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Vol 2, No 22
5 June 2000
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News Review for Croatia News from Croatia
All the important news
since 29 May 2000

Patrick FitzPatrick

Correction: In last week's edition, the Croatian Social Liberal Party's (HSLS) Filip Borać was reported to have been slated to be elected President of Zagreb's city council. Franjo Zenko actually heads the assembly, as was confirmed at its first session this week.

"Pissing on other people's graves will not do Croatia any good"

In interviews with the country's six major dailies and in his Statehood Day addresses Tuesday, Preisdent Stipe Mesić tackled the thorny issue of minority relations in Croatia and a recent rise in right-wing activity.

"Pissing on other people's graves will not do Croatia any good, nor will logs blocking roads," he said in an apparent reference to recent threats by veterans' groups to disrupt the coming summer tourist season.

In still tense Vukovar, besieged by Serbian forces during the war, the Association of Veterans of HOS (SUHOS), the former paramilitary arm of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), marked Statehood Day with a 2000-strong rally for a general amnesty against war crimes prosecution for "all Croatian defence forces" involved in the "Homeland War," HRT and Jutarnji list reported.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's issue of Večernji list quoted HSP President Anto Đapić as saying that "undermining the foundations of the Patriotic War ... is the greatest insult to the Croatian nation, because Croats committed no war crimes during the war."

Targeting local Serbs, Đapić added that "the former government may have forgiven you. So has the current one. However, that government will also depart one day and, when we come to power, woe betide the Serbs here."

Following pressure from the Croatian Helsinki Committee, the Vukovar State Attorney's office has asked police to investigate the authenticity of Đapić's statements to determine whether an investigation is warranted, HRT reported Friday morning.

Reconstruction Act passes with minor amendments

In the wake of the measure's defeat last week, the House of Representatives finally passed an amended version of the Reconstruction Act on Thursday, 1 June. The first amendment limited the right to reconstruction to claims for damages caused between the outbreak of war in 1991 and Croatia's reassertion of control over Podunavlje (the "Croatian Danube region") on 15 January 1998.

The only significant provision of the amendment was a change in language. In last week's defeated version of the bill, the time period was specified as "during the Homeland War," while the amended version met the Croatian Democratic Community's (HDZ) demand that it read "in the Greater Serbian aggression against Croatia," HINA reported.

In a second amendment, Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction Radimir Čačić was directed to draft a list of reconstruction priorities for the Sabor's approval before the measure takes effect in a month.

Earlier in the week, HDZ deputies lost their bid to hold a vote of non-confidence in Čačić when ruling coalition deputies broke quorum, Jutarnji list reported. HDZ deputies were incensed that Čačić, a political moderate from Vesna Pusić's Croatian People's Party (HNS), said during last week's debate on the act that both Serb and Croatian forces committed atrocities during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

A Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) deputy said the move was the first step toward "the overthrow of this government," adding after the measure passed that the inclusion of HDZ and HSP demands in the amendments still amounted to a de facto vote of non-confidence in Čačić.

Mesić's First 100 Days

Croatian media offered a resoundingly positive analysis of Mesić's first 100 days in office, praising him for his foreign policy work and efforts to make amends with the country's Tuđman-era past. While Novi list and Naciona were uniformly positive in their assessments. Jutarnji list noted that while the president's "democratic and pro-European rhetoric" has been his greatest contribution to Croatian politics to-date, "someone should inform the President" that he should make good on his promise to help lead an economic revival.

Intelligence service still an issue

The future of the Croatian Intelligence Service (HIS) is still in doubt after special forces police occupied HIS offices late last week. As local media hosted wild speculation on the motives and likely outcome of Mesić's decision to "reorganize" HIS, outgoing presidential National Security Advisor Tomislav Karamarko said in Jutarnji list's 20 May edition that the National Security Office (UNS) would assume control over the intelligence community. Under the reorganization, he said, the HIS will focus on foreign intelligence under UNS direction. Both civilian services will be placed under Parliamentary control, while the President's Office will control the nation's two military intelligence services.

Ahmići plot thickening

Nacional and Globus followed up on last week's allegations that Croatian military and intelligence operatives had sheltered the men responsible for the Ahmići massacre in Bosnia. Nacional claimed that a serving military officer, Gen Milivoj Petković, actually ordered the Ahmići massacre, not Tihomir Blaskić, who has already been convicted for the crime by the ICTY. Nacional alleges that Petković perjured himself in a deposition for the ICTY in order to avoid the same fate.

Globus, meanwhile, reported that one of the alleged perpetrators may be willing to testify in return for full or partial immunity. The weekly claims the ex-soldier has evidence to prove the massacre was ordered by HDZ officials in Bosnia.

