Croatia - Imperialism and the case of general Zagorec

This article was sent to us by Nikola Vukobratović, who is the Chairman of the Socialist Youth of Croatia, the youth organisation of the Socialist Workers' Party of Croatia. Since most of our readers will not be familiar with the corruption scandals mentioned in the article, we provide here a short introduction.

European, and in particular Austrian, capital has traditionally treated the Balkans as its backyard. Southeast Europe is the most important area of growth for Austrian imperialism. This is especially true for Croatia, which Austria's financial monthly "Finanzmarktnachrichten" calls Austria's "extended home market". At the beginning of the 1990s the Austrian capitalists sought to benefit from the dissolution of Yugoslavia and, at least by diplomatic means, actively encouraged Slovenia and Croatia to split away. They wanted to win back their traditional sphere of influence in the Balkans.

They were not too concerned about ethical standards - the prospect of economic expansion was seen as more important than humanitarian considerations. The case of the Croatian ex-general and former Deputy Defence Secretary, Vladimir Zagorec, who is accused of money laundering and embezzlement, has now stirred up discussions about what was happening behind the scenes during the 1990s.

According to media reports Zagorec is said to have used the Hypo-Alpe-Adria-Bank, with its headquarter in Klagenfurt, for dubious activities. The Croatian judiciary, as well as the Austrian authorities, recently started to investigate this case.

The internationally operating bank, or its enterprises respectively, is said to have granted Zagorec loans amounting to 250 million Euros. The bank denies this and speaks of four million Euros of loans and "merely" 70 million for financing realty projects.

Meanwhile a lawsuit was started in Croatia against Zagorec. He is accused of having stolen jewellery out of the ministry's safe after his resignation. He is said to have received the jewellery, worth several million dollars, in 1993 from a German Arms dealer as security for 5 million US dollars.

The once close confidant of former Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, was responsible for the procurement of weapons during the Yugoslavian civil war. He supposedly had millions at his disposal. Since then he became one of the richest men in Croatia. In recent years he also secured business relations and founded multiple enterprises in Austria.

Zagorec relocated to Austria in 2000, where he has lived since then. He was arrested on March 14 and released on bail two days later. Before that, Zagorec enjoyed his life of luxury without disturbance in Vienna. He is one of numerous Croatians who have dozens or hundreds of millions of Euros in Austrian bank accounts.

As the Croatian newspaper Nacional reports (, the ex-general has acquired his wealth through shady payments in the course of arms deals. Subsequently, he put this money into real estate. He and his son are said to be in close contact with Karl Wlaschek, billionaire founder of Austria's food retail chain Billa, who is also active in the real estate business.

The question emerges to what extent the prosecution of Zagorec was put off due to Croatia's EU negotiations, or whether the Austrian judiciary could have turned a blind eye. The authorities only stepped in when Hrvoje Petrac, the kidnapper of Zagorec's son, came forward with incriminating charges against Zagorec during his interrogation, and brought to light once again the events of the 1990s. Zargorec himself denies all accusations and told the Austrian police that a political campaign against him was being launched in Croatia.

The dirt from the Nineties "comes out"

By Nikola Vukobratovic', Socialist Youth of Croatia

After recent "discoveries" of the corruption in the Ministry of Defence during the war period, there is much talk of "the ugly side of the nineties". The money from foreign donations for the "defence of Croatia" was transferred to private accounts of Government officials such as General Zagorec, currently hiding in Austria. The Croatian public is apparently in shock and disbelief.

In fact, anyone who wanted to hear knew of all this when it happened. The Tudjman Administration and their mafia friends have never hidden it. The problem of primitive accumulation of capital in Croatia was to be solved by giving the national wealth to the famous two hundred families which would then become the ruling elite and bring Croatia from the inferno of socialism to the paradise of capitalism. All this was made public by the Tudjmanists themselves!

The theft was not a deviation of the ruling politics of the nineties, it was its goal.

Still, the public is reluctant to condemn its robbers. They are treated as the defenders and creators of the independent state. However, the ruling class holds as much responsibility for the war as the other side. It needed the war not only to carry out the theft, called privatization, but also to ethnically cleanse Croatia and return to it its historical borders by conquering parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The executors of this idea - The Generals - massively engaged in war crimes and drugs, jewels and arms smuggling can be prosecuted (by Croatian or international tribunals), but the ruling class remain intact. And we have to live with the consequences.

To the defenders all is forgiven - it was the Nineties, as it is often said.

The same clique still rules Croatia, now under a mask of pro-European Conservatives.