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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Croatia, Slovenia And The EU Celebrating 20 Years Of Independence

Something a little more on the serious side today. I try to keep topics on this blog on non-political topics,(Obviously, if one has read some of my other additions), however this is sort of a milestone topic for Croatia, with important background information which helps explain the process of becoming a member of the European Union. Also, possibly to counteract the irredentism, serbo-isms, and false information coming from Greater Serbia apologists that I've come across, many times in the least likely of places as well.

After all, if it wasn't for this historical milestone of Croatia (And Slovenia for that matter) this blog wouldn't exist.  It's quite simple, if the Greater Serbia supporters had their way, Croatia would not exist. So in effect, I wouldn't be discussing on this blog things related to Croatian music, Croatian cars, Croatian food websites, Croatian national sport teams, sport leagues and sports accomplishments, Croatian cartoons, Croatian concerts and film festivals, Croatian boat shows and beaches , Croatian tattoo shops, Croatian TV programs and movies, Croatian designers and models, not even any Croatian adult chat sites,  the list goes on and on and on.  Croatia would be ethinically cleansed and filled with 3 finger waving, shropshepka wearing. There are tons of interesting, cool stuff going on in Croatia as I write this, so I will be back soon with another personally interesting and non-political addition.

Recognizing Slovenia, Croatia Brought Peace, Genscher Says

Despite thinking Yugoslavia needed to be preserved at all costs, former West German Foreign Minister Genscher became a prominent advocate of Croatian and Slovenian independence. He tells DW what changed his mind.

The futures of Croatia and Slovenia lies in EU membership, Genscher says



Veteran West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, one of the most prominent advocates of Croatian and Slovenian independence, spoke to Deutsche Welle about the events in the former Yugoslavia 20 years ago.

DW: Several villages and towns in Croatia have a Genscher Street or a Genscher Square. On the island of Brac, residents are squabbling over which Genscher bust is more beautiful – the marble one or the one made of bronze. Does all this attention make you proud?

Hans-Dietrich Genscher: I certainly regard it as recognition of the stance Germany had at the time. Back then, the decisions we had to make were not easy.

What was Germany's relationship to Yugoslavia while you were foreign minister?

I was of the opinion that we had to do everything in our power to preserve Yugoslavia. As Germans, we had especially close ties with Yugoslavia.

One reason was that very many Yugoslavs, mainly Slovenians and Croats, lived and worked in Germany. And on the other hand, Yugoslavia was a holiday destination for Germans. The people had gotten to know each other after World War II and its terrible events. A very friendly relationship evolved. German foreign policies regarded Yugoslavia as a factor of independence. It was very important that a European country should participate in the anti-colonial movement of the nonaligned states. That made it clear that it wasn't about an anti-European movement but an anti-colonial movement. So Yugoslavia had a special position in our policies and within the European Community we advocated for closer cooperation with Yugoslavia.

You have gone down in history as the most important advocate of Slovenian and Croatian independence. But in early 1991, you were still hoping to preserve Yugoslavia. What happened to change your mind?

It was becoming increasingly clear that Milosevic was claiming power. Yugoslavia [under Tito] wanted to preserve its independence from the Soviet Union. But after the reformers, that is Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, had taken over responsibility there, that solidarity evaporated in Yugoslavia.

We honestly saw signs of a trend towards a Greater Serbia. The speech on the Field of Blackbirds played a large role. Stopping rotation in Yugoslavia's state presidium, as well as cancelling autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina, showed that Milosevic wanted a different Yugoslavia - namely one that was dominated by Serbia. That made it clear that Croatian and Slovenian efforts toward independence were justified.

Do you believe the Yugoslav armed forces' invasion in Dubrovnik and Vukovar could have been prevented if the conflict had been realized at an earlier stage by the international community, or if Croatia and Slovenia had been recognized more quickly?

Hans-Dietrich Genscher was Germany's foreign minister from 1974-1992.

I believe that a more decisive stance by the international community might have been able to prevent, or at least limit, the developments we unfortunately had to witness. We discussed these issues within the European Community again and again. The Badinter-Herzog commission was formed, which was supposed to define the preconditions for the recognition of independent states. That was proof that the question of recognition wasn't something that just the Germans were pondering, the entire European Community was seriously involved and was coming up with regulations as to how such independence can be recognized. During the second half of 1991, it became clear that Milosevic was playing along, holding talks with everyone who was interested, but that in the end he did not want a Yugoslavia that corresponded with the fundamental ideas of the federation.

Germany is often accused of having gone it alone. On December 23, 1991, Germany recognized Croatia. On January 15, 1992, Germany established diplomatic relations, just like all the other EU nations. So was this a solo attempt or wasn't it?

