Archive | Bosnia

The Battle for the EU – Liberalism vs. Illiberalism

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

It is again a crisis that drives the European Union towards a reconsideration of its state and towards change, as it has always been throughout its 60-year long life. Last year saw just the beginning of talks about the Union’s future after the Brits’ decision to leave it and the election of Donald Trump for US President acted as a catalyst on the debate, which is supposed to crystallise into an agreement about the future at the end of march on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundations of the EU. Talks about the future began in September of last year in the Slovak capital Bratislava. There is not much time left until end-March and specific ideas are more reactive, rather than creative. Reactive towards the main challenges faced by the EU – the radical geopolitical change and the domestic political battle with populists.

At the informal EU summit in Malta on February 3 a “great degree” of convergence of opinions was announced that the EU should use opportunities, which open and close, as well as about the role, which the EU should play on a global arena following the inauguration of the new US President Donald Trump. How big is this degree of convergence and how long is it going to last is a very important question, keeping in mind that there are elections coming this spring in key EU countries – France and The Netherlands – and one should not forget that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán openly supports Donald Trump, thus undermining European unity.

An end must be put to the synergy between geopolitics and domestic politics

Over the last few weeks activity in certain politicians, member states, or groups of countries has increased significantly. Iconic example for this was the speech of the leader of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem (The Netherlands, Socialists and Democrats), whose position currently hangs entirely on the result of elections in The Netherlands this spring. The many questions pointed at him about whether he will keep his post, as well as the support of his colleagues from the Eurogroup are probably the inspiration of his January 24 speech about the future of Europe, because its first part is entirely dedicated on the elections in various parts of the EU this year.

He expressed conviction that the next Dutch government will again be a coalition of centrist or moderate parties. There is also doubt that in Germany the populist Alternative for Germany party will be a part of any coalition. Dijsselbloem was optimistic regarding France as well. “My best guess is that at the end of this year Germany, France and the Netherlands will still be governed by mainstream, sensible politicians. Then will also be a good moment to push ahead on a number of topics regarding the future of the EU and the Eurozone”, he said.

The Dutch finance minister admitted that even if his optimistic forecast comes true, this by no means hails the end of populism. “I think it is here to stay, nourishing discontent and blaming the outside world. But we mustn’t forget that the vast majority of our population still places its trust in moderate parties, left or right. These mainstream parties will have to regain trust. The trust of their people that they will provide security and economic perspectives”, is Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s recipe. He believes the new Trump administration to be one more reason (besides the Brexit) for rethinking the EU’s position. “Geopolitical issues, defence and security, tax issues, the future of international financial institutions, and off course trade are now surrounded by question- and exclamation marks. Trump challenges Europe in many ways”.

Trump appears as a second focal point of anti-European politics besides Russia with statements, which caused waves of concern in member states, which have so far been living with no worries under the United States geopolitical wing. Now, however, the world is being divided up into remnants of the current reality and the alternative reality, created by Putin and Trump’s propaganda machines, each with his own goals. Their efforts find fertile ground in more and more political formations within the EU, which feel empowered to continue with the erosion of the Union until they gain full disintegration.

Prior to the Malta summit the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who left the summit with a new nickname – “our Donald” described three threats faced by the EU, pointing out that the current EU challenges are “more dangerous than ever before in the time since the signature of the Treaty of Rome”. The first threat is the geopolitical situation. “For the first time in our history, in an increasingly multi-polar external world, so many are becoming openly anti-European, or Eurosceptic at best. Particularly the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy”.

The second threat, outlined by our Donald, is internal and it is linked to the anti-European, nationalistic, and the growingly xenophobic feelings within the EU itself. “National egoism is also becoming an attractive alternative to integration. In addition, centrifugal tendencies feed on mistakes made by those, for whom ideology and institutions have become more important than the interests and emotions of the people”. This remark has a very clear address – traditional parties and the pro-European forces, which in the eyes of our Donald have gone too far in pulling on the bowstring.

The third threat according to Donald Tusk is the mentality of pro-European elites. “A decline of faith in political integration, submission to populist arguments as well as doubt in the fundamental values of liberal democracy are all increasingly visible”, writes Donald Tusk to leaders with a call to “have the courage to oppose the rhetoric of demagogues”. Tusk warned that the disintegration of the EU would not lead to the reinstatement of “some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states”, but to real dependence on the great superpowers: The USA, Russia, and China. “Only together can we be fully independent”, believes the former prime minister of Poland, who hopes to get re-elected for a second term to the post of leader to the European Council.

Together, but in two speeds

The big surprise at the Malta summit came from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who until recently had been the unchallenged favourite to win a fourth consecutive term as Germany’s Chancellor, but now has some stiff competition in her strongly pro-European competitor in the left wing – Martin Schulz. The man, who until recently was boss of the European Parliament and managed to exalt the institution to the highest level of European politics and the decision-making process, seems to be an entirely acceptable competition for Mrs Merkel. Polls are already giving him advantage over the conservatives of Mrs Merkel, who was announced by large international media and analysts as the sole keeper of liberal order in Europe.

According to Angela Merkel, the time has now come for a multi-speed EU “in which not all member states are always at the same level of integration”. The idea of a multi-speed Union is not new by far and has long been fact, but the comment is symbolic for it shows that even Mrs Merkel has matured for the changes, which are being forced in the EU both from the outside and the inside. The statement of the German chancellor was not welcomed by everyone. Finland Prime Minister Juha Sipilä stated that a two-speed Union, in which some members will be moving faster towards integration than others, is not an answer. “We must strengthen our commitments to the EU’s common values and must find a way to proceed together at the same pace”, he said at the end of the one-day summit in Malta.

Support for a two-speed Europe were also cast by Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg, who came out with a joint statement after Malta. In it they state that the EU is more than the sum of its members and it needs to continue developing with its supranational structures and community method. The prime ministers of the three countries demand that the EU Treaties continue to be the foundation of future cooperation, which means enhancement of the four freedoms, common market, the social dimension, and a strong euro area. They want a Union, in which there is respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, and rule of law and human rights.

In their declaration the three states stress on the need to reinstate trust in the EU, which could be accomplished through fulfilling negotiated agreements and by making the decision-making process more transparent and democratic. To them it is of special importance that European law is being enforced in full, regarding rule of law in member states, because it “is critical to the internal market, the Schengen area and further development of the EU”. “Different paths of integration and enhanced cooperation could provide for effective responses to challenges that affect member states in different ways”, believe Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Opposed to such an idea was the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party Jarosław Kaczyński, regarded as the informal leader of Poland. He believes that a two-speed Europe will lead to a breakdown and the practical liquidation of the EU. At the same time, however, Poland is one of the states putting a brake to Union integration. Ever since the new government came to power, almost all legislative initiatives are being blocked, which provide for more integration, like the setting up of an European prosecution, which would fight against European funds’ fraud.

Europe of nations, or an European nation? No, Europe of values

Jarosław Kaczyński advocates for a looser Union, in which member states have control over all the power. Of the same opinion is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who believes the EU wields way too much power, which needs to be returned to member states. This was the very subject of his regular summer speech in Romania. The same idea is supported by the French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, whose group in the European Parliament is called exactly Europe of Nations and Freedom. The first commitment in her election agenda is holding a referendum on leaving the euro area and the EU.

The other political current in the EU supports a deepening of integration and especially in the euro area. This is the feeling of southern member states, who met in end-January at a special summit in Lisbon. The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain believe that a weakening of Europe is not an option. To them the solution lies in deepening the currency union. The prime ministers of the seven countries expect “clear proposals” for the completion of the euro area and closing of the economic divergences and asymmetries in the currency club. They also place an accent on the necessity that the EU upholds its values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and respect and protection of human rights.

If it comes to a two-speed EU it would mean isolation of states outside the euro area, as euinside has forecasted on numerous occasions. This is also the most logical step, for integration is deepest in the Economic and Monetary Union. In times of rapid disintegration of the current world order, however, that was based on the spreading of liberal democracy and open trade, the EU is not so much facing the choice of more or less Europe, but rather what Europe. It becomes clear from official and unofficial statements made so far that the EU will split by the values line – to a liberal and illiberal part. The latter is an obstacle for the development of the former. So it may turn out that after Rome the EU will take the shape of a rocket that disengages from its first, illiberal stage. Or rather from the states it does not trust.

It is exactly trust that the leader of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi talked about in Slovenia last week. He stated that the recipe for the survival of the EU in today’s tumultuous world is following the rules. “What is preventing us from moving ahead today is, in part, the legacy of those past failures, which creates a lack of trust among countries to enter into such a new stage of integration.Trust that all countries will comply with the rules that they have set for themselves, so as to reduce their mutual vulnerability. And trust that all will enact the necessary reforms to ensure structural convergence, so that complying with those rules becomes easier, and sharing risks does not create permanent transfers between countries. Compliance and convergence, and through it growth, are the keys today to give to the integration process new impetus.”

From everything said so far the conclusion is drawn that in Rome a reckoning of trust will be done – who trusts/distrusts whom, and the decision where to and how to continue will be secondary. There is less than a month left to the anniversary.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia0 Comments

There Is a Serious Crisis of Democracy in the Western Balkans Region

NOVANEWS

A long delayed discussion took place in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee about the tensions in the Western Balkans region, which have been growing for months now, but with the start of the new year the situation deteriorated dramatically. The discussion was initiated by the Slovenian MEP Ivo Vajgl (ALDE), who is the rapporteur for Macedonia, and was held on the day of the election of a new committee chairman. The former chairman, veteran of the European Parliament and Foreign Affairs Elmar Brok (EPP, Germany) conceded his post to another EPP MEP from Germany – David McAllister, who is the rapporteur for Serbia. A fact that was presented with a lot of hope by the Serbian media. During the hour-long debate the prevailing feeling was one of shared concern with the rising of tensions in the region, with just one differing opinion – that of the French nationalist Jean-Luc Schaffhauser of Marine Le Pen’s Europe of Nations and Freedom group.

The discussion was a very open and realistic analysis of events in the region. A thing that has long been missing at the European scene. According to David McAllister, the Western Balkans region needs to be a strategic priority for the EU, for the region is surrounded by EU member states and what goes on in it will have direct impact on the entire Union, especially in turbulent times. He read out a carefully prepared opening statement to the debate, in which he stated that the region is positioned in the heart of Europe. “In almost all countries are growing issues such as incomplete reconciliation, fragile inter-ethnic co-existence, threatening Islamic radicalisation, Russia’s growing influence, insufficient political dialogue, a lack of media freedom and socio-economic problems”.

This realistic interlude was followed by pointing out of the hot spots, breeding tension in the region: the quarrel between Serbia and Kosovo because of the train issue; the post-election situation in Macedonia, growing ethnic polarisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina; claims about a coup attempt in Montenegro on Election Day and a possible manipulation by Russia. The Bosnia and Herzegovina rapporteur Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, Romania), who has long been warning about the Russian influence in the region, was even more straight-forward and direct. “The interest that we are taking can be explained by 2 factors: we need to recognise the fact that there are serious crises of democracy in the countries across the region. The electorate continues to be attracted by what is called ethno-nationalist policies and the ethnic divides are still being fomented for electoral purposes, and campaigns would suggest that nationalist rhetoric dominates debate”, he started off.

At the same time, he went on, Russia’s influence is growing throughout the region, and in Russia itself the nationalist ethnic dimension of politics has active participation. The Romanian MEP even thinks it dominates. He warned that there is a clear and present danger that the region is quite volatile at the moment and admitted to the EU being partly to blame for that. The former Croatian foreign minister, now MEP of the Socialists and Democrats group Tonino Picula described two opposite processes, which are currently underway in the Western Balkans: their gradual progress towards European integration and the spreading of interests and values, which contradict European integration and values. He believes that the dividing lines are most of all within certain countries of the region.

“The region’s progress is visible and undeniable, but it is not such, that it is immune to being threatened by a bad development, as we have been witnessing lately. Relations between Priština and Belgrade, as well as the situation in Macedonia and BiH too are not safe enough, so that we could not witness a serious deterioration of interstate relations, which will reflect on their European integration path as well”, concluded Mr Picula.

The initiator of the discussion, Ivo Vajgl, reminded that on the Balkans a conflict could burst into flame from a single little spark. “All conflicts in this region started with verbal aggression. Hate speech and insults we hear a lot of these things currently – in the media, television, in the newspapers as well and unfortunately very prominent political figures in these countries have these comments”, he said. He believes the words of the Serbian president on the hapless train from Belgrade to Kosovska Mitrovica are capable of provoking war. Word is of the reinstatement of the Belgrade-Kosovska Mitrovica railway line for the first time in 18 years, which was however played out in a very provocative way. The train was painted on the outside in the colours of the Serbian flag and all over it, written in 21 languages, there were the words “Kosovo is Serbia”. On the inside the train was pasted with photographs of frescoes from the Eastern Orthodox monastery in Kosovo.

Due to the sharp escalation of tension the train was halted before it entered Kosovo, but let loose some militaristic rhetoric. The candidate for a second presidential term Tomislav Nikolić threatened that, if need be, he will send the military into Kosovo to protect the Serbian minority there.

The rapporteur for Kosovo Ulrike Lunacek (Greens, Austria) urged the countries of the region to concentrate on European values. “One of the essences of the enlargement process and what has made this EU strong is overcoming nationalist threats that brought to Europe in the last century the most ferocious wars we had”, she said and expressed her concern that the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States lends serious support to radical nationalists. She sees a solution to the problem in more television programmes and history textbooks, as well as in the ceasing of the politics of hate and violence.

French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, however, was outraged at this type of speaking and asked whether among European values one should also consider the recognition of Kosovo, which he named “a mafia state”. This caused some verbal discourse in the committee and forced Chairman McAllister’s warning that such attitude is inappropriate. “Please, let’s treat all European states with the same respect”, called David McAllister.

The debate was dominated by Croatian and Slovenian MEPs. Dubravka Šuica (EPP, Croatia), who got elected Vice-Chairperson of the committee, believes that the problem of the region is the conformism of leaders in those countries. “It is a fact that authoritarian tendencies and looking up at Russia present a great danger in these territories. There are authoritarian tendencies in existence, if we speak about the freedom of media in some states. Moreover, until we, as the EU, do not show willpower that we are ready to monitor political processes, the region will witness a further regress of democracy. The EU must be present much more actively in the region”, was her appeal. She believes that recent events are simply provocations, meant for domestic use and it is not likely that it will get to anything more serious, but only under the condition that the EU is more actively present in the region.

Tanja Fajon (S&D, Slovenia) warned that the region suffers from growing nationalism and brain drain. Jozo Radoš (ALDE, Croatia) reminded that, according to Serbia, the halting of the train was the provocation, not sending it. The president of Serbia stated that he was ready to go to war with Kosovo, just as he did in Croatia, reminded the MEP. “Also, the EU has not been able to resolve problems in Macedonia for a whole decade. We have representatives of Kosovo going to Albania for consultations. So, we don’t seem to be able to resolve the issues we are faced with. It seems that the political will is insufficient. Are we about to phase a new division of spheres of interest in the Western Balkans as we had in Yalta, just that we do not have the wisdom of Winston Churchill anymore”, further said Jozo Radoš.

Alojz Peterle (EPP, Slovenia), who used to be Slovenia’s prime minister just at the time of its separation from former Yugoslavia, stated that the European context has changed significantly since the time of the declarations of Zagreb in the year 2000 and Thessalonнki of 2003. “The question is whether we are satisfied with what is happening from one year to another”, he asked and requested a strong debate with the participation of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, S&D) and the Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP). Romanian MEP Victor Boştinaru (S&D) explained the situation with the enlargement fatigue.

“The Western Balkans have been and will probably always be, if Europe is not wise to act, a place of confrontation among major international actors”, he said and called for EU member states of the region to have more active participation in the integration of their neighbours. “If we continue with less effective steps than other countries, I’m referring to Russia, to China and Turkey they will be there”, warned the Romanian MEP. Another Croatian MEP – Marijana Petir (EPP) – criticised the EU’s approach towards the Western Balkans. She believes it is not pro-active and, besides, double standards are being used. She gave Macedonia as an example, which had fulfilled all prerequisites for membership, but was left in the waiting room over the last 10 years. Petir called all member states to begin EU membership negotiations with Macedonia.

“At the same time, we seem to have a rather favourable approach when it comes to Serbia, irrespectively of Serbia’s continuous proofs that it is not respecting the EU values”, added the Croatian MEP.

