Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 7
21 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 14 Febuary 2000

Saša Cvijetić

The new Croatian President Stipe Mesić took a solemn oath before the Presiding Judge of the Constitutional Court Smiljko Sokol on Friday. Mesić, aged 66, was elected for a term of five years. The inauguration ceremony took place in the presence of numerous citizens and officials, as well as 71 foreign delegations, including 12 heads of state and three prime ministers.

In his inauguration speech, Mesić welcomed the presence of numerous foreign delegations and explained it as yet another gesture of wide international support for the policy of democratic changes. He announced that he would closely co-operate with the Parliament and Government and also fully contribute to the realisation of the announced Government's programme. "Croatia wants to live in peace and co-operation with its neighbours," Mesić said. "We shall do everything we can to contribute to making this entire geographical and political region stable and secure, democratic and prosperous," he added. "We shall respect our international obligations and act together so that Croatia can become a member of the European Union [EU]and NATO as soon as possible," Mesić concluded.

Prime Minister Ivica Račan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tonino Picula and Minister of European Integration Ivan Jakovčić made a tour of European capitals, which included Lisbon, Brussels and Berlin.

In Lisbon, chosen as the first stop because of the current Portuguese presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, Račan and his ministers met with President Jorge Sampaio, Prime Minister Antonio Guterres and Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, who all expressed their support for Croatia joining the European integration process.

On Monday, Račan, Picula and Jakovčić held meetings with the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi, Commissioner for Foreign Relations Chris Patten, Commissioner for Enlargement Günther Verheugen and the Common Foreign and Security Policy [CFSP] Co-ordinator Javier Solana. It was agreed that the Joint Task Force (which convened for the first time on Monday) will work on a "catalogue" of problems, namely the conditions Croatia has to meet in order to start negotiations with the EU on the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association. Commissioner Chris Patten will visit Zagreb on 10 March and attend the ceremony of upgrading the EC's Office to a level of permanent mission.

The next day, Račan held a meeting with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and submitted an official request for Croatia's inclusion into the "Partnership for Peace." The two delegations agreed on a joint programme of activities aimed at enabling Croatia to take part as an observer in the "Partnership for Peace" within next six months. Račan also met with 19 permanent representatives of NATO member states in the Belgian capital.

On Wednesday, the Croatian delegation met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Berlin. Račan and his hosts expressed their satisfaction with the talks on Croatia's integration to the European Union and Croatian-German bilateral relations. Račan, Picula and Jakovčić also attended the meeting of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, which, according to Račan, resulted in very good suggestions for future co-operation. The Croatian delegation also met with some 60 German businessmen and bankers. Račan spoke about the Government's programme which envisages saving measures, a stable currency rate, and the restoration of trust in the banking system. The German Chamber of Commerce announced the opening of its office in Zagreb, the Prime Minister told the press, announcing the arrival of a large group of German businessmen, who will visit Croatia within a month's time and investigate possibilities of investing in Croatia.

Before departing from Washington to attend the inauguration of the new Croatian President, the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated that Washington wanted to assist in Croatia's accession to NATO's Partnership for Peace programme and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Addressing a session of the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, Albright assessed that Croatia had an outstanding opportunity to realise its main goals with full support of the United States. Arriving in Zagreb, Albright said she was very satisfied to be able to visit Croatia twice in ten days and said she had postponed a meeting in Washington with Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono in order to be able to attend the inauguration in Zagreb. "The changes that have recently taken place in Croatia are important for not only for Croatia but for the entire region," Albright stressed.

"Croatia and Italy will work not only on the strengthening of bilateral co-operation, but on improving the co-operation among Adriatic countries as well," stated Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema during his official visit to Zagreb on Thursday. D'Alema welcomed the "new course in Croatia," saying that Italy wanted "special relations with Croatia, and fully supports all of its endeavours." Italian Foreign Minister Piero Fassino will visit Zagreb in early March to discuss the details of the envisaged co-operation. "Croatia will be given a big support from friends on the Italian side in its rapprochement with the EU and NATO," D'Alema promised.

Prime Minister Račan met with the presidents of the four countries of the Visegrad group: Aleksander Kwaśniewski of Poland, Árpád Göncz of Hungary, Václav Havel of the Czech Republic and Rudolf Schuster of Slovakia in Zagreb. Four presidents and the prime minister expressed their conviction in better relations between Croatia and these countries. President Kwaśniewski asked Croatia to join Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) as soon as possible.

Ozren Žunec, a professor at the University of Zagreb, was appointed as the new Head of the Croatian Intelligence Service (HIS), to replace Miroslav Tuđman who resigned last weekend. Žunec is an expert in the field of the sociology of war and army, and is not member of any political party.

Several founding members of the former ruling party HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) created an informal group that is planning to influence the reorganisation of the party at its forthcoming congress in April. They proposed Dr Andrija Hebrang, the former Defence Minister who resigned from all his duties in 1999, as the new Chairman of the Party.

Saša Cvijetić, 18 February 2000


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