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Commentary
 
Croatia’s Sovereignty Under Assault
 
April 25, 2011
 
 
Co-authored by Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy, co-founders, Adriatic Institute for Public Policy - Adriatic institut za javnu politiku, Rijeka, Croatia
 
Croatia's sovereignty is under assault.   We would not be discussing the recent ruling of The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had Croatia established an independent judiciary and upheld the rule of law.  What Croatia has been lacking is honest and competent individuals in power who understand the meaning of the word - sovereignty.  
 
According to the simple dictionary definition of sovereignty, it is best described as “complete independence and self-government, freedom from external control.”
 
Steven Groves, Fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation communicates the following about sovereignty when reflecting on the United States:

“Sovereignty is a simple idea: the United States is an independent nation, governed by the American people, that controls its own affairs. The American people adopted the Constitution and created the government. They elect their representatives and make their own laws. The Founding Fathers understood that if America does not have sovereignty, it does not have independence. If a foreign power can tell America “what we shall do, and what we shall not do,” George Washington once wrote to Alexander Hamilton, “we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.”
 
Concerned about its national sovereignty, the US signed bilateral agreements with nearly 100 nations, regarding the non-extradition of US soldiers to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The US wanted to protect its citizens from potential political processes by an international court. Known for its respect for the rule of law and its efforts to safeguard an independent judiciary, the US resolves issues of responsibility of its own soldiers within its own territory and by its legal structures.  
 
As President Bush said, "The United States cooperates with many other nations to keep the peace, but we will not submit American troops to prosecutors and judges whose jurisdiction we do not accept.. . .  Every person who serves under the American flag will answer to his or her own superiors and to military law, not to the rulings of an unaccountable International Criminal Court." 
 
According to Ambassador John Bolton, then-US under secretary of state for arms control and international security and later as US Ambassador to the UN: 
 
“...the ICC is an organization that runs contrary to fundamental American precepts and basic Constitutional principles of popular sovereignty, checks and balances, and national independence.”   
 
The European Union required cooperation with the United Nation’s ICTY as a key condition for Croatia’s accession talks. The governing political parties of Croatia embraced EU accession as its highest priority and extradited General Ante Gotovina to the ICTY.  General Gotovina is known to Croatians as a war hero liberating Croatia's legitimate territory during 'Operation Storm', a military campaign which was not blocked by President Bill Clinton's administration during the days of August 1995. 
 
Justice must be served. Those responsible for committing crimes against humanity must be held accountable. Individuals who were involved in murdering civilians have to be brought to justice. 
 
However, if we look at the sovereignty principle, it would be of utmost importance to have Croatian soldiers and government officials alleged of war crimes tried on home territory.  
 
We fully acknowledge that Croatia does not have the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Therefore, the following principled solution would call for creating an independent judiciary in Croatia and establishing the rule of law:  

Croatia’s honest and competent domestic judges ought to be accompanied through the robust engagement of visiting judicial experts, judges and prosecutors from the US and European states with a strong rule of law tradition. This principled approach - an independent court would assure that the rule of law is upheld and fair trials are held on Croatian soil.
 
The cost, time period and effectiveness of such an endeavor would be significantly improved when compared to the ICTY’s ongoing  excessive accumulated charges which taxpayers have paid an enormous $1.9 billion since its launch in 1993.  
 
Croatia’s Exclusive Economic Zone & Vineyards
 
According to the customary international law and the UN’s UNCLOS 1982, Croatia is entitled to proclaim its exclusive economic zone. However, the European Union required Croatia not to proclaim the exclusive economic zone on its sea, as a condition for EU accession.
 
The exclusive economic zone is a source of significant economic opportunities for Croatia’s citizens. Why did Croatia’s politicians give away Croatia’s exclusive economic zone and opportunity to grow new grapes thus robbing its citizens from a significant future income and potential exports? 
 
Croatia’s political elite, whose negotiating power has diminished under widespread political corruption within its own ranks, continues to exert political influence on its judiciary and therefore, cannot act in the best interests of Croatia’s citizens.
 
The EU’s requirement to adopt the UN’s ICTY and not to adopt UN’s exclusive economic zone is a glaring unprincipled approach. 
 
What guiding principles should Croatia’s citizens be led by when deciding on these important strategic issues that have long-term consequences for the citizens’ well-being?
 
It is the principle of upholding Croatia's sovereignty!  
 
Croatia’s politicians are loathe to admit it. It has not been in their interest to establish the rule of law and independent judiciary. Devoid of moral authority, they have been giving away Croatia’s sovereignty. Croatia’s citizens and stakeholders must hold these compromised cadre into account.