On the same day as this debate was happening in the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament, another round of the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo took place at the highest level, in which on the Serbian side participated the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and President Tomislav Nikolić, and on the Kosovo side – President Hashim Thaçi and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. Nikolić’s rhetoric remained unchanged even after that meeting, however. The next meeting of such rank is scheduled for Wednesday (February 1st). Meanwhile, the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list published an interview [in Croatian language] with former Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, in which he warns that the Balkans may be described as a potential source of tension, due to the extremely tense relations between the East and the West. “This could have catastrophic consequences for the region, especially keeping in mind that more and more countries are ethnically unstable and their once clear European perspective has become quite obscure in recent years”.

Đukanović also said that the agreement in the region, brought about by the Dayton peace accord no longer exists. “Some remnants of the pre-Dayton crises, which were supposed to be eliminated, have remained intact; several new ones have appeared, like the blocking of Macedonia’s road to integration. And now the perspective of the entire region looks quite worse and there are alternative ideas appearing already – generally already seen and proved false”, continues the former prime minister of Montenegro. He does, however, believe that the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the Western Balkans does not belong only to the international community, but also to the people living in the region. “In life, I do not like situations where I have no alternatives, but this is how it is with the Balkans. The Balkans, sadly, have no instruments of their own for self-stabilisation. If we are to reach stability – and instability with us throughout history has always meant war – we need to create these instruments by entering a community of democratic, socially and economically more advanced countries than us”, is Milo Đukanović’s recipe.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania0 Comments

Supreme Court rules against exposing Israel’s role in Bosnian genocide

NOVANEWS
Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

By John Brown

Citing potential damage to Israel’s foreign relations, the Supreme Court rejects a petition calling to reveal details of the government’s arms exports to the Serbian army during the Bosnian genocide.

A mass grave in Bosnia. (ICTY)

A mass grave in Bosnia. (ICTY)

 

Israel’s Supreme Court last month rejected a petition to reveal details of Israeli defense exports to the former Yugoslavia during the genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s. The court ruled that exposing Israeli involvement in genocide would damage the country’s foreign relations to such an extent that it would outweigh the public interest in knowing that information, and the possible prosecution of those involved.

The petitioners, Attorney Itay Mack and Professor Yair Oron, presented the court with concrete evidence of Israeli defense exports to Serbian forces at the time, including training as well as ammunition and rifles. Among other things, they presented the personal journal of General Ratko Mladić, currently on trial at the International Court of Justice for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Mladić’s journal explicitly mentions Serbia’s ample arms ties with Israel at the time.

The exports took place long after the UN Security Council placed an arms embargo on various parts of the former Yugoslavia, and after the publication of a series of testimonies exposing genocide and the creation of concentration camps.

The Israeli State Attorney’s reply and the court’s rejection of the petition are a de facto admission by Israel that it cooperated with the Bosnian genocide: if the government had nothing to hide, the documents under discussion would not pose any threat to foreign relations.

The most horrific acts of cruelty since the Holocaust

Between 1991 and 1995 the former Yugoslavia shattered, going from a multi-national republic to an assemblage of nations fighting each other in a bloody civil war that included massacres and ultimately genocide.

The Serbs waged war against Croatia from 1991-1992, and against Bosnia from 1992-1995. In both wars the Serbs committed genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the areas they occupied, leading to the deaths of 250,000 people. Tens of thousands of others were wounded and starved, a multitude of women were raped, and many people were incarcerated in concentration camps. Other parties to the conflict also committed war crimes, but the petition focuses on Israel’s collaboration with the Serbian forces. The horrendously cruel acts in Yugoslavia were the worst Europe had seen since the Holocaust.

Ratko Mladić. Evidence of Israeli arms deals was found in his journal. (Mikhail Estefayev)

Ratko Mladić. Evidence of Israeli arms deals was found in his journal. (Mikhail Estefayev)

One of the most notorious massacres was perpetrated by soldiers serving under Serbian General Ratko Mladić around the city of Srebrenica in July 1995. Serbian forces commanded by the general murdered about 8,000 Bosnians and buried them in mass graves in the course of a campaign of ethnic cleansing they were waging against Muslims in the area. Although the city was supposed to be under UN protection, when the massacre began UN troops did not intervene. Mladić was extradited to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 2012, and is still on trial.

At the time, prominent Jewish organizations were calling for an immediate end to the genocide and shutting down the death camps. Not so the State of Israel. Outwardly it condemned the massacre, but behind the scenes was supplying weapons to the perpetrators and training their troops.

Attorney Mack and Professor Oron have gathered numerous testimonies about the Israeli arms supply to Serbia, which they presented in their petition. They provided evidence of such exports taking place long after the UN Security Council embargo went into effect in September 1991. The testimonies have been crossed-checked and are brought here as they were presented in the petition, with necessary abbreviations.

In 1992 a former senior official of the Serb Ministry of Defense published a book, The Serbian Army, in which she wrote about the arms deal between Israel and Serbia, signed about a month after the embargo: “One of the largest deals was made in October 1991. For obvious reasons, the deal with the Jews was not made public at the time.”

An Israeli who volunteered in a humanitarian organization in Bosnia at the time testified that in 1994 a UN officer asked him to look at the remains of 120 mm shell — with Hebrew writing on it that exploded on the landing strip of the Sarajevo airfield. He also testified that he saw Serbs moving around in Bosnia carrying Uzi guns made in Israel.

A concentration camp in Bosnia. (ITN)

A concentration camp in Bosnia. (ITN)

 

In 1995 it was reported that Israeli arms dealers in collaboration with the French closed a deal to supply Serbia with LAW missiles. According to reports from 1992, a delegation of the Israeli Ministry of Defense came to Belgrade and signed an agreement to supply shells.

The same General Mladić who is now being prosecuted for war crimes and genocide, wrote in his journal that “from Israel — they proposed joint struggle against Islamist extremists. They offered to train our men in Greece and a free supply of sniper rifles.” A report prepared at the request of the Dutch government on the investigation of the Srebrenica events contains the following: “Belgrade considered Israel, Russia and Greece its best friends. In autumn 1991 Serbia closed a secret arms deal with Israel.”

In 1995 it was reported that Israeli arms dealers supplied weapons to VRS — the army of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb Army. This supply must have been made with the knowledge of the Israeli government.

The Serbs were not the only party in this war to which the Israeli arms dealers tried to sell weapons. According to reports, there was also an attempt to make a deal with the anti-Semitic Croatian regime, which eventually fell through. The petition also presented reports by human rights activists about Israelis training the Serb army, and that the arms deal with the Serbs enabled Jews to leave Sarajevo under siege.

While all of this was taking place in relative secrecy, at the public level the government of Israel lamely expressed its misgivings about the situation, as if this were some force majeure and not a manmade slaughter. In July 1994, then-Chairman of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Defense Committee MK Ori Or visited Belgrade and said: “Our memory is alive. We know what it means to live with boycotts. Every UN resolution against us has been taken with a two-thirds majority.” That year, Vice President of the US at the time, Al Gore, summoned the Israeli ambassador and warned Israel to desist from this cooperation.

Incidentally, in 2013 Israel had no problem extraditing to Bosnia-Herzegovina a citizen who immigrated to Israel seven years earlier and was wanted for suspicion of involvement in a massacre in Bosnia in 1995. In other words, at some point the state itself recognized the severity of the issue.

The Supreme Court in the service of war crimes

The Supreme Court session on the State’s reply to the petition was held ex parte, i.e. the petitioners weren’t allowed to hear it. Justices Danziger, Mazouz and Fogelman rejected the petition and accepted the State’s position that revealing the details of Israeli defense exports to Serbia during the genocide would damage Israel’s foreign relations and security, and that this potential damage exceeds the public’s interest in exposing what happened.

A mass grave at Srebrenica, where Serbian forces massacred around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995. (Adam Jones)

A mass grave at Srebrenica, where Serbian forces massacred around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995. (Adam Jones)

 

This ruling is dangerous for several reasons. Firstly, the court’s acceptance of the state’s certainty in how much damage would be caused to Israel’s foreign relations is perplexing. Earlier this year, the same Supreme Court rejected a similar claim regarding defense exports during the Rwandan genocide, yet a month later the state itself declared that the exports were halted six days after the killing started. If even the state does not see any harm in revealing – at least partially – this information regarding Rwanda, why was a sweeping gag imposed on the subject a month prior? Why did the Supreme Court justices overlook this deception, even refusing to accept it as evidence as the petitioners requested? After all, the state has obviously exaggerated in its claim that this information would be damaging to foreign relations.

Secondly, it is very much in the public’s interest to expose the state’s involvement in genocide, including through arms dealers, particularly as a state that was founded upon the devastation of its people following the Holocaust. It was for this reason that Israel was, for example, willing to disregard Argentina’s sovereignty when it kidnapped Eichmann and brought him to trial on its own soil. It is in the interest not only of Israelis, but also of those who were victims of the Holocaust. When the court considers war crimes, it is only proper for it to consider their interest as well.

When the court rules in cases of genocide that damage to state security – which remains entirely unproven – overrides the pursuit of justice for the victims of such crimes, it is sending a clear message: that the state’s right to security, whether real or imaginary, is absolute, and takes precedent over the rights of its citizens and others.

The Supreme Court’s ruling might lead one to conclude that the greater the crime, the easier it is to conceal. The more arms sold and the more genocide perpetrators trained, the greater the damage to the state’s foreign relations and security should such crimes be exposed, and the weight of such supposed damage will necessarily override the public interest. This is unacceptable. It turns the judges – as the petitioners have put it – into accomplices. The justices thus also make an unwitting Israeli public complicit with war crimes, and deny them the democratic right to conduct the relevant discussion.

The state faces a series of similar requests regarding its collaboration with the murderers of the Argentinian Junta, Pinochet’s regime in Chile, and Sri Lanka. Attorney Mack intends to present additional cases by the end of this year. Even if it is in the state’s interest to reject these petitions, the Supreme Court must stop helping to conceal these crimes — if not for the sake of prosecuting perpetrators of past crimes, at least in order to put a stop to them in our time.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Bosnia0 Comments

Crime Without Punishment – a Contemporary Balkan-Global Novel

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

The entire wrongness of the modern world is evident on the territory of the former Yugoslavia today. While in Croatia they remember with pride and sadness the battle for Vukovar and tell old and new stories of back then, mentioning Chetniks and Šešelj-ies, on the other side of the border Vojislav Šešelj, freer than ever, continues to spread his hatred. The difference now is that this is the new normal. It represents victory over political correctness, secured by Donald Trump – the most avid fighter against political correctness, which includes one of the greatest achievements of human civilisation – respect for those who are different. Today’s review of the press in former Yugoslavia mirrors all that is wrong with the world, built on the legacy of the Cold War.

Today, Croatia marks the 25th anniversary of the battle for Vukovar and this is the leading subject for all media in the country. This year, however, is different. For the first time the focus of the celebrations is different – the economic and social conditions in the “town of heroes”. In recent years, Vukovar has been an arena of division in Croatian society – between true patriots and false ones. It even came to splitting the column of the traditional procession from the Vukovar hospital to the cemetery in two. This year, however, the new Croatian government changed the approach. It held the traditional government meeting exactly in Vukovar, where it brought new projects and money, aiming to deal with the slow disappearing of the heroic town due to economic hardships. Media in the country report that this year a record-breaking number of visitors is expected and the procession will be the longest one so far.

