Bulgarian MEPs outraged over a Macedonian film that depicts wartime Bulgarians as fascists


Bulgarian MEPs outraged over a Macedonian film that depicts wartime Bulgarians as fascists are calling on Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle to confront Skopje over the forthcoming movie.

MEPs Andrey Kovachev (EPP), Evgeni Kirilov (S&D) and Stanimir Ilchev (ALDE) have signed a letter, a copy of which was obtained by EurActiv, in which they state their concern over the „attempt to manipulate Balkan history“ and „spread hate“ on the part of the EU candidate country against its neighbours.

The Macedonian film „Third Halftime“ is being filmed in Macedonia as a lavishly funded international production, depicting a football match played in 1942 between two teams of the Bulgarian football league – Levksi and Makedonia.

According to information obtained by EurActiv, the film depicts the Bulgarians as fascists, plotting to kill the coach of the „Macedonian“ team, who is of Jewish descent.

„The film should make Macedonians come together,“ according to official statements quoted by the press in Macedonia. However, Lazar Mladenov, president of the Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje, told EurActiv that mass scenes in the film stage a „very heavy anti-Bulgarian atmosphere“.

The film is done with the support of the Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski,  who helped grant the production a state contribution of €1 million.

The general sponsor of the film is Sparkasse Bank, a part of the German banking group that has been asked by Bulgarian MEPs to withdraw its support.

In the letter to Füle, MEPs said that the „FYROM policy is running counter to our European values“ and shows Skopje is breaching European acquis, citing various texts from European Parliament resolutions.

Significantly, the Bulgarian MEPs used the acronym FYROM , or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, even though Bulgaria was the first country in the world to recognize the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, after it seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Athens insists that Macedonia use FYROM in a long-running dispute with its Balkan neighbour over Greece’s argument that „Republic of Macedonia“ implies a claim over its northern region.

In addition, Greece considers that Skopje is misappropriating large chunks of its ancient history. Similarly, Bulgaria considers that Macedonia is cherry-picking heroes and glorious episodes from its medieval history and the 19th- and early-20th century struggle against Ottoman domination.

Recently, Skopje angered Athens by erecting a giant statue of a ‚warrior on horseback‘ resembling Alexander the Great in the centre of Skopje. Both nations claim Alexander as a native son.

Kirilov told EurActiv that the Gruevski government had „overdone it“ with nationalist activities, aimed at boosting its popularity. „This may have helped him win the elections, but the Macedonian people will soon realise that this is not in the country’s interest,“ Kirilov said.

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EurActiv.com

a Disaster waiting to Happen: Croatia in the EU

October 2011 Archives Go Back

Forbes, October 28, 2011
Croatia in the EU: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

In the late 19th century, someone asked Bismarck what would cause the next great European war. “Some damn thing in the Balkans,” he presciently answered. Today, events in that region are no less consequential if we remember that Greece, now roiling global markets, is also a Balkan state.

Unfortunately, it might get much worse.

In 2013, another Balkan nation, Croatia, is scheduled to join the European Union. Unless that country cleans house before then, another hobbled economy will add its weight to the EU, exacerbating the problems that already exist. There will be more debt, more burden on EU taxpayers, more risk of loan defaults, and more downward pressure on U.S. markets inextricably linked to European markets.

Since 2003-2004, Croatia and the EU have been preparing for that nation’s membership, delayed in part by Slovenian concerns over border issues.

As we get nearer to 2013, much attention has been given Croatia’s economic problems, including a warning from central bank Governor Zeljko Rohatinski that it must cut more waste to avoid an economic crash.

Yet one rising star of Croatian politics points to deeper systemic malignancies beyond such familiar concerns over the fiscal problems of a modern welfare state (including a 20% unemployment rate in Croatia).

Natasha Srdoc, founder and chair of the Adriatic Institute for Public Policy (AI), is a compelling figure if only because she’s also directly addressing what is now a top-priority initiative for global regulators: anticorruption.

If the many reports are accurate, corruption in Croatia is ruthless and systemic in a way that altogether changes the dialogue from “how” Croatia should enter the EU, to “if” Croatia should enter the EU.

As things purportedly stand now, Croatian membership in the EU would be another liability that we cannot afford to add to our ongoing exposure in Greece. EU membership could prove a disaster for the Croatian people as well.

“Croatia is an economy at risk and a burden on EU and U.S. taxpayers through its high debt and high borrowing as well as its persistently dysfunctional judicial system,” says Srdoc, who’s formed her own political party, Croatia 21st Century, with anticorruption at the center of its agenda along with tax reform, private property rights, and family values.

While businesses and officials may fret over the draconian enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the threat of the same pursuant to the newly adopted UK Bribery Act, the Croatia 21st Century approach to corruption is well-nigh confiscatory. In addition to new laws mandating transparency, Srdoc wants to prosecute all politicians, past and present, who have amassed unexplained wealth.

She’d seize misappropriated amounts that reportedly total multiple billions and use the money to help pay down Croatia’s debt. No wonder she’s been stigmatized as “an enemy of the state” by the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) or that she and her family have been threatened.

Whatever their actual source, those threats are not likely idle. Among other deadly incidents, media publisher and regime critic Ivo Pukanic died in a 2008 car bomb explosion in Zagreb. Six men were convicted in what was vaguely depicted in the media as an organized crime hit.

“I do not think it would be a good idea to have a Croatian politician as an unelected EU Commissioner wielding tremendous power,” Srdoc quips. EU and U.S. taxpayers have already invested nearly 1 billion euros over the past decade in a reform process “without any results.” The prospect of loan defaults may put the IMF in a ticklish situation: let Croatia go bankrupt or continue to feed the ravenous maw of its leaders. (The socialist SDP party already supports recourse to the IMF.)

The EU has promised an additional 4 billion euros to government institutions apparently mired in rampant corruption. So the vicious circle spirals on.

The more we donate to sham reform, the more empowered the regime becomes even as European investors who’ve already sunk significant amounts into Croatian banks, telecoms, and real estate – and who knows how those deals were negotiated with local apparatchiks! – seek to protect their interests by lofting yet another albatross over EU skies.

It is possible that nascent political forces in Croatia will lead to change if reports of growing public support for such change are accurate. (We’re also assuming the country holds honest elections, as concerns remain about a purported infusion of 550,000 illegal votes, an alarming 17% that skewed past results.)

But indisputably, those forces – so potentially beneficial to legitimate U.S. and European interests – face a daunting uphill battle absent helpful pressure from outside. Added to the impact on the EU and global financial markets, there is a laundry list of other vital considerations, not the least of which is Croatia’s geo-political positioning with respect to drug routes, weapon deals, and human trafficking.

In the best-case scenario, Croatia’s scheduled EU membership is an opportunity to speed the winds of change. If total regime change is possible, we’re well-advised to support it financially and via all the communications channels we have at our disposal.

If regime change is not yet realistic, dangle the EU carrot to at least achieve some tangible results. For example, in this nation of 4 million people, there are over 1 million backlogged court cases, a deadlock that, according to Srdoc, has allowed the ruling elite to arrest a few of its own for show but with nary a single conviction. One condition for EU membership might be oversight by visiting legal experts from nations with strong rule-of-law traditions.
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http://www.balkanpeace.org/

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“Croatia is an economy at risk and a burden on EU and U.S. taxpayers through its high debt and high borrowing as well as its persistently dysfunctional judicial system,”
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4 million people, there are over 1 million backlogged court cases
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EU and U.S. taxpayers have already invested nearly 1 billion euros over the past decade in a reform process “without any results.”