Viewing cable 06ZAGREB823
Title: CROATIA SCENESETTER FOR A/S FRIED

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06ZAGREB8232006-07-07 11:49:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Zagreb
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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 000823 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR A/S FRIED, EUR/SCE - ENGLISH, BELL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KAWC SIPDIS HR
SUBJECT: CROATIA SCENESETTER FOR A/S FRIED 
 
REF: ZAGREB 813 
 
Classified By: Political Officer Tom Selinger for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d) 
 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: During your July 9-10 stop in 
Dubrovnik for the conference "Completing Europe's Southern 
Dimension: The Values that Bind Us," you will witness 
firsthand the GoC's unshakable enthusiasm for promoting 
Euro-Atlantic integration.  Still paddling on the wave of 
political optimism that followed the opening of accession 
negotiations with the European Union in October 2005 and the 
arrest of war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina in December 2005, 
the center-right government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader is 
trying to cement its international credibility by serving as 
a leader in fostering regional stability.  At the same time, 
the GoC must still sell its skeptical constituents on the 
benefits of NATO membership.  Your speech at the conference's 
opening roundtable can contribute to this public education. 
Your bilateral meeting with PM Sanader will provide an 
opportunity to thank Croatia for its recent increase in troop 
levels in Afghanistan (last week going from 69 to 144 
soldiers - reftel) while encouraging continued reforms on the 
road to NATO and renewed GoC consideration of language that 
meets the definition of Article 98.  END SUMMARY AND COMMENT. 
 
 
COMMITMENT TO INTEGRATION AND REGIONAL STABILITY 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
¶2. (SBU) PM Sanader and his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) 
were elected in 2003 on a platform promising to bring Croatia 
into the EU and NATO.  The HDZ has proven it is no longer cut 
from the same cloth as the nationalist HDZ of late president 
Franjo Tudjman.  Not only did PM Sanader enter into coalition 
with the leading ethnic Serb and Muslim parties and begin 
serious implementation of programs to promote refugee 
returns, he has also made great strides in normalizing 
relations with Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and 
Herzegovina, including high-level visits, visa-free travel, 
and free trade agreements.  The bitter legacy of the 1990s 
war is slowly fading -- most refugee returns are complete and 
domestic war crimes trials of ethnic Croats are no longer 
controversial.  In this light, we fully expect the local OSCE 
mission to complete the bulk of its mandate by the end of 
¶2007. 
 
¶3. (SBU) The opening of EU accession negotiations last fall 
was a major victory both internationally and domestically for 
the Sanader government.  Croatia cleared a further political 
hurdle with the arrest of Ante Gotovina, a former Croatian 
general under indictment by the International Criminal 
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on charges of war 
crimes committed in the aftermath of the 1995 liberation of 
territory occupied by rebel Serbs.  The Gotovina arrest, 
applauded by the U.S. and the international community, was 
not popular domestically, as many Croats consider Gotovina a 
hero of their fight for independence.  At significant 
political cost, the Sanader government provided information 
that led to Gotovina's arrest in Spain, then worked to keep 
the few post-arrest protests focused on "support for 
Gotovina" rather than opposition to the international 
community or the ICTY. 
 
¶4. (U) Demonstrating its credibility as an international 
partner, Croatia has gone from a recipient of UN peacekeeping 
assistance less than ten years ago to a contributor of troops 
to ten UN peace support operations (including command of UN 
forces in Kashmir).  Since the beginning of 2006, the GoC has 
nearly tripled its presence in NATO's International Security 
Assistance Force in Afghanistan. 
 
 
NATO: JUMPING TO JOIN, BUT ARE THEY READY? 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶5. (U) PM Sanader is pushing for a NATO membership invitation 
at the earliest opportunity, but while there is consensus 
among the political elite that Croatia belongs in the 
alliance, the government admits it must do more to educate a 
general public that is split roughly down the middle over the 
issue.  At a July 4 briefing, MFA State Secretary Hidajet 
Biscevic told the diplomatic corps that the July 9-10 
Dubrovnik conference is part of the GoC's new campaign to 
educate the public, delivering the Euro-Atlantic message 
"both outwardly and inwardly" while showcasing Croatia as an 
exporter of stability and a reliable regional partner.  We 
have reminded GoC officials that they need to generate 
support not just for joining NATO but also for continuing to 
meet its alliance obligations throughout its membership. 
 
¶6. (SBU) Croatia's ambitious military reform program, as 
 
ZAGREB 00000823  002 OF 002 
 
 
outlined in its 10-year Long-Term Development Plan now before 
Parliament, is designed to make the armed forces "NATO-ready" 
by 2007.  With both presidential and GoC support, the plan 
provides the fine details and identifies the necessary 
resources to reorganize, re-equip, professionalize, and 
further downsize the Croatian Armed Forces.  We support 
Croatia's NATO ambitions, but have been very clear in our 
message that defense reform is an essential pre-condition for 
Croatia to demonstrate that it will become a net contributor 
to security through NATO operations. 
 
¶7. (U) Croatia has tried to play a leadership role in the 
Adriatic-3 (A-3), hosting numerous summits and multilateral 
exercises.  In April, MFA Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic hosted a 
meeting of foreign ministers from the A-3 and the Baltic 
states (B-3) to share NATO accession advice and experience. 
In May, the GoC organized a meeting for Vice President Cheney 
with the A-3 prime ministers during his stop in Dubrovnik. 
 
ARTICLE 98: ROOM TO MANEUVER DESPITE PRESIDENT, EU? 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
¶8. (SBU) PM Sanader has been unable to deliver an Article 98 
agreement, due primarily to EU pressure and domestic 
political opposition based on inaccurate comparisons between 
the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ICTY. 
President Mesic, the most outspoken opponent of an Article 98 
agreement, publicly states that it is difficult to justify a 
pact not to turn U.S. citizens over to the ICC when the U.S. 
expects Croatians to turn their wartime leaders over to the 
ICTY. 
 
¶9. (C) This highlights the political differences on certain 
issues between PM Sanader on the right and President Mesic on 
the left.  In contrast to Sanader's unwavering focus on 
bringing Croatia into the EU and NATO, Mesic's unique brand 
of populism harkens back to the non-aligned movement of 
Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, focusing his foreign policy 
efforts on places like Libya, Syria, and Iran.  Despite 
limited constitutional powers, President Mesic serves as the 
moral tiller of the nation, often setting the political 
agenda for the general public.  With PM Sanader's enthusiasm 
somewhat dampened by EU bullying against action under Article 
98, President Mesic's support has become critical to a future 
agreement. 
 
¶10. (C) With Gotovina's arrest, however, we believe movement 
is possible on this issue.  This spring, a number of 
prominent Croatian politicians, including some members of PM 
Sanader's HDZ, began promoting the signing of an Article 98 
agreement as a way to improve relations with the U.S.  Public 
reaction to these comments has remained muted.  President 
Mesic continues to publicly oppose an agreement, but in early 
July his office responded to our continued overtures about an 
alternate "Security Cooperation Agreement" by reporting that 
it had forwarded a "compromise proposal" to the GoC for 
consideration.  The GoC has not yet shared this with us. 
BRADTKE