Instead of images of love for the refugees, came images of hate for – Croatia. Discomfort caused by the intrusion of refugees into our area of “privacy”, which was suppressed for very pragmatic reasons, burst out unexpectedly in the shape of unrestrained bigotry and resentment against Croatia, which is doing everything it can to defend its own “privacy” and prevent refugees from stepping onto its territory. That transfer of hate, as an uncontrolled reaction to the fear of refugees who may end up staying here after all, should remain a metaphor for the bad behavior and disorientation of our government in the given circumstances. I have just one more remark to add – the heritage of the nineties, which was never disputed and rejected, has once again provided us with an excuse to supposedly legitimately treat the “Croats” as “our” proven “enemies”.
Besides the irrational, are there any rational reasons for this new “war” between Serbia and Croatia – as the minister of foreign affairs has characterized these events? Croatia’s treatment of the refugees is no different from other EU countries, especially former socialist states which became members of the Union in 2004 and 2007. None of those states want refugees on their territories. Bulgaria had built a wall on its border even before Hungary. Besides Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania have just refused to accept the refugee quotas which were agreed on the EU level. Despite their public statements, Austria and Germany are closing their borders to the refugees, so the statement of the Croatian prime minister that all his actions towards the refugees are approved by “the leaders of Austria and Germany” shouldn’t surprise us.
All of this leads us to the conclusion that Croatia is implementing the program of the EU towards Serbia (and the refugees) and not some private “anti-Serbian” politics. Furthermore, in this manner Croatia is defending itself from the possibility of the refugees staying on its territory, since it is clear that no other EU member would take them. Croatia’s economy, just like Serbia’s, is in shambles and doesn’t have enough resources to accept that many people and integrate them into the system. This seems reasonable. It also seems that the Croatian officials made that clear to their Serbian counterparts when they asked them to evenly distribute the refugees between Croatia and Hungary. Our government reacted by directing the buses with the refugees exclusively towards the border with Croatia. Instead of building a wall, Croatia responded by stopping transport from Serbia at the border. And so “the trade war” happened – as the Serbian minister of foreign affairs said – and the issue of refugees suddenly got lost.
As long as the refugees leave Serbia within a few days, Serbian officials are free to brag about their “sympathy”. However, Hungary and Croatia made it clear that things could change completely. This was followed by the EU interpretation that EU members are allowed to return the refugees to the state they came from, in this case – to Serbia, despite the claims of another one of our ministers that it’s not possible. Everything that applies to Croatia also applies to Serbia: Serbia is trying to protect itself from the possibility of the refugees staying on its territory, since it’s becoming clear that the EU members won’t take them. Serbia’s economy, just like that of Croatia, is in shambles and doesn’t have enough resources to accept that many people and integrate them into the system. This also seems reasonable. The only conclusion from all this is that both Serbia and Croatia are trying to protect themselves from the consequences of bad refugee policy implicitly implemented by the EU and explicitly supported by the states which most resemble Serbia and Croatia due to their recent past.
Instead of acting as allies and jointly standing against the false EU refugee policy, and contrary to their better judgment, Croatia and Serbia are blowing the war horns and preparing for a new historic battle. The refugees are not important anymore, joint interests are pushed aside. All that remains is – the hate.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016) i „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016).