Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

BiH-Croatia Crisis May Prove Worse than the Serbia-Croatia One

Adelina Marini, November 3, 2016

The arrest of ten commanders of the Croatian Defence Army in Orašje has already grown into a scandal which is on the front pages of most Croatian newspapers. Reports on the subject continue to be scarce in Bosnia and Herzegovina itself. The focus in Croatian media today is that, in fact, Croatia has known for at least two years that BiH was preparing indictments against 640 Croatian veterans. Jutarnji list reports that everyone seem to be surprised, although Croatian authorities have been aware for at least two years that the BiH Prosecution is conducting an investigation of war crimes and the lists of suspects have been floating around the Internet for seven or eight years now. According to the state strategy for work on war crime court cases of 2008, 5 895 people were considered suspects, writes Jutarnji, which has possession of a document from back then. Up to this moment, 635 people have been charged, confirmed the BiH Prosecution spokesperson for the newspaper. 

Sources of the newspaper claim that during all these years intelligence agencies have regularly informed authorities of the investigations in BiH against members of the Croatian army and the Croatian Defence Army (HVO). This was known by the current prime minister, the president, and the chief prosecutor. Jutarnji also claims that general Ante Gotovina is on the list of suspects, as well as Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, who is also a deputy prime minister. The subject is a leading one for Vecernji list as well, which has a special supplement today about the fare of Croats in BiH. According to the newspaper, some of the 640 defendants have already been transferred to Croatia by Croatian services for their safety. Vecernji claims that the list, apart from Gotovina and Krstičević, also includes the former defence minister in the Zoran Milanović's government, Ante Kotromanović. 

Davor Ivanković reports in his material for the newspaper that Croatia cannot stand to the side, because to a large extent this is about political allegations. “The very number of Croats, former members of the HVO and the Croatian army, that the BiH Prosecution has singled out as suspects and potential perpetrators of war crimes is proof enough of the nature of the allegations in question. And this number is huge – over 640?!”, writes the journalist. In that same spirit, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković opened today’s government meeting saying that the concept of collective guilt in the allegations against Croatia is unacceptable. He added that the HVO, during the armed aggression against Croatia, has secured the protection of Croats in BiH as well as its sovereignty. “The independence and territorial integrity of Croatia has been defended not only at the battlefields in Croatia, but in BiH as well”, he said. 

In a commentary for Vecernji list, Nino Raspudić blames the international community and especially the USA for the current disadvantaged position of Croats in BiH “Today the situation in BiH is such that Republika Srpska has strong support from Russia and Serbia, the Bosniak unitarianistic policy is backed by the USA, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and Croats, as the only undoubtedly pro-European factor, are being left to fend for themselves”, writes the columnist. In a commentary for Nova television last night, journalist Ivana Petrović stated the opposite -  that the USA alone could be of assistance in this situation, for now it is not the time of Europe but of the USA in the Balkans, because Europe is busy with so many crises, which it is unable to deal with. 

The subject is almost nonexistent in the Bosnian media environment with the few pieces of information I was able to dig out are quotes from Croatian media. The front page of Dnevni avaz quotes Croatian retired general Pavao Miljavac, who believes that if this continues, there will be a retort. The newspaper reports that reactions by the Croatian side are very sharp. In front of the regional N1 TV channel the general also stated that all allegations are politically motivated. He explained that it all started back in the year 2003, when the law got changed and since then the practise of the Hague court began to be implemented – common understanding of commanders' responsibility and the collective responsibility approach. 


Serbian media report about the military exercises starting today between Serbia and Russia “Slavic brotherhood”. State-owned RTS television reports that NATO is having exercises in Montenegro and Russia – in Serbia. The TV channel reports that the “Slavic brotherhood” exercises, with the participation of Belarus will continue until November 14. Several hundred kilometres away, in Montenegro, NATO is conducting manoeuvres, which Serbia also participates in. “The territorial and timeframe proximity attracts a lot of attention by local and international public”, reports the TV channel. “While NATO, as Moscow claims, is enhancing its offensive potential along the western borders of Russia and Belarus, the armies of these states are practising in Serbia”, is said in the RTS material. 

