The European Union’s Balkan Double Standard

Commissioner Corina Cretu Croatia

Corina Creţu, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy, was on visit in May 2016 at Dubrovnik, capital city of Croatia to take part in the 1st Forum of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Denis Lovrovic

This article was written for the Sting by one of our passionate readers, Mr Daniel Jankovic. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

Over the past several years, analysts and commentators have noticed a rising tide of domestic support for the Croatian homegrown Nazi movement of the Second World War, the Ustashe, which actively exterminated Serbs, Jews, and Roma in the territory it controlled from 1941-45. Far from condemning this alarming development, the Croatian government, the European Union, and non-state actors within it have tacitly and actively supported the rising tide of sympathy towards the Ustashe.

This disconnect between the ostensible “European values” of human rights and tolerance that the European Union claims to represent, and its tacit support of trends towards extremist politics in Croatia will have a significant impact on the increasing trend of Euroscepticism in Serbia and other Balkan states. Furthermore, the Union’s unabashed condemnation of legitimate populist movements in Europe, including but not limited to the Brexit campaign, as “racist” and “xenophobic,” while quietly supporting genuinely extremist political elements will contribute to the increasingly popular perception of the EU as a hypocritical entity.

Surge in Ustasha Sympathy

The Republic of Croatia has, since its independence, often reverted to the imagery of its Second World War predecessor; the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The NDH was a puppet state sponsored by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and was administered by the Ustashe. During its brief four-year lifespan, the NDH made use of a form of clerical fascism built on the basis of discrimination and systematized liquidation of non-Croatian elements within its boundaries. It was responsible for the deaths of anywhere between 300,000 to 600,000 Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews and Roma.

While restricted by law, Ustashe symbolism is freely exhibited at sporting events, political rallies, and all manners of public gatherings. The penalties for these displays are often restricted to a small monetary fine. By comparison, German law (Strafgesetzbuch section 86a) stipulates that a fine and/or a sentence of up to three years imprisonment will be administered.

Ustasha support among football hooligans (including a recent event during Euro 2016 where Croatian fans openly brandished swastikas) has been popular for decades; a more alarming trend is the active and tacit support of the Ustashe movement and legacy coming from the Croatian government. Earlier this year, the government of Croatia was condemned for appointing Zlatko Hasanbegovic, a prominent and open admirer of the Ustashe regime to be the country’s minister of culture. Croatia’s president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, is an avid fan of the pro-Ustashe musician Marko Perkovic “Thompson” and, while describing the Ustashe regime as “criminal”, also stated in the past that the NDH “at least protect[ed] the interests of the Croatian people” during its short and incredibly violent reign.

Silence at Best, Encouragement at Worst

Despite ongoing reports by international NGO’s of state-sponsored discrimination against Croatian Serbs and routine desecrations of Serbian churches and cultural monuments at the hands of pro-Ustashe elements in the country, the European Union has remained almost completely silent on the issue of growing pro-Ustashe sympathies in the Croatian government and political scene.

Rather than condemn the rising tide of Ustashe sympathy in the country or denounce the appointment of Ustashe sympathizers to some of the Croatian government’s highest ministries, the European Union has chosen to tacitly support the creeping return of political extremism to Croatia. On June 15th, an exhibition dedicated to Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac was held at the European Parliament, one of the EU’s most important institutions of governance. Cardinal Stepinac, who served as the Croatian Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960, was an active supporter of the Ustashe regime and according to prominent Balkan historian Bernd Jurgen Fischer “had close association with the Ustashe leaders as the archbishop of the capital city, had issued proclamations celebrating independent Croatia, and welcomed the Ustashe leaders.”

The European Union has yet to respond to any of the criticisms lodged against it for hosting an event dedicated to a key supporter of a Nazi-backed regime that murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians during the Second World War.

A recent definition (pictured below) of the Ustashe regime in the leading German language dictionary ‘Duden’ as a “movement which fought against ‘Serbian centralism’” has also provoked a firestorm of controversy and a rapidly growing online petition sponsored by the humanitarian organization 28 Jun. (full disclosure: we are both members of this organization). The definition makes no reference to any of the Ustashe’s well-documented and numerous crimes against civilian populations, giving it the appearance of a legitimate political movement with reasonable aims. These recent events are contributing to the growing sentiment among many Serbs who feel alienated by the European Union, and as if a double standard is being applied with regards to Serbia.

Loss of Credibility

Since Serbia attained candidate status in 2011, the European Union has imposed on it a host of requirements and stipulations that ostensibly deal with human rights and unresolved issues stemming from the Yugoslav Conflicts of the 1990’s. The Serbian government has largely complied with the conditions imposed on it by the European Union and has committed itself to the EU through acts such as extraditing members of its own government and “normalizing” relations with the Republic of Kosovo (a self-declared state which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008) at the behest of the European Union. Additionally, many EU states voted in favour of a failed UN resolution that sought to classify the controversial events in Srebrenica in 1995 as “genocide”.

Given the fact that the European Union has both passively supported the rise tide of extremist political inclinations in one of its member states by refusing to condemn it and actively supported it by hosting exhibitions in its honor, Serbs’ enthusiasm for joining the EU will likely continue to wane. The European Union has demonstrated a lack of integrity and even-handedness in upholding its stated human rights values by enforcing relatively harsh standards for Serbia while imposing virtually none on Croatia, even going as far as openly supporting some of Croatia’s worst historical human rights abusers. Coupled with growing Eurosceptic sentiments in both Serbia and Europe as a whole, the European Union’s quiet support of radicalized politics in Croatia could jeopardize the EU’s strategic goals of acquiring Serbia as a member.

