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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    MON, 29 MAR 1999 14:20:45 GMT

    Croatia and NATO Air-Strikes in FR Yugoslavia

    Walking on Egg-Shells

    AIM Zagreb, 26 March, 1999

    Surprisingly for many, air strikes against FR Yugoslavia have not caused exceptional enthusiasm or the feeling of triumph in Croatia. Of course, the "Resolute Force" is followed with great attention, so immediately on Wednesday evening, with a series of special shows Croatian Television reported on developments taking place over the Yugoslav sky and on Yugoslav land, but the main characteristic, even when ordinary people are concerned, is indifference. In trams, cafes, in the streets, one could hear reactions such as "Serves them right", "Let them experience what alarm sirens sound like", "It was high time" and similar, but there was no opening of champagne bottles or celebrations with shooting. A large number of policemen were seen on Thursday in Zagreb, but the reason why the prevailing colour in the capital was blue because of the presence of an enormous number of police uniforms in the streets was very drab: about five thousand trade union members gathered at the Square of Sports protesting and sending the message to the authorities: Do not make Russia of us.

    In accordance with the restrained stand when Kosovo is concerned and along the line of Tudjman's assessment that it is an internal affair of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Croatian diplomacy issued a very cautious statement on Thursday. Foreign minister Mate Granic was entrusted with the task to express the official stand of Zagreb. For this first public statement he chose the platform of the Assembly where a long session of the house of representatives is going on. From that more or less peaceful speech in which he supported the NATO operation, but also reminded that Croatia was in favour of a peaceful solution, he neither stirred up passions nor spoke of crime and punishment, it was clear that Croatia chose a completely different tactics. Granic very cautiously, aware that he was walking on egg-shells, declared that Croatia had approved passage of NATO airplanes over its territory, but that it had demanded firm guarantees from the USA in case of retaliation from FRY although Croatia was capable of defending itself.

    The Croatian minister warned about the damage his country has already started to suffer, especially in tourism and in air transportation, because all the airports had been shut down. But that what could be anticipated from Granic's words was clarified at the session of the government. Prime minister Matesa declared that the attitude of the USA towards Croatia was not fair because the guarantees given to countries of NATO and of Partnership for Peace were not given to Croatia, although it had practically joined these countries. Now it is clear what the consequences are like of the fact that Croatia has not been included in the Partnership for Peace, although it is expected to cooperate as if it were a member.

    The demand is more than clear: Croatia should be included, too. According to what the official Zagreb declared, this should be the objective of Croatian diplomacy while bombs are falling all around Yugoslavia, because it has just become evident to what extent Croatia is in an exposed position and in fact lonely, with no defined status in redesigning the world, but especially Europe. But it is questionable whether the "regional power" as Tudjman likes to say, is aware that joining European-Atlantic integrations implies giving up the image of Croatia as an alleged architect of its own fortune? However, there is reason to doubt that a country, which has just come out of the war in which it has created a strong army, understands what is the new world order and whether it is ready to accept democratic standards which this implies? Is Croatia, when Bosnia & Herzegovina is concerned, for instance, still trying to fish in troubled waters on the sly, is it ready for normalisation of relations with all its neighbours,

    regardless of the fact that Clinton has for the first time said that Croatia was the first Milosevic's victim?

    These and similar dilemmas were transparent in the spontaneous descussion that took place in Croatian parliament. Almost everyone who took the floor, and representatives of all the parties declared their stands, wished to demonstrate statesman's wisdom and civilisation maturity, so not even the most radical gloated, every speech started with "we are not happy when bombs are falling and when people are killed, even when it is happening to a country which has done that to us". It was also interesting to hear what they would do now. For example, president of the Croat Party of Right Anto Djapic thinks that this situation should be used for a diplomatic offensive in order to squeeze into the Partnership for Peace. President of Croat Pure Party of Right Ivan Gabelica believes that this is a moment for a different organization of B&H in which Bosanska Posavina would be formed as a Croatian district. He demanded that Croatian army enter Podunavlje, as well. President of Croat Social-Liberal Party Drazen Budisa warned that these were not realistic demands because Croatia is not in a more convenient position becauise of this operation, but on the contrary, requirements that it will have to meet will be even more severe. President of Social Democratic Party Ivica Racan has a similar opinion, believing that it is crazy to believe that Europe and America would let Croatia have what they have punished Serbia for. Luka Trconic from Croatian Peasants' Party thinks that NATO operation is a turning point in relations in and around the Balkan, that it is a victory over the militant spirit which gives Croatia a chance. The world expects Croatia to have - says president of the Liberal Party Vlado Gotovac - a positive attitude in establishing new relations in the Balkan. Only the Serb National Party and its president Milan Djukic assessed NATO attacks as an example of violation of war law by imperial powers which interpret civilization processes as subordination of small nations to their interests.

    And while indifference mostly prevails among the citizens because they have plenty of problems of their own to be concerned about Kosovo, the politicians have split. The official politics believes the "Resolute Force" to be its direct chance for coming out of isolation, maybe not even aware what the ultimate goal of NATO operation is. The belligerent ones, although this is the secret dream of the heads of the state, would also gladly use bombs and missiles to show their horns, to redesign B&H, to finally take Prevlaka back, to send their army into Podunavlje... Serious opposition, however, stresses that this is a serious threat to Croatia, which will not be bombed, but the demands for democratization of the societry would be more frequent, more rigid and more precise. The only thing that Croatia has certainly gained is the change of of the regional approach to the Balkan, although this has never been a political or any other alliance, because it is becoming clear that Croatia cannot wait for countries such as Serbia, Albania, Romania or Bulgaria in order to set out to join Europe together. Regardless to what extent the "Decisive Force" weakened its feeble economy, it stands a chance, but it is a question whether the currently ruling team headed by Tudjman, who is still silent about the NATO attacks on FR Yugoslavia, understands where this chance is to be found.

    GOJKO MARINKOVIC