Issue No. 314 - March 28, 2003
1. Slovenia: READY FOR EUROPE
by Zoran Senkovic
3. Poland: IN WAR DESPITE PUBLIC OPINION
by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol
In two referendums set on the same day, Sunday, March 23, Slovenian voters gave overwhelming support to the project of pushing their country toward Europe, approving Slovenia’s entrance into both the EU and into NATO, questions that had gotten the backing of almost all political parliamentary parties.
The numbers are clear and give no room to doubt. Somewhat more than 60 percent of all voters turned out for the referendum, more than for previous referendums but less than the average voter turnout in parliamentary elections. Of those who voted, 89 percent supported entrance into the EU and more than 66 percent voted for NATO membership.
The numbers were surprising both for advocates and opponents of European integration. Polls have shown that support for the EU was not in question, but did not predict any more than 70 percent. Membership in NATO met with much more opposition. Opponents of entrance into NATO had launched a major media offensive putting in question the vote, but they were shocked by the agreement of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Rop’s Liberal Democrats and the opposition headed by Janez Jansa’s Social Democrat Party. The opposition even attacked the ruling coalition for not being strong enough in its propaganda campaign for entry into NATO and endangering national interests. But after counting the ballots, it became clear that the propaganda machinery did an excellent job. The parliamentary opposition was satisfied and opponents to NATO membership were left with accusing a political oligarchy of financing a “militarist” option with taxpayers’ money. In fact, anti-NATO sentiment had so much media space in the past several weeks before the referendum that it is not likely to repeat anytime soon.
The theory that the start of war in Iraq would aid opponents of NATO membership was not persuasive enough. It seems that the dispute among NATO members regarding war with Iraq even helped the government and parliamentary opposition in their claims that NATO is a democratic organization in which the U.S. may have military supremacy, but still does not have the political strength to unilaterally impose its own interests. Recent events in the neighborhood also had certain consequences on the sentiment of the voters. The murder of Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic and the new strain in relations between Slovenia and Croatia reminded voters that their country is still located at the edge of a restless Balkans and that it was useful to enjoy the protection of an organization like NATO.
There are also the numbers. Membership in NATO will not cost taxpayers much more in military expenditures than if Slovenia had not entered into the military structure. NATO also means adopting a professional army, without a draft system. As for the government’s propaganda for entry into NATO, it was considered to have done an excellent job. An invasion of European politicians to Ljubljana in the previous 14 days could not pass without consequences, especially since all of them were persuading Slovenians that the decision remained in their hands, but that NATO offered them not only safety but also a chance for their voice to be heard within the organization. Another smart decision was to unite referendums about two rather different issues. Many voters decided to go for both “adventures.” After this referendum, Slovenia is not what it used to be.
Entrance into the European Union was never an issue starting from Slovenia’s first day as an independent country. Support wavered, but never fell below 55 percent, with the final support being completely overwhelming. One of the reasons for such support is the war in Iraq. EU members showed their teeth to America, even clashing within the organization, which gave a signal to potential NATO members that dissatisfaction with the war can be expressed through the EU. Another reason is psychological. Slovenia considers itself an economic and cultural part of Western Europe, which, due to unfortunate circumstances, remained on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
After the collapse of former Yugoslavia, the Slovenian economy, which was the most vital of the republics, quickly replaced some of the huge Yugoslav market with a Western one. Today, almost 70 percent of its economic cooperation is with Western countries. Transformation, privatization, and change to a market economy went on without significant social problems and setbacks. Per capita Slovenian GDP is 16,000 USD, comparable to some EU members like Greece and Portugal and several thousand dollars ahead of other EU candidates. Slovenia also benefited by the choice of Dr. Janez Potocnik as the main negotiator with the EU; under his leadership Slovenia had solid results in negotiation process. Bureaucrats in Brussels value Potocnik as an extraordinarily insightful negotiator, and many predict a future successful career in EU institutions.
Politicians managed to persuade Slovenians the country could only prosper inside the EU, that there would be no significant negative changes in the country, that most of the reforms had to be implemented anyway, but that membership in EU gave them opportunity for their voice to be heard in Brussels along with other new members. There are a great number of people, especially young, who were persuaded by data showing that entrance into Europe opened 5,000 to 7,000 new employment opportunities for highly educated people both in state and EU institutions. The most skepticism was among farmers, but after relatively successful negotiations regarding a transitional period and protection of some specifically Slovenian agricultural produce. Given that farmers in Slovenia make up only 5 percent of the population, high support for EU membership is not surprising.
Officials in Brussels didn’t
hide their pleasure. After Malta, where the final result was not so persuasive,
Slovenia is a guiding star to all membership candidates that still need
to hold referenda.
