How to turn Donbas into a state in the state

Author : Natalia Ishchenko

Source :

Ukraine will learn this from unrealized in Croatia 'Zagreb-4' peace plan
22:35, 17 May 2017

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112 Agency

Croatian government members came to the conclusion that Ukraine should take advantage of the Croatian experience on the implementation of Zagreb-4 (Z-4) plan for the peaceful settlement of Donbas conflict. Another option that was previously considered as a basic example for our country - the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region - cannot be implemented in ORDLO, because this plan became possible only after the Storm military operation, and no one in Ukraine plans to conduct its analogies.

This issue, according to the Croatian media, was already discussed during a visit of the Ministry of Occupied Territories delegation led by Minister Vadym Chernysh to Croatia in March this year. And on May 26 in Zagreb there will be a meeting of the working group on cooperation between Croatia and Ukraine, which aims to convey the Croatian experience of peaceful reintegration for using it in Donbas. The Croatian side will be chaired by the Secretary of Foreign Ministry of Croatia Zdravka Busic, from the Ukrainian side - Lana Zerkal, Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine will be present.

Peaceful reintegration

The first official meeting of the intergovernmental working group members took place six months after the announcement of the idea of creating this body at the meeting of Croatian government last November in Vukovar. This city was chosen for the purpose of promulgating the initiative of Croatian leaders not by chance: it is the center and symbolic capital of the region (Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, the so-called Croatian Danubian), which was returned to Croatia thanks to the plan for peaceful reintegration with the help of transitional UN administration. The United Nations Mission (UNTAES) was established by the UN Security Council (resolution 1037) on January 15, 1996 and operated in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem in 1996-1998.

Let us recall the main stages of the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Podunavia, which was part of the separatist enclave of the Serbian Country.

The first stage was total demilitarization. This process assumed:

• the withdrawal of absolutely all Serbian military units,

• disarmament of local paramilitary units,

• withdrawal of weapons from the public.

The entry of the Croatian army during the peaceful reintegration was not expected.

The second stage was the introduction of the so-called transitional police.

The police was recruited from both Croats and local Serbs. The patrols were mixed and consisted of a Serb, a Croat and a UN representative. Of the weapons, the policeman had only one gun.

There were no chevrons of any country on the form of a "transitional" policeman - neither of Croatia, nor of Serbia, nor of unrecognized republic of Serbian Country.

The third stage of peaceful reintegration was the return of refugees.

In the fourth stage of peaceful reintegration, local elections were held in the region.

Only citizens of Croatia were eligible to vote.

The fifth stage was the introduction of the national Croatian currency in the region, the kuna.

The sixth stage - the so-called convalidation - the partial recognition of documents issued by the occupation authorities.

The seventh stage included activities of the National Committee for Building Trust. The policy of restoring confidence included the refusal to prosecute persons who "held arms", but did not take part in killings or war crimes.

Moscow threatens Zagreb

Six months ago, when the Croatian government created a working group to share with Ukraine the experience of peaceful reintegration, it was the UNTAES plan that was taken as a basis. On November 21 last year, during a visit to Kyiv, the head of the Croatian government, Andrei Plenkovic, noted: "I am sure that Ukraine should move peacefully through reintegration ... The experience that was used by Croatia was acquired within the framework of the UN mission work. And now it can be interested for Ukrainian government."

But the initiative of the Croatian government caused a storm of indignation in the Kremlin. The Russian Foreign Ministry then immediately published a sharp and undiplomatic statement regarding the announced cooperation. "We are convinced that the advice of foreign consultants who are able to create a dangerous illusion in Kyiv authorities of the admissibility of force scenarios in Donbas will not contribute to strengthening security in the southeast of Ukraine," the statement said.

Related: No losses among Ukrainian forces in Donbas, - spokesman

Kremlin was not frightened by the "reason" for conducting the Croatian Molniya and Storm military operations, but by the two key theses of the peace plan for the return of the Croatian Danube region.

1. Local election must be held only after demilitarization and the return of refugees. Without withdrawal of troops and disarmament, without guarantees of security, voting makes no sense - these are the words of one of the functionaries of the UN mission for peaceful reintegration, which worked in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem in 1996-1998.

