Communist Yugoslavia Secret Services Archives Needed To Fight Against Organised Crime

The report on cooperation in the fight against organised crime in the Western Balkans was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 26 October 2021 by 60 votes in favour, 4 against and 6 abstentions.  In the report Members of the European Parliament urged governments in the region to significantly increase their efforts to go forward with reforms in the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The report says that the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia) are countries of origin, destination, and transit for human trafficking, and they serve as a transit corridor for migrants and refugees and as a location for money laundering and firearms trafficking.

There is a lack of genuine political will in fighting the organised crime in these countries and MEPs want Western Balkan countries to address fully the shortcomings of their respective criminal-justice systems, including the length of legal proceedings. While not located within the Western Balkans for the matters addressed in this report, Croatia as a country that used to be a part of communist Yugoslavia until 1991 still has a great deal to answer for and fight against when it comes to organised crime and corruption.

The report said that Members of the European Parliament insisted that “fighting organised crime and advancing towards European Union integration are mutually reinforcing processes and call for an accelerated integration process.” The EU should, according to its Members of Parliament, support these efforts through financial assistance and practical cooperation. Call me a pessimist and a cynic in this if you like, but judging from the fact that organised crime and corruption are rooted in these societies of former communist regimes or similar political and social realities, the EU money dished out to root out corruption will be largely swallowed up by the same corruption, to feed itself, unless political power landscapes are changed in those countries or the EU actually controls every euro given and does not give money away.

As a member state of former Yugoslavia Croatia has also inherited widespread corruption as organised crimes from it. As such, Croatia could play a significant role in its input into fighting organised crime in those countries of Western Balkans that have their eye on being members of an extended EU member country because it possesses “inside knowledge” of organised crime. But given the alarming level of organised corruption still plaguing Croatia one must doubt as to whether much will change in Western Balkans on account of Croatia’s input. To be effective in this Croatia would need to shed most of its public administration heads and replaced them with those who have no links whatsoever with the corrupt echelons. Or, assisting the EU in this role from Croatia should be persons who would not qualify for lustration if lustration was to occur as well as not be a descendant, child, or grandchild of those who would qualify to be lustrated whether now living or not. It sounds like a big ask but, in essence, it is not because Croatia has quite a number of those who would qualify and who had during the life of former Yugoslavia either lived there or lived abroad as part of the diaspora.

Croatia’s criminal-justice system is certainly there where Western Balkans’ is and it needs a complete overhaul, however, we are not likely to see this occur while those aligned with the former communist Yugoslavia mental set control all aspects of public administration including judiciary.

The Report says that the main factors that make Western Balkans societies vulnerable, are the lack of employment opportunities, corruption, disinformation, elements of state capture, inequality, and foreign interference from non-democratic regimes such as Russia and China. Croatia, even after 30 years of seceding from Yugoslavia still has these problems plaguing its progress and everyday life.

Links between organised crime, politics and businesses existed before the break-up of Yugoslavia and have continued since the end of the conflicts of the 1990s, and Members of the European Parliament “condemn the apparent lack of will of the responsible authorities in the region to open the former Yugoslav archives and for files to be returned to governments if they want them.”

The report welcomes the conclusion of cooperation agreements between Eurojust and the governments of Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, as well as the authorisation to open negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. MEPs urge the Council to authorise as soon as possible the opening of negotiations for a similar agreement with Kosovo.

It is of great interest to monitor how the recommendation from the Report that says that “Responsible authorities should open the former Yugoslav archives” will fare. Knowing the utterly corrupt persons that held the corrupt and criminal Yugoslavia together, influence of whom poisons many a responsible authority in former Yugoslavia countries, including Croatia, the opening of all archives is likely to be stalled for generations to come. Unless of course there comes a time when the political landscape changes and new generations, unpolluted by communist Yugoslavia nostalgia, come to be the authority that makes such decisions.

Suffice to say that there are multitudes of politicians in power or those holding authority in Croatia for whom the opening of Yugoslav archives would reveal alignment with UDBA (communist secret services in former Yugoslavia) communist purges operations and grand thefts for personal gain; an abominable, criminal past that included persecution and assassinations of anti-communist Croats and stealing public wealth for personal gains. Further problem for the opening of Yugoslav archives rests in the fact that when former Yugoslavia crumbled apart Serbia retained much of the archival material pertaining to the country’s federal depository held in its capital city Belgrade. Serbia did not do the decent thing and returned to all the former states of Yugoslavia their rightful archives – Serbia kept them all and it is not a member state of the European Union. Those archives would undoubtedly also reveal, among many other facts, the nasty historical fabrications Serbia has engaged in against its neighbouring countries, particularly Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.     

Communist Yugoslavia Secret Service files (UDBa) hide everything that the lustrated or those prosecuted for endangering human freedoms, political and civil rights, destroying families would be accused or members of the service lustrated or those prosecuted for endangering human freedoms, political and civil rights, destroying families and various blackmails and interfering in political and economic life and installing in political parties would be charged with. But Croatia’s criminal justice serves largely those it needs to protect from such lustration or prosecution. Secret service files hide everything unknown that would shed light on various historical and political deceptions, montages and that it would produce grounds for a different understanding of the 20th century history that is based on facts rather than communist or Serb fabrications.

Plights by several Croatian politicians in the opposition to the HDZ or SDP governments since year 2000 for the opening of accessibility to all Yugoslav archives, wherever on the territory of former Yugoslavia they may be held, have been numerous. Lobbying for the opening of the archives has been quite rich. But all to no avail! Will EU succeed where others have failed!?  The answer to the question “what is in those secret services files” appears with more urgency as Yugoslav secret services files continue to remain a “taboo topic” despite the landscape where, on surface, all the government officials and leaders swear to their personal commitment towards the truth! EU has been asking for access to those archives for over a decade and this Report regarding fighting organised crime on Western Balkans is just another notch in the string of asking.

The Report’s other significant recommendation is that political and administrative links to organised crime must be eradicated. This all sounds very great, just like the European Parliament’s declaration condemning all Totalitarian Regimes from the past some 12 years ago (2009). But the European Union authorities still to this day fail to punish or impose consequences upon Croatia for encouraging symbols of communist Yugoslavia totalitarian and murderous regime to thrive on the streets of Croatia that lost rivers of blood in the 1990’s while trying to secede from communist Yugoslavia. All this tells me that the European Parliament and the EU authorities have no real political will to contribute effectively to the achievement of recommendations from the Report on cooperation in the fight against organised crime in Western Balkans. I, for one, would love to see Yugoslav secret services archives open for all to access and study and show the truth but somehow, I fret that in my lifetime I will not see that without a miracle of political change. There appear to be too many individuals with power at some level within the countries’ machinery involved with organised crime in both Croatia and in the Western Balkans and only a miracle can rid the people of that scourge. The miracle, of course, can be shaped at the next general elections. Ina Vukic

EU, Croatia and Brexit

Croatia and Brexit

 

The European Union has seen numerous crises come and go and some staying stubbornly put – e.g. last year’s rejection by many member states to take in EU-stipulated quotas of refugees/migrants, but the 23 June 2016 Brexit vote in the United Kingdom has perhaps forced upon the EU the biggest crisis yet – bigger than was possible to imagine, perhaps? Brexit vote had within days of its results count heralded far-reaching consequences not only for the UK and the EU, but also for the countries seeking EU membership from the Balkans, Turkey etc.

Never before have citizens of an EU member state voted against remaining part of the Union and after more than four decades of its existence the problems of untangling many matters and connections within the EU network of member states are emerging as almost impossible to solve without causing serious damage to one or the other side and to individual people from both sides. By June 2016 UK had grown into and fused with EU flesh and the future of separating that EU flesh appears to entail serious repercussions for all involved.

Prior to Brexit vote the EU has been THE club to join particularly because of UK being its member. UK had been a draw-card for many from Eastern and Southeast Europe to vote “Yes” to EU membership at their own referendums. Arguably, many people from all countries of Eastern Europe and Southeast, such as Croatia in 2013, had held EU membership as an ideal club to aspire to precisely because UK was there, waiting in its desired modernity to embrace them as its own and lobbying for EU expansion. Now that Brexit vote assures UK’s departure from the EU these multitudes of people in these countries are bound to be asking themselves if it was worthwhile for their country to join the EU after all. The repercussions of Brexit vote will remain unclear for many weeks and months to come, as the implications are far reaching. Much will depend on decisions taken by British and EU leaders on a number of issues that will extend beyond the Brexit itself.

