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Cablegate: New Croatian Government Confirmed; Pm Sanader's

VZCZCXRO2574
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0024 0151521
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 151521Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8474
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000024

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SCE; USNATO FOR UNDERWOOD; NSC FOR
BRAUN; OSD FOR WINTERNITZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR POLITICAL PARTIES
SUBJECT: NEW CROATIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMED; PM SANADER'S
PRIORITY REMAINS EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION

REF: A. ZAGREB 0018
B. ZAGREB 0022

NEW GOVERNMENT, OLD TEAM
------------------------

1. (U) Croatia,s re-elected Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on
January 12 presented his new government and its program to
the newly elected Croatian parliament (Sabor). After a full
day of parliamentary debate, 82 Sabor members supported
Sanader,s cabinet, while 62 members of the opposition voted
against it. In addition to Sanader, the new government has
17 members, 15 of whom run individual ministries (including
two who also will serve as deputy prime-ministers), while two
others serve as deputy prime-ministers without specific
ministerial responsibilities. In a press interview on
January 14, President Mesic acknowledged that coalition
politics had motivated the creation of the additional deputy
PM positions, but commented sardonically that having 16
deputy PM's had done nothing to make Mao Tse-Tung's
government any more effective.
2. (SBU) In fact, the new government has little new blood.
Eleven of the 13 HDZ ministers in the new government are
hold-overs, with a few having shifted portfolios. The only
new faces are the HDZ ministers for foreign affairs
(Jandrokovic) and health (Milinovic), as well as the four
ministerial positions divvied out to HDZ's minor coalition
partners the Croatian Peasants Party (Agriculture and
Tourism), the Social Liberals (Deputy PM for internal
affairs), and the Croatian-Serb SDSS party (Deputy PM for
regional development and returns). The inclusion of Deputy
PM Slobodan Uzelac as the highest ranking Croatian Serb in
government since Croatia's independence in 1991 is perhaps
the most noteworthy change in the government, although it is
likely to have more symbolