Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 19
1 November 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 24 October 1999

Sasa Cvijetic

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa, Deputy Prime Minister Ljerka Mintas-Hodak and Foreign Minister Mate Granic received the troika delegation of the European Union, headed by the Finnish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Jukk Valtassari. On behalf of the EU, Valtassari gave Matesa the EU's demarche regarding the process of the adoption of electoral legislation as well as Croatia's lack of co-operation with the International War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. The EU also expressed concern regarding the voting rights of Serb refugees, methods of voting for the diaspora list, representation of minorities in the Sabor, the monitoring of the elections, transparent financing of election campaigns and the unusual date for the elections (23 December). Valtasaari emphasised that this message was made in good faith, stressing, however, that should Croatia's response be inadequate, the EU would once again review all forms of co-operation with Croatia. Prime Minister Matesa said after the talks that, "the EU's concern was acknowledged," and that he would inform the President of the Republic about it. At the Government's session that same day, several ministers (Skegro, Kovac, Porges, Njavro) expressed their dissatisfaction with this demarche, calling it, "blackmailing, similar to that coming from the opposition." During their stay in Zagreb, the EU ministers met also with representatives from the OSCE, the United States and the "Opposition Six."

At a press conference of the ruling Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Integration Ljerka Mintas-Hodak commented on the demarche of the EU ministers. She stated that this demarche meant that the EU favoured the opposition, adding that she found it "odd" that the opposition was invited to Brussels on 11 November, in the middle of the election campaign. Commenting on President Tudjman's visit to the Vatican and his meeting with the Pope, HDZ Spokesperson Ivica Ropus stated that, "All those, including those in Brussels, who thought that the Pope would object to the election date are now unhappy, because this did not happen." He added that Serbs from Croatia who have not obtained Croatian citizenship in the last four years would not be able to vote in the elections.

"The final electoral law for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Croatia will try to ensure democratic, fair and free elections," Vladimir Seks, vice-president of the HDZ, told the Sabor's House of Counties before the debate on the law began. "A just representation," Seks stressed, "will be achieved by the application of a clear proportional representation system which has been installed into electoral laws in most European countries." Seks added that the idea of a rotating mandate for representatives of minorities has been abandoned. The bill includes the creation of a system of multi-party electoral commissions and the compensation of expenses for electoral campaigns of parties which pass the threshold and suggests the introduction of a commission of ethics and a code of ethics. As far as the voting rights of the diaspora are concerned, the bill envisages the introduction of an unfixed quota which counts one mandate as an average mandate in an electoral unit in Croatia. Following a several-hour long and at times very heated discussion, the House of Counties finally adopted the bill. The MPs also supported the HDZ's amendment according to which, instead of 108 representatives in nine constituencies, 140 representatives would be elected to the House of Representatives in ten constituencies. As a result, in every constituency in Croatia, 14 representatives will be elected, and representatives of national minorities and Croatian citizens without residence in Croatia will vote in special electoral units. The opposition MPs criticised this bill, expressing their dissatisfaction with, among other things, the date chosen for elections, the election of representatives of national minorities and the ways of monitoring the election. The opposition also criticised the provision on constituencies, namely the way in which Zagreb has been divided into four constituencies. In his reply, Seks stressed that the HDZ would not, under anybody's pressure, consent to ensure the right to vote for people who did not validate their Croatian citizenship (in other words, Croatian Serbs).

The House of Representatives started debate on a bill on electoral law proposed by HDZ. At the session, the opposition announced that at the end of debate it would vote against the bill.

The six opposition parties broke off negotiations with the HDZ on Monday, claiming that they did so because they demanded - and did not receive - clarification of President Tudjman's statements in an interview last week regarding his behaviour after the elections, if the opposition were to win. The HDZ's chief negotiator, Vladimir Seks, called this demand "impolite and unnecessary" and described the opposition's move as "[a way of] providing an alibi for failure in the elections."

Furthermore, there was no agreement between the opposition and the ruling party on the rules regarding coverage of the election campaign on Croatian Radio and Television (HRT). Although the HDZ accepted the opposition's proposal to establish a special parliamentary commission which would observe the electoral campaign, it did not accept that such a commission could punish those who violate the rules. In the end, no consensus was reached.

Veselin Pejnovic and Milan Djukic, both Serb representatives in the Sabor, strongly protested against the bill on electoral law, claiming that it will discourage Serbs from voting in the elections. They said that national minorities should have 15 MPs, out of which seven should be Serbs, and called the bill "dishonest, since it discriminates against one segment of Croatia's population." The current bill on electoral law allows only one MP to represent the Serb minority.

The Association of Independent Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH) offered the parties of the "Opposition Four" (HNS, HSS, LS and IDS) a document called "An Agreement for a Happier Croatia." It is the same kind of social agreement that SSSH, the largest association of trade unions in Croatia, offered to the SDP and HSLS - the two main opposition parties. The "Agreement" consists of 25 requests as a basis for a social partnership.

In a letter to the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, Minister of Justice Zvonimir Separovic requested that in her report on Croatia's co-operation with the ICTY she include the period of the past few months, as he believes this will give the United Nations General Assembly a more accurate picture of the matter. Separovic stressed that, "much progress has been made towards resolving the disputes between the Office of the Prosecutor and Croatia," in the period following the completion of the report. "Shortly after the last date of (McDonald's) reporting period, Croatia transferred Mr Martinovic to the custody of the Tribunal. In addition, Croatia has agreed to transfer Mr Naletilic as soon as his health has stabilised and he may be transported safely," the letter reads. The Justice Minister pointed out that Croatia had kept the Tribunal constantly updated on Naletilic's condition and had also "opened up the possibility for the Tribunal to send its own doctors to assess his condition." Separovic also voiced his disagreement with the claim that Croatia "was not co-operating with the Tribunal simply because an extradition took longer than the Prosecutor deemed appropriate."

According to a report by Transparency International, Croatia ranked 77th in corruption levels among 99 countries, scoring 2.7 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the least corrupt). Romania, Macedonia and Bulgaria all scored 3.3, Poland 4.2, Slovakia 3.7, Czech Republic 4.6, Hungary 5.2. According to the report, Slovenia was the least corrupt of the countries mentioned, scoring 6.0. Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union all scored below 2.

A Croatian military delegation, led by Defence Minister Pavao Miljavac, visited Hungary last week. Expressing his satisfaction at, "the excellent level of co-operation between the two countries in all fields," Miljavac announced the possibility of the formation of a joint military unit, with the possibility for other countries to join as well.

The Constitutional Court rejected as unfounded the written complaints of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) and attorney Vesna Alaburic against the new procedure for electing new judges to the Court.

Sasa Cvijetic, 28 October 1999



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