Hotel and restaurant proprietors announce on TV channels that they have been fully booked for months and that the closest available bed is 150 kilometres away in Slavonski brod. “Crime with no punishment” is the headline of an article in Novi list by Tihomir Ponoš, who reports that on the crimes in Vukovar the Hague Tribunal has read just two sentences. No one was convicted of the top members of the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). The author reports that up until now the Tribunal has charged nine people for crimes committed in Vukovar around the year 1991, but there are just two convictions. The first brought before the Tribunal on charges of war crimes in Ovčari is Slavko Dokmanović, but he committed suicide in the detention facility in Scheveningen. With no sentence for Vukovar, as well as for many other crimes, committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, remained Slobodan Milošević as well, reports the newspaper and reminds that he also died in detention.

Death proves to be swifter than justice for Goran Hadžić as well, reminds Tihomir Ponoš. “Vojislav Šešelj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party and one of the many Chetnik paramilitary organisations during the war was acquitted at the first instance of all charges”, reports Ponoš. Serbian media do not mention the anniversary at all, but on the other hand the political activity of Vojislav Šešelj, who is now a member of the Skupština, gains more and more popularity. Blic reports that the scandal, surrounding the presentation of the annual report of the European Commission on Serbia’s progress towards EU membership continues in full force. Šešelj’s Radicals have once again blocked the access of the boss of the EU delegation in Belgrade Michael Davenport to the Parliament building, where he was to present the report in front of the European integration committee.

Members of Parliament from the SRS are threatening that they will not allow him to appear at the next meeting as well. If the party in power insist that he presents the report, they need to change the rules of Parliament, said the radicals. The commemoration of the battle for Vukovar is thoroughly covered in one of the most circulated newspapers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dnevni avaz. The newspaper reports that this year the anniversary passes under the motto “Vukovar – a place of special respect”. Avaz reminds that the battle for Vukovar is the largest and bloodiest one in the war for the separation of Croatia from the former Yugoslavia. It was a 87-day siege, ending in defeat, but also with great losses to attackers and huge devastation of Vukovar. Multiple murders and expulsion of the Croatian population. Between 2900 and 3600 people lost their lives in the battle, reports Avaz.

Gotovina enters politics

There is another large piece of news for this year’s anniversary. General Ante Gotovina, four years after his acquittal from The Hague, has decided to join politics anyway. He is going to be appointed adviser to Defence Minister Damir Krstičević. This caused sharp reactions in Serbia. Blic quotes the informal spokesperson on neighbourly affairs in the Serbian government, otherwise Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy Aleksandar Vulin, that this is an insult to all banished Serbs and the victims of “Storm” (the operation on the recovering of the territorial integrity of Croatia, started on August 4th, 1995). “If Gotovina is the Croatian contribution to world peace and their vision of security, then we all have a cause for concern”, said Vulin, quoted by Blic.

Danas quotes the president of the Union of Serbs in the region Miodrag Linta, who believes that the decision of the Croatian government is scandalous. This decision is directly pointed against the good neighbourly relations between Serbia and Croatia and against the strengthening of peace and stability in the Western Balkans region, as well as against the building of trust between the two nations. In his words, “it is obvious that Croatian society is not prepared to stand up and face its criminal past and the fact that Croatia is the only EU member state where war criminals are glorified”. Linta believes that it is high time that the EU, USA and Germany send a clear message to the Croatian government that it needs to remove from all state functions Gotovina, Markač, and all the rest, who have evidence against them for committing war crimes against Serbs, continues Danas.  The Hague Tribunal has acquitted both generals (Gotovina and Markač) on war crime charges.

Again in Danas, there is a valuable commentary by Snežana Čongradin, entitled “Call Kosovo”, written on the occasion of the agreement on telecommunications between Belgrade and Priština, thanks to which Kosovo now has its international dialling code. “This was supposed to mean that Serbian officials are working together with the Kosovo officials for the realisation of the common interests of the citizens of Serbia and Kosovo, rather than having military instigation and creation of an atmosphere of instability, uncertainty, and profiteering of punks, who fit the abnormal and inhuman conditions in both societies”, writes Čongradin. Serbia should have been the first to rejoice at the normalisation of life there after “the horrible crimes, committed in the name of Serbian citizens by those same punks”.

“Serbia continued in the years following the war in Kosovo to act just like it did in the years of losing it. Hatred, intolerance, misunderstanding, and identifying with the group of incapables and tyrants at the high places of the state, who, with their actions, laid shame and placed negative connotation on their own citizens in the eyes of the world, are present 16 years later as well, although bound within the borders that reality imposes”, writes Snežana Čongradin in Danas.

Let us not forget Trump

Vuk Perišić makes an interesting parallel between Donald Trump and Franjo Tuđman in his commentary for the Croatian website tportal. The author calms everybody down that there is no danger of Donald Trump ever becoming a dictator, for the USA has strong institutions available as well as a clear separation of powers. There are too many hindrances to the totalitarianisation of the country. “There are no reasons to fear that Trump will ruin the USA, as for example Tuđman and the HDZ ruined the Croatian society which, following their economic and moral devastation, lies in clinical death on the litter, incapable of anything but patriotic fantasies. As opposed to the USA, Croatia neither ever had nor created, nor wanted to create a meaningful and true democracy, independent state foundations, rule of law, and a critical society. Croatian political tradition was depleted and brought down to a blind and irrational state building, whereas the American one lays on rationalism, enlightenment, and the culture of the Free Individual” (capital letters are by the author).

