Croatia, always harbouring ambitions of becoming an independent nationstate, was caught off guard during the early stages of the events of the break‐up of Yugoslavia in 1990–91 by a combination of Slovenian and pan‐Serbian planning. The Slovenian planning was single‐minded for secession, while the Serbian factor was the ruthlessness of pan‐Serbian elements in both the JNA and the federal government, which manipulated the military campaigns from using limited intervention to preserve the Yugoslav federation to armed conflict in order to enable greater Serbia to gain as much territory as possible. Croatian independence was eventually gained through a combination of survivalist struggle, improvisation, the evocative — and symbolic — holding actions of the sieges of Dubrovnik and Vukovar, European Union recognition of independence, and a certain low‐key tacit rapprochement between Belgrade and Zagreb. The undoubted achievements both of gaining independence and of economic development in the following years, however, have been accompanied by economic criminality. It is this latter legacy that has created the long‐term problems that currently face the new regime in Zagreb.
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