Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 6
14 February 2000

Croatia News Review C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Croatia
All the important news from Croatia
since 7 Febuary 2000

Saša Cvijetić

Stipe Mesić of the Croatian People’s Party (HNS) is the new President of Croatia. He won 1,433,299 votes or 56 per cent, whereas the other candidate, Dražen Budiša of the Croatian Social Liberal Party/Social-Democratic Party (HSLS-SDP) coalition, won 1,125,957 votes or 44 per cent in the second round of the presidential elections that were carried out on Monday, 7 February. The turnout was 60.88 per cent, which is five per cent less than in the first round and ten percent less than at the 3 January parliamentary elections. A total of 17.79 per cent of voters registered outside Croatia went to the polls. Most of them, 77.44 per cent, voted for Budiša, whereas Mesić only won 22.56 per cent of the vote.

The newly-elected President Stipe Mesić said early on Tuesday morning that he would take over the current presidential powers until the envisaged constitutional changes were implemented, adding that he would not use those powers that were the result of the "inflation of presidential powers." Mesić announced his close co-operation with the Government and the Parliament. "The authorities that acted in an undemocratic manner are replaced by Europe-oriented, democratic ones that will ensure stability and welfare to all Croatian citizens," he stressed, adding that he would be a president of initiative and would not abuse his position.

He also promised to radically cut state expenditure and see that Croatia acquires a European image. Croatia can join Europe only if it resolves all open questions with its neighbours to the mutual benefit, Mesić said. "I shall be the President of all citizens of Croatia," he concluded. He will be inaugurated as Croatia’s new President on 18 February.

Prime Minister Ivica Račan (SDP) presented on Wednesday the Government's programme for the next four years to the Parliament’s House of Representatives. The guidelines of the programme are the following:

The situation in all areas of the country's economic and social life requires full mobilisation of each individual, association, company, body of state administration and local self-government, as well as responsible, tolerant and creative work of all in the next four years.

The Government will ensure a rational and fair management of tax payers' money, as well as economic development and social dialogue. The year 2000 will be the year of austerity, the year in which sound foundations for economic development and equal social development in the coming period will be laid. Priorities in capital investments will be re-examined.

In the course of 2000, an economic strategy of the country will be prepared.

Another goal is the establishment of a civil, parliamentary and democratic society. This will help Croatia join the community of modern and democratic states.

The Government emphasises its strong commitment to Croatia’s joining the European Union as soon as possible, preferably together with the first group of potential EU member-states.

The army and police will be depoliticised. Army and police expenditure will gradually be reduced and funds for education, culture and science increased.

The Government will do all it can to preserve and upgrade the basic social rights of Croatian citizens.

The establishment of a fake social peace is not the Government's goal. Social peace has to be truly based on common awareness and the will to jointly find a way to share the burden of huge social and economic problems.

Croatia's social reality is burdened by a high level of different forms of social pathology, anti-social behaviour, corruption, bribery and social insensibility, black labour, unpaid labour and trampled human dignity. The Government strongly opposes the preservation of such a situation and will take all necessary measures to stop this and change the situation to the benefit of protection of the law, lawfulness, and dignity of every human being.

The Government will implement the will of citizens to build a society of equal opportunities and equality of all citizens before the law. It will see that minority rights are exercised, and secure equal rights for all displaced people in the process of their return, regardless of nationality or religion. It will seek from the international community an equal treatment and assistance for all displaced people.

The Government wishes to restore Croatia's credibility by respecting obligations that have been taken over. The Government wants to act in international relations in line with the support it was granted by Croatian citizens. It is determined to change not only Croatia's image, but also its position in the international community. In a global environment that is characterised by interdependence, Croatia's geo-political position as a link between Central Europe, the Mediterranean and the Balkans puts before it the challenge of changing the region marked by conflicts and intolerance into a region of peace and co-operation.

The Government acknowledges the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina is an independent state. It respects its territorial integrity. On the basis of equality and mutual respect, it is ready to support Bosnia-Herzegovina's wish to become a modern and prosperous European state that will guarantee human rights to each individual, as well as equality of its three constituent nations on the whole of its territory.

The Government calls on Croatia's neighbours to improve the co-operation on the basis of equality and partnership. It is willing to improve economic and political co-operation with countries in transition and to co-operate in resolving transition problems. It is also willing to improve political and economic co-operation with the United States, Russia, China and other countries.

The Government wants to tell the international community that it is ready to base mutual relations on international standards and agreements, on the basis of equality and partnership. It is willing to take over its share of responsibility for security and stability in this part of Europe. For Croatia, Europe is much more than a geographic term. The sense of responsibility for the common European destiny is not contrary to Croatia’s sense of loyalty to its traditions.

The project of Stability Pact brings hope that peace and integration, rather than conflicts and isolation, will be the future of Europe's Southeast. Therefore, Croatia wants to participate in the Pact actively and creatively.

The Government will continue the process of privatisation, as well as the development of market economy. It will amend the current and establish new legislation, alleviate the tax burden and make Croatia attractive to investors.

The Government will build a responsible and fair authorities, stimulate tolerance, co-operation and creativity, as well as joint responsibility for Croatia's progress. It will create a stimulative environment for the development of the media and implement the project of a public television.

Despite the difficult financial situation, with maximum engagement of all, it will be possible to secure growth, development and progress, and better days for all Croatian citizens.

The Parliament gave a vote of confidence to the Government and supported its programme for the next four years. The Government‘s programme was not supported only by the main opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

The Zagreb District Court decided to prolong the detention of Miroslav Kutle for one month. Kutle was arrested last week under accusation of serious financial fraud, which deprived the company Tisak of DM 12 million . The hearing of witnesses is scheduled for next week.

Acting President of the HDZ, Vladimir Šeks, offered his resignation from that duty and stated that he will not be a candidate for the chairmanship at the party congress to take place in April. The Presidency did not accept his resignation, which was not the case with the resignation of the General Secretary Drago Krpina, who was replaced by Joso Škara.

Šeks explained his resignation by his feeling of responsibility for the failure of the party in the elections and the rifts within it. He said that no member from the current Presidency should become the President of the Party after the Congress. Mate Granić, the HDZ’s candidate at the presidential elections in January, denied that he was working on establishment of the new political party.

Head of the Croatian Intelligence Service (HIS) Miroslav Tuđman asked the Acting President of the Republic Zlatko Tomčić on Friday to release him from his duty as soon as possible. Tuđman (the son of late President Franjo Tuđman) explained that he decided to resign even before the inauguration of the new President because he feels appalled by the statement of the new President Stipe Mesić to Le Monde in which he, allegedly, claimed that both Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević are responsible for the war in former Yugoslavia.

Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula visited Sarajevo on Friday. This was his first official visit to a foreign country. Picula decided to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina first in order to emphasise the new Croatia’s policy towards its closest neighbours.

Saša Cvijetić, 11 February 2000

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