Ivo Skoric on Wed, 4 Nov 1998 16:49:28 +0100

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<nettime> Balkan Loosers

My high-school friend today is a spokesman of Croatian foreign 
ministry. Like Clinton, he also had an extra-marital affair with one 
of his office workers. Unlike Clinton, he fathered a child to her. 
Yet, in Croatia, this was barely noticed by the media. Not because 
the public figures in Croatia fall under less scrutiny, but because 
extramarital affairs pale in comparison with more gruesome examples 
of  ethical misconduct of many public figures there.

Last week two employees of Zagrebacka Banka (Zagreb Bank) surrendered 
themselves to the police (Ankica Lepej - middle aged mother and wife, 
and Robert Horvat - 32 years old veteran of the recent war for 
secession from Yugoslavia), after Zagrebacka Banka offered a reward 
of 1 million kuna ($167,000) for any information on persons who broke 
the banking secrecy code and disclosed the accounts of Ankica 
Tudjman, the wife of Croatian president. Those two now face up to 
five years in prison each for doing this. Mrs. Tudjman, a pensioner 
and a head of a child charity foundation, faces no time, of course.

Ankica Tudjman holds 9 accounts in Zagrebacka banka - on two of them 
she made recent deposits in amounts of about a half million DM total. 
She said that those are the proceeds of her husbands book sales. 
In the disclosure of property, which was recently asked of all 
government officials in Croatian Sabor (parliament) inquiry, Franjo 
Tudjman did not disclose this income - in fact, he did not disclose 
any of his wife's income. So, even if she is speaking the truth - 
that the origin of this for Croatia extraordinary sums of money are 
the book sales - there is an attempt on part of president Tudjman to 
hide his assets before the Sabor (deposits to his wife's accounts 
coincide with the parliament inquiries).

Tudjman might have done it in order to present himself as poorer than 
he really was so that he could win an annual salary for himself 
equivalent of what the U.S. President receives. Parliament slashed 
government salaries anyway and Tudjman now receives just in excess of 
$5000 monthly compensation (which anyway by far exceeds the average 
76 years old retired intelectual's monthly income in Croatia of about 

This scandal comes on top of a series of events:
1) Croatia's ruling party - HDZ - lost Dubrovnik in the recent 
elections despite heavy gerrymandering and political manipulation. 
Dubrovnik is a prized possession because of its name recognition in 
the world.
 2) Pope came to Croatia for the second time - this time 
toning down his criticism, beatifying controversial Croatian WW II 
archbischop Stepinac; later it was revealed that Croatia signed an 
agreement with the Holy Seed to finance socially useful church 
activities out of the state's pocket (cold cash would mellow even 
Woytila's deteremination and faith, it seems).
3) Government officials apparently use intelligence agencies to spy 
on each other; some of them use the agencies and their media proxies 
to facilitate character assassinations of others: the story broke up 
when Tudjman's chief of staff went public accusing Tudjman's interior 
security adviser of sponsoring the hate articles against him.
4) Tudjman sacked his chief of staff, which belonged to so-called 
moderate faction of HDZ; two other moderates resigned, one of them a 
Secretary of Defense (Hebrang); the difference between moderates 
and hard-liners in HDZ that affects Croatia internationally the most 
is their difference on the issue of implementation of Dayton 
agreement in Bosnia: by sacking Sarinic in favor of Pasalic, Tudjman 
therefore caused Croatia's European integration efforts to regress 
5) In the last issue of Feral Tribune, editor Viktor Ivancic wrote a 
piece accusing Tudjman of using the confusion to apply the same 
methods Serbia's Milosevic is using against the independent media 
there - at home in Croatia. Although Croatia is not under the threat 
of NATO bombing, Croatia's public figures tolerance of media 
criticism is minimal. They can sue even if the article about them is 
true - if it caused them mental anguish. So, they can steal and cheat 
and lie - but you can't write about that, because it will cause them 


Kosovo moves even further from the peaceful solution. As the units of 
Yugoslav Army are moving out, the units of KLA are trying to reclaim 
the territory. Inevitably they kill some Serbs in that process. Which 
then builds a popular demand among Serbs for Yugoslav Army to come 
back to protect them. This of course is a fairly common story of any 
war. In Croatia, Tudjman managed to discipline his army in not taking 
Eastern Slavonia back by force for years after Yugoslav Army pull-out 
- but Tudjman did that only in the exchange for many favors he 
received from the West, and in the situation where the Eastern 
Slavonia presented just a small fraction of Croatian territory. 
In Bosnia, Bosnian Army was effectively prevented of taking Republika 
Srpska after the Yugoslav Army pull-out by the placement of heavily 
armed NATO troops along the cease-fire line. None of those examples 
apply to KLA and Kosovo - there are no armed foreign troops to keep 
Albanians and Serbs apart, and KLA has no organized state apparatus 
in its rear - in fact, KLA has no rear at all. 

KLA's diplomatic and public relations efforts are disastrously 
incompetent. I guess everybody remembers Croatia's propaganda stories 
about thousand years of civilisation and Bosnia's strories about 
Sarajevo as the ultra-cosmopolitan city where four major faiths lived 
in peace for centuries?! Well, there is none of this on part of 
Kosovars: no globe-trotting sweetspoken diplomats, no paid 
advertisements in western media, no hired public relations firms, no 
coherent, organized campaign to tell the world why the cause of 
Kosovo's independence is worth supporting. On the contrary, the KLA 
behaves to the journalists as if they are the enemy. 

A friend of mine who reported for the Washington Post and Newsweek 
from Sarajevo, told me that despite her excellent contacts with 
Kosovo Albanian community here, and their flying recommendations, she 
was all but abandoned by the KLA representatives in Kosovo. The 
non-cooperativeness of the KLA with media is, perhaps, also one of 
the causes of the less interesting photo-documentation of the war in 
Kosovo (in comparison with the war in Bosnia and in Croatia). The 
worst, of course, is if you are a Serbian journalist. Two journalists 
of the Yugoslav Press Agency (Tanjug) were actually arrested by the 
KLA. They are still in detention, awaiting a trial. It stinks to be a 
journalist in Serbia today - because you are under suspicion of doing 
something subversive wherever you go and nobody believes a word of 
what you say or write. 

Still, I was thinking, did IRA ever arrest a journalist from BBC? Ok, 
BBC is not a propaganda arm of Her Majesty in a way that Tanjug 
serves the Serbian pseudo-royal family. Still, BBC is known to be 
very patriotic, and objective reporting about IRA was long considered 
to be rather unpatriotic in England. Yet, IRA's p.r. arm always tried 
to establish professional and correct relationship with BBC and other 
media, making their terrorist activity look more civilised. By 
arresting Tanjug reporters KLA cuts its access to the world 
recognition - because even biased, negative report about KLA on 
Tanjug wire would at this time for KLA be better than no report at 
all. Nobody in the world believes that Tanjug writes the truth, 
anyway. Other agencies in the world might take the Tanjug report and 
re-write it critically of Serbian propaganda and Kosovo p.r. people 
might use it actually as a praise to KLA. This way one wonders what 
is it that KLA really wants?



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