There was a comedy TV series produced during late 1980’s in a former Yugoslavia state of Montenegro and it was called “Djekna has not yet died and we do not know when she will”. Set in a remote rural place of Montenegro the TV series followed the actions of a family that went about solving the simplest of problems or situations in the most difficult of ways possible. The TV series acquired a cult status across former Yugoslavia. And so to this day, 25 years from its break-up, the process of succession – distribution of assets and liabilities of the former communist Yugoslavia, has not yet been completed. In that sense (along with some individual political ones) Yugoslavia has not yet died.
Communist Yugoslavia apologists and their friends always have and always will try and tell the world how great life was in communist Yugoslavia – much better than what it is in independent and democratic Croatia; that Croatia within Yugoslavia had much less unemployment and many operating manufacturing plants, companies etc. They, of course, omit purposefully to say that under the Yugoslav communist/socialist regime about 94% companies operated with the help of loans or ongoing bank lines of credit (made possible through communist totalitarian regime), as income from productivity simply did not cover operational expenses, not even wage costs. But, under communism a person had a job for life – guaranteed whatever level of productivity or usefulness for the company an individual had. Hence, communism nurtured the fatal sense of entitlement to a wage (and a job) was born and lived for about 50 years under communism and continues in many places still today, 20 or so years after Croatia’s Homeland finished. That the State owed one a living was pretty much the attitude of majority of people in former Yugoslavia at the time it disintegrated as a federation of states.
A demonstration of how deeply companies in former Yugoslavia (including Croatia) has actually emerged during the past week when Slovenia reportedly filed a 360 million-euro (US$405 million) lawsuit against Croatia, saying Croatia prevented the predecessor of Slovenia’s Nova Ljubljanska Bank from recouping money owed by Croatian companies when Yugoslavia broke up. As if independent Croatia was responsible for the sins of former Yugoslavia.
The suit was reportedly filed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and names the companies that borrowed from lender that was originally called (Slovenian) Ljubljanska Banka, which operated in Croatia while Yugoslavia existed. Slovenia reportedly accuses its former Yugoslav federal partner Croatia of “systematic and arbitrary interference” through the Croatian judicial system, where Slovenia filed more than 80 lawsuits in the past 25 years, which did not go anywhere.
Slovenia’s justice minister Goran Klemencic said that “Ljubljanska Bank was the largest bank in former Yugoslavia and that it provided loans for development for years. Croatian companies had not met their loan repayment duties and, hence Ljubljanska bank commenced proceedings (after the break up of Yugoslavia). There was over 80 companies that raked up hundreds of millions of debt…”
I find it rather incredulous and ridiculous that Slovenia can even think of seeking damages from independent Croatia for loans provided by its Ljubljanska bank under the former communist regime from which both Slovenia and Croatia seceded. In former Yugoslavia it was Belgrade and the communist regime that dictated the industrial environment including propping banks with access to foreign loans, licencing them to operate in the communist/socialist regime economic environment heavily reliant on government funding or government funneling of foreign loans, so that companies could have line of credit to pay their work force, etc. Communist regime needed to prove itself desirable and the only way it could do that best was to secure jobs and wages no matter what.
Slovenia is, therefore, trying to create a way to recoup old loans its bank gave to companies in Croatia (as it did to other states in former Yugoslavia) during the life of communist Yugoslavia state-run/controlled companies. Slovenia has around 2014 been ordered by the same European court that its Ljubljanska Bank must pay out individual citizens of Croatia a total of 385 million euro in order to reimburse their savings they held in that bank in early 1990’s when the bank shut its doors in Croatia and retreated back to Slovenia at the break up of Yugoslavia, taking people’s savings with it! Up until now only about 60 million has been paid out to people who held savings in that Slovenian bank in Croatia. Slovenia is now trying to say that the money owed to that bank by companies that existed in Croatia as part of Yugoslavia is equal or greater than that the bank owes to individual people who had savings in the bank. It’s to be remembered that Slovenia liquidated Ljubljanska Bank in early 1990’s and in 1994 formed its New Ljubljanska Bank with Ljubljanska Bank assets but not its liabilities, and thus has tried all these years to weasel out from having to reimburse the many people from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina whose private savings it had basically stolen.
With this reported lawsuit against Croatia, Slovenia is placing on equal level the money belonging to individual people its bank took from Croatia to Slovenia when it shut shop in Croatia with the old loans owed to the bank by companies that operated under communist Yugoslavia political directives and economic regulations! Furthermore, Slovenia tends to hold the opinion that it should not pay out anything, that all debts arisen in former Yugoslavia should be dealt with within the succession of former Yugoslavia case. Yup, as unbelievable as it is, the politicians of all former Yugoslavia and current ones of independent states have not yet within a quarter of a century managed to untangle and complete the distribution among former Yugoslav states of the assets and liabilities of former Yugoslavia. The European Court will first decide if it will take up the Slovenian lawsuit.
The process which began in 2001 with an Agreement of Succession of the Former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, had progressed painstakingly slowly and almost completely halted several times and it’s sadly obvious that it is not known whether the five successors of Yugoslavia – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia will ever complete the final stage of the process of disintegration of the former common state of Yugoslavia. A tentative inventory made by independent consultants in February 1993 estimated the net assets of the SFRY as of 31 December 1990 at US$60 billion. Of this, military assets represented 75 %, immovable/property assets 3.4 % and financial assets 21.6%. It is 2016 and value of the assets have held up well with due increases, Serbia had for a number of years held that it was the only true successor/heir to former Yugoslavia and this saw, for example, Serbia continuing to occupy diplomatic missions buildings owned by former Yugoslavia while all other former Yugoslavia states that went independent had to find accommodation for their newly formed diplomatic missions throughout the world. Much of these have in the past handful of years been distributed among Former Yugoslavia states and that is progress. Still many tail-ends remain loose, many issues to sort out one of which is now this latest lawsuit coming out of Slovenia that will delay the completion of succession of Former Yugoslavia.
Distressful as it is, Yugoslavia has not yet died and we do not know when she will…
Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)