THU, 04 OCT 2001 22:15:24 GMT
Croatia After Terrorist Attacks Against the USA
AIM Zagreb, September 20, 2001
Terrorist attacks against America will affect Croatia too. This is not
a phrase that expresses Zagreb's readiness to sympathise with victims of
this mega-crime in New York and Washington. Last Friday was a national
day of mourning in Croatia and the Bishop served a mass for all victims
in the Zagreb Cathedral, while citizens spontaneously placed flowers and
lighted candles in front of the American Embassy. Terrorist attacks
against America could cause serious political and economic troubles for
The official politicians rushed to state that America could count on
Croatia. In his special address to the people, President of the Republic
Stjepan Mesic pointed to the need for creating a world anti-terrorist
front in which, as he put it, Croatia was prepared to take part. Mesic
claimed that after the "black" September 11 no one could remain neutral
as "there is only a choice now: it is either us or them", he emphasised
belligerently. His later statements were along the same lines: "Croatia
will join America in the war against terrorism", "Not only politically,
but in other ways too, Croatia will support America". The Presidential
Office has been busy drafting a platform and principles for the
operation of the proposed anti-terrorist international. Mesic was
planning to present his concept at the autumn session of the UN General
Assembly and in his talks with American President Bush. But, due to the
latest events in America, everything had to be postponed.
According to those well-versed Croatia could help most with
intelligence on persons who might be connected with terrorist
organisations. Ample material had surely been collected in the past war,
which might prove very interesting for the Western Alliance in conflict
with the Islamic extremism. The Mujaheddins came to Bosnia over Croatia
and the Croatian intelligence services have information on their
organisation, habits, connections, sponsors, etc.
Mesic's warnings that terrorism should not be tolerated were meant for
domestic use too as they also referred to Croatian circumstances.
Namely, very little has been done here in view of acts committed by the
terrorists here and their strength. Tudjman's regime treated terrorism
organised for the so-called "Croatian cause" as a fight for Croatia.
This included extremist groups from diaspora, which in the past had
organised attacks on diplomatic offices of Tito's Yugoslavia, as well as
those which joined the defence of Croatia during the recent terrorist
war. The authorities which came to power last year have not managed to
solve one single case of planted
explosives, such as the one at Zagreb Mirogoj and in front of the
Assembly of Zagreb, or the murder of the Hague witness Milan Levar.
A part of the public was very sceptical regarding the unreserved siding
with America. A group of non-governmental organisation, which condemned
the terrorist attack against the United States, also assessed the
reaction of Croatian authorities as inappropriate. "We have sided with
the side which advocates retaliation too easily, while not a single
sober voice could be heard warning Croatia not to show solidarity with a
call to ill-advised revenge", said their statement. In conclusion,
warning that people of Afghanistan have been worn-out by wars and the
Taliban regime, peace-movement activists stated: "If there is anything
that Afghanistan should be bombed with, than it is bread".
However, Prime Minister Ivica Racan expressed fear from another kind of
consequences that might affect Croatia after the American black Tuesday.
"Question is whether European Union will include us in the
anti-terrorist corridor", he said explaining: "If the European Union,
prompted by terrorist actions in America, creates a sanitary cordon at
its borders, question is on which side of that cordon will Croatia be".
Racan thought that controversial agreement with Slovenia should be
observed through this possibility that Europe might establish protection
against terrorism from the East.
It is generally believed that speculations about the establishment of a
sanitary cordon, which would definitely push Croatia from Europe, are
without firm foundations. By arousing fear from that possibility the
Prime Minister tried to lobby for his agreement on the settlement of
border issues with Slovenia, which has been violently contested in the
Croatian public and which, apart from Racan's Social Democrats, other
parties of the ruling coalition did not support. It is almost generally
rejected because of excessive concessions granted by Croatia, especially
regarding the sea border in the Bay of Piran. Claims that by reaching
agreement with Ljubljana Croatia could secure its place on the European
side of the border towards the east, sound primarily as self-promotion
of the agreement, which is considered Racan's work, because the Croatian
Prime Minister personally arranged it in discussions with his Slovene
Some analysts of the Croatian media pointed to the danger of the
transfer of anti-Moslem hysteria from America to Croatia. The Mufti of
Zagreb, Sefko Omerbasic, was the first to point to that danger
immediately after the black September 11. Moslem and Bosniac
organisations condemned terrorism that attacked America and pointed out
that it had nothing in common with authentic Islam and was actually an
For a Croatian newspaper, the renowned Sarajevo intellectual, Rusmir
Mahmutcehajic explained that the air strike on American centres of
power, with thousands of innocent human victims, could not be proclaimed
an Islamic crime. According to that same logic, said Mahmutcehajic,
Auschwitz could be considered a Christian crime.
These debates concern Croatia because of the fear that the powerful
Islamophobia from the last war could resurface. A recent statement of an
influential Catholic priest, author of a daily column in a
high-circulation newspaper was particularly mentioned. He recently
called the local Moslems to state their view of the recent Taliban trial
of a group of humanitarian workers who had been charged of spreading
Christianity for which they had been condemned to death by hanging.
There were several newspaper comments which observed that this call to
local Moslems, who only share the same religion with the Talibans,
irresistibly resembled the call from the last two wars addressed to
Serbs to publicly state their loyalty to the Croatian state.
Finally, the terrorist attacks on America might have direct economic
consequences for Croatia. News came from the Adriatic coast on the
cancellation of numerous tourist tours and not only from overseas
Europeans have also cancelled their visits and the overall air traffic
has been drastically reduced. It seems that congress tourism, which
usually flourishes in autumn months, will completely fail this year.
Generally speaking, tourism might be a major victim of the new
circumstance. In the long run, economic projections are linked to
speculations whether the American tragedy will cause world recession. In
that context it is forecast that Croatian imports might fall, that
servicing of the enormous Croatian foreign debt might be harder and more
unfavourable, that the purchasing power of the population could fall
which would lead to the overall
All these grim prospects are even more pronounced with the possibility
of the attack on America turning into World War III. This option is
greatly speculated with in Croatia. The fear of hyper-terrorism from the
East is slowly turning into fear from American reactions and future
moves of the seriously wounded super power.