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(E) A CROAT LOBBY IN BRITAIN?
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  12/7/2003 | Politics | Unrated
(E) A CROAT LOBBY IN BRITAIN?

 

A CROATIAN LOBBY IN BRITAIN?

VIEWPOINT FROM LONDON

by Brian Gallagher

The Croatian Herald, Australia No. 994 - 05.12.03

With a new government being formed in Croatia, it is
an opportune time for the country to reassess its
relationship with the United Kingdom. This has never
been good, and has in fact got worse, with Britain now
blocking Croatia's path to the EU. New thinking is
required. A Croat lobby needs to be formed in the UK.

First off, some form of information/media centre needs
to be established. London is a centre for many
international media organisations, quite apart from
the local media. Such a centre can be used as a
contact point for journalists. Further it should rebut
erroneous stories each and every time they appear.
Certainly the BBC should be held to account for their
continual stories about the alleged sufferings of
Serbs - whilst somehow ignoring what happened to
Croats during the war.

English language reports on Croatia need to be
produced, and sent to media organisations,
politicians, academics etc. Negative human rights
reports produced in the UK need to be pored over and
where necessary their conclusions and sources need to
be challenged in detail. Such challenges should also
be made known to relevant political and media sources
in the UK.

Its worth mentioning that anti-Croat activities
continue in the UK. Highly negative and biased reports
emerge from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting
(IWPR) - part funded by the British Foreign Office -
which are disseminated to many people. Furthermore
there is still an active Serb lobby in the UK.

Any Croat official dealing with Britain should read
Brendan Simm's best-selling 'Unfinest Hour - Britain
and the Destruction of Bosnia' and Carole Hodge's 'The
Serb lobby in the United Kingdom' to see how the
Foreign Office is still pro-Serb and the great
influence of the Serb lobby. Croatia underestimates or
ignores this at its peril. That is why efforts to
counter this are required.

One problem Croats have in the UK and indeed elsewhere
is the perception of being fascists - the excuse the
Serbs used to murder Croats. Indeed, IWPR often have
some comment to make about supposed fascism in
Croatia. This is all based on the Second World War and
the Croatian 'Ustasha' puppet government. One
excellent way of dealing with this would be to
demonstrate Croatia's anti-fascist credentials. One
book on this already exists - 'Serbia's Secret War' by
Philip J. Cohen. But another, focusing more on Croatia
was published in Zagreb in 1996.

This is 'Vojska Antifasisticke Hrvatske (1941-1945)'
by Dr Branko Dubrovica (Publisher: Narodno sveuciliste
Velika Gorica). This book demonstrates the strong
anti-fascist record of Croats, using facts and figures
from government archives. It has an introduction by a
respected academic, Dusan Bilandzic. Bilandzic points
out that this work should be used to counter
accusations of fascism against Croatia. Indeed, it
needs to be translated into English and distributed
widely, in particular to academic institutions. In
demonstrating Croatia's anti-fascist credentials, it
subsequently becomes much easier to raise such issues
as the communist slaughter of Croat troops handed over
by the allies in 1945 and the allied bombardment of
Zadar during the war, which needlessly devastated much
of the city.

In the academic field, much more could be done in the
same vein. Credible English language academic material
does need to be fed into the UK and elsewhere. John
Kampfner in his illuminating book 'Blair's Wars' -
another important primer for Croats dealing with the
UK - relates how prior to Blair taking office he was
briefed on foreign policy issues by eminent
ex-diplomats and academics. Given academia's input
into policy, it is important to ensure they have
access to reliable texts rather than serbocentric
material on Croatia - of which there is a great deal.

A lot of pressure is put on Croatia by the UK and
others in regard to the Hague tribunal and Serb
refugees. Zagreb should put some pressure back. It may
be diplomatically difficult, but Britain's role in
effectively supporting Serbia during the war should be
mentioned. Serbian atrocities in Croatia should be
highlighted. Indeed, an act of remembrance should be
held every year in London, with British dignitaries
invited, to remember the Croat victims of the Serb
invasion and occupation of Croatia. Such crimes should
not forgotten - and it would make it more difficult
for Britain to be obstructive. At the moment, certain
people in Britain are pushing the Serbs as the victims
of the war. This needs to be resisted.

One area where Croatia fails near completely is in the
area of culture. Most central and east European
countries invest heavily in promoting their culture in
the UK: artistic festivals, book launches, film
seasons, music recitals, wine tastings etc. The
Czechs, Bulgarians, Poles and especially the
Hungarians put major efforts in this. Croatia doesn't
really do any of this at all. Cultural events in the
UK are usually at the initiative of artists in Croatia
and Croat groups in London. The embassy hosts the
occasional event but a major programme - such as
Hungary's 'Magyar Magic' - of Croat events is absent.
This is a clear sign that Zagreb has not been serious
in its EU application or indeed any foreign policy
goals. Cultural events by other East/Central European
states have been more or less tools to pursue the
goals of integration into the west.

A lack of imagination is also evident. A number of
British people are investing in Croatian homes. These
people thus have an interest in Croatia's well-being -
they should be contacted and given information on
Croatia's problems with the UK. Many of these people
will be influential types who may well be happy to
help.

All of this is geared to creating an effective Croat
lobby in the UK. It may not turn the UK into Croatia's
best friend but it should at least alleviate negative
pressure. It's certainly not impossible - after all
the UK went along with diplomatic recognition of
Croatia and more recently the country's tourism
efforts have led to Croatia being named 'hottest
destination' for 2003 by The Sunday Times Travel
magazine. A warmer relationship would also benefit
London as it currently has little influence in
Croatia. Zagreb's approach to the UK is a mess that
has held the country back. How the new government
deals with this situation will be a key test of how
serious it is in taking Croatia forward.

Š Brian Gallagher

My 'Viewpoint from London' column appears fortnightly
in the Australian 'Croatian Herald' and thereafter at
www.croatiafocus.com

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