Furthermore, the double standard shown by the European Union in its dealings with Croatia and Serbia represent yet another example of the moral hypocrisy of the European Union. While top EU officials were quick to denounce legitimate populist movements such as the Brexit campaign as racist and xenophobic, those same officials and institutions have done nothing but tacitly support genuinely extremist politics in Croatia. Eurosceptic parties such as Front Nationale and the Austrian Freedom Party are routinely branded as “far right” and “radical” while political extremism in Croatia is allowed to flourish. If the European Union does not take steps to meaningfully combat this moral hypocrisy, then it is likely that the trend of increasing skepticism towards the Union will continue to rise unabated.

About the authors

Daniel Jankovic is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s History and Economics program. He studies history and economics, and has an avid interest in political discourse and international relations, especially in regard to the Balkans of Southeastern Europe. He recently completed an in-depth analysis on the death of the residential bar and its social impact in the Balkans. The paper is slated to be published in several academic journals in the upcoming year. He is an active member of 28. Jun, a Canada-based not-for-profit organization and is launching Konstantine, a digital magazine about current events in the Balkans in Winter 2016.

Join the Hive!

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Trade Barriers Report: EU continues to open up markets outside Europe in midst of rising protectionism

EU recovery and long-term budget: Leaders must do better

Economy and living standards of Gaza ‘eviscerated’ by crippling blockade – UN trade and development report

168 hours left for MEPs – ECOFIN Council to deliver a Banking Union

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “We need more Schengen but reinforce control!”, France’s Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron emphasises from Davos

DR Congo: Restore internet services as ‘a matter of urgency’, urges UN expert

Parmesan cheese on shelves in Italy (Copyright: European Union, 2014 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Daniela Giusti)

CETA at risk again: Italy says it won’t ratify EU-Canada trade deal over product protection fears

If Macron defies Britain about the banks, Paris and London to clash over ‘La Manche’

How to get ageing populations to invest in their health

In post-COVID Latin America, investment in infrastructure can bring back tourism – and rebuild the economy

This Canadian company transforms plastic waste into building materials

Eurozone closer to a deflation – stagnation trap

UN chief calls for ‘far greater support’ for Cyclone Idai response

EU budget 2021-2027: Commission calls on leaders to set out a roadmap towards an autumn agreement

Reinforcing EU border security: Visa-exempt travelers will be pre-screened

UN chief calls for ‘green and clean’ development in message for Africa Industrialization Day

Court of Auditors: MEPs back five members

Switzerland fast-tracks emergency aid for small businesses weathering COVID-19

Brexit kick-off: a historic day for the EU anticlockwise

Blockchain can change the face of renewable energy in Africa. Here’s how

Attack on Saudi facilities risks dragging Yemen into ‘regional conflagration’: UN Envoy

The EU to fight cross-border tax evasion with a toothless directive

On International Youth Day the European Youth Forum calls for true youth participation

China in my eyes

We are stronger than this pandemic (COVID-19)

Will satellites destroy our view of space?

US resolution to condemn activities of Hamas voted down in General Assembly

Final turnout data for 2019 European elections announced

Can the EU assume the mantle of global leadership?

Global Compact on Refugees: How is this different from the migrants’ pact and how will it help?

Is Germany closer to Russia than the West? Nord Stream II and Iran count more

8th Euronest Assembly: the future of relations with Eastern partners

5 ways for business leaders to win in the 2020s

Trade in digital services is booming. Here’s how we can unleash its full potential

Businesses, governments and consumers to implement a more climate-friendly approach to #BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day 2018

Working Muslim women are a trillion-dollar market

Sweden is fighting loneliness by housing older and younger generations together

‘World’s deadliest sea crossing’ claimed six lives a day in 2018: UN refugee agency

In wake of ‘collapsed’ agreement, new wave of violence threatens millions in Syria’s Idlib

The ‘abuse of food relief in Yemen’ must end now

Eurozone economy desperately needs internally driven growth

Listen to the future – how 26 youth-led organizations are supercharging the UN’s Global Goals

Yemen: Committee brings warring parties to the table in Hudaydah, builds on ceasefire

Healthcare workers’ safety: a forgotten necessity

5 things you might not know about forests – but should

2021-2027 EU Budget: €378,1 billion to benefit all regions

Key economic forum in Russia: New technology a ‘vector of hope’ but also ‘a source of fear’ says Guterres

Ireland: prepare now for rising fiscal pressures, external risks

Bilbao’s city parks offer brain-training games for the elderly

Primary Healthcare: Back to the Basics

In Mozambique, it’s ‘a matter of the heart’ says Guterres, lauding the cyclone-struck nation’s ‘undeniable moral authority’

Egypt: The road to hell paved with western advices for democracy

UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

COVID-19 has disrupted cybersecurity, too – here’s how businesses can decrease their risk

Three ways the world must tackle mental health

Water reuse: Commission proposes measures to make it easier and safer for agricultural irrigation

China’s Ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming wishes to Brussels a Happy 2019 Year of the Pig

A Sting Exclusive: “Cybersecurity: Why consumer products must be looked at urgently”, by BEUC’s Deputy Director General

These countries have the most doctors and nurses

Commission’s report shows that targeted investment and robust digital policies boost Member States’ performance

More Stings?

Advertising

Comments

  1. Double standard is mentioning Stepinac and not mentioning rehabilitation of Chetniks and Draza in Serbia.

    Same bearded Serb rape mobs that were devestating Croatia in 90s.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s