The Montenegro mafia is behind the assassination attempt against the Serbian PM

Commentaries and news continue on the discovered weapons cache in close proximity to the family home of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić. According to Blic, the traces of the found weapons lead to a mafia organisation from Montenegro, which is cooperating with a South American drug cartel. The newspaper claims that the target of the weapons was not the PM, but his brother Andrej, as was also reported yesterday. It is not made clear why, however. Danas reports in an editorial that the entire story is well prepared after the recipe for changes at the top of the services. “The recipe in such cases is well known. All you need is an affair (authentic if possible, but could be staged). All is to be well stirred by the pro-government tabloids. Add press conference to taste and there you have it – you have pretty and smart executives in place”, writes the newspaper. 

“The problem with this method is that it totally overlooks the procedures and laws of the state. Personnel policy in the entire state apparatus and in a broader sense, is totally bypassing the rules. An extremely low number of these affairs materialise in legal or disciplinary rulings. This way the ones responsible are protected (a tested approach for creating loyal personnel) and at the same time faithful servants are placed. Simultaneously, though, the rule of law is being squandered and the facades are being destroyed of institutions which, by some miracle, continue to want to do their job”, continues the Danas editorial. 

Meanwhile in Montenegro, the Dnevne novine newspaper comments, quoted by Cafe del Montenegro, on the words of the well known for his provocations in Bulgaria as well Russian MP Sergueï Jelezniak, who scandalised the Montenegro public as well with his interview for a Russian medium. Regarding occurrences surrounding the elections in Montenegro – the arrest of Serbian nationals, suspects for the preparation of a terrorist attack on election day, Jelezniak, believed to be a sponsor of the opposition, led by the Democratic Front said:

“Now it is completely evident that the forces, who used to be in power in Podgorica, in their efforts to keep power at any cost have decided to stage a coup d'état during the elections. Leaders of the opposition, activists, and employees of judicial authorities have turned into hostages to this provocation. There is no doubt that the escalation of this dangerous plot posed a clear danger for the health and life of about ten thousand voters, citizens of Montenegro. [...] Such attempts at discrediting Russia and Serbia, as well as posing conditions to Montenegro, which most of the people of Montenegro are against, should be interpreted as dangerous political adventurism. Considering such events have international character and there are third countries mixed up in them, it is necessary, together with the responsible political powers of Montenegro, Serbia, and other Balkan states, to prepare campaigns, which would put an end to this dangerous practise in the future”, said the MP. 

According to Dnevne novine, such a statement, apart from being rude and non-diplomatic, also represents a rude interference in the country’s internal affairs. The newspaper reminds that Jelezniak orchestrated the campaigns of the Democratic front during Montenegro this year – from the protests in the end of last year to the final of the election campaign. 

Russia or the EU?

Serbian Blic continues is developing the story with the statement of the Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić that if forced to choose between the EU and Russia, Serbia will chose Russia. According to Blic, with this statement Mr Dačić has raised the tension at the Serbian political scene. The newspaper reminds, however, that right after the changes of October 5th, 2000 all parties have won elections based on policy towards EU membership. In this sense, the EU-or-Russia dilemma has long been answered. According to Aleksandra Joksimović, president of the Centre for Foreign Policy, the statement of Dačić is before all else pointed at the western partners in an attempt to secure a better negotiating position for Serbia. 

Pernar is Moscow’s useful idiot

Appearances by the Croatian MP from the anti-Europe and anti-NATO Live Wall party, Ivan Pernar, continue to cause turbulent reactions in Croatian media. In a commentary for Index, Petar Stošić writes that Pernar is no Jo Cox, nor Nadezhda Tolokonnikova  or Garry Kasparov. At the end of the day he is just one more useful idiot for Moscow, who in a loud voice will denounce real and made-up sins of the West, comparing it to Hitler’s Germany, but will cynically remain silent about the sins of the anti-Western axis of resistance. His tricks go through today because sincerity and respectability are not too highly valued today. The only currency today is virility, writes Petar Stošić.

“In such times Trump, Pernar, Farage, Šešelj, and other such fighters against the establishment could turn into being appropriate to the joy of the Orwell establishment from the Kremlin. If you truly think that you will receive more goodness from the Moscow marionettes, than from the Brussels ones, go like Pernar and vote for him again. The choice is yours”, ends the commentary.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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