Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 17
18 October 1999

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 9 October 1999

Sasa Cvijetic

The Supreme Court on Friday confirmed the decision of the Zagreb County Court to extradite the war crimes suspect Mladen Naletilic-Tuta to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. However, according to the Constitutional Law on co-operation with the ICTY, the Minister of Justice may temporarily delay extradition in case of extraordinary circumstances and illness, which may be the case as Naletilic has been hospitalised for a long time. The ICTY issued an indictment against Naletilic in December 1998, charging him with crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina between April 1993 and January 1994, during his command of the so-called "convicts' battalion".

The date of elections will be made known very soon, said Vladimir Seks, Deputy Speaker of the Sabor (Parliament) and head of the HDZ's negotiation team for the preparations of the electoral legislation. He confirmed that there will be changes in provisions on the representation of national minorities, and that the so-called non-fixed quota will be used for representation of the diaspora. Absentee voting is not probable, Seks added.

Vido Bogdanovic, Mayor of Dubrovnik and one of the leaders of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS), called for the boycott of elections if the HDZ's proposal of electoral law is adopted in the Parliament, and if the elections take place close to Christmas. "Such decisions would represent a disgrace for the whole country," Bogdanovic said.

Representatives of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the "Opposition Six" will meet next Tuesday to try to reach an agreement on electoral legislation and Croatian Radio Television's (HRT) rules for covering the election campaign. This was confirmed on Friday by the new co-ordinator of the "Opposition Six", President of the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) Ivan Jakovcic. "We are ready to discuss and reach an agreement on the electoral law, the law on electoral units, and the model of HRT's coverage of the election campaign, on the condition that rules of conduct for HRT be established by a special parliamentary decision," Jakovcic said. He also repeated that the "Opposition Six" kept insisting on the solution with nine electoral units and a non-fixed quota for the diaspora.

Members of parliament representing the Serb national minority -Jovan Bamburac, Vojislav Stanimirovic and Milorad Pupovac - wrote a letter to the President of the Republic, Franjo Tudjman, asking him to intervene and prevent the changes in electoral legislation that would reduce the number of Serb representatives in the Parliament from three to one. The three MPs assessed the possible changes as non-constitutional and against the real interest of the Serb minority, and of Croatia as a whole. "There are 300,000 Serbs who are eligible to vote, and the current proposal of only one representative for them is a complete nonsense," said Pupovac at a public forum in Knin.

Approximately 10,000 citizens of Serb nationality have returned to the Knin region since 1995, while 1500 Serb families were able to enter their own houses. This was stated after a heated session of the Committee for Establishment of Trust and Reconciliation that took place in Knin. The overall security situation in the Knin region was assessed as satisfactory.

The last session of the current Parliament starts on 18 October and will have the elections of eight new judges to the Constitutional Court on its agenda, announced the Sabor press service. The most probable candidate for the new president of the court is Smiljko Sokol, professor at the Law Faculty and a high official in the ruling party, the HDZ. The Constitutional Court has supreme legal authority in Croatia, and is, among other things, in charge of supervising the legality of the electoral process.

Representatives of Glas 99 (Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections), the Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) and the Movement for Democracy and Social Justice held a press conference on Tuesday in Zagreb. They stated that the new bill on electoral law represents a considerable deterioration of human rights in relation to previous electoral laws. Glas 99 will propose ten amendments to the bill and ask from Sabor speaker Vlatko Pavletic to allow their representatives to be present at this Sabor session. They stated that the HDZ's proposal of a 12-day election campaign represents a "direct limitation of communication between citizens and politics and a limitation of human rights."

The head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Mission to Croatia, Bernard Poncet, submitted a report on Croatia to the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday in Vienna, claiming Croatia still fails to fulfil its international obligations. The obligations concern the return of refugees, co-operation with the ICTY, reform of electoral legislation and the democratisation of the media, the report stated.

326,506 unemployed people were registered in Croatia at the end of September, i.e. 2.6 per cent more than in August and 13.9 per cent more than in September 1998. Out of them, 100,074 persons (or 30.6 per cent) were searching for a job for the first time, which is 7.1 per cent more than last year.

The study conducted by the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb revealed that 47 per cent of the respondents would leave Croatia immediately , if they were able to get a job abroad. Sociologist Helena Stimac-Radin explained that the study included the population between the age of 15 and 30, and found that those polled believed that the state was doing nothing in order to create new jobs. According to official data, more than a half of unemployed people in Croatia are younger than 30.

According to the most recent official statistics, the average monthly wage in Croatia during August amounted to 2,931 Croatian kuna (DEM 751), which is nominally 12.2 per cent more than last year. The cost of living increased 4.2 per cent in the same period by. The lowest average wage was in the Medjimurje County (2,306 Croatian kuna) and only in Zagreb County was the average salary higher than the over all average. The differences in average salary between branches of activity are large: from 2,275 Croatian kuna (DEM 583) average in retail trades to 4.271 (DEM 1.095) in the banking industry.

The damage Croatia suffered during the recent civil war amounted to DEM 65.3 billion, the Croatian government concluded on Thursday while adopting a final report on war damage. The damage refers to the period between 15 August 1990 and 15 January 1998. Up to 20,000 persons were killed or had gone missing during the aggression. This report will be used as a supplement to the indictment Croatia raised against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, and in negotiations on compensation for the damage.

Six foreign banks are interested in buying shares of Splitska banka. Similarly, five foreign banks are interested in Rijecka banka, and three are interested in Privredna banka Zagreb. The wave of privatisation of the largest state-owned companies and banks, initiated by the selling of shares of Croatian Telecommunication Company (HT), will thus continue, announced the Government. Among those interested were banks from Austria, Italy and Germany.

Sasa Cvijetic, 15 October 1999



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