• • •
If it were not for the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic, the latest public threats of death to Croatian President Stjepan Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan would just part of post-war folklore of warriors who have lost their favored position after the regime change of government in 2000.
Drazen Pavlovic, representative of the Sinj branch of an organization of disabled veterans called HVIDRA, wished Mesic and Racan to “soon have breakfast with Djindjic” at a Wednesday press conference, calling such a result the only possible salvation for Croatia.
Public repudiation of his statement by other HVIDRA members came only after the press conference, following suggestions of journalists.
The motive for this threat, which Racan described as worrying for democratic Croatia, is the verdict against a retired Croatian army general, Mirko Norac, who was sentenced to 12 years last Monday because of war crimes committed in Gospic in 1991. He was sentenced together with Tihomir Oreskovic (15 years) and Stjepan Grandic (10 years). This verdict, passed by a district court in Rijeka, will enter the history of Croatian law as a moment of final recognition, 12 years late, that crimes were also committed in the name of high ideals of liberty, independence, and justified defense.
With this verdict, Croatian courts finally got rid of a curse from the ‘90s that was held in a now infamous, many times cited remark of Milan Vukovic, president of Supreme Court and now member of the Constitutional Court, that people cannot commit a war crime when acting in self defense.
The Catholic Church is a little behind courts. Military bishop Josip Jezerinac said it was wrong to sentence Croatian liberators without putting Serbian aggressors on trial, too. According to information of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, through the end of 2001, 492 Serbs were convicted for war crimes in Croatia, and not a single Croat.
Until two years ago everybody from Croatian president Franjo Tudjman down to the lower echelons of power tolerated the fact that at least 50 civilians, mostly Serbs, were killed in Gospic in 1991. As Rijeka Judge Ilka Saric wrote in her verdict, the murdered civilians were not collaborators of traitors, they were only loyal citizens of a “wrong” nationality.
Fifty years after World War II, this crime in Gospic was a drastic step toward an Ustashe revival. In 1941, Serbian civilians were executed in the name simply of race; fifty years later, in the name of defense from Serbian rebels and their JNA supporters, the same crimes were committed on Croatian civilians.
The more responsible for these Croatian crimes were those who knew of them and tolerated them, starting from former President Franjo Tudjman and the regime’s second most powerful figure, Defense Minister Gojko Susak. In 1991, Norac was only a bullying 22-year old, an educated waiter, who emerged from the war chaos with accolades instead of a court martial. He was promoted to the rank of general and was given medals. In his hometown of Sinj, he received the highest honor: he was elected duke of a knight’s game in almost three centuries old Sinjska Alka. It was possible only in a country that swept all of its trash under the carpet, and that couldn’t last forever.
Today, it is Norac’s townspeople and Croatian defenders, including those disabled by the war, who are especially revolted by the verdict. They kept the Split-Zagreb road occupied for two days in the middle of Sinj. After the verdict, about 300 of them protested in Rijeka against the court and the current Croatian government.
The case of Gospic is similar to the murder of the Serbian Zec couple and their 12-year old daughter in Zagreb in 1991. In the Zec case, the murderers were freed due to formal errors during the course of investigation. It was the same as the case of Pakracka Poljana where dozens of Serbian civilians were killed. This opened hunting season for unprotected opponents, Serbian civilians and POWs. After Gospic and Pakracka Poljana, tortures and murders of civilians and POWs took place in the military prison in Lora military harbor in Split. All indicted persons, both former and active military policemen, were acquitted of any blame. The same happened with former Croatian soldier Mihailo Hrastov, who killed 13 Serbian POWs. The Karlovac court ruled that he killed tied prisoners—in self-defense. Turning a blind eye to the crime led to the aftermath of Operation Storm, which returned rebel Serbian Krajina to Croatia. Six hundred Serbian civilians, mostly elderly, were killed without any sanctions. There is no comfort in the fact that as many Croats were also killed by Serbs in the so-called UNPA zones controlled by U.N. forces during the Serbian occupation from 1992 to 1995.
The Norac case is a new opportunity
for catharsis in a country that is dealing only too slowly with its own
responsibility in post-Yugoslav tragedies—according to the principle, “We
were victims, not aggressors.” Parliamentary representatives of the Croatian
Social-Liberal Party, in accord with such an attitude, supported the convicted
war criminals before the court in Rijeka.
A declaration of the Croatian parliament passed by the new post-2000 government made out of Social Democrats, Liberals and the Croatian Peasants’ Party still in force states that Croatia did not intervene in Bosnia during the war, as if history can be written with such documents. Besides victors and historians, history is also written by witnesses to the events, like former commander of the Croatian Army Janko Bobetko, who described in detail the Croatian intervention in Bosnia in his memoirs. Now old age and illness defended him from giving more details to the Hague Tribunal.