We had a European Community meeting on December 17, at which we decided to recognize Croatia and Slovenia as independent states with effect from January 15, 1992. I told the meeting that of course we would adhere to that and would take no steps without a European Community decision. And we did adhere to the decision concerning this issue. We made the decision to recognize the states on December 23, but it didn't go into effect until January 15, 1992. At that time, all the other European Community member states recognized the two states, too. From the start, Germany said it would not go it alone. And, as I've said, the decision was unanimous. And it brought peace. As a result of the conflict becoming more international, in early January 1992 Milosevic declared the war to be over - the war he himself had started against the two republics. So that shows it was a decision that brought peace.

Even though the decision was unanimous, not everyone was enthusiastic about recognizing Croatia and Slovenia. Some members would have preferred to wait a bit longer.

Yes, that is usually the case in such a group that one will welcome a decision more than the other. But what is important is that there was a unanimous decision and no solo action.

Did concerns about Bosnia fade into the background somewhat in the course of recognizing Croatia and Slovenia? Couldn't people guess what would later happen in Bosnia?

The war in Slovenia and Croatia showed that the situation in Bosnia was highly explosive. A continuation of the war against Slovenia and Croatia would have undobutedly set the war in Bosnia in motion at a much earlier date.

Why then wasn't Bosnia's independence recognized right away?

Developments hadn't reached that point yet. And I am convinced it was important to focus first on Slovenia and Croatia where a war was raging.

The Badinter-Herzog commission said Macedonia also fulfilled the conditions for recognition. Why wasn't Macedonia recognized at the same time as Croatia and Slovenia?

Former Bosnian Serb General Mladic faces the UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (The new fancy hat bought at "Old Navy" isn't fooling anyone.)

At the meeting on December 17, 1991, there wasn't a single country that proposed recognizing Macedonia at that time. We didn't, either.

It just didn't come up?

Let's just say that it wasn't an issue at that point.

Today, 20 years later, Slovenia is a member of the EU and Croatia is to join in two years. Back then, you said recognition was a sign of considerable trust. Have Croatia and Slovenia disappointed you or have they proven to be worthy of that trust?

They have deserved my trust. It wasn't an easy path for the countries concerned, but they went ahead with great determination.

Another country is currently knocking at the doors of the EU: Serbia. The country removed a major hurdle when it extradited Ratko Mladic. Should Serbia be the next nation to join the EU?

Certainly, Serbia has removed an important obstacle. Then and now, I never doubted that, if it fulfils all the preconditions, Serbia has the same entitlement to become an EU member. I've always said that the future of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia lies in EU membership. One day - the sooner, the better - they will be reunited as equal members in the EU.

Interview: Rayna Breuer, Zoran Arbutina (db)


This is a longer addition to this blog that is full of information and many important facts. I decided to insert a short video that was passed onto me as a short interlude, before readers continue with this particular post.

EU gives Croatia green light to join bloc

Photo: Reuters/Thierry Roge


Croatia celebrates 20 years of independence with a birthday offering from the EU, which on the eve of the historic anniversary on Friday agreed to embrace the Balkans country as its 28th member.

In a move raising hopes for other Balkans nations knocking at the European Union door, leaders of the bloc gathered at a summit adopted a declaration commending Croatia for its "intensive efforts, which have allowed accession negotiations to reach their final stage."

After six years of tough talks, EU leaders called for "all necessary decisions for the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Croatia by the end of June 2011" - a de facto authorisation for Zagreb to join the world's biggest market.

(While Croatia's EU entry talks have been going on for about 10 yrs, a few background facts must be taken into consideration.  The Serbian wars of agression on Croatia, then Bosnia-Hercegovina and elsewhere, had a tremendous impact on Croatian society which would require more than just a couple of years to recover from. Since Croatian independence, the Croatian governnment has had to invest massive sums of capital for rebuilding and modernizing. Croatia did not have a peaceful independence like countries of the former Soviet Union, like the Czech Republic and Slovakia, or like the Baltic countries. (I think this can in part be expained by how all other European nations, vis-a-vis Serbia,  respect  and  acknowledge the existence of other surrounding nations  as well as their  histories, culture, language and territory.  Especially their history prior to the 20th Century)

 Much of Croatia was devastated, with estimates ranging from 21–25% of its economy destroyed and an estimated USD $37 billion in damaged infrastructure, lost output, and refugee-related costs.  After over 16,000 Croatian deaths, over 37,000 wounded and over 250,000 displaced persons, Croatia also had the extra burden of accepting about 700,000 Bosnian refugees. The American Ambassador to Croatia at the time, Peter Galbraith, tried to put the amount of Muslim refugees in Croatia into proper perspective in an interview on 8 November 1993. He said the situation would have been the equivalent of the USA taking in 30,000,000 refugees. Some very important background facts to consider.)

EU gives Croatia green light to join bloc




Croatia celebrates 20 years of independence with a birthday offering from the EU, which on the eve of the historic anniversary on Friday agreed to embrace the Balkans country as its 28th member.

In a move raising hopes for other Balkans nations knocking at the European Union door, leaders of the bloc gathered at a summit adopted a declaration commending Croatia for its "intensive efforts, which have allowed accession negotiations to reach their final stage."

After six years of tough talks, EU leaders called for "all necessary decisions for the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Croatia by the end of June 2011" - a de facto authorisation for Zagreb to join the world's biggest market

If the process goes without hitch, Croatia will join the EU on July 1, 2013, as proposed by the European Commission.

"This is an historic moment," said Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, admitting that arduous efforts to win membership had taken place in an equally difficult context as enthusiasm foundered amid the economic crisis and a failing appetite for enlargement.

 A street scene in Zagreb

"We persevered and could serve as a model for other southeastern European nations seeking membership," she told journalists.

"We feel we are coming home."

The endorsement comes as Croatia celebrates 20 years of independence from Yugoslavia and 16 years since the end of the bloody inter-ethnic war that ensued.

At the request of some EU nations which believe Bulgaria and Romania were given entry before being fully ready, a monitoring system will be put in place to ensure that Croatia follows through on reforms in the judicial system between the end of negotiations and its accession.

"We don't believe there will be real problems ahead of ratification," Kosor added. "The process is irreversible."

The European Commission this month opened the door to Croatia when it recommended closing the final four of 35 legal chapters that aspiring members must negotiate to gain EU entry - political, economic, social and judicial reforms to bring a nation to the cusp of EU standards.

Croatia will be only the second former Yugoslav republic to join the EU after Slovenia in 2004, but the first that suffered the full force of the brutal wars that ravaged the Balkans in the 1990s.

Criticised for failing to tackle corruption, reform its judiciary, and bring Balkan war criminals to book, Croatia must "continue its reform efforts with the same vigour, in particular as regards the judiciary and fundamental rights," the EU leaders said.

After Serbia inched closer to its dreams of EU membership by bringing in fugitive war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic last month while entering into dialogue with Kosovo, Croatia's progress will raise hopes of EU entry across the Balkans.

"These developments bring a new momentum to the European perspective of the Western Balkans, provided these countries continue on the path of reform," the 27 leaders said.

However Serbia still needs to sort relations with breakaway Kosovo.

Macedonia needs to resolve a conflict with Greece over its name, Montenegro has to forge ahead on justice reform, and Albania and Bosnia are still struggling to overcome internal political divisions.

The government in Zagreb has touted huge financial benefits from membership, calculating that Croatia will be able to draw some 3.5 billion euros ($A4.76 billion) from EU structural funds.

Economic experts expect entry will also boost investors' optimism, pushing growth in the country of 4.4 million whose economy is still in recession.

But many ordinary Croats do not share the enthusiasm.

Polls still show 44.6 per cent support EU membership, but the opponents, on 41.8 per cent, are gaining ground.

© 2011 AFP

Croatia, Slovenia mark two decades of independence from Yugoslavia

Slovenian Territorial Defence forces preparing for attacks from Srb dominated Yugoslav army troops in 1991.

The Croatian National Guard in 1991 prior to the joint Slovenian and Croatian declarations of  independence.  The embryo of the future Croatian Armed Forces.


Zagreb/Belgrade - Croatian leaders on Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of their country's declaration of independence from the former Yugoslavia and paid their respects to thousands of soldiers who died to defend it in the war that followed.

Some images from ceremonies held across Croatia....



Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor's government laid wreaths and attended a mass for fallen soldiers.

'Today we celebrate 20 years of the Croatian state which travelled a thorny path defending itself from (Slobodan) Milosevic's aggression, rose to its feet, became a member of NATO and will soon take its place in the European Union,' Kosor said.

 Destuction in the Croatian city of Vukovar courtesy of the Serbian-Yugoslav army and Serbian irregulars in 1991.

After declaring independence on June 25, 1991, Croatia fought the Yugoslav army and rebel Serbs - who were armed by former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Belgrade - before finally asserting authority over its entire territory in 1995.


A brief look at the tactics used by the Serbian dominated Yugoslav army and Srb irregulars shortly after the Croatian and Slovenian declarations of independence.

The biggest celebrations were planned for the eastern city of Vukovar, a symbol of resistance to Belgrade's rule. The Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitaries laid the city to waste during two months of fighting in late 1991.

Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and is the next in line to become EU's 28th member state.

Slovenia, an EU and NATO member since 2004, also declared its split from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. The northernmost former Yugoslav republic marked its anniversary on Friday.

Some images of the Croatian Armed Forces today, in Croatia and on various NATO and UN missions around the world. 

Lastly, it's never a bad time for a stroll down memory lane to 1995, just after the defeat of Serb terrorists and the liberation of previously ethnically cleansed and occupied Croatia.

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