By Brian Gallagher
It might be thought that Denis MacShane, the former Minister for Europe under Labour, would be keeping a low profile. After all, he is a disgraced ex-MP, having been caught fiddling his expenses on a rather large scale.
However, he turned up in the audience at the first SEE Europe Ministerial conference yesterday and even asked a question. This is doubly shameless. Apart from the expenses scandal, his tenure as a Minister was less than successful. Tony Blair dropped him from the Cabinet.
He was most insistent on Croatia handing over then fugitive General Ante Gotovina to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague – Gotovina was not even in Croatia when he was caught, but the Canary Islands. Then, when Gotovina was wrongly convicted, MacShane strongly criticised him, even reportedly comparing him to Ratko Mladic.
However, it is now clear that Gotovina was entirely innocent – and MacShane guilty of fiddling his own expenses. British policy under MacShane was a disaster – Croatia’s EU negotiations were held up due to it. There is little excuse for it as it was well known to informed observers that there were serious doubts about the entire case against Gotovina. Other EU states were also more accepting of what Zagreb was saying about trying to find him.
Recently, the British government has ratified Croatia’s accession to the EU smoothly, without even waiting for the next EU monitoring report. One wonders if this more rational policy is at least partly an attempt to avoid the sort of damage caused to the UK’s reputation in Croatia by MacShane.
As to his appearance yesterday, it does show that he is still taking an interested in ‘Balkan’ matters and unfortunately it could be some people still take him seriously. Let us hope not.
Perhaps – his political future gone – he fancies a career as a ‘Balkan’ pundit? An apology to Croatia and General Gotovina would be a good place for him to start – but don’t expect it.