Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hail To The Chief?

Civil service incompetence stories are flavour of the month here at the moment (when we aren't being distracted by mechanical elephants), but even the ex-Home Secretary might be relieved not to be in charge of the Croatian Ministry of Defence, which has been compiling a register of Homeland War veterans for welfare purposes.

As Jutarnji list revealed yesterday, the register contains the names of 489,407 Croatian branitelji, ranging from front-line soldiers to 'numerous [female[ secretaries, cleaners and officials who worked in the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Defence during the war'. The position of Franjo Tudjman, President and Commander in Chief throughout the war, at the top of the list would obviously go without saying.

Indeed, it went so far without saying that nobody at the Ministry of Defence thought to say it, and the register was drawn up without Tudjman's name, providing tabloid gold dust and the chance to blame the Ministry of Defence, Jadranka Kosor's Ministry of Branitelji, or both.

Under pressure from branitelji and members of her own (and Tudjman's) party, such as Andrija Hebrang from the party presidency, Kosor stated that the omission was 'absurd', since 'President Tudjman ran the army in the most difficult times' and it had 'never crossed her mind that the Commander in Chief would not have the status of a branitelj'.

The defence minister, Berislav Rončević, is sticking to the letter of the law, arguing that Tudjman's C-in-C status derived from the Croatian constitution rather than a working relationship with the Interior Ministry of the Ministry of Defence, and that he had not belonged to any particular unit. To get Tudjman on to the list: 'If you want Tudjman to get branitelj status, the Sabor will have to change the Law on Branitelji' for 'commander-in-chief' to be recognised as an eligible category.

Friends of the Tudjman family are - perhaps not unreasonably - upset, according to Večernji list, and see further evidence of his neglected memory in the fact that Zagreb still has no street or square named after Tudjman. (Possibly because the city council would have to agree on what to re-name first.) They'd be happy with Zagreb airport instead, or so we're told.

There's a definite West Wing feel about this story, although the chances are that C.J. Cregg wouldn't be doing any better or worse than Kosorica right now.

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