The EU, without the UK, is likely to see strengthened campaigns for it to become a union of sovereign states, rather than a federation of nation states that Brussels wants at this stage. Following Eastern European countries’ (e.g. Hungary, Slovakia, Poland…) stance in rejecting the housing of refugees and illegal migrants and in protecting their borders and the ever increasing height of the “national interests” (which by the way was at its highest in Wales and England, in particular, at the time of Brexit vote) suggest that the push for union of sovereign states is about to get heartier in EU.

dr Franjo Tudjman at UN on 22 May 1992

dr Franjo Tudjman at UN on 22 May 1992

A quarter century after Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, British voters have decided, albeit by a narrow margin, to leave the European Union. Throughout various media outlets in Croatia, Croats are currently pulling out of drawers president Franjo Tudjman’s words, even as far back as 1968 when as scientist and historian he wrote that “the European community in the shape of a union between European states could represent the most advantageous framework for a true revitalisation of the idea of co-existence in today’s world”.

European politics can only be purposeful if it brings about the creation of such a European community which will have the capacity of free itself from intolerable tutelage under both super powers (USA and USSR) and become an independent actor within the international life. Such a community in Europe can only be achieved as a union of states of independent European nations who would retain their own national quintessence, the right independent socio-political development within their own borders and to sovereignty in international life. The fundamental European politics that aim towards European community joining its European people’s material and intellectual powers into the idea of active co-existence and unity of diversity are the only politics that have real prospects of success,” wrote Franjo Tudjman way back in 1969 and retained these opinions as to the dynamics and make up of the European community/union well into the 1990’s when he championed Croatia’s independence from communist Yugoslavia.

The largest political party, Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, is currently preparing for its own leadership elections since Tomislav Karamarko resigned as leader last month; and, in the aftermath of the recent fall of government, snap general elections are due mid-September. Croatian political analysts and journalists are already asking the question: which leader of which party is likely to support an EU Federation of Nation States centrally governed from Brussels and which leader is likely to support an EU as Union of Sovereign States.

European Union is currently shaking from the rubbing of two tectonic plates against each other: the Euro-federalist one and the Euro-sovereignty one. Germany’s Angela Merkel and Brussels’ corridors of power are championing the former while the latter is strongly the agenda of Eastern Europe’s countries particularly the Visegrad Group (Czech, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) to which Croatia has been aspiring for a while, at least since Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s presidency took power in January 2015. Traces of leanings to a union of sovereign states in EU, or leaving the EU if membership means stripping of national sovereignty of state, can also be seen in Austria’s and Greece’s recent speculations as to a possible exit from the EU; Italy’s, Netherland’s and France’s conservatives increasing anti-EU sentiments and so forth…

 

The likely candidate for Croatia’s HDZ leadership elections in July, EUP Andrej Plenkovic, appears to support the EU Federation option and hence, the Visegrad Group lobby for a union of sovereign states would pose a problem for Croatia and lingering divisions and dissent. One cannot sit on both stools at the same time, as it were. It’s hard to imagine that majority Croats would want the European super state of federation where government is centralised in Brussels and sovereignty of each state erased as seems to be what Plenkovic as HDZ leader might support. It’s been said that such may be the case because EU protects its smaller member states but not all agree with such a view. While attaching oneself to a bigger and wealthier body might provide certain securities it certainly risks losing ones identity or much of it.

 

The remaining EU 27 members have been seeking a quick resolution, asking the UK to trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty that would manage the process of leaving the EU. However, the British government has been reluctant to trigger this ‘clean’ way out. Indeed with Prime Minister David Cameron resigning, with leaders of the Brexit campaign – Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage – leaving the Brexit train, not only does there seem to be no exit plan but also Brexit supporters are left holding the baby, looking down a “what now” abyss.

 

This puts the union in a state of uncertainty and Germany seemingly stepping up into the lobby for enlargement role UK played before – as exemplified by Angela Merkel’s swift statement on 4 July 2016 that Serbia may open its EU membership negotiation on Chapters 23 and 24 and that Croatia had agreed to this. Croatia had been stalling Serbia’s progress in opening Chapter 23 for EU membership negotiations with view to several important legal and judicial issues and missing persons matters outstanding from the 1990’s war against Croatia. The fact that these were issues to clear before Serbia is given a green light for Chapter 23 negotiations, and that green light to Serbia has now been given without adequate explanations in public as to what happened with Croatia’s issues, leaves one asking many distressing questions, particularly regarding justice for victims of Serb crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A logical and obvious explanation here is that the EU is working very hard to show the world that Brexit will not stop EU enlargement! However, the cost of such moves as opposed to the cost of nurturing the existing EU member states and leaving enlargement for a later time, could well prove to be too high for EU’s ambitions for the creation of a superstate of itself; member states may retaliate against such centralist decision-making as are those demonstrated this week regarding Serbia’s negotiations for EU membership. I mean, every “Tom, Dick and Harry” stood in Croatia’s way to negotiate its membership over many years and now, only three years after it achieved membership, the EU seems to have parked its criteria at an open town-market where EU membership desirous states can barter their way into membership whichever way and with whatever they want. So much for reasonable and needed criteria that guarantees at least some grassroots homogeneity in EU!

