Cablegate: Croatia Enthusiastically Inaugurates New Regional

DE RUEHVB #0524/01 1501508
R 301508Z MAY 07






EO 12958: N/A

REF: ZAGREB 427 and previous

1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: As Chair of the South East Europe
Cooperation Process (SEECP), the GOC hosted a May 11 Zagreb Summit
to strengthen regional cooperation by establishing a Regional
Cooperation Council (RCC) under SEECP auspices to replace the
Stability Pact in early 2008. Coinciding with political maneuvering
in Belgrade (reaction to election of a Radical as Parliament
speaker), the meeting provided a platform to press Serbia to commit
itself to Euro-Atlantic integration: German Chancellor Merkel,
European Commission President Barroso, and U/S Burns challenged
Serbia to engage fully on the side of democracy and Euro-Atlantic
norms. Kosovo was high on the agenda; behind the scenes diplomacy
won Kosovo Prime Minister Ceku a place at the SEECP table for the
first time.

2. (SBU) Croatia's successful and energetic SEECP chairmanship, led
by MFA State Secretary Hidajet Biscevic, saw an effective
partnership with the Stability Pact in the transition to a
"regionally owned" cooperative mechanism: securing regional and
donor funding, developing a charter and statute for the RCC, and
deciding on RCC leadership (Biscevic) and Secretariat location
(Sarajevo). Prime Minister Sanader's address underscored both the
importance of regional cooperation and Croatia's determination to
participate fully, describing the SEECP as the "political pillar" of
cooperation, with the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)
as the economic pillar. As a demonstration of PM Sanader's
commitment to the new RCC mechanism, he assured Stability Pact
Coordinator Busek that Hido Biscevic, Sanader's closest foreign
policy advisor and troubleshooter, would soon engage fully on RCC

Regional Cooperation Council Officially Endorsed

3. (U) The 10th annual SEECP Summit meeting, preceded on May 10 by
the Stability Pact Regional Table and SEECP Foreign Ministers
meetings, marked the end of a very successful year for Croatia as
SEECP Chairman in Office. Beginning with initial discussions of the
proposed Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) last fall, the Croatia
CiO, led by MFA State Secretary Biscevic saw an effective
partnership with the Stability Pact in securing the necessary
regional and donor funding, developing a charter and statute for the
RCC, and deciding on RCC leadership (Biscevic) and Secretariat
location (Sarajevo) (refs).

4. (U) The May 10 Stability Pact Regional Table underscored
universal appreciation for the Pact and its successful transition
strategy and for the work of Special Coordinator Busek, whose
tireless engagement with regional political leaders and with donor
governments underpinned the transition plan's success. The Regional
Table confirmed the RCC founding documents and the SEECP proposals
for RCC Secretary General and Secretariat location. With most
speeches routine, the intervention by a Tanzanian diplomat
representing UNMIK stood out, expressing simple gratitude to the
Stability Pact for providing the umbrella to allow Kosovo to take
its place firmly in the regional cooperation process.

5. (U) The SEECP Foreign Ministers meeting later that day also
supported the Stability Pact transition process, endorsing the SEECP
decision on RCC leadership and secretariat location.

Prime Ministers Pressure Serbia; Kosovo Sits at the Table

6. (SBU) Beginning with Croatian Prime Minister Sanader's and
President Mesic's welcoming remarks, speakers hammered away on the
theme of the importance for Serbia to decide on a democratic, pro-EU
and Euro-Atlantic path. German Chancellor Merkel underscored the EU
role in Kosovo and reiterated that Serbian compliance with ICTY
would open the door to real progress toward a Stabilization and
Association agreement. European Commission President Barroso echoed
the clear message. Undersecretary Burns delivered a forceful
message on U.S. support for Kosovo independence. (Note: In contrast
to the March 2 Foreign Ministers meeting, when Ceku attended as part
of the UNMIK/Kosovo delegation, Ceku in fact received a personal
invitation to the Summit. Nonetheless, Croatian protocol initially
placed him behind UNMIK SRSG Ruecker; pressed by the U.S. to deliver
fully on its invitation, the Croatians then moved Ceku to the table,
although at some distance from the UNMIK seat. Serbian
representative Parivodic did not react to Ceku's appearance at the
Summit table.)

6. (SBU) A testy exchange between Albanian PM Berisha and Serbian
Minister of International Economic Relations Parivodic provided the
only tension in an otherwise celebratory event. Berisha, apparently
departing from his notes, accused Serbia of seeking to create a
greater Serbia at the expense of others, to which Parivodic asked

ZAGREB 00000524 002 OF 002

how many Albanian states (positing as many as four) could be
expected in Europe. Defending Serbia's position on Kosovo as an
integral part of Serbia, supported by international law, Parivodic
expressed Serbia's desire to be a friend of the U.S. and announced
that "democratic forces" had prevailed in Belgrade with the
formation of a new government under current PM Kostunica. For his
part, Ahtisaari Deputy Rohan, also a guest at the meeting, gave a
clear and convincing defense of the Ahtisaari plan and announced
that a new UNSCR on Kosovo was imminent.

RCC Secretary General

7. (SBU) The SEECP Summit marked the end of a year of steady work by
the Stability Pact and the SEECP to put in place a new, regionally
owned and led regional cooperation framework, based on the future
RCC and its secretariat in Sarajevo. The coming months will see
this work continue, with the Stability Pact and new SEECP CiO
Bulgaria seeking to negotiate the secretariat seat agreement with
Sarajevo by the end of June to permit its formal ratification by
participating countries before year's end. Later this year, the
process of establishing the RCC and its secretariat will begin in
earnest, with the hope of having a structure and staff in place by
January to permit the Stability Pact to complete its mission on
schedule in February 2008. Funding commitments are sufficient and
prospects for meeting the remaining timetable are encouraging. The
main uncertainty involves the availability of the new RCC SecGen
Biscevic. With national elections due in Croatia in late November,
Biscevic's important role within the Croatian government and his
close ties to PM Sanader could limit his RCC activity through the
fall, although PM Sanader reportedly assured Stability Pact Special
Coordinator Busek that Biscevic will meet his RCC obligations.

8. (U) Summit participants included: delegations from each SEECP
member state - Albania (PM Berisha), Bosnia and Herzegovnia (PM
Spiric), Bulgaria (PM Stanishev), Greece (PM Karamanlis), Croatia
(President Mesic and PM Sanader), Macedonia (President Crvenkovski),
Moldova (President Voronin), Romania (PM Poescu-Tariceanu), Serbia
(International Economic Relations Minister Parivodic), and Turkey
(Economy Minister Babacan); Montenegro as the newest member (PM
Sturanovic); Slovenian PM Jansa; European Commission president
Barroso; German Chancellor Merkel; European Parliament President
Pottering; Kosovo PM Ceku; SRSG Ruecker; UN Deputy Special Envoy
Rohan; Stability Pact Coordinator Busek; and Under Secretary Burns.


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