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The Balkan Refugee Route Reopened

Published on 20 September 2016 15:50, Adelina Marini, Zagreb, Twitter: @AdelinaMarini
Last change on 20 September 2016 15:51

Croatian media are consumed with anxiety because of the danger of a reopening of the Balkan refugee route. “The Balkan route is being activated” is a headline in today’s edition of Vecernji list. The newspaper reports that it is more and more probable that the Balkans will be engulfed by a new refugee wave. Refugees are amassing in Greece, the centres on Greek islands are bursting. There is space for 7 450 people and there are 12 200 refugees currently there, reports the Croatian daily newspaper. There are currently 39 illegal migrants in centres in Croatia. The number of people applying for asylum has grown to 608. 157 applications have been honoured. At the same time, the newspaper reports that about a hundred illegal migrants are being apprehended daily by the police along the Serbian border. They are instantly returned back. Those people are not registered anywhere, because there is a verbal order to do so, claims Vecernji.

In an interview for Index the former internal affairs minister Ranko Ostojić, who was a leading figure last year when the refugee wave got to Croatia, claims that the Balkan route is already opened and very soon the refugee wave will again reach Croatia. This time, however, it is different, he warns, for there will be no more transiting of refugees, which means Croatia will turn into a hotspot. “Croatia is nowhere near prepared for the new wave, for there will no longer be any transit of refugees through to Slovenia allowed”, says the former minister. The Ministry of the Interior contradicts him by stating that even though there is noticeable growth over the last two months, this could not be described as a reactivation of the Balkan route.

The Eurosceptic party may be the fourth power, but is disintegrating

While negotiations are under way for the formation of a new government in Croatia between the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Most of Independent Lists (Most NL), the fourth winner in the snap parliamentary elections of September 11th – Live Wall has started to disintegrate. The coalition around the Eurosceptic party, “Only Option”, has won eight seats in Parliament, but the scandals in Live Wall never end. The newspaper 24 sata reports that the party succeeded in the elections, but is disintegrating over money. “They attacked other parties because of corruption and now it is their members who talk about black money, bribes, and old debts are being pulled to surface in interpersonal conflicts”, writes the newspaper. “The movement/party, which won 117 000 votes in the elections and is the only one to mark an improvement in the latest elections, is breaking apart from within so badly that it poses the question how will this story end”, comments 24 sata

Also devoted to Live Wall is the commentary of popular Croatian columnist Ante Tomić for Jutarnji. Under the headline “Croatian Pokémon”, Tomić writes that Facebook friendships are like pens – you can have 150, but only two work. “This could be an excellent illustration, which would explain the political phenomenon Live Wall and all the weirdness happening to Live Wall in recent days”. People in the movement do not share common interests, nor hobbies, favourite authors, films, or dark beer, neither have they communicated in private, played futsal, or shopped at IKEA. The only thing connecting them is Facebook and their inclination to obsessively philosophise in the dark hours of the night about sociological, economic, political, and a number of other theories, which are published in science fiction magazines like “Astro magazine”, writes the author, who is famous for his satirical and mocking texts. 

Croatia is frozen in patriarchy

This could be the headline of a piece summarising the results of the parliamentary elections in Croatia, which ended with the least number of women in Parliament since the inception of independent Croatia – 19. On this occasion Novi list published an article with the headline “Women politicians in Croatia are once more reserves. The new parliament is the most masculine of all so far”. The newspaper reports that out of 151 MPs only 19 are women, which lists the country along with the worst in the world. In the EU, the worse is only Hungary, where female MPs are 10%. According to Novi list, perhaps for the first time the parties are going to be fined for non-compliance with the requirement to have at least 40% women on their electoral lists. 

Jutarnji dedicates a large and powerful text on the subject of women in politics, but with a slightly different accent – patriarchal society. “Childless women are worth less?” is the headline of the newspaper. “Inspiration” for the text is the insult that Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić dealt to the famous RTL television journalist Mirjana Hrga during her interview with him. He told her she is snot fit to talk about the problems in kindergartens, because she never gave birth and has no children. “In Croatia, a woman who has decided not to have children is often depicted as having something wrong with her, or as a selfish egotist, who wishes not to take any responsibility”, reports Jutarnji. The newspaper points out that currently there are childless women in power in various countries like British PM Theresa May, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but there are women in Croatian politics as well, who have remained childless. 

Psychiatrist Suzana Kulović explains this the following way: “This is a superficial and often primitive assessment, according to which a woman is only a woman if she gives birth and this is her primary task”. The psychiatrist also runs a parallel with the attitude towards refugees. “In much the same way we understand refugees not because of our humanity, but because we, too, were refugees once”. The former minister and MP Mirela Holy says that the reason is that Croatian society is patriarchal. Analyst Ivana Matić points out at the paradox that whatever she does, a woman is in an unfavourable position: “Those who do not have children are worthless because, due to their careers, they do not want a family and children, and the ones who have children and at the same time wish to be professionally satisfied are also worthless, because they abandon their families and children”

Bosnia and Herzegovina expects good news from Brussels

Bosnian Dnevni avaz reports that according to its sources today BiH will receive the green light for its candidacy for EU membership. The newspaper claims that the General Affairs Council will accept [and later, while this article was being translated, it did] with no discussion BiH’s request for gaining candidate state status. “This will be a huge step forward for our country after a little over a year ago the formation of a stable coalition in the BiH Federation unblocked the country’s road towards Europe. Our country dallied for six years with the implementation of the requirements, only to fulfil all that was requested of it in the last year and transform into a success story in Brussels”, reports Dnevni avaz

The Bosnian edition of the Croatian Vecernji list publishes several commentaries on the subject, but with a focus on the upcoming referendum this Sunday in the Serbian entity of the country (RS). Jozo Pavković writes that BiH is torn between Europe and the Balkans, Russia and America, Islam and Christianity, war and peace. “The preliminary decision for accepting the EU candidacy application could be accepted today in Brussels. Should this come true, this date will be marked as a historic one. Unfortunately, however, the European perspective will remain overshadowed by the anxiety, hanging above BiH these days”, writes the columnist regarding the referendum.

"This week Brussels, Moscow, Washington ... are seeking a solution for BiH. Each one sees it in a different way. Thus, instead of a referendum in BiH, all of them need to write out referenda in their own states and communities with the question ‘Do you want to immediately accept BiH in the EU and NATO?’. A ‘Yes’ would mean saving the Dayton BiH and its fast integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. [...] Otherwise, following the decision on the day of RS, the other referendum will be held. The one on secession”, further writes Jozo Pavković. 

Serbia and Europe

"Why is the fall of Angela Merkel bad for Serbia" is the headline of an analysis in today’s edition of Blic, regarding the interview of Serbian PM Aleksandar Vučić for state-owned RTS television from Sunday, in which he stated that the German chancellor’s withdrawal from the political scene could have some very negative consequences for Europe. The newspaper quotes the Balkans expert Bodo Weber of the Democratisation Policy Council in Berlin, according to whom Merkel’s withdrawal could be some very bad news for Serbia. “She [Angela Merkel] has invested her political authority in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and thus into the European integration process of Serbia as well. She is in a way responsible for both. The Chancellor is a guarantor of a kind for the continuation of this commitment”, believes Weber. He forecasts that her resignation is unlikely to spell a change in Germany’s policy towards Serbia on its way towards the EU, but could change the intensity of the political commitment.

Josip Juratovic, a MP from the German SPD with Croatian background disagrees. He says for Blic that the question of Serbia’s European integration does not in any way depend the internal political situation in Germany, but on the positions of all EU members. It depends the most, however, on Serbia itself and how ready it is to implement the necessary reforms, says Juratovic.

Serbian Danas devoted an editorial today to the Bratislava summit, saying that with the declaration from Bratislava the leaders have fulfilled all their homeworks. The implementation deadline is in spring and there are elections coming in spring. First in The Netherlands, then in France. Parliamentary elections in Germany will happen on August 28th at the earliest. The far right-wing – best case scenario a regular Euroscepticism – will smile from all over, reports the newspaper. 

Montenegro dreams of the fate of former Croatian PM Zoran Milanović

Montenegrin journalist Željko Ivanović writes in a commentary for the Montenegrin Vijesti that the example of the former Croatian PM Zoran Milanović, who lost the elections and then resigned from the leader’s post in the Social Democratic Party (SDP), could be enlightening for Montenegro. “A loss in elections is like the failure of the national team at a world cup or Olympic games – team coaches resign, political leaders pack their bags and change their profession. Montenegro never had such an experience over the last three decades. It is high time it did”, urged the journalist, hoping that following the elections in Montenegro in October Milo Đukanović will finally withdraw from the political scene. 

Karadžić becomes a character in a Coelho novel

Serbian Večernje novosti trumpets on its cover page that the famous author Paulo Coelho is preparing to write a novel about Radovan Karadžić. The newspaper claims that Coelho has sent a proposal to the former president of Republika Srpska in his cell in the wars crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague to spend two weeks with him in order to tell him his story about how he hid for years under the guise of the bearded doctor Dragan David Dabić.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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