Books on Croatia
% of GDP
Update No: 095- (31/03/05)
Croatia in the doghouse
The EU has shown its displeasure at the failure of Croatia to hand over
war-crime suspect General Ante Gotovina by suspending entry talks. Reacting to
the EU foreign ministers' 16th March decision to put off accession talks with
Zagreb, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said that while "of course [he]
can't be glad", he was satisfied with the EU's adoption of a negotiating
framework for his country.
In Sanader's view, the foreign ministers did not conclude that "Croatia has
not done its utmost [to capture war crimes suspect General Gotovina], but there
was no consensus on the matter". Sanader said that seven countries voted in
support of Croatia, four or five were against, and the rest remained neutral.
Sanader also said that Zagreb will not intensify its efforts to resolve the
Gotovina issue, "because we are already fully co-operating with the Hague
President Stipe Mesic commented that the Croats "should not be desperate,
we should meet the requirements".
The leaders of the country's parliamentary parties agreed that Zagreb should
continue with its preparations for EU entry. "If Brussels is mistaken about
Croatia, Croatia has no reason to be mistaken about itself," declared Ivica
Racan, the head of the strongest opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Into NATO perhaps
The EU is not the only place for a fledgling New European country to be. There
is also NATO.
Croatia and Macedonia expect an invitation to join NATO together with Albania in
late 2006 which should pave the way for other Balkan countries to follow, their
prime ministers said on March 29th. "I expect that toward the end of 2006
we should get an invitation for full-fledged NATO membership," Croatian
Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told reporters after meeting his Macedonian
counterpart Vlado Buckovski.
Although NATO officials say there needs to be more cooperation from Croatia on
finding war criminals, the two former Yugoslav republics have made NATO and
European Union entry their strategic goal. Together with Balkan neighbor Albania
they formed "the Adriatic Charter" to boost their chances of joining.
They missed NATO's largest eastward expansion in 2004 when seven other former
communist countries were admitted, boosting the number of members to 26.
"Regional cooperation is very important and we rightly expect the
invitation in late 2006. That will make things easier for NATO's southern flank
and for other countries in the region to eventually join," said Buckovski.
A NATO spokesman in Brussels said the key to Croatia's membership chances would
be cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague. "Full cooperation, in particular on the
Gotovina case, would seem to be politically important before an invitation can
be issued," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said of the fugitive General
Ante Gotovina, indicted in 2001 for crimes against humanity during a 1995
offensive against Croatian Serbs.
Croatia insists it has done all it can to find Gotovina but U.N. war crimes
prosecutor Carla del Ponte accuses it of not having tried seriously to arrest
Alliance sources said Macedonia's case for membership was not helped by reports
of irregularities in recent local polls, where monitors cited stolen ballot
papers and intimidation.
The former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia and Serbia and Montenegro have yet to
join NATO's Partnership for Peace, the first stage toward possible entry into
The backdrop of Mesic
Mesic won a crushing victory over his ruling conservative party rival in an
election runoff on January 16th, securing a second five-year term and promising
to lead the former Yugoslav republic into the European Union. Official results
gave Mesic 66 percent of the vote compared to 34 percent for Deputy Prime
Minister Jadranka Kosor of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Ms Kosor is a
close ally of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who conceded defeat even before
official results were out.
Mesic will oversee the country's EU entry, planned for 2009. His foreign policy
adviser Ivica Mastruko said that his victory would be greeted as good news in
European capitals. "Mesic guarantees continuity, in terms of relations with
Balkan neighbours, with the European Union and with the United Nations war
crimes tribunal," he said.
EU leaders have said that they would open accession talks with Croatia in March,
but they warned that progress hinged on the transfer of war crimes indictee,
Ante Gotovina, to the UN tribunal at The Hague. Sanader insists that Gotovina, a
former general who remains a hero to many Croats, is no longer in the country,
and Mesic said during the election campaign that Zagreb merely had to prove to
Brussels that it was "doing everything" to find him.
Mesic, who had the backing of the three main opposition parties, also reminded
voters of the autocratic rule of Franjo Tudjman, who died in 1999, and warned
against giving too much power to one party. While Kosor is a relative newcomer
to Croatian politics, Mesic was able to campaign on his first-term record of
democratic reform and improved international relations following the isolation
of his hardline nationalist predecessor, HDZ founder, Tudjman.
The liberal corrective
Western diplomats see Mesic as a useful counterweight to the centre-right
HDZ, which controls the cabinet and parliament, and praise him for his courage
in denouncing war crimes committed by Croats during conflicts that tore apart
socialist Yugoslavia. "In many respects, Mesic has been the moral
correction in this country," a senior EU diplomat in Zagreb said. "If
Kosor had won, there would have been a change of atmosphere. It would be more
limiting with the same party having presidency and cabinet."
Mesic, 70, has pledged to lead the Balkan country of some 4.4 million people
into the EU before the end of the decade, a major prize for a country that was
ravaged by a brutal inter-ethnic war only 10 years ago after it split from the
Yugoslav federation. "We have travelled a long way and Croatia's democracy
has been confirmed. The world can see that and that's why we're standing at the
doorsteps of Europe," said Mesic.
Zagreb, Amman boost relations
Croatia and Jordan signed five agreements and memoranda of understanding on
February 20th to forge closer cooperation between the two countries, the Jordan
The accords were concluded following talks between Jordanian officials led by
Prime Minister, Faisal Fayez, and a Croatian delegation led by Prime Minister,
Ivo Sanader. The agreements cover the prevention of dual taxation and
cooperation between the Jordan Loan guarantee Corporation and the Croatian
Reconstruction Bank. The memoranda comprise the creation of a joint cooperation
council between the ministries of industry and trade in the two countries and an
understanding between the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority and Croatia's
Croatian, Afghan presidents discuss NATO mission, economic ties
Afghanistan is very satisfied with Croatia's participation in the NATO-led peace
mission and expects Croatia to expand its contribution to peace restoration in
Afghanistan to other areas as well, President Hamid Karzai said after talks with
his Croatian counterpart, Stjepan Mesic, in Madrid on March 11th, HINA News
"We are very happy because of the engagement of the Croatian Army, which
shared an experience similar to Afghanistan's, the experience of war," said
Karzai, adding that Croatian peace troops "know the psychology of the
victims of war" and that this enabled them to do a good job.
Karzai invited the Croatian president to visit Afghanistan, which Mesic
Mesic said their talks also focused on economic cooperation because of the
potential in Afghanistan.
He said Karzai mentioned Afghanistan's need for the building of roads and other
infrastructure. He added Croatian companies had experience in that and should
participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The two presidents agreed Croatia should once again take part in the building of
power plants in Afghanistan. Mesic invited Karzai to visit Croatia at the helm
of an economic delegation. Mesic is in Madrid attending an international
conference on terrorism.
Croatian economy minister, Iranian transport minister discuss cooperation
Cooperation between Croatia and Iran is excellent and it needs to be continued
and the two countries need to be informed of possibilities for economic
cooperation, Croatian Economic Minister, Branko Vukelic, and Iranian Roads and
Transport Minister, Mohammad Rahmati, said in Zagreb recently, the Croatian
Economy Ministry reported.
The Iranian officials were accompanying the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami,
on his trip to Croatia.
Vukelic informed Rahmati of activities of the Croatian Economy Ministry and
presented to him the economic priorities of the Croatian government, the
statement said. He said Croatia created a most favourable atmosphere for foreign
investments and business partners who want to invest in Croatia.
Minister Rahmati presented details of Iran's economy and stressed the need for
the improvement of the two countries' economic cooperation.
Lidl chain to open shops in Croatia
Germany's Lidl supermarket chain is to open shops in 17 Croatian towns this
November, the daily Jutarnji list reported on January 24th, Deutsche
Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
Lidl is expected to invest around 440m Euro (US$52m) in the first wave of
expansion into the Croatian market. Stores will be located in towns mostly in
central and eastern Croatia and also in towns on the Adriatic coast. Economic
analysts estimate that Lidl, owing to its low prices, may soon take a large
share of the market in Croatia and may jeopardise Konzum, currently the biggest
such chain in the country.