On Friday evening a routine passport control on a train crossing from Slovenia to Croatia almost turned ugly. A passanger on that train, Josip Zagajski, a Croatian war veteran was, supposedly flagged in the Schengen system as having been expelled from Germany in 2008 after apparently serving an eight-year prison sentence for throwing a hand grenade on Turkish embassy in Berlin. After being held for detailed search, and quite possibly refused entry in the EU, Zagajski took out a hand grenade and pulled out the safety pin, apparently wanting to detonate it. It was only a quick reaction by the police officer present that prevented a catastrophe, as he grabbed Zagajski’s wrist and prevented him from releasing the catch which would detonate the grenade.
After Zagajski was neutralised and handcuffed, he turned out to be armed with four additional hand grenades and he claimed that he boarded the train to assassinate Slovenian PM Borut Pahor, because Slovenia unjustly blocked Croatian entry into the EU. Zagajski turned out to have been among defenders of Vukovar during war in Croatia, where he received a head wound and was subsequently held in a Serbian concentration camp, where he was allegedly tortured. After the war, he was declared 90% disabled on account of his psyhological disorders (results of his head wound) combined with PTSD, commonly (but mistakenly) known as the Vietnam syndrome.
After being questioned at Dobova rail road border crossing, Zagajski said that there were a number of his accomplices on the Ljubljana-bound train, which – as a result – was boarded by swat teams after it pulled into Ljubljana railway station. Every passenger was searched and the train swiped for explosives, but luckily none were found.
SWAT teams on Ljubljana Railway Station on Friday Night (photo by Igor Zaplatil/Delo)
Naturally, the whole thing exploded with full force at the moment PM Pahor’s name was mentioned. Media went into a frenzy with big fat titles announcing a botched assassination attempt, newly minted Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor called her Slovenian counterpart to assure him that he denounced Zagajski’s actions and that violence should never be used to solve problems, while PM himself told the press that he feels perfectly safe.
Which was of course true. While the border police were wrestling with the deranged war veteran, trying to save lives, the PM was safely tucked away in the Rogla skiing resort, where Social Democrats met to debate the current achievements (or lack thereof) of Pahor’s goverment. Prior to the meeting some pretty consistent rumours floated around that some sort of mutiny against Pahor will be mounted, possibly led by his party VP and traffic minister Patrick Vlačič (who, incidently, got himself in a pretty bad fix weeks ago, when his car, with him in it, overtook a traffic jam on a highway by driving in the slow lane using flashing blue lights, a privilege he is not entitled to, all because he wanted to be on-time for a talk show).
The mutiny apparently didn’t take place, but the hand grenade incident allowed Pahor to step in front of the cameras not as a party leader whose grip on things is slipping, but rather almost like a statesman who had just survived an assassination attempt, enforcing the image exactly by playing the incident down and being as cool as a cucumber. Media, naturally, went ga-ga and splattered every possible detail about the incident and about security of our top politicians over two pages.
The problem of course is that there was no attempt at Borut Pahor’s life. While Zagajski’s destination was Ljubljana, his “target” was at least a hundred kilometres away in Rogla, which should tell anyone with half a gram of brain that Zagajski had no idea what he was doing. Even calling this a terrorist attempt is stretching it a bit, as it is obvious than rather than media and political attention, Zagajski needs professional help. But media on both sides of the border were quick to pick up on his statement that he was doing this because Slovenia blocks Croatian EU entry and smartly concluded that apparently sour relations between the two countries are starting to take their toll, this time in the form of mental cases trying to kill top politicians.
Which is of course a load of bollocks. Zagajski’s actions are political only insofar as media and politicians put them into a political context. Take that out of the equation, and you’re left with a nutter holding a bomb on a border crossing. I mean, the cops there did one hell of a job, preventing what might have become a real bloodbath and for once our new Fortress Europe and its Schengen system did what they’re suppose to.
But media hyperventilation over Slovenia-Croatia border dispute blows every single thing way out of proportion and gives it connotation it does not necessarily have and is in effect adding to the problem rather than clearing it up.