The Economist is still flogging its Yugosphere theory. In the midst of a deterioration in Croatia/Serbia relations, the Economist’s ‘Eastern Approaches’ blog is not only ignoring current events but also giving the impression that relations are improving.
The Yugosphere is the idea that Yugoslav ties are reforming, particularly in the economic field. In reality, such ties are not being restored and Croatia does most of its business with the EU, in particular countries such as Austria, Germany and Italy. The theory is simply a reheat of old Yugoslav ideology.
The latest Economist article on it, ‘Forging the Yugosphere in Haiti’ talks about Croat-Serb police cooperation – other ex-Yugoslav states seemingly dropping out of the theory at the moment. Such cooperation is hardly an indication of a restoration of some form of Yugoslavia. It may have escaped the Economist’s attention, but police cooperation between neighbouring states is actually a normal occurrence throughout the world.
Furthermore, the operation in Haiti the article refers to is dwarfed by Croatia’s NATO operation in Afghanistan – a vastly greater indicator of Croatia’s current international ties. That does not fit into the Yugosphere theory, however.
It is telling that the Economist has to go all the way to Haiti for Croatia-Serbia cooperation. At the moment, there has been a deterioration in relations between the two countries. The issue centres on Croatian war veteran Tihomir Purda, who was once held prisoner in a Serbian concentration camp. Mr Purda was arrested whilst in Bosnia on a warrant from Serbia for war crimes. It appears the warrant is based on statements taken from him under duress in a concentration camp.
This has created a huge public reaction in Croatia. Aside from state level concerns, there have been protests from veterans groups and demonstrations in Croatian cities – there is deterioration at a grass roots level of feelings towards Serbia.
These are unfortunate developments – triggered by ‘Greater Serbia’ thinking in Belgrade. It is a rerun of the Ejup Ganic case last year, in which Serbia had former Bosnian minister Ejup Ganic arrested in London. Relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo plunged, and as with Purda, there were protests and demonstrations. A British court threw out the extradition case, condemning the entire Serbian war crimes system.
As an aside, it is odd that the severe criticism levelled by the British judge against the Serbian prosecutors has not been at the forefront of comments by the Croatian government, opposition and veterans groups – one would have thought the judgement useful for Mr. Purda.
Such events as the Purda affair demonstrate the precise opposite of what the Economist is telling us about a Yugoslav reformation. Is that why their ‘Eastern Approaches’ blog has not featured it?
Croatia has always been poorly understood in the United Kingdom, viewed through a Yugoslav/Serbian lens. This has improved in more recent times, but sadly it would seem that the Economist is determined to continue with this useless tradition by seeing Croatia via the Yugosphere ideological perspective, with little regard to real world events.
Listen to our podcast regarding the Yugosphere theory here.