2. After the transition period, the region returns fully to the legal field of the country, under the control of the central government. No special status was given for the region according to the UN peace plan for the reintegration of the Croatian Danube region.

"This is not the plan that Kremlin wants to see implemented in Ukraine ... To prevent the transfer of "secret technologies” of successful reintegration, now the Russian government prepares its best agents ," the article noted.

Later the plan for the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region has been discarded, and instead, it was planned to convey experience in the implementation of another peace plan - Zagreb-4 (Z-4). The reason is that the military reintegration of at least some part of the occupied territories is not carried out and planned in Ukraine, and without this component the implementation of the UNTAES-type plan is impossible - the separatists and their patrons simply will not make any compromises.

Plan that failed

It is significant that the ordinary Ukrainians should learn the details of the latest events related to the study of the Croatian experience of peaceful reintegration from Zagreb newspapers. Perhaps Ukrainian high-ranking officials believe that the public in Ukraine may be outraged by the content of Z-4. What is so "terrible" there?

The proposed to Ukrainians Z-4 peace plan to some extent resembles Minsk agreements. You can see for yourself if you compare two documents.

So, the Z-4 plan was agreed at a meeting of the Contact Group composed of representatives of four international organizations and mediating countries - the United Nations, the EU, the United States and the Russian Federation - in 1994 at the Russian Embassy in Zagreb (which is why the document has that name) and finally approved by the Quartet in January 1995.

According to the Z-4 plan, broad autonomy within the Republic of Croatia was guaranteed to the Serbian Country. It was envisaged that the Serbian Country would become almost completely independent legal entity, but without being international subject of law.

Foreign affairs, defense, international trade remained under the jurisdiction of Croatia. Serbian Country was entitled to its own name, flag, coat of arms, president, parliament, government, courts, police (but not the army), use of its (that is, Serbian) language and writing, the right to have their own money, own taxes, customs and the right to independently conclude separate international agreements.

The Croatian army could enter the Serbian Country only at the invitation of its president, the Croatian laws were to be carried out only with the consent of the autonomy authorities, and disputes between the Serbian Country and Croatia were to be decided by the special Constitutional Court.

De facto and de jure state in the state was created.

Croatia in principle adopted the plan as a starting point for negotiations with Serb separatists. But at the same time, the leadership of the Serbian Country in the so-called ”capital" Knin, did not want to consider a plan that consisted of 53 pages and several additions. In addition, the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic did not even want to accept four ambassadors.

Z-4 plan was rejected by the Serbian side.

So, the main result of the Z4 peace plan was the beginning of the military reintegration process of Serbian separatist enclaves into Croatia. The refusal of the Serbs to accept the terms proposed by the Contact Group of the four diplomats became the motive and justification for the two offensive operations of the Croatian army and police: Molniya in May and Storm in August 1995. In a few days of fighting, the Croats completely freed the main territories on which the Serbian Country was located. After that, in the region that remained under Serbian control - the Croatian Danube region with the center in Vukovar - the UNTAES peaceful reintegration program was launched. After returning of this territory to Croatia in two years, the process of resuming the territorial integrity of the country was finally completed.

However, Ukraine is offered to start from the beginning and start looking for compromises, discarding military options for deoccupation. For this, we need to learn more about Z-4 plan from the Croats.

In fact, Croatia has never approved the Z-4 completely and finally. This document was just taken as a basis for negotiations - that's all. The Committee for the Peaceful Reintegration of the Occupied Regions and the Committee on the Constitution of the Croatian Parliament have generally concluded that the Z-4 plan for Croatia is unacceptable, because the Basic Law of the State does not provide a federal or, even more, confederal order. But ... "For us, the Z-4 plan was unacceptable, but it can be useful for Ukrainians," says Croatian representative in the Croatian-Ukrainian working group.

The Croats’ advice can be interpreted as follows: if you don’t want to fight – then agree on compromises. Such Croatian-Ukrainian cooperation no longer causes criticism or resentment from the Kremlin.

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