Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sanader Receives Gift from the East

Last few weeks were quite bad for Ivo Sanader’s government. Despite relentless lobbying efforts – Sanader even bothered to visit ailing Pope John Paul II in order to get support – EU still sends mixed signals over March 17th as the coveted starting day for EU accession negotiations.

And if Croatia doesn’t get green light on March 17th, Sanader’s party is going to get clobbered at the local elections with serious implications not only for its paper-thin majority in Sabor, but also for Sanader himself, recently deprived of its chief allies within HDZ. Deputy prime minister Andrija Hebrang, who championed Tudjmanist hard-line nationalism while remaining absolutely loyal to Sanader to the bitter end, had to leave because of poor health. Foreign minister Miomir Žužul (Miomir Zuzul) was forced out because of corruption scandal and views which were too pro-American for Croatian public. Jadranka Kosor, which was supposed to symbolise new “gentler, kinder” and “European” face of HDZ ceased to be an asset following disastrous presidential run.

The only thing that will keep Sanader afloat is the fact that his nominal rivals – President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) and former prime minister Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) – also invested too much of their own political capital into Croatian EU dream to let it turn into nightmare. After brief outburst of post-election verbal revanchism, Mesić has switched back into cohabitation mode and supports Sanader’s EU policy at every opportunity. Račan (Racan) not only enthusiastically embraced Sanader’s plan to have opposition cadre fill the highly coveted posts in Croatian EU negotiations team (and thus allow opposition to share some of Sanader’s EU triumph later on) but also all but confirmed his intention to form Grand Coalition with Sanader.

First moves of their ad hoc alliance have been directed towards Brussels. They are desperately trying to show that Croatia is really serious about apprehending Ante Gotovina, Croatian Army general who is indicted by ICTY for war crimes and whose arrest and extradition is explicitly mentioned as condition for the start of negotiations. In past three years, the official line of Croatian governments – Račan’s and Sanader’s – was that the General went missing and that Croatian police is unable to find his whereabouts. In the meantime, Gotovina became folk hero and icon for all right-wing and hard-line Croatians. Official Croatia did little to counter this image, including Mesić whose attempt to fight ICTY indictment through combination of diplomacy and certain shady characters turned into PR disaster that could have ended his presidency. Sanader, who owes his return to power, among other things, to the pro-Gotovina stance of HDZ electorate, also waited until the last minute to change the tune about fugitive general – the policies he pushes now are so different from those he had advocated on 150,000-men anti-Hague rally in Split four years ago.

So, Mesić and Sanader issued a joint and very public order to Croatian police and security services, demanding “intensification of all efforts to apprehend General Ante Gotovina”. Two days ago, Zagreb Court very conveniently sentenced Zagreb businessman Hrvoje Petrač (Hrvoje Petrac) –suspected of financing of Gotovina’s escape – to six years over his role in kidnapping case. Petrač is sentenced in absentia, which is, of course, very convenient for all those who would like him to keep quiet about other important financiers or his activities having state blessing. Even the image of Gotovina as hero is under attack – some Croatian media have very conveniently published details of Gotovina’s pre-war biography, including long prison sentences in France for armed robbery and similar kinds of crimes. President Mesić, of course, expressed shock over these revelations “that give completely different picture of Gotovina” despite the fact that he was supposed to be one of the most informed men in the country.

Those efforts, regardless how insincere they may look to the more cynical observers, represent something of an improvement over past three years. It remains to be seen whether Sanader’s EU backers are going to be impressed. Croatians are, apparently, not. Latest opinion poll by Večernji list (Vecernji list) shows that some 64 % of Croatians believe that the negotiations won’t start on March 17th. And even if they start, that doesn’t mean that March 17th represents the end of Sanader’s problems or that Croatians will see it as some kind of triumph. According to the same poll, around 47 % of Croatians are in favour of Croatia joining EU, while 36 % are against. This means that there are still more Europhiles than Eurosceptics among Croatians, but EU support being under magic 50 % mark is enough to send shivers down the spines of overwhelmingly Europhilic political, business, cultural and media establishment in Croatia.

All this represents bad news for Sanader, but yesterday something happened that would bring smile on his face. In Belgrade, group of 40 Croatian Serb refugees, gathered in Dom Sindikata hall and founded what they call “Parliament of Republika Srpska Krajina” in exile. The members were the last representatives of legislative body that was in charge of Serb-controlled areas in Croatia before Operation Storm and Erdut Treaty. The “Parliament” has elected new government-in-exile led by Milorad Buha. They issued statement calling former “Krajina” territories “occupied” and demanding that Croatia shouldn’t be allowed into EU, because it was created through “ethnic cleansing” and “denying Serb people their right of self-determination”.

This was great opportunity for Sanader to look statesman-like and give statement in which reminded Croatian people of what many believe to be Croatia’s greatest triumph. He said that “Greater Serbia was dead thanks to magnificent Operation Storm” and that the “time for such fantasies has passed”. Since it is unlikely that EU will listen to such suggestions from Belgrade, Sanader can present that as another great Croatian victory – which springs from the one which was achieved under his late boss Tudjman. Reminding Croatian people of what lies in the east was good technique to make them forget about more important problems in the west.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah Sanader, covjek kojemu zlatna ribica ispunjava sve zelje... tako je doticni gospodin za vrijeme prvih dana HDZ-a dobio odijelo. Nije dobio, vec je zlatna ribica (jedna bivsa mala splitska tvrtka) narucila najskuplji materijal iz Italije, te mu ga skrojila (mukte-dakako). Tu prici nije kraj. Sanaderu treba i nesto novaca za mjesecno putovanje do Zagreba. Zazelio je da mu se mjesečno poklanja nesto novaca u DEM-ima i to u gotovini (cache). Zlatna ribica se prenerazila, ali ipak mu je ponudila oko 3000 DEM mjesecno, na sto je Sanader popizdio. Da stvar bude OK, zlatna ribica mu je dala bjanko racun. Poanta „TKO NEMA ZLATNU RIBICU MOZE SE HRVATSKI JEBATI” - A sto se tice zlatne ribice - zar vam nije jasno? - ona je propala!

10:12 PM  

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