Vuk Perišić also disproves Europe’s fears of a possible warm-up of relations between the USA and Russia. “Blame for all possible hardships that come to Europe would fall entirely on Europe. It is its own greatest adversary. It brought itself twice in the 20-th century to the brink of total self-annihilation, when behind the veil of its alleged civility peaked countless amounts of savagery and criminal energy”, writes Vuk Perišić for tportal.

Pernar on the sputnik of geopolitical love in Belgrade

The newly hatched Croatian anti-establishment player Ivan Pernar, who caught Moscow’s attention with his anti-European and anti-NATO positions, is gaining more and more attention and “is growing” in his geopolitical career. Serbian Politika (which is part-owned by Russian capitals) prints today on its title page an interview with Ivan Pernar on the occasion of his visit to the Serbian parliament. The newspaper reminds that this visit is happening 88 years after the radical MP Puniša Račić wounded Ivan Pernar’s grandfather in an attack in the Skupština. Today, 88 years later, Pernar goes to the Skupština for a visit, organised by the Russian propaganda machine Sputnik (Russian for satellite).

In his interview for Politika Mr Pernar also says that he is a close friend to the anti-European and pro-Russian movement Dveri, led by Boško Obradović, who recently stated in an interview for the regional N1 television channel that October 5th of 2000 (the day of the protests that brought down Milošević) did harm to Serbia. Obradović boasted in that same interview about his close relations with the new president-elect of Bulgaria, General Rumen Radev, who was a guest to the Russophile gathering this year in Kazanlak, Bulgaria. To Obradović, the future belongs to politicians like him. Ivan Pernar says in his interview for Politika that the thing connecting Live Wall to Dveri is their position against the EU and NATO. They differ about Srebrenica. To the question what his relations with Sputnik are, Ivan Pernar replied: “Sincere and friendly. I see Russia as a friendly state, not as some threat that the NATO generals talk about”.

Russians charged for the preparation of terrorist attacks in Montenegro on October 16

The big news in Montenegro today is the new version, as Vijesti reports, of the prosecution on the investigation of the state coup attempt in the country on election day, October 16. Two Russian nationals have been charged with the organisation of the prevented attacks – Eduard Vladimirovich Shirokov and Vladimir Nikolajevich Popov. They organised a criminal group, which was supposed to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, is written in the investigation of the specialised prosecution on the case. The group was supposed to cause chaos in Montenegro on election night. Montenegrin Pobjeda reports that the opposition – represented by the Democratic front – is preparing a new wave of protests in December, similar to the last year’s.

According to the newspaper, the official goal of the protests is the same as last year – the formation of a transient or minority government, which is to prepare new parliamentary elections, which are to be held together with the presidential ones. The informal goal is keeping up the pressure on the Skupština, which soon needs to make a decision on the NATO membership.

European integration apathy

An interesting analysis by Jovana Marović, who is a member of the workgroup on Article 23 of Montenegro’s negotiations with the EU, is published by Vijesti. In it, she points out that the European Commission’s reports are all the same. Progress is technical, all is the same. She underlines the unpleasant coincidence, when in one and the same day came the announcement of the results of the presidential elections in the USA and the EC’s annual reports on enlargement. “In the very day, when the results were announced from the presidential elections in the USA accompanied by discussions about the end of liberal democracy as we know it, came the presentation of this year’s progress reports in the process of European integration. Forecasts for the strengthening of democracy in this part of the world are just as pessimistic”, believes Jovana Marović.

The EU is jaded by the enlargement process. Global tendencies of the degradation of democratic values, as well as problems in the region are the main reason for it, is the expert’s opinion. She notes that Montenegro is presented in Brussels as being the most advanced, but it actually has no competition. Progress is purely technical and practically all is the same.

“Let us conclude – ‘the permanent progress’ in the strengthening of institutions and laws through the process of negotiations does not also mean a strengthening of democracy in Montenegro. Democracy is walking backwards. The democracy index of Freedom House for Montenegro shows that since the year 2012 there is a regressive trend. By the way, even without the use of a well developed methodology, you could see this quite well in the election and post-election rhetoric, the atmosphere of threats, labelling, attacks on independent media and critics of the authorities, the system of (ir)responsibility for breaking the law, the multitude of frauds, selective reactions by the institutions, and the still restricted conditions for free and fair elections”, writes Jovana Marović for Vijesti.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Europe, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia0 Comments

Winners and Losers in the Bosnia Referendum

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

Day two after the referendum in the Serbian part of and Herzegovina. There is already no trace of tension, sober analyses prevail throughout the region. CroatianVecernji list published on its front page today 10 questions, following “Dodik’s plebiscite”. Does the successful referendum mean that Republika Srpska is now a state is the first question that the author Dejan Jazvić gives a negative answer to from Sarajevo. The holding of the referendum has no legal value, because even Dodik and his assistants say that they will follow the Constitutional Court’s ruling through a legal change. What could the outcome of the referendum mean for BiH as a state is the second question. The answer: “What the referendum did change is the political climate and relations between the different nationalities, which are thoroughly poisoned in BiH and will probably remain so for quite some time”.

What does the referendum mean for the Serbs, the Bosniaks, and the Croats? To Dodik, this is a demonstration of readiness to stand against the Dayton autonomy. Bosniak media do not attempt to hide their disgruntlement with the international community, and the Croats keep to the side, for they are against a complete disintegration of BiH, but also against unitarisation, which is the unaccomplished goal of Bosniak politics. The fourth question is what could the next referenda be, after Dodik already announced such a possibility. The goal of any referendum, in Dodik’s words, is halting any attempts at“humiliating” RS. So anything perceived as a humiliation attempt, as was the case of the removal of the coat of arms, the anthem, and the current experience with the abolition of the national holiday will be an excuse for a referendum.

