Ivo Josipović Sings Praise of His Croatia
Written by Bwog Staff
“Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.” What’s allowed to Jupiter, isn’t allowed to cattle. With this little Latin line, the recently elected Croatian President Ivo Josipović began his first speech before a Columbia audience — an address given the ominous title of “Transitional Justice — Croatian and International Responses to War Crimes.” Bwog’s Roko Rumora, CC’14, reports.
Fittingly for a man with a background in academia, Josipović opened with an anecdote, accurately describing the situation in Southeast Europe in the 20th century: President Josipović’s grandmother lived from 1903 to 2002 and had never left her small coastal home town in southern Croatia. However, during that time period, she switched 7 countries – from the Austro-Hungarian Empire all the way to modern-day independent Croatia (skipping some Nazi slip-ups in the middle).
One must be well-informed and watchful to keep up with the situation and values of this region of the world, especially those relating to war, which it has produced in abundance and dealt with diversely. Josipović, therefore, gave a broad historical overview of war crime trials and responses, describing everything from the sack of Carthage to the Geneva Convention. At this point, the Latin phrase becomes more meaningful — it draws attention to the problem of criminal responsibility of the commander in warfare. Is the commander responsible for the atrocities committed by his subordinates? President Josipović, using both historical evidence and personal experience from Croatia’s Homeland War of Independence (1991-1995), held forth that the commander is not only responsible for being a “bad commander and not doing his job”, but also for each and every crime his subordinates might commit.
The adage also puts into perspective the potential futility of the International Criminal Court, an institution which Josipović helped create and in which he believes in deeply. However, he explained, the court will not fulfill its true purpose until the Jupiters of this world (US, China, Russia, India) agree to stand before it, which is not the case now. “International justice”, he said, “is not just for young, small countries.”
Josipović then refocused his lecture onto Croatia-proper and its method of coping with the war that left its economy shattered, its population divided, and shunned justice into a station of secondary importance. Using lengthy evidence and a PowerPoint, Josipović demonstrated that the situation changed circa 2000. Now things look and feel a bit different in this small Mediterranean country. A state that was once obsessed with the tragedies of Serbian aggression in the nineties now realizes that mistakes may have been made on both sides.
Josipović, whose electoral platform was based on ex-Yugoslav reconciliation and inter-state cooperation, talked at length about the positive changes since 2000 in the way Serbia and Croatia communicate and deal with their shared past. Even the EU, the golden ticket for countries in the region, has now recognized Croatia’s efforts in “fulfilling every EU requirement regarding the prosecution of war criminals”.
A question and answer session followed the speech, during which Columbians learned that not only is there no chance that Croatia might lose to Israel in next month’s Euro 2012 qualifiers, as one Israeli fan hopelessly asked, but also about Josipović’s work as a musician and how it relates to his presidency.
“Arts makes people better,” Josipović concluded, “and this world would be a better place if more politicians had music in their hearts.”