Nacional has speculated that Croatian authorities may decide that military and intelligence links to the Ahmići case may make it "too sensitive to prosecute" and thus refuse to comply with future ICTY requests for evidence.

In the wake of the two reports, HRT said that Minister of Justice Stjepan Ivanišević was heading to The Hague for further cooperation talks with the ICTY.

WTO membership "around the corner"?

Croatian media this week praised Prime Minister Ivica Račan and Mesić for putting aside their political differences and working "constructively" on gaining membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which Račan claimed could come as early this month, HINA reported.

While domestic analysts expect WTO membership to be positive for Croatian export sectors, particularly shipbuilding, negative effects on the agricultural industry may well be "very harsh" Jutarnji list and Vjesnik reported.

Privatization, privatization everywhere...

Renewed momentum on privatization dominated economic discussions on Croatia this week.

In an interview with the weekly magazine Globus, Mesić noted that he supports a revision of the privatization process and said that governmental authorities and the president's office alike must move the process forward without dwelling excessively on the privatization scandals of the Tuđman era.

Mesić added that privatization was one of the key economic performance indicators necessary to encourage foreign investment, noting that "the only real solution to the economic crisis is direct investment in the Croatian economy."

Meanwhile, two years after being taken over by the government, the failed Dubrovačka Banka is finally ready for privatization, Jutarnji list reported. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Italy's Unicredito and Slovenia's Nova Ljubljanska Banka are all rumoured to be interested in a stake. The state, Jutarnji list reported the bank's government-appointed administrator as saying, will likely retain a 25 percent share of Dubrovačka.

In the meantime, German and Austrian interests are said to be interested in majority stakes in Karlovačka Banka, while share prices in Kraš, the country's biggest candymaker, jumped mid-week following reports Wednesday in both Večernji list and Jutarnji list that an Israeli firm is interested in buying a "considerable" stake in the firm.

Chase Manhattan: Kuna overvalued

In a Thursday morning commentary, a Chase Manhattan Bank analyst claimed the Croatian kuna is overvalued. The kuna has not been devalued against the German mark by more than ten percent since its introduction in 1994, while inflation has risen by close to six percent each year, meaning that in practical terms consumer prices have increased by at least 30 percent over the past six years.

No relief for Croatian "sinners" - yet

Economically strapped Croatians are bemoaning the lower house of the Sabor's adoption of a measure geared to raise excise taxes. Passed Friday 26 May, the measure was a combination "sin" and "luxury" tax grab that will raise prices of cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, automobiles and fuel.

The Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) released a statement Tuesday condemning the tax hike, saying it would raise transportation costs by 25 percent, adding that the measure would have a similar effect on manufacturing costs.

In the same session, though, deputies allowed first reading of a bill aimed at lowering income tax, Večernji list and Jutarnji list reported.

And finally...

In many North American cities, "garage" or "rubbish" sales are a popular way to spend suburban summer Saturday mornings, combing through someone else's discounted bric a brac in search of a homely treasure or unexpectedly valued antique for a dollar or two. Yahd salen', as the pastime is known in Atlantic Canada, may not have caught on in Croatia, but there is a local equivalent: Big Garbage Week.

For the past eight days, little boys and expats who should know better have delighted in watching "that
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huge mechanical claw on the back of the truck" scoop up mountainous piles of rubbish -ranging from sofas to washing machines to tires - from the curbs of Zagreb's centre, wistfully wishing they were "the guy who gets to operate it."

Even those less interested in the late-night operation of "The Claw" seem to delight in the week, as antique hunters, entrepreneurial Roma and the simply curious scour massive piles of other peoples' junk in search of recyclable motors, reusable furniture and portraits of Tito - among other treasures.

In contrast to North America, Big Garbage Week treasures are still free for the taking in Croatia, although this correspondent remains certain that the development of "liberal-democratic-capitalism" here will take care of that soon enough...

Patrick FitzPatrick, 2 June 2000

Moving on:


Večernji list
Novi list - print edition
Jutarnji list - print edition
Globus - print edition


Pat FitzPatrick
To Be Biljana

Bernd Baumgartl
More Than Racism

Tom Liška
Working Alone Together

Jan Čulík
The Czech Enmity

Focus: Alcohol
Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Drinks for the Nation

Brian J Požun
Brew Wars

Mel Huang
Boozing in
the Baltics

Václav Bělohradský

Student Essay:
Darja Zajícová
Media Demythtified

Elke de Wit
Virgin Mary
Meets Porn Star

Mel Huang
Borders Up! Reviewed

The Arts:
Culture Calendar:

The Union of Death

Czech Republic