Whether Croats will fall into a position from which they’ll be happy to blindly and mutely listen to everything that comes out Brussels is the most burning question now. This week’s events that gave Serbia green light to open negotiations in Chapters 23 and 24 for EU membership have completely omitted to explain to the Croatian public why that is so and what happened with the issues of protests or requirements Croatia had put before the EU in this regard. I do not believe the Croatian public will wear this lightly and will want explanations. The wounds of the 1990’s War of Independence are still very raw, sacrifices made for freedom and sovereignty and self-determination – still felt heavily and deeply. No politician in Croatia is likely to survive for very long if he/she forgets this fact. EU or no EU. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia Picks Up On Brussels’ Recipe to Fight Refugee/Migrant Chaos

 

Vlaho Orepic Minister of Internal Affairs, Croatia Photo: Screenshot RTL TV 9 March 2016

Vlaho Orepic
Minister of Internal Affairs, Croatia
Photo: Screenshot RTL TV 9 March 2016

Last week from March 9, Croatia closed its borders to most refugees/migrants transiting to northern Europe through Croatia in a bid to close the so-called Balkan route, which starts in Turkey via boats to Greece then up to Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany … used by hundreds of thousands of people seeking a new life in Europe.  Many genuine refugees among them but reportedly more illegal migrants. This move by Croatia to close borders means that only those seeking asylum immediately after crossing the border into Croatia are permitted through (and there are very few of those as most want to go North to more affluent countries) as well as emergency (humanitarian) cases needing medical treatment they cannot obtain in a country they’re already in (e.g. Serbia). Slovenia closed its borders at the same time as Croatia and so has Macedonia on the Greece side. Serbia has announced it will follow the lead of other countries on the route and close its borders. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has last week announced Germany would send away, deport, all those found to fail the asylum test and are confirmed to be among those seeking a better life rather than necessary protection. Certainly the “sending back” moves have already caught on like “a house on fire” – tens of thousands are already being sent back to Greece not only from Germany but also from other countries on the route, having Greece rightfully worried that its tourism industry will suffer a terrible blow because of the bottlenecks being created with refugees/migrants stuck in one place.

Nea Kavala tent camp Greece, near Macedonia border Photo: Screenshot HRT TV Croatia News 12 March 2016

Nea Kavala tent camp
Greece, near Macedonia border
Photo: Screenshot HRT TV Croatia News 12 March 2016

The moves to shut down the main route used by the vast amount of refugees/illegal migrants hoping to find asylum or better economic prospects in Northern Europe came barely a day after the EU and Turkey agreed to a proposal aimed at easing the crisis.

Idomeni camp Greece near Macedonia border 12 March 2016

Idomeni camp Greece
near Macedonia border
12 March 2016

Slovenia’s and Croatia’s officials have stated during the week that foreigners meeting the requirements to enter the country, those who want to claim asylum and migrants selected on a case-by-case basis on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with the rules of the Schengen zone would be accepted through. While Croatia is not yet a member country of the passport-free Schengen Zone it’s evident that it’s application to become one involves proving worthiness at these times of this overwhelming refugee crisis and this is done via closing the borders to contribute to this domino effect occurring within the Schengen Zone and designed to stop or seriously disrupt the flow of refugees/migrants into the EU.

 

Minister Vlaho Orepic Croatia AFP Photo

Minister Vlaho Orepic
Croatia
AFP Photo

Apparently Europe has decided to start a new phase in resolving the refugee crisis. It was concluded that on the Schengen Zone borders the Schengen rules would be applied,” Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic told RTL commercial television 9 March 2016. “The border of Europe will be on the Macedonian-Greek border and we will respect the decisions that were made,” he said, while rejecting the notion that Croatian army should be sent to the border with Serbia as well. Minister Orepic was adamant that his police force can handle the crisis at the borders at this stage.
More than 1 million people have crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece since the start of 2015, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and most aiming to reach wealthy Germany and Scandinavia, causing deep divisions among EU members about how to deal with Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. More than 650,000 have transited across Croatia since mid-September 2015 and as the weather warms up the fears rise that the influx of refugees and illegal migrants may become so overwhelmingly huge that it will seriously and fundamentally threaten the lifestyle and security of Europe’s citizens.

