Croatia Caught in EU Refugee Bedlam

Refugees stream into Croatia Saturday 19 September 2015 Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

Refugees stream into Croatia
Saturday 19 September 2015
Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

According to Croatian HRT TV news, Saturday 19 September evening edition, 21 000 refugees have entered Croatia from Serbia since Wednesday. The refugees, often referred to as the migrants, mostly from poor or war-torn countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, have streamed into Croatia since Wednesday, after Hungary blocked what had been the main route with a metal and razor-wire fence and riot police at its border with Serbia. Serbian authorities had then steered them and assisted them to Croatia’s borders and after Croatia closed its border with Serbia during the week, the refugees found alternative routes: they walked into Croatia through forests, corn and farm fields.

Crossing the border to Croatia across farms and cornfields

Crossing the border to Croatia
across farms and cornfields

Croatia’s prime minister, Zoran Milanovic wants to redirect the refugees flowing into his country to Hungary and Slovenia. He says Croatia can no longer receive refugees. However, the Hungarian government has, during the past couple of days, raised a barbed-wire fence along some 41 kilometer land border between it and Croatia (the rest of the border is a river) to keep the refugees out. Croatia has already transferred to the Hungarian border some 4,000 refugees and a couple of thousand to the Slovenian border. Both Hungary and Slovenia are resisting receiving the refugees and keep pounding vitriolic comments against Croatia.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanoviuc inspects a refugee food and first aid tent

Croatian Prime Minister
Zoran Milanoviuc inspects
a refugee food and first aid tent

After suddenly finding itself in the path of Europe’s biggest tide of migrants for decades, Croatia said on Friday it could no longer offer them refuge and would wave them on, challenging the EU to find a policy to receive them.
We cannot register and accommodate these people any longer,” Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told a news conference in the capital Zagreb.

“They will get food, water and medical help, and then they can move on. The European Union must know that Croatia will not become a migrant ‘hotspot’. We have hearts, but we also have heads.”

The arrival of 21,000 since Wednesday morning, many crossing fields and some dodging police, has proved too much for Croatia. It cannot sustain the burden economically or facilities wise.


The refugee crisis has left the EU scrambling for an effective response. Hungary has begun threatening Croatia that it will not recommend it becomes a Schengen area member state since it cannot contain its borders or offer aid to the influx of refugees. This criticism regarding humanitarianism comes from a country that just built 4-meter fences along its borders and chased off the refugees with tear gas and other types of violence as well as still sending bus loads to the Austrian border!

Police assist refugees in Croatia

Police assist refugees in Croatia

With tempers clearly fraying, anything could happen in EU. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic on Friday 18 September talked on the telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the two agreed that the problem of the current migrant wave had to be solved on the EU’s external borders.

Such a scenario is actually alarming given that the refugees clearly do not want to remain at EU’s external borders – Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Italy…so one wonders what Merkel and Milanovic meant by solving the problem on the EU’s external borders? Would force need to be used?

Refugees in Tovarnik, Croatia waiting in line for food

Refugees in Tovarnik, Croatia
waiting in line for food

Italy and Greece say they cannot cope with migrants coming by sea who, under the EU’s Dublin system, should be given shelter and potentially asylum in the first EU state they enter. Germany, France and other northern states complain Italy and Greece are ignoring the Dublin rules on registering asylum-seekers and helping them travel north through the Schengen area. They now complain Italy and Greece are slow to accept EU help to properly register migrants and send back non-refugees, meaning many can drift across Europe working without documents. Hungary blames Greece for the tens of thousands arriving there this summer and has now fenced off its border with Serbia and its new target to throw blame against is Croatia! Slovenia has also entered the blame and rejection game. It too, like Hungary says it will protect the Schengen borders! Greece and Italy are within the Schengen area also but have not protected the borders and, instead, moved the refugees onward into Europe – let someone else worry about them, would sum it up.

Assisting refugees onto buses in Croatia Saturday 19 September 2015

Assisting refugees onto buses
in Croatia
Saturday 19 September 2015

Germany, France and others criticise eastern states led by Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary for blocking a larger Jean Claude Juncker plan to relocate 120,000 according to quotas. Some say these ex-Communist states lack solidarity after years of receiving EU subsidies and could be penalised by having their grants cut. These eastern European countries accuse Germany of bullying, say relocation will only draw in more immigrants who will, in any case, not want to stay in eastern Europe but will defy the unenforceable Dublin rules and cross Schengen borders to Germany. They say that the EU bailed out Greece on a number of occasions and yet it does not seem to be getting the harsh criticism from Brussels as they are. Obviously EU isn’t going to change its composition of egotistical states any time soon.
Stung by criticism of “Brussels” for not being able to quieten the squabbles between member states affected by the refugee crisis, European Commission officials have noted that their power is limited. Variations in the welcome given to refugees or benefits offered are national prerogatives.

Croatia and refugee crisis in EU

Croatia and
refugee crisis in EU

An EU emergency response system to provide extra frontier guards has been canvassed in Brussels but such a mechanism can only be triggered by invitation – something Athens, caught up in debt crisis and new elections, has yet to issue, reports Reuters.

Comforted by a strong vote on Thursday 17 September for its mandatory quota proposal in the European Parliament, another federalist institution, the European Commission declared this “a clear signal to … ministers … that it is high time to act and finally agree”.
But national leaders insist on first seeking consensus among states. “I feel an allergy to coercion,” their summit’s chairman Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said last week.
Juncker last week suggested a common EU border guard service and some officials believe a single EU asylum system could make better sense than a patchwork of national policies.

Syrian refugees in Croatia

Syrian refugees (or migrants?) in Croatia

Now, one cannot throw caution to the wind and not ponder on the unwanted eventuality of EU setting up large refugee camps in Croatia as part of the solution, given that Croatia is outside the Schengen area. Could that possibility be in what Milanovic and Merkel reportedly agreed upon? That the problem needs to be solved on EU’s external borders! Could Croatia end up being a huge camp in which the refugees are housed until processed, until their refugee status confirmed or rejected and from where they would either be distributed to other EU countries or deported out of EU? Large numbers are in question. It’s estimated that besides the 500,000 that have already entered European Union countries, another 500,000 are expected the coming year. Having in mind points of entry one can estimate that about 200,000 will enter through Greece and then up to Croatia/Hungary. Such overwhelming numbers would have alarming and destructive effects on the culture and life in Croatia as we know it with large doses of security issues to breeding of radicalism and terrorism as has been observed in other EU countries where multiculturalism has been developing for decades.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President Of Croatia Photo: Ivo Cagalj/Pixsell

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
President Of Croatia
Photo: Ivo Cagalj/Pixsell

Croatia’s Vecernji List reports that president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic had Saturday 19 September spoken to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and several state leaders about the migration crisis. She emphasised that the problem of the crisis is not only Croatian but also European and global and that it needs to be solved according to those premises. She said that Croatia would insist on solving the problem as being a global one as opposed to a local one. She expects that some 40,000 refugees will enter Croatia in the coming two days and that measures of security and other matters must be put in place in order to secure stability.
Croatia is not a country of first entry, Serbia is qualified as a safe country and therefore there is no need for thousands of migrants to cross over daily to Croatia, we cannot absorb them. We must, first of all, be realistic, secure safety of our own citizens and the stability of our country. We must know who the people crossing our borders are, that it be under supervision, at official crossings, not illegally, then we need to know where they are going because we cannot take care of so many on a long term basis,” she said.
Now all Croatia needs is a consensus between the Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic regarding the safety and security but the likelihood of that happening to an ideal level is quite slim with general elections “around the corner”. I do so agree with President Grabar-Kitarovic that the problem is global and the UN must start playing a bigger role. That particularly with view to establishing more refugee camps outside the EU countries, including Serbia if they reach it from Turkey/Greece. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

A Croatian To Compete For The UN Secretary-General Position

Croatian candidate for UN Secretary General

The wheels are reeling fast towards the day, in about a year, when the world will know who is replacing Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General. The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon is well under way as possible candidates line up through the media and political analysts – as potential candidates and the selection process fill the agenda of intense debates. The 2016 appointment will come during these times of the agitating and concerning resurfacing of tensions between East and West – this time over Syria and Ukraine (in particular); in the days many see as cementing a new Cold War between Russia and the West and these tensions continue creating the most difficult challenges the UN has had to face and deal with in more than a generation.

There is no avoiding it: the UN Secretary-General election process, and UN workings generally, will more likely than not become functionally gridlocked by Cold War-style divisions, backroom Cold War-style “deals” and “innuendos” with more far-reaching consequences than just some political tittle-tattle that gets someone’s “nose out of joint” for a day or so. So to keep the gridlock at bay the UN will need someone with real diplomatic skills at its helm. A smooth consensus between member states as to who that candidate might be, appears most unlikely – much suspicion and animosity rises and is likely to rise in this Cold War-style atmosphere.
When Ban Ki-moon’s time in office comes to an end next December, the world could be looking at two firsts in the new UN secretary-general: the first to come from Eastern Europe, and the first woman in the post,” wrote Andrew Macdowall, a Serbia based correspondent and analyst, for the UK Independent on 30 May 2015 as he conducted an interview with Croatia’s foreign minister Vesna Pusic, who has now declared that she will be running for the UN Secretary-General position in 2016.
In this interview Vesna Pusic expressed the belief that her experience of post-war politics has been important training for the UN!
Maybe it’s too much to expect that a secretary-general can change countries,” she said. “But it helps a great deal if she can understand and know how it feels when talking to people in a country, or confronting a situation in a country before or during a conflict.”


Give me a break! Give me a break!


Vesna Pusic’s post-war political input in Croatia as well as across the former Yugoslavia region is very much coloured by her incompetence and bias that leads to raised divisions among people as well as between former states of Yugoslavia, for which she, as foreign minister, was charged to move towards reconciliation. Through her lack of compassion and shallow or rather skewed political insight into defining issues of problematic matters, she has made staunch enemies of Croatian women who are victims of war crime of rape. She has managed to alienate many people and even a brief online search easily indicates that she is not widely regarded as a person who appeals for their strength, political and diplomatic competence. She has been criticised by the victims of the “conflict” in Croatia for not understanding their plights and justice for crimes and yet, here she is talking herself up about her ability to understand victims of conflict!


Give me a break! Give me a break!


It’s a curious thing that Andrew Macdowall, in his interview of Vesna Pusic for The Independent, blatantly suggests that Irina Bokova’s “family ties to the communist-era elite may act against her” (in her UNSG candidacy) and yet completely omits to make any references of the same weight to Vesna Pusic’s “family ties” – given he writes about Bokova’s ties to communism why not write about Pusic’s?! Vesna Pusic’s father was a high-ranking official in communist regime of Yugoslavia that left hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths.

A UN secretary-general candidate must be seen as P-5 ‘compatible’ and Vesna Pusic is certainly facing an uphill battle in this if she does put her hand up for the position. China, Russia, France, UK, USA consultations have in the past three decades proved to be a watered down compromise and 2016 is likely to prove anything but the likeness of preceding decades. Compromises are likely not to be made with same relative ease as before and the common denominator across P-5 that will draw victory for the UNSG candidate cannot be predicted at this stage with much certainty but it is likely to be connected to issues underpinning the current tensions between East and West. There is the reality of Cold War-style tension and content and political pull that will make the 2016 choice all the more tricky and unpredictable.
If there really is a strong preference for an Eastern European UN Secretary-General the front-runner seems to be, after all, Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian diplomat and the current Director-General of UNESCO. She has received the nomination of Bulgaria, she is US and Russia ‘compatible’, speaks French and is UN literate. Other possible candidates from Eastern Europe besides her and Croatia’s Vesna Pusic are Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, Miroslav Lajcák and Jan Kubis of Slovakia, and Danilo Turk, the former president of Slovenia and international law professor, who served between 2000 and 2005 as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, one of the organisation’s key jobs.

If one cannot be elected from Eastern Europe for whatever reason, but I have a hunch it’ll justifiably have something to do with resharpened Cold War knives and old die-hard communist ties that still ominously linger, despite the fact that some will say they don’t, then the field will open up to candidates from all regional groupings. In that event candidates are likely to include Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who currently heads the UN Development Programme, she has the support of New Zealand, Romano Prodi of Italy, José Manuel Barroso of Portugal, and Dilma Roussef of Brazil.
Come 2016 and UN Secretary-General elections we will see perhaps like never before battles about deep alignments between Moscow and Washington. Moscow and Washington will very likely view candidates as being on the wrong or the right side of the modern-day iron curtain.
Certainly, the world does not need Croatia’s Vesna Pusic a UN Secretary-General – she is inclined to believe that people feel they don’t know the UN, just like she evidently doesn’t know it:
People feel that the UN isn’t known to them; it’s very abstract, out there in New York, and [then] at times of crisis there are blue helmets that drive through your country. [A debate] would make the institution more acceptable and known to the global general public,” she said in her interview for The Independent.

There’s nothing abstract about the UN to most of us, I don’t think. There’s a lot we don’t like about it but also a lot that is good about it. It could shed itself, though, of politically ambitious people who have notable connections but know little of true relevance and feel – even less. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Vuk Jeremic’s Paltry UNGA Presidential Mandate Facing Exit Door

Newly-elected President of the General Assembly Amb. John Ashe  of Antigua and Barbuda (right) is congratulated by current President  Vuk Jeremic. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Newly-elected President of the General Assembly Amb. John Ashe
of Antigua and Barbuda (right) is congratulated by current President
Vuk Jeremic. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The United Nations General Assembly Friday June 14 elected by acclamation Ambassador John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda as President of its upcoming 68th session.
Taking the floor immediately after his election, Mr. Ashe, who is Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, said that in 18 months, the world body would launch an agenda for sustainable development for all, which ‘may very well be the boldest and most ambitious project that the United Nations has ever had to accomplish.’
‘In order to succeed, the General Assembly needs to be equally bold, ambitious and collaborative if we are to rise to the task we are about to undertake and ensure its completion,’ he said, adding ‘failure is not an option. Let us show the world…we can be bold and decisive in our actions.’

I’ve had plenty to say on this blog and elsewhere about Vuk Jeremic and his Presidency at the UN General Assembly and am especially proud to have been one of the initiators in questioning his motives and intentions around the organising of April 10 UNGA Thematic debate on “Role of International Criminal Justice on Reconciliation”.

Indeed, the debate was a flop, with several leading countries boycotting it.  While the Debate was supposed to address several international criminal tribunals such as for Lebanon, East Timor, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia…), Rwanda… it was obvious from the start that Jeremic was intending to make it all about Serbia and it’s disagreement with the Hague Tribunal’s acquittals of Croatian Generals of war crimes in November 2012. And this, of course is unacceptable because victims from all countries are equally important for UNGA and the UNGA President had a responsibility in ensuring that, rather than trying to bring Serbia’s issues and victims as the most important.

New York based Vecernji List journalist Jadranka Juresko-Kero reports on events at East River Friday 14 June and says that at the elections of the new UNGA President, Vuk Jeremic was convinced how his mandate will not be remembered as one of the successful ones and that a great majority of member states can’t wait for him to leave so that they may be able to forget as quickly as possible how the Serbian representative attempted to use that honourable position for the promotion of his own country’s interests, with such a forceful and diplomatically unbecoming manner.

It’s customary for member states to applaud the work and efforts of an outgoing UNGA president at the election meeting for a new president”, writes Juresko – Kero. Not in this case. Juresko-Kero continues: “ How much regard member states hold for Vuk Jeremic is best reflected in that the Eastern Europe group of UN member states to which Croatia belongs did not, even as a matter of courtesy, thank Jeremic for his UN work on Friday. It’s the UN usual practice that at the elections of new GA president, the work of the exiting one is commended, and if he was truly successful all his efforts and contribution to the work of the UN are emphasized. In cases where member states are not satisfied with the candidate but believe that he did not have ill intentions they express gratitude as a matter of diplomatic courtesy, but that did not occur in Vuk Jeremic’s case. Vecernji List has found out via the representatives of US diplomacy that the Germans as representatives of the EU group also did not wish to acknowledge and convey positive messages for Jeremic’s work, but for protocol’s sake managed to coolly thank him for the ‘peculiar style’ he demonstrated in New York”.

When we supported Vuk Jeremic’s election for the President of the General Assembly we believed that he, as a young and educated man, will be of wide views and cooperate with everyone and that Serbia, which has lost in every sense – war and territorial – will know how to value the diplomatic opportunity it received. We are deeply disappointed because Jeremic has turned his East River cabinet into a Serbian fortress, he exclusively deals with the problems of his country, ignores all others, manipulates the respect of this world organization and we all can hardly wait for his one year mandate to end this summer”, an EU diplomat reportedly said to Vecernji List journalist at East River on Friday.

To anyone – like Vuk Jeremic – who did not permit the victims of war crimes to be present at the April 10 UNGA Thematic Debate on the role of international criminal justice and reconciliation (a debate that touched them in every sense) I say: good riddance! I won’t even go into his awful antics whereby as UNGA President he organised celebrations of Serbian Orthdox New Year at East River, early in 2013, and had the Serb song “March on Drina” performed there, unbeknownst to the UN General Secretary and most member states’ representatives that this very song was hummed and sung by Serbian forces during their killing sprees in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990’s! Of course victims’ organisations were in shock and complained and were abhorred, after which Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General was placed in the humiliating position of having to apologise to victims of that war for that awful orchestration at the UN. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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