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Cablegate: New Goc and Nato: Referendum Out, Engagement In

VZCZCXRO1546
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0022 0141530
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141530Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8472
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000022

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR, EUR/SCE
USNATO FOR UNDERWOOD, JONES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO MOPS MARR NATO HR DEFENSE REFORM
SUBJECT: NEW GOC AND NATO: REFERENDUM OUT, ENGAGEMENT IN

REF: A. ZAGREB 10
B. 05 ZAGREB 1048

1. During approval of his new cabinet January 12 (septel), PM
Sanader stressed his government's commitment to achieving
NATO membership during this mandate. In the agreement
between his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Peasant
Party (HSS) and the Social Liberals (HSLS), the new ruling
coalition committed to continued engagement in international
peacekeeping operations, further contributions to NATO
peace-building missions, and sustained public outreach on the
advantages of alliance membership to strengthen citizens'
support. What the agreement does not mention is a NATO
referendum, something the HSS favored during the electoral
campaign but abandoned during coalition negotiations
(reftels). Post continues to actively support government
efforts in public education regarding membership and will
press the new cabinet to intensify efforts prior to the
Bucharest Summit.

PEASANTS ABANDON REFERENDUM, STRESS NATO SUPPORT
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. After signing of the coalition agreement last week, HSS
leader Josip Friscic explained his party's abandonment of the
referendum issue by arguing that the party always supported
NATO membership and only believed that a referendum would be
necessary in the case of widespread public opposition to
membership. Recent poll numbers from various sources,
showing support hovering around 50 percent, have convinced
him that Croatians are in favor of NATO, he said. The
continued public education promised in the coalition
agreement will push that number higher.

3. The new cabinet will face its first NATO test this week as
PM Sanader heads to Brussels for a January 16 meeting with
the North Atlantic Council to conclude Croatia's sixth and
potentially final Membership Action Plan cycle. He will be
accompanied by his new FM Gordan Jandrokovic and new DefMin
Branko Vukelic.
BRADTKE

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