. The town becomes the symbol.

On the other hand, events in Fallujah, tragic as they are, perhaps show the light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time during this conflict, US military has engaged in negotiations with insurgents/Baathists/foreign fighters/Islamists or the "enemy". These talks might have little practical effect, they might not stop the carnage, but their symbolic importance should never be played down. They represented the clear precedent, American admission that their omnipotence was illusion and that brute force alone can't bring them success in Iraq.

Those talks would gradually pave the way to some sort of negotiated settlement, which is, in my humble opinion, the only way for insurgency to end. They would also give some sort of importance and legitimacy to Iraqi Governing Council – instead of being insignificant puppets of the occupation authorities, IGC is going to become valuable conduit between CPA and Iraqi people. And those talks also give another sort of precedent – teaching Iraqis to solve problems by talking and not fighting between themselves. Because, the new, democratic Iraq for which this war was supposed to be fought could be create only by Iraqis themselves.

Perhaps I'm little bit over-optimistic. On the other hand, I would really like to believe that the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis and dozens of Coalition soldiers served some purpose.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Am I A Right-Winger?

According to this article, I am.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Taping History

This week Ante Gotovina saga had another major plot twist. Major news bombshell came in the form in recently unearthed videotape showing Gotovina (Croatian general indicted by ICTY for war crimes and currently on the run with US government's 5 million US$ bounty on his head) at the meeting with his subordinates in Knin on August 6th 1995.

The meeting was held a day after Croatian Army's entry in the capital of self-proclaimed "Republic of Srpska Krajina". On the tape Gotovina lambasts his officers for the bad discipline among the troops and the complete chaos on the liberated areas.

For most of Croatian public this tape is greeted as the smoking gun that finally establishes General's innocence of all war crimes. Žarko Puhovski (Zarko Puhovski), chairman of HHO, top Croatian human rights organisation, says that ICTY would have to re-write the indictment based on the materials available on the tape.

Others were less enthusiastic about the tape. That goes for Čedo Prodanović (Cedo Prodanovic), defence attorney for General Ivan Čermak (Ivan Cermak), former commandant of liberated Knin who has recently turned himself in to ICTY authorities. Čermak was supposed to awarded for this gesture with temporary release. Yet, he was also present at the meeting and the tape proves that he was aware of the chaotic situation (and burning, looting and killing that went on before and during the meeting). If the tape absolves Gotovina of the responsibility, it also puts the blame on Čermak who was appointed by Tudjman to supervise handover of power from military to civilian authorities. Prodanović thinks that this tape could jeopardise his client's chances to be temporarily released.

Other commentators are even less enthusiastic. The tape shows the meeting held few hours before President Tudjman's arrival to Knin. Gotovina's words might be interpreted as the anger over the shamefully messy state of city and troops that should greet their commander-in-chief.

In any case, Petar Malbaša (Petar Malbasa), cameraman who claims to have made those recordings, said that he had even more "spicy" tapes giving completely new perspective to certain events of 1991-95 war.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Alternative History

The line between alternative and real history is getting blurred, at least judging by this British poll.

I can already imagine shows like Diana the Warrior Princess being produced in not too distanced future.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Beautiful Game

There aren't that many occasions when the football/soccer justifies being called "beautiful game", but today's match between Deportivo and Milan was one of them. Actually, this can be said for almost all UEFA Championship League quarterfinals. There are rare occasions when so many favourites got knocked out in such dramatic fashion.

Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Roles

These days I don't have much time or inclination to watch TV dramas, especially those being aired on Nova TV. However, I made exception in the case of The Shield. I watched the first episode yesterday and I must say that it looked very good.

Since this happens to be a cable television show, there is more bloodshed, nudity or bad language than usual. So I didn't have to suspend much disbelief in order to enjoy this story about darker side of police work.

The best thing in the show seems to be Michael Chiklis. I remembered that actor from The Commish, very good comedy/drama series in which he played police commissioner. The show was light-hearted, shot in Vancouver and written by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Since I used to be huge X-Files fan, I appreciated familiar brand of humour, Vancouver setting and many supporting players.

Here the setting is completely different, the tone is completely different and, last but not least, Chiklis is completely different. That actor was so heavily associated with Commish that some serious dramas in which he had appeared (like Taxman) simply couldn't be taken seriously just because they had him in the cast. How could someone take story about Russian mafia seriously when the mobster happens to be played by the guy from Commish?

But this is not the case with The Shield. I actually never recognised Chiklis. He looks differently, acts differently and his character is light years away from the one played in Commish.

The ending of the first episode was completely unpredictable and, needless to say, I look forward for next episode.

Nomen est omen

I watched little bits of tonight's Arsenal Chelsea game and couldn't fail noticing that Lehmann, the name of Arsenal's goalkeeper, happens to be pronounced almost identically as "leman", Croatian slang word for "being beaten up".

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Ten Years Ago…

Jonathan Edelstein, whose excellent blog is source of all kinds of interesting information about Africa, has marked the tenth anniversary of the events in Rwanda.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Changes

Tacitus link is changed.

Raed, Salam Pax's former blog partner, has recently started another blog, which is added to blogroll.


There are probably worse ways to lose power, but there is hardly more humiliating than the one experienced by Lithuanian president Rolandas Paksas.

Imagine losing power barely one year after being elected and less than a month before the event that could have been crowning achievement of your political career. And, to make things even worse, your departure is hardly going to be noticed by world's media.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Theatre of the Inconsistency

What used to unimaginable under "left centre" government of Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) and what used to be the worst nightmare of any self-respecting follower of Tudjman has become boring routine under right-wing HDZ government of Ivo Sanader.

Six Bosnian Croats have left for Amsterdam. From there they would report to ICTY and later be tried for various war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims during 1993-94 war. (Reuters, as it is to be expected, got the years wrong.)

Those six men went to Court by their own free will and used the opportunity to stage memorable farewell at Zagreb airport. This was hardly surprising, because one of those is General Slobodan Praljak, former film director. His speech was most theatrical of all it was followed by short dramatic performance of Zlatko Vitez, Zagreb actor known for pro-Tudjman views in 1990.

This spectacle, attended by hundreds of people, was to be expected. Indicted men know that they need not only to catch but to maintain the attention of Croatian public.

It is debatable whether they would succeed or not. With government's media blitz promising EU entry around the corner, with political establishment seeing war crimes suspects as expendable and with most of Croatian right-wingers still seeing Sanader as lesser evil than Ivica Račan, six Bosnian Croats can't arouse as much passion as Norac, Gotovina and Bobetko did.

On the other hand, Praljak is most probably going to be make much better show than most of ICTY defendants.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Ghosts of the Past Over Europe

Vladimir Meciar has won the first round of Slovakian presidential elections. His victory represents huge shock for all those who had written off former Slovakian leader as part of that country's authoritarian past.

By rejecting Meciar and his brand of nationalism Slovakia was supposed to turn the new bright page in its history and embrace liberal democratic European future.

Slovakian voters apparently had other ideas and allowed Meciar to stage his great comeback. Of course, it all can change in second round with liberal democrats gathering their votes around single anti-Meciar candidate, but experiences tell that winner of first round usually has big moral advantage over any possible opposition. Voter apathy, despair and relatively little importance of presidential post of Slovakia might conspire to give Meciar his victory.

This development might look shocking, but not so if Slovakia is compared with countries of Southeastern Europe where nationalists, chauvinists and authoritarians are making slow comeback under "reformed", "moderate" or "kinder and gentler" banner.

The chauvinism is rearing its ugly head even in those countries who were supposed to be role models for their neighbours in the Balkans.

Slovenia, which, compared to its former federal partners, indeed looks like the embodiment of enlightened and prosperous liberal democracy, has just shown that the large segments of its populations support views not so very different from those that gave democratic legitimacy to the likes of Milošević (Milosevic), Tudjman and Šešelj (Seselj).

Today's referendum in Slovenia, just like the presidential elections in Slovakia, is probably not going to have any actual political or even legal relevance, but it clearly shows that the EU expansion won't magically erase the ghost of the past in Eastern Europe.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Big Game and Big Fears

Hajduk and Dinamo had their Croatian Soccer Championship game at Poljud Stadium in Split. So far, I haven't heard of any major incidents. The 0-0 result is most probably not going to cause any crowd trouble.

Some 800 policemen were deployed in order to separate rival Torcida and BBB fan groups and prevent the incidents like the one that happened in Dugopolje following the previous game between Hajduk and Dinamo.

Friday, April 02, 2004


One of the four men killed in Fallujah is Jerko Zovko, man whose name clearly tells of his Croatian descent.

But you couldn't find that in Croatian media. Which is very strange for the country where even the remotest indication of world celebrity's Croatian heritage results in media frenzy.

Then again, having Croatian elected as president of Argentina (one of Nestor Kirchner's grandparents was from Croatia) and having Croatian killed and mutilated in Iraq are two different things.

Furthermore, Croatia today tries to distance itself from Iraq as much as possible. After Madrid bombing even the most ardent supporters of Bush's war are finding convenient excuses for not sending Croatian soldiers to that country. Fear of Islamist terrorist is such that nobody dares to mention Croatian fighting for Americans in Iraq, even if that particular Croatian was Croatian only by descent.


Ivan Grdešić (Ivan Grdesic), Croatian ambassador to USA, has expressed condolences to Zovko family. The news wasn't on the front page of Slobodna Dalmacija, though.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

New Talk Show in Split

Split lacks lot of things, but television market isn't one of them. The airwaves over city are covered by the signals of three local TV stations – TV Jadran (former Adriatic TV), STV and TV Dalmacija. All three of them are fighting hard for the audience and all three of them have increased efforts to get new viewers with the variety of programs.

Some of those programs are original while some represent copies or localised versions of the stuff you can see on national TV.

TV Dalmacija has started new talk show called Slobodna Informacija. The host is Saša Ljubičić (Sasa Ljubicic), left-wing columnist of Slobodna Dalmacija. His first guest tonight was former mayor Ivica Škarić (Ivica Skaric). Ljubičić, in an obvious effort to outshine Aleksandar Stanković (Aleksandar Stankovic) and HRT show Nedjeljom u 2, treated his guest very rough, reminding everyone of the glorious past and miserable present of Škarić's party HSLS. Škarić, however, held his ground very well, never allowing himself to be provoked. He answered Ljubičić's questions with dignity and grace and almost managed to give impression that he had nothing to do with the sorry state of Croatia's second largest city.

The only moment when Škarić wasn't convincing was his lame attempt to justify the easiness with which new right-wing government delivers Croatian generals to ICTY. Škarić, who used to take part in anti-ICTY demonstrations in 2001, did criticise Sanader, but never explained why there weren't any protests in 2004.