Can't leave history alone
An explosion badly damaged a monument to anti-fascist fighters in World War Two in the main Zagreb cemetery on Thursday. By the next day, several people were being interviewed by police in connection with the outrage, but no one has claimed responsibility. Suspicion falls on hardline nationalist and right-wing groups, tolerated by the previous regime of Franjo Tuđman but opposed by the new government. These groups have been vocal in their criticism of the 'disloyalty' and 'treachery' of the new government, especially in relation to co-operation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. During the Tuđman era there were repeated attempts to minimize the details of a bitter history of Croatia's fascist government during the German occupation.
The monument was erected in 1950 in the Mirogoj Cemetery above the graves of prominent anti-fascists from the time of the partisan struggle against the Germans during the Second World War. Prime Minister Ivica Račan has condemned the act as 'terrorism' and promised that everything would be done to find the perpetrators. The Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters condemned the attack as 'a political diversion by those who cannot accept the democratic transformation' of the country.
Brought to book
Police arrested a Bosnian woman suspected of war crimes during the period from 1991 to 1995, when rebel Serbs controlled parts of Croatia. Nataša Janković was apprehended at the Stara Gradiška border post, 120 kilometres from the capital, Zagreb. During the war, that was the gateway to the Nova Gradiška zone held by the Bosnian Serb Army where Janković is accused of carrying out acts of inhumanity and brutality against Croat and Muslim civilians. In 1996, she was found guilty of the crimes in absentia and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. Her husband, Zoran, proclaimed his wife's innocence to the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA, and said she was accused along with ten others after false testimony from witnesses. She had not been in Nova Gradiška during the war, he said, but had fled to Banja Luka.
On the scrapheap
More than a quarter of Croatia's 400,000 unemployed are over forty years of age. This week the government agreed that this is one of the major tasks it faces if it is to live up to its promise of a better life and economic success. Figures published this week showed that 130 people are losing their jobs in Croatia every day, and only 18 percent of those out of work receive any kind of welfare support from the government. Those who do cannot be described as especially lucky - the maximum unemployment benefit is 900 kuna a month, around USD100.
Those who have been in their jobs for ten years or more are most likely to be badly effected by the continuing wave of bankruptcies of firms unable to compete in a market economy. They do not have the skills to find new jobs, and they are not given enough support to retrain. So they try to survive on the black market - illegal market pitches, cleaning and cooking. And young people thrown out of work, who are more likely to be retrained, generally leave for German or the United States. 'They are not willing to wait for a better tomorrow' said one report this week.
Giving themselves up
Two prominent businessmen who had been evading arrest warrants for embezzlement charges have returned from Germany and given themselves up. Josip Gućić and his son Zvonimir are accused of stealing 200 million kuna, around USD 24 million, which prosecutors say they embezzled from their textile firm NIK, according to Republika. The paper described the Gućić family as a symbol of the shabby period of fraudulent privatisations that took place during the Tuđman era. The new government, determined to prove its credentials as a modern economy and suitable for membership of the EU, has been putting much effort into an anti-corruption campaign.
The arrival of the father and son in Zagreb and their expected appearance in court is a big boost for that campaign. It is not known, however, what kind of deal has been offered to entice the family to leave its comfortable haven. One rumour is that these are relatively small fish, and they may give evidence against much bigger prey.
Dan Damon, 5 February 2001
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