Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Convenient Fugitive

Yesterday Pavle Strugar, former federal Yugoslav Army general, received 8 years prison sentence at Hague Tribunal for his role in 1991 bombing of Dubrovnik. Croatian accompanied the news with the images of Dubrovnik citizens in tears, expressing shock, anger and disappointment over such "puny" sentence for so many horrible crimes committed during 1991-92 siege.

Despite Serbs representing overwhelming majority of those indicted and convicted, there are few people in Croatia who have positive feelings about Tribunal. There would be even less after the statement by Ollie Rehn. The statement, which created a small shockwave among Croatian public, threatens Croatia with suspension of accession negotiations if Ante Gotovina, Croatian Army general suspected of war crimes, isn't arrested and brought to Hague. If EU stands by Rehn's words, March 17th 2005 – the date when the negotiations are supposed to start and Ivo Sanader's government score its biggest achievement – is going to be one of the most disappointing and the most humiliating in recent Croatian history.

Rehn was very concrete. According to his information, Croatian government "negotiated surrender" with Gotovina. In other words, despite President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic), Sanader and almost any other official claiming that they didn't have a clue where Gotovina is, there was a contact and, therefore, Croatian authorities had some ability to find his whereabouts and ultimately bring him in.

This isn't the first time Gotovina is used an excuse for EU to drag its feet and postpone accession process. And this won't be the first time for Sanader to try to compensate the lack of Gotovina with hectic diplomacy and all kinds of promises and favours to various EU member states.

Picture of what those favours might look like could be drawn based on the recently disclosed details of a deal between Deutcshe Telekom and previous government of Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan). The deal allowed DT to gain control over privatised Croatian phone company and ensured its monopoly over fixed phone services in Croatia. Those details show that DT gained much more in that deal than previously thought and Croatian government, as well as taxpayers, gained much less.

In such circumstances, it isn't surprising that many start to wonder whether EU and their member states really want Gotovina to come to Hague and thus deprive them of their most valuable negotiating tool. Rumours about Gotovina enjoying safe haven in some of EU member states are becoming more credible with each day.

And this, of course, fuels growing Euroscepticism which isn't limited to nationalist Right any more. In its most recent issue, ultra-leftist Feral Tribune also used similar speculations.


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