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Cablegate: Inaugural Meeting of Croatia Visa Waiver Working Group

R 211447Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8440
INFO RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 001095

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR EUR/SCE, CA/VO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS CMGT PREL KFRD HR
SUBJECT: INAUGURAL MEETING OF CROATIA VISA WAIVER WORKING GROUP

(U) Sensitive But Unclassified; please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In November, the Croatian MFA hosted the first
meeting of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Working Group. Embassy
participants, including the DCM, Political Counselor, Consul, Econ
Officer, and the RSO, presented the requirements for a country to be
considered for inclusion in the VWP. Croatian participants,
including representatives from the MFA, the Ministry of Interior,
the State Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Agency
for the Protection of Personal Information, and the Ministry of the
Sea, Tourism, Trade, and Development, presented their respective
agencies' status with regard to those requirements. Croatia does not
currently satisfy the requirements for inclusion in the VWP, but
participants at this meeting expressed a commitment to work toward
fulfilling the requirements as soon as possible.

--------------------------------------------- -
REPORTING LOST AND STOLEN PASSPORT INFORMATION
--------------------------------------------- -
2. (SBU) The GoC currently does not provide lost and stolen
passport (LASP) data to the USG, though it does provide this data to
Interpol and other foreign governments pursuant to bilateral
agreements. A bilateral agreement between Croatia and the US will
need to be signed before Croatia could provide LASP data to the US.
Nor does the GoC provide information regarding trends in lost,
stolen, or fraudulent Croatian and third-country passports. The MoI
representative reported that it did confiscate a number of
fraudulent travel documents, though no US passports. He assured that
the relevant countries had been contacted, but provided no further
information, stating that the report was an internal working
document.

--------------------------
PASSPORT SECURITY FEATURES
--------------------------
3. (SBU) The Croatian passport is machine readable and meets
current ICAO standards. All Croatian passports have been centrally
issued since 2000. There are no distinguishing features in passports
issued to replace lost or stolen travel documents.

-------------------
BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS
-------------------
4. (SBU) Croatia does not issue a biometric passport. Working
towards EU accession, Croatia is committed to meeting the EU
deadline of 2009 for all member states to issue a biometric passport
with an integrated data chip. To this end, Croatia has formed a
biometric passport working group that has met several times to
discuss available options.

------------
REPATRIATION
------------
5. (SBU) Croatia is obligated by its constitution to accept its
citizens, as well as stateless citizens who are refused entry to
another country when departing Croatia, regardless of whether a
repatriation agreement exists with the sending country.

------------------------------
PASSENGER INFORMATION EXCHANGE
------------------------------
6. (SBU) According to the GoC, Croatia has already implemented EU
regulations for sharing passenger information, and is in compliance
with those regulations. Passenger data is received for all incoming
passengers, but not provided for outbound passengers. Croatian
representatives also noted that VWP requirements exceeded those
required by current EU regulations, and that the carrier, rather
than the government, has the responsibility to provide passenger
data. One Croatian representative noted that the EU currently
requires member countries to use Advance Passenger Information
System (APIS), although he believes that Spain is the only EU
country currently using APIS due to legal challenges to the
requirement by other EU member states.

---------------------------
AIRPORT AND BORDER SECURITY
---------------------------
7. (SBU) The GoC confirmed that airport officials screen 100
percent of passengers, luggage, and cargo. Croatian law requires a
background check on all airport employees. Currently only two
border crossing points have the ability to capture traveler
information, with seven more expected to be operational in the near
future. Croatia is the beneficiary of the EU Twinning Project, and
eventually plans to have at least twenty-five border crossing points
equipped with electronic passport readers. Croatia has had formal
inspections of its airports by other countries. A formal FAA
inspection of Croatian airports has not been conducted, although
Croatia welcomes such an inspection.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
ASSISTANCE IN THE OPERATION OF THE AIR MARSHAL PROGRAM
--------------------------------------------- ---------
8. (SBU) Croatia does not currently participate in the US Air
Marshal program (there are no direct flights to the US at this
time). Croatia has signed at least one MoU which provides for
support of an air marshal program, so such assistance is not
unprecedented.

--------------------------------------------- ---
SHARING LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SECURITY INFORMATION
--------------------------------------------- ---
9. (SBU) Croatia shares information directly with the United States
on certain issues related to security and terrorism, but does not
directly share law enforcement information on its citizens.
Specifically, the transfer of information across international
borders is forbidden, which includes prohibition on transfer of data
to representatives of foreign governments in Croatia. Requests for
law-enforcement information on Croatian citizens must be made
through Interpol channels for consideration, but this mechanism does
not guarantee that all requested information will be shared.

10. (SBU) Some direct information-sharing agreements exist between
Croatia and other countries in the form of bilateral treaties and
MoU's. Croatia's State Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of
Justice have several such agreements with other countries. No
formal direct information-sharing agreement currently exists between
the United States and Croatia.

11. (SBU) A representative from the Croatian Agency for the
Protection of Personal Data stated that the Croatian law regulating
the protection of personal data is in line with EU Directive 46/95
on the protection of personal data. The representative acknowledged
that Article 13 of the Croatian Law is overly vague, and therefore
interpreted very broadly. The law, in particular Article 13, will
be aligned with EU laws by the last quarter of 2008.

-------------------------
CONCLUSION AND NEXT STEPS
-------------------------
12. (SBU) The US visa refusal rate for Croatians is well within the
10 percent maximum (5.8 percent). Representatives also noted that
Croatia shares political, economic, and security information in
support of global security and is a reliable ally for NATO. As a
next step to achieving the goal of visa waiver, the GoC
representatives requested that the Embassy prepare a list of steps
needed and agreements to be signed.

13. (SBU) Comment: The Croatian representatives expressed a
commitment to work toward meeting the requirements for inclusion in
the VWP. However, the Croatian Law on the Protection of Personal
Data is likely to continue to hinder progress. In addition, changes
in the Croatian government resulting from parliamentary elections in
late November may shuffle some of the players in the ministries
participating in the VWP Working Group. Embassy will follow up in
the new year to monitor GoC progress and provide assistance as
appropriate. End comment.
BRADTKE

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