Sunday, February 18, 2007
The other day the Macedonian parliament passed the initiative to open up (urgent) legislative work that will result for the first ever Lustration Law of the small Balkan state. Since the poor country had been under concentrated and daily growing pressure by all sort of domestic and international thugs - I was shocked with the news. I though that my people have lost all orientation and that Barosso should better summon this guy Olli Rehn and warn him that he scared the Macedonian government out of its wits.
I have a feeling that the aspiring candidate-member countries are squeezed into submission and faced with some rather ugly and totally arbitrary choices. Thus - the Lustration Law. (Here: the Speaker of the house tries to bring some order in the Parliament -Sobranie- in Skopje)
I would extend a wager that less than 25% of my visitors know what lustration actually stands for now. We have learned, ages ago, that the Romans used the word to denote purification by ablution in water. the lustrations are always connected with sacrifices and other religious rites, and consisted in the sprinkling of water by means of a branch of laurel, olive or basilicum. In ancient Greece, and probably at Rome also, the acts (they called them catharsis here (cannot write in greek alphabet) were performed by private citizen when they felt they had committed (polluted themselves with) a criminal act. After the Cylonian massacre Epimenides of Crete made Athens engage into catharsis.
In Rome the lustration had completely different meaning. It was performed to obtain the blessing of the gods upon the persons or things which were lustrated. Get it? Fields were purified after sowing (for better harvest), Roman armies were lustrated before departing to war. When a Macedonian army was lustrated, a dog was cut in two pieces in the place where the army was to assemble, and one half of the dog was thrown at a distance on the right and the other to the left. The army then assembled in the place between the spots where the pieces had fallen Forget the Macedonians of 2200 years ago. We have to deal with the contemporary ones, equally fierce at fighting each other as the troops of Alexander.
February, in Rome, used to be the lustration period of the year. The god of the underworld and the judge of the dead Februus (therefore February) was accepted as the supreme potens lustrationum and thus all he solemnities wre performed in his honor. The deity latter took another name (the big and mighty always did what they want to: he was the son of Saturnus) and became Pluto but the Romans did not change the name of the month into Plutoary. Found it too much, I believe, too demeaning for themselves to play is the deity fiddled. Strange, it was at the beginning of this February that the Macedonian parliament passed the resolution opening the road to the Lustration Law.
I am totally baffled with this attitude. The Greeks should have imposed on themselves catharsis laws in 1977 after the dictatorship of Papadopoulos, and in 1949 after the fiercest Civil war - but they did not. Or the Spaniards: why they did not pass any lustration acts after the fascist butcher Franco died?
(Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon, 96, died this Saturday insisting he was doing his duty as a civil servant.)
Do you remember any such laws passed in France after the WWII against the Vichy regime? I do not. And still, yesterday passed away a French guy who climbed up the ladder of the civil service in France ALTHOUGH he unlawfully helped a number of people be arrested during the WWII. He sent Jews to the camps without knowing what was happening there He was convicted, few years ago, without any lustration laws. It is a most intriguing story about a Nazi collaborator who said he did his duty as a public, civil servant These people in Poland and in Macedonia simply have to read this.
It is useless explaining that lustration laws around some eastern-european countries are legally totally groundless because they collide head on with the dictum that a retroactive law is illegal. Generally speaking, retroactive or ex post facto laws are seen as a violation of the civil state, of any rule of law as it applies in a free and democratic society. Most jurisdictions do not permit retroactive legislation. Period. The US Constititution, article 1, section 9. Article 7 of the Convention on Human Rights bind the EU to prohibit ex post facto laws.
So, why tolerate this charade?
In Macedonia it somebody called Stojan Andov who is the driving force of this late, bad and out of order initiative. I know the guy. Once I met him on the secluded Brioni islands (private residence of President Tito) where the brains of the self-managment, socialist federation were gathered to deliberate further market approach of the economy. He was the least engaged of all and had ample time to give me an interview full of crap. Him and the others did not need to tell the small spooks what did I think: those people would stick a label of "technocratic tendendencies", or "anarcho-iberal" essays in the society, of "dogmatic" forays in this or that field of the society and then hundreds of people would have to defend themselves of this sort of denouncements would do much more harm then when somebody would tell an agent that "Mickey is an enemy, he'll send his son to study in Prague".
This sort of legislature is obviously demeaning after 15 years of new, obviously democratic, multicultural Macedonia with an earned status of EU candidate-country. It speaks volumes about the moral profile of the Parliament in Skopje. There is still time to squash the initiative and simply forget the proposal, let it wither, just the way the Bulgarians did.
I am amazed that this Olli Rehn does not tell the Macedonian government that these laws are useless: they shake the civil state further into insecurity, that all it takes is keep to the Constitution and do not do anything that collides with it.
That is law. That is stability.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Siemens is a worldwide multinational corporation employing 450,000 people, 21st on the Fortune Global 500 list with $91 billion of revenues and Delta Holding from Belgrade, employing some 14,000, also pretending to be a multinational firm, not on the Fortune 500 list, about $2 bln in revenues, can hardly compare with it. Or so it seems at a first glance.
But, when one looks better, it appears that these two companies have something interesting in common. Both are involved in very high profile bribe cases. In strongly alleged criminal activity.
Siemens makes and sells electrical and electronic products and systems from toasters to trains, from hearing aids to power stations. It works in 190 countries round the world. Delta Holding is mainly engaged in the foodstuffs like diary products, Serbian cheese, or meat, cereals, but it also sells consumer goods others produce or services of its own. It appears that Delta Holding is an ambition-lead firm and will expand in other countries. What better than begin with the neighboring ones (Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia) before it makes 180-200 like Siemens.
Back to Siemens - Delta Holding "bribes for expansion" similarity.
In November last year (75 days ago) a squad of of German policemen raided Siemens headquarters, arrested several suspects, took whatever they were told was interesting and ignited a big fireball of an international bribe scandal. The Munich public prosecutor's office chases Siemens for bribing foreign citizens do things that would benefit the German multinational firm.
To-day's Wall Street Journal runs a top of the first-page story under a title Key Siemens figure talks and specifies that a $50 million bribe to individuals in Saudi Arabia was confirmed by a witness (who is also a suspect) who flew in and gave himself up to the prosecutors willing to help the investigation and get leniency in exchange. That is just a fraction of the $545 million approximated as spent on bribes during the past seven years by Siemens top executives. $420 million were uncovered so far.
Now, after a self-promoting lawyer (Aleksandar Tortevski (formerly deputy leader with the League of Democracy political party presided by his university professor) blabbed that Nikola Gruevski the prime-minister of Macedonia refused to accept a €3 million bribe - the Pandora box opened and the first question was: who extended the bribe? Before long "Delta Holding" from Belgrade and its CEO Miroslav Mishkovic were implicated. The deputy CEO of "Delta-Holding" Milka Forcan, a very charming an efficient person, demanded the allegations were substantiated with names or squashed. The macho crowd in Skopje disregarded her appeal. Then the big boss sent a growling letter to the president of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski suggesting he intervened or a court case was in the looming. The president publicly distanced himself from any mediation. Thus, a Balkan impasse.
Or is it so?
Of course it is not.
The Serbian prosecutor has a formal statement by the Macedonian government that somebody in the name of "Delta-Holding" offered a bribe to the prime-minister of a sovereign country. If $5o million (€38 million) are needed for bribing officials in Saudi Arabia where dollar bills fly as used parking tickets, paltry €3 million for church-mouse poor Macedonia is a pile of money, more than adequate. So, the Serbian prosecutor could (following the practice of his German colleagues) give order for a raid on "Delta-Holding" in search of evidence. The fact that in this particular case the alleged bribe was not consummated - is totally besides the point. The admission (from the receiving end of the allegation) that there was an offer for a bribe indicates that there might have been other, consummated bribes by "Delta-Holding" in Macedonia or elsewhere. That would, further on, imply that moneys evaded the tax laws in Serbia, hurt the treasury, although I do not believe that the German Bundesrepublic publicly drags Siemens (Nr.1 electronics firm on the planet) in the filth of corruption only for possible $80 million of uncollected tax. I think that the principle is in question.
Thus, I can understand that Serbia does not deliver Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to this butcher of a lawyer Carla del Ponte because its constitution for the past 75 years effectively forbid any extradition of the citizens of the country under any pretext - but I cannot understand why the prosecutor of Serbia does not budge in this case? If Mr. Mishkovic is proven right that "Delta-Holding" does not resort to corruption, so much the better. The Serbian side can, at the same time, press the Macedonian legal system clarify what is what. The two prosecutors and police could cooperate. Such an event appears incomprehensible at the moment but that is exactly my point.
The Balkans needs the rule of law. The Balkans crave for honest cooperation. The Balkans plead for normality. But the Balkans also need to get rid of innuendoes and of smear, of hush-hush attacks on any public servant or individual. It is not true that "all of them are thieves".
Unfortunately, as we have seen recently, the Balkans do not forget the adage that the early singing rooster is the first to end up in the pot. Setting in motion the clogs of the justice grinder may help things to move to the better.