Plitvice plan under attack
Reaction to Finance Minister Mato Crkvenac's two week-old Plitvice economic restructuring plan dominated the news this week. Although public reactions to the plan were relatively enthusiastic last week, Public Works and Reconstruction Minister Radimir Čačić was critical of his government's plan in the weekend press, spurring a number of fell cabinet members and Presidential Economic Advisor Stjepan Zdunić to voice their own concerns.
At the heart of the criticism: allegations that the Plitvice plan's average of 3.5 percent economic growth over the next three years will be insufficient to allow a restructuring of the economy and a solution to the nation's unemployment woes. Labour groups, meanwhile, claim the plan's fiscal austerity measures will do little other than harm the poorest of the poor.
HRTV reported Čačić as holding that increased exports, price and exchange rate stability, and a good tourist season provide the grounds for more optimistic forecasts and plans, while the interview that kicked off the storm in last Sunday's Novi list quoted the minister as saying he was very disappointed with the plan's growth rates, adding that a level closer to eight percent would be more inline with the nation's capabilities.
Chief Presidential Economic Advisor Stjepan Zdunić, meanwhile, said the growth rates were too reliant on out-dated economic model—although he believes the government's proposal is attainable, he does not feel the target rates to be sufficient to pull the nation out of recession.
Čačić and Zdunić were joined in their criticisms by Economy Minister Goranko Fižulić and Miniter of European Integratoin Ivan Jaković, while Minister of Social Welfare Davorko Vidović waded in to support Crkvenac's plan.
By the end of the week, the Independent Croatian Unions (NHS) and Association of Workers' Unions (URSH) had waded in to condemn aspects of the plan, while the national employers' lobby (HUP) backed it in principle.
And so the battle lines are drawn...
Ahmići arrests the first in Croatia
The arrest on Wednesday of Ante Slišković and Tome Vlajić, both former Security and Information Service (SIS) officers, on charges stemming from the 1993 massacre of more than 100 Bosnian Muslim civilians at Ahmići were the first detentions of war crimes suspects on Croatian soil.
The move came in the wake of last week's reported completion of the Ministry of the Interior's (MUP) investigation into the case. Croatia has been granted the right to try the case, for which the popular Gen Tihomir Blaškić is presently serving the longest sentence yet handed down by the Hague Tribunal (ICTY), although the ICTY has reserved the right to step in at any time.
According to state television, arrest warrants are still out for two other suspects wanted in the case, both of whom are using false identities provided them by the former government of Franjo Tuđman.
Prime Minister Ivica Račan was clearly delighted with the arrests, saying they had fulfilled one of the ruling coalition's campaign promises.
The arrests came a little more than one week after the bombing assassination of ICTY witness Milan Levar in Gospić made headlines throughout the nation.
Returned Serbs send letter of complaint
Dissatisfied Serb returnees from Gvozd have sent a letter of protest to President Stipe Mesić, Prime Minister Ivica Račan and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), among other official bodies, claiming discrimination and harassment.
Although the government had little to say about the matter, local administration head Mirko Putrić dismissed the complaint as without basis, saying its insinuation that he had been behaving in a "fascist" manner could just as equally be taken as meaning that the Serb complainants were "plotting along Četnik lines."
Politics makes for strange bedfellows
Like every other head of state on the planet, President Stipe Mesić made the de rigeur trip to New York for the United Nation's Millennium Summit this past week. After a speech to the General Assembly urging support for Secretary General Kofi Annan's vision for reform—and calling on the international community to support neighboring Montenegro in its ongoing showdown with Serbia—Mesić held a series of meetings with his fellow heads of state.
Most interesting was a meeting with reformist Iranian President Mohammed Hatami, who lauded Mesić for Croatia's new policies toward Bosnia-Hercegovina and broached the issue of cooperation in both the oil and shipbuilding sectors.
Patrick FitzPatrick, 9 September 2000
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