The list of additional Croatian generals facing justice includes Hague fugitive Ante Gotovina and Rahim Ademi, who was released from a Hague prison to allow him to defend himself. Other indicted generals are Mladen Markac and Davor Domazet, who have talked with Hague prosecutors in Zagreb. Apart from Ademi, all of them were retired by Croatian president Stipe Mesic in the summer of 2000 due to their meddling in politics.
At the eve of Croatian independence,
poet-politician Vlado Gotovac roared in front of Yugoslav Army command
in Zagreb: “Generals, Croatia doesn’t fear you!” Given the recent threats
of Croatian generals’ followers, it is the right time to repeat that message.
• • •
“One shouldn’t teach us Poles what peace is. . . . We do know what indifference against such threats means, as Poland experienced in 1939. We have in mind all who didn’t want to die for Danzig,” said the Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, just after signing the governmental decision about transferring Polish soldiers to the Gulf.
Poland—Member of the Coalition
The head of state then calmed down the journalists by announcing that Poland will send no more than 200 men into the conflict region. When a reporter reminded him that the majority of public opinion is completely against sending Polish soldiers into this war, Kwasniewski retorted, “If one would ask the Poles whether they want to be safe in the face of terror threats, the majority would say it wishes such safety. There are moments when politicians have to decide without looking toward the opinions of the public.”
The chief of the state left no doubt that Poland has joined the war coalition: “I have signed this order in the belief that it is in the interest of the Polish nation, in the security interest of Poland, of our region and of all Europe, because one has to demonstrate the force and the international solidarity in the fight against terrorism.”
As the president signed the decision, the Polish logistic ship Xawery Czernicki with 24 antiterrorist commandos from GROM were already in the Gulf.
This special force was founded in 1990 and already participated in operations in Haiti, in ex-Yugoslavia and, in Afghanistan. In Slavonia the Poles imprisoned the “butcher of Vukovar,” Slavko Dokmanovic. In Kosovo, they protected the chief of the OSCE mission, William G. Walker.
The Polish elite unit in the Gulf has been strengthened by 32 men. It works there together with the American Delta Force, the British SAS, the Australian SAS or the Portugal Green Berets. GROM will not operate on land but only on the waters of the Persian Gulf, assured the defence minister, Jerzy Szmajdziäski, as the U.S. defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, praised the good work of the Polish elite soldiers.
A day later, four Reuter’s photos of these soldiers in the harbor of Um Kasr circled the globe. One of them was a “firemen photo,” with American colleagues under an American flag and a great portrait of Saddam. “This photo should not have been taken,” commented Szmajdziäski. “But if there would be the next one, then the Polish flag should be there,” he stressed and admitted that the Polish special task force is active and participating in common actions in the Gulf. But he wouldn’t give any details, citing secrecy.
However, the defense minister
said that there is another special unit on the ship Xawery Czernicki -
FORMOZA, a navy detachment of frogmen, as well a logistic unit from Opole
in southwest Poland. Moreover in the area of conflict, “in one of neighbour
states of Iraq”, was sent also a platoon from the IV Chemistry Regiment
in Brodnica. Their 74 men should come into action if Saddam used chemical
weapons. If needed, the platoon can be transferred onto
Home: Bad or Worse?
Even before the war began, the firm position of Poland (and a few other countries east of the EU) brought a crash with its most important European partners, Germany and France. The president of France, Jacques Chirac, said openly that the future family members did not use the occasion to be silent. “Does it mean that the enlargement of European Union could be postponed?” asked commentators in Poland. “By no means,” answered Brussels hastily.
There are no doubts that the war will have consequences for the Polish economy. The experts say as much, but they cannot agree on the extent of the damage. The cost depends upon whether the war activities will be short or long.
“I don’t believe in a quick police action,” says Professor Zdzislaw Sadowski of Warsaw University and the president of the Polish Economical Society PTE.
He sees few reasons for optimism. His prognosis is:
· oil will be more expensiveIn his opinion the internal development in Poland will be for the economy more important than the war. The problem is that the country needs policies that are in contradiction with each other.
· a worldwide increase in inflation
· postponement of EU-enlargement
On the one side, one must relieve social tensions to take the wind out from the sails of the populists, at high cost. On the other hand, one has to redevelop the public finances, which means a cut in spending. The professor believes that not only Poland but the entire world needs a fundamental revision of its macroeconomic concepts. As a left economist (Sadowski was vice-premier in the second half of the eighties in the communist government of Zbigniew Messner) he believes that one has to put emphasis on the economic growth and on the employment promotion instead of the anti- inflationary actions which characterized the last quarter of century. In the first row it should mean the investment promotion as well in the private as in public sector.
Krzysztof Rybiäski, the economist-in-chief of the bank BPH PBK, estimated in the first days of the war the probability that it will be short and successful on 70-80 per cent.
A short campaign would be for the economic good, believes Rybiäski:
· investment risk dropsOn the other hand a longer conflict would bring recession thorough the entire world. It would hit Poland hard because the Polish recovery depends fully from the exports.
· portfolio capital sets in motion
· profitability of loan papers drops, of stocks rises
· zloty strengthens again.
It’s not correct—opposites Rafa Antczak from Center for Social- Economic Analysis CASE. If 2002 Polish gross domestic product rose by 1.3 per cent, the domestic demand contributed by 0.8 per-cent-points and the export by 0.4 per-cent-points. Also this year the domestic demand should be main motor of the growth.
Of course the Polish economy is not insensitive to the world proceedings. The extreme events would have consequences also in Poland admits Antczak. But the economic live will be influenced much more by homemade problems:
· jeopardized reform of public finances (it is not clear, if the project presented by the finance minister, Grzegorz Koodko, would be accepted)Antczak believes too that the uncertainty would stay great enough if the fights in Gulf—as he thinks—would succeed quickly. But it is still yet his optimistic variant. The negative scenario predicts a total chaos on the domestic stage. Of course, a long war would make economic situation in Poland worse. It will be bad or yet worse? “Yes, one can put it that way”, Antczak admits.
· Damocles sword of premature parliament elections
· approaching election of the new council for the monetary policy
· the supervision board of the central bank NBP
• • •
On March 22, following terminal disease, died in Warsaw Jakub Karpinski, well-known Polish dissident during the communist regime and brilliant historian and sociologist . Karpinski was one of the founders of Institute for democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE), initiators and sponsors of The Network of Independent Journalists. Karpinski himself was a NIJ contributor, especially during the important period of the project’s initial establishment. He was a great person who will be missed by all of us.
Jakub Karpinski, a professor of Warsaw University and resident of Washington, DC, who played a significant role in Poland’s regaining of freedom and nationhood and whose works on democracy and communism were translated into more than a dozen languages, died in Warsaw on Saturday morning (March 22) at the age of 62 as a result of pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Karpinski was a versatile author of more than twenty books and over two hundred articles on sociology, methodology of social sciences, the politics of communism and post- communism, democracy and transition, and the modern history of Poland. His books in English include Countdown: The Polish Upheavals (Karz-Cohl:1982), Poland Since 1944: A Portrait of Years (Westview Press: 1995), and Causality in Sociological Research (Kluwer Academic Publishers: 2002).
Born in Warsaw in 1940, Mr. Karpinski studied philosophy and sociology under the well-known professors Stanislaw Ossowski and Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, among others. While assistant professor of sociology in 1968, he was one of the main organizers of the Warsaw University revolt against the communist regime, which sparked a new generation of opposition to communism based on the struggle for human rights and democracy. Fired from the university he was arrested for several months first in 1968 and re-arrested in 1969 and sentenced to three years of prison for clandestinely smuggling to the West texts on the regime’s repression that he wrote and edited. His speech to the court, which showed the logical absurdity of the communist constitution, became one of the most well-known opposition texts in Poland.
Between 1971 and 1978, he lived in Poland continuing to write and sign protest letters and writing uncensored books and publishing them under several pen-names in the émigré publishing house “Kultura” in Paris. At that time, he also defended his PhD dissertation.
From 1978 to 1997, he lived
and taught in Great Britain, the United States, and France, publishing
three books in English and several dozen articles, mostly in Uncaptive
Minds and Transition. His books and articles on the modern history of Poland
and transition to democracy were also re-published in the Solidarity underground
period in Poland and were also published in Azeri, Bulgarian, Russian,
Serbo-Croatian, Ukrainian, and Romanian languages. Many of his texts were
also translated into Spanish and clandestinely distributed in Cuba by the
Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, which he co-founded in New York
City in 1985 and served as a Member of the Board. He also co-founded and
was an active member of the Committee in Support of Solidarity in December
1981 after the imposition of a ‘state of war’ in Poland against the Solidarity
movement, and which documented human rights abuses and raised funds for
In 1997, he returned to Poland
to resume teaching at Warsaw University in the same Institute of Sociology
from which he was fired twenty-nine years before. All of his old books
were republished in Polish, including significant texts in the methodology
of sociology, and, despite illness, he wrote several new ones. Mr. Karpinski
became a permanent U.S. resident in 1994 and maintained a residence in
Washington, DC. He is survived in the U.S. by his former wife, Irena Lasota,
with whom he collaborated for more than thirty years on many political
and scholarly initiatives, and who remained with him at the time of his
death. He is survived in Poland by his mother, Stanislawa, and two brothers,
Wojciech and Marek.