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Favourite Enemies

Of course, there has been no occurrence of the most normal possible thing for fixing relations, which would be for Serbian and Croatian presidents Aleksandar Vučić and Zoran Milanović to appear together and lay flowers at Jasenovac – the infamous WWII concentration camp of the Ustasha fascists. If it proved impossible to do in Knin, it was surely possible in Jasenovac. But that would require what is known as political will (mutual), which the pragmatic and hypocritical don’t have. This is how we continue the eternal return of the same kind…

Croatia is scared that Vučić would utilise Jasenovac for marketing purposes and destabilise Croatia’s sacralised myth of the “Homeland War” on the eve of the commemorating of Operation Storm (a liberating operation for Croats and a criminal one for Serbs). The current Serbian government is again hoping to use Jasenovac to relativise and grant amnesty to the policies of the ‘90s, because those policies are being massively rehabilitated in this reactionary phase of Vučić’s reign – thereby further legitimising that authority, while presenting the period when the opponents of Milošević and Šešelj were in power in Serbia as a historical anomaly.

The sharpening of relations along the route between Zagreb and Belgrade is cyclical and ritualistic, and proves to be the best pay-off for both sides. As “favourite enemies”. And it isn’t as though there haven’t been attempts to mend those relations: that was also attempted by Koštunica and Sanader, Tadić and Josipović, and Vučić and Grabar-Kitarović. The balance sheets are thin because the narrative has irrefutable power. That doesn’t mean that there are no parallel dimensions in these relations – indeed, there are excellent such junctures in the sphere of culture, entertainment, tourism, the economy or some ordinary interpersonal relations. Nor is there a need for much-lauded reconciliation, just as it is still pointless in narrative matters, so the limit of progress would thus be the abandoning of incitement, or when major topics are left to the devices of the passage of time and “cold peace”.

The sharpening of relations along the route between Zagreb and Belgrade is cyclical and ritualistic, and proves to be the best pay-off for both sides. As “favourite enemies

Vučić’s February 2018 visit to Zagreb also had the aim of alleviating tensions. And that was also about Jasenovac, or more precisely the exhibition dedicated to Jasenovac at the UN headquarters in New York, which was dubbed a provocation by the Croatian side. Speaking in Zagreb at the time, Vučić said that the two countries don’t have open issues regarding the future. They don’t have them today either, it’s just that both of them have established that the past exclusively exists for them. Just as it is unthinkable for Vučić to visit Zagreb today, and unfortunately also Jasenovac for the foreseeable future, so it is unthinkable for the Croatian president or prime minister to be seen in Belgrade. It now seems surreal that Kolinda Grabar Kitarović stole the show at Vučić’s inauguration for his first presidential term.

If he had the political will, Vučić’s visit to Jasenovac would have been prepared thoroughly, as was Boris Tadić’s 2010 visit to Opatija, where he was welcomed by Ivo Josipović and nothing in the preparatory stage of the meeting was leaked to the public. However, as Ana Brnabić says about the latest scandal, Jasenovac is not Opatija.

Conditional leftists – Boris and Ivo were polite and mutually considerate, probably also partly sincere, but that was worthless in the long run. Though that isn’t to say that standard communication has become unattainable.

At least we’ve now seen a definitive collapse of the politically attractive, but flimsy thesis that right-wingers understand each other best and that it will be best for Serbia and Croatia when nationalists are in power both here and there or, more precisely, when Tuđman’s students are in power there and Milošević and Šešelj’s here.

Croatia cannot emancipate its statehood from the likeness and deeds of Franjo Tuđman. Milošević’s pact with Tuđman and lukewarm (non-existent) reaction to Operation Storm also dispelled the motivation of the revisionists, which doesn’t mean that the question of Milošević’s responsibility will be raised at the commemorating of Storm.

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