How is the referendum viewed by the EU and the High Representative Valentin Inzko? There is talk in Sarajevo about a silent isolation of Dodik and RS, but sanctions or even apprehension of Dodik are highly unlikely. What is the talk on the referendum in the USA, which is the creator of modern day BiH in Dayton? American diplomats seem to be boycotting Dodik for quite some time now, but it looks like Washington is not ready to commit specifically to BiH, at least not until after the presidential elections in the US. What does the referendum mean for Russia, which wants to position itself back on the Balkans is Dejan Jazvić’s next question. According to some accounts, Putin’s influence in RS is larger than in Serbia and will probably continue to grow. This is the westernmost region of Russian influence in Europe.

Should RS truly become a separate state, could the Croats get their own entity? Although not too probable, a possible exit (Srexit?) of RS from BiH will open an opportunity for a reorganisation of the rest of the country, meaning a reconsideration of relations between Croats and Bosniaks in the federation, believes the journalist. Could the separation of RS lead to a new war? The disintegration of BiH and thus a new war are a very distant possibility. And the last question – will Dodik answer for Constitutional Court rulings violations? Not too likely. The decision to hold the referendum was made by the Parliament of RS, so it is difficult to draft an indictment against Dodik.

Slobodna Dalmacija also prints today a huge material devoted to the referendum under the headline “Dodik’s win. Where is Inzko?”. Who is the greatest winner from the referendum, asks author Zoran Šagolj. Without doubt it is Milorad Dodik, the RS president, he answers. “Quite a few analysts expected to the last minute that he will pull back. The cool support of Belgrade, and at the end of Moscow too, seem to have goaded him even further into remaining obstinate to Sarajevo and the rest of the world. Actually, he wanted and to a large degree succeeded in demonstrating that to a great degree he can fend for himself, without Vučić or Putin, because for 20 years he has been building and has built, most obviously, a state within the state”, continues the newspaper.

The list of losers is made up of two players, believes Zoran Šagolj. At the first place is Bakir Izetbegović. He expected that the international community will react after he managed to obtain a legal ruling naming the referendum anti-Constitutional and banning its holding. The other looser without doubt is the High Representative Valentin Inzko and the part of the international community he represents. “Since the Austrian came to Bosnia geopolitical circumstances have changed fundamentally. There is no more common international policy, but several different ones – American, European, Russian, Turkish, German”. His solace is the sizable compensation of close to 300 000 euro per year he receives, almost as much as Barack Obama.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina commentaries gave way to news and the upcoming local elections this Sunday, but there are several here and there. Klix publishes an interview by the Bosnian information agency FENA with the Swiss resident Dr Nenad Stojanović, according to whom the Sunday referendum was anything but an exercise in direct democracy. “When political leaders call a referendum with a question, the answer to which is well known, then this is no direct democracy, but a plebiscite, whose goal is to strengthen political positions. This comes in conflict with what direct democracy is”, believes the analyst. “The most important trait of direct democracy is that authorities are never certain whether they will win or lose, thus whether the majority of citizens will back the authorities’ position or not. This is the true direct democracy, for it forces politicians into paying attention to the citizens’ opinion”, says Dr Stojanović.

In a commentary for the Bosnian website 6yka Aleksandar Bećić analyses the referendum like this: “Dodik stated that a referendum is possible for the separation of RS; Vučić – that the most important thing is that everything went peacefully; the EU – that it does not recognise the referendum; Russia puts an end to this question; the Department of State is, of course, contra; Bosniak politicians in BiH call for sanctions against Dodik; the Sarajevo Prosecution announced a hearing of persons related to a violation of the BiH Constitutional Court rulings. And the people? How do they live?”, asks Aleksandar Bećić.

The subject is once again on the front page of the Serbian Blic, which names Dodik “the last Greater-Serbia politician”. Vecernje novosti prints a commentary by Predrag Vasiljević, dramatically headlined“Freedom”. “The people of Republika Srpska had their say. By themselves, united, they decided which day to celebrate. By themselves they decided January 9th will be their holiday – the day of Saint Stephan. And this is not all. Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina did not vote for a separation from the state. They did not undermine the foundation of the Dayton fortress, which is of no great importance to them. They did not undermine peace or rattle any sabres. They did not put a finger in the eye of the West, or that of the Bosniaks, or the Croats. Nothing like that. With nothing more than a pen in hand 99.81% of the citizens, who went out to the referendum, voted for the protection of the line of common dignity. For upholding the right to have a day, when they can fly the flags high, loudly sing “Divine Righteousness”, and proudly mark their birthday. Just that, but fully sufficient for freedom. Well, it is just that fight for such a great value that has for the first time united all RS politicians and the people as well, which seems to stand the most in the way of Bosniak political chiefs in Sarajevo and the Euro-Atlantic forces”, says in the commentary.

Montenegrin Pobjeda also publishes a large material on centre spread. The results of the referendum do not mean that Milorad Dodik’s party will win the local elections on October 2nd, but all the nuisances and disagreements surrounding the referendum campaign have successfully throttled any discussion about the local elections. Apart from the victory in the referendum, Dodik managed to draw the opposition to his project as well and now the question is what will happen in the local elections next weekend, writes the Montenegrin daily newspaper. In an interview for the paper, Mladen Ivanić, the Serbian representative in the BiH presidency states that the opposition had no choice. “We had to accept the referendum, for otherwise we would have been named traitors.” He adds that the opposition insisted that the referendum is unnecessary.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia0 Comments


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