Pushing to get into Slavonski Brod Croatia camp - January 2016

Pushing to get into
Slavonski Brod Croatia
camp – January 2016

The bottleneck currently ballooning in Greece at the border with Macedonia, in particular, of some 40,000 stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border, is already showing serious signs of unrest and low-level violence that could easily escalate. A transit camp at the border in Greece, for instance, designed to hold 2,000 people, Indomeni tent camp, is now busting with some 14,000 lying in mud and battling for a piece of bread. Macedonia said it would only grant entry to the number of refugees that will be allowed to transit through neighboring Serbia and further into Europe, hence only a few dozens have been trickling across from Greece to Macedonia per day during the past few days.

At Macedonian border with Greece 10 March 2016 Scuffles and violence as refugees and migrants try to push across borders AFP Photo

At Macedonian border with Greece
10 March 2016
Scuffles and violence as
refugees and migrants
try to push across borders
AFP Photo

At talks in Brussels on Monday 7 March, the EU agreed in principle to a Turkish proposal to take back all illegal refugees landing on the Greek islands and the price negotiated, or payment to Turkey is running into billions of euros. Newly arrived refugees in Greece in their thousands continue to head to Macedonia despite being confronted by a closed border and rain-soaked camps where conditions are squalid, human misery and unrest get larger by the hour.

Refugees and migrants near Macedonia border in Greece 12 March 2016 Photo: Getty Images

Refugees and migrants
near Macedonia border in Greece
12 March 2016
Photo: Getty Images

The actions being taken by Brussels (EU) suggest that it’s only, or mainly, concerned with the interests of its military circles particularly the Schengen Zone, not people, in desperate bids to save itself within the demographic and freedom of movement parameters it set itself decades ago and Croatia is most desirous of being counted in. Because of this, and Brussels’ inability to reach consensus between EU member countries with regards to sharing the burden of refugees from the Middle East etc., many have in recent months/year predicted the collapse of European Union as inevitable. Some say that it’s only a matter of time when the collapse will happen

 

Cui bono? To whose advantage?

 

 

Nicholas Bonnal of the French Boulevard Voltaire publication says that “the Austrian newspaper Info-Direkt shows that, according to a source of Viennese intelligence, smugglers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to settle in Europe could be paid by the Americans…” Suggestions are afoot in this article that creating and organising chaos, such as the one occurring with the unsustainable influx of migrants and refugees into Europe, is a perfect example of political terrain for ruling by chaos. Only a handful of politicians would then rise above and rule and they are the ones with the knowhow in applying the principles of Neo-Machiavellianism.

 

Refugees and migrants wanting to pursue northern Europe destinations via the Balkan route stuck in Greece in squalor and misery AFP Photo

Refugees and migrants wanting
to pursue northern Europe destinations
via the Balkan route
stuck in Greece in squalor and misery
AFP Photo

Whatever the realistically based theories and/or political conspiracy theories regarding the European refugee/migrant crisis exist one thing remains blatantly obvious: people are suffering. And it’s not just one side that’s suffering. People are suffering on both sides: those fleeing into Europe (the refugees/migrants) and the European people who largely fret that their standard of living will violently be reduced to unwanted levels as hundreds of thousands of people needing sustenance and care from the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan…approach.

European Union is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place – the natural instinct is to assist and help the needy and the political responsibility of those in power is to protect the lifestyle of those who elected them into power! The two cannot be reconciled without a major shift in attempts to address and solve this seemingly chaos feeding impasse.

 

Closed Balkan Route March 2016 Photo: DW

Closed Balkan Route March 2016
Photo: DW

Brussels has the capacity to address the crisis to an end that would not mean the collapse of the EU and certainly the latest move to close borders (reportedly criticised by Germany’s Angela Merkel who has otherwise been unsuccessful in the past months to convince EU states to share the refugee load) and negotiate with Turkey to take back the illegal migrants and to keep refugees there as much as possible for a rather hefty payment of billions of euros seems to suggest that the EU is beginning to exert some strong directional force with view to “saving” the EU from crumbling under the pressure. The challenge posed by the refugees and migrants to the EU could, therefore, serve as a positive impetus for Europe to catch up on some long-neglected internal homework like bolstering controls on its external borders, deepening political integration between its member states/kicking off with a greater political unity of sorts, and taking serious moves toward common foreign and security policies. If voters (the people of EU) see these moves as successfully handled then those steps could breathe new life into the European Union idea, strengthen it to the point of prolonging its stable existence as a true union and even spur growth; and true, refugees capable of working could positively contribute particularly in a widened entrepreneurial sense. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: