UK-Croatia relations: A number of developments

By Brian Gallagher

UK-Croatia relations have seen some interesting developments in the last ten days.

The House of Lords last weeks passed the final stage of the relevant bill ratifying Croatian accession to the EU. All that remains is Royal Passage – the Queen signing off on it. Royal Passage is effectively a formality.  As it turns out, UK ratification has been one of the simpler ones, not even waiting for an upcoming EU monitoring report.

The UK seems not to be too concerned at this moment with causing problems for Croatia. In part this may be due to not causing EU problems unnecessarily. In the same week, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an ‘in-out’ referendum for the UK. A row over Croatia’s EU accession – not a UK issue of any kind  – is not desirable at this point.

Another development last week is that police are to look into disgraced ex-MP Denis MacShane over his expenses claims. As Minister for Europe, MacShane did his utmost to cause trouble for Croatia, in particular over the issue of arresting General Ante Gotovina who was found in the Canary Islands, not Croatia.

The UK delayed Croatia’s EU accession talks over Gotovina. MacShane was arguably the leader of Croatia’s many critics.

Now of course, Gotovina has been proved innocent, whilst MacShane has turned out to be fiddling his expenses. This is important, as it shows the quality of person who was making decisions regarding Croatia. Had a more honest person been in charge, it is not inconceivable a fairer line may have been taken. It is also important to note that his fellow critics of Croatia have not been voluble about MacShane.

However, also in the last few days we have seen something more positive. In 1993, retreating Serb forces attempted to destroy the Peruca dam – an act that would have seen the death of 20,000 Croatian civilians. This attempt at what would have been one of the world’s worst war crimes was thwarted by British Royal Marine office Mark Nicholas Gray (retired as Brigadier) who was there as a UN observer. Disregarding his neutral status, he saved the dam from collapse.

At a ceremony on last Sunday, President Ivo Josipovic gave him the well deserved honour of the Order of Duke Domagoj.

UK – Croatian relations will be best served by looking to the example of people such as Brigadier Gray rather than the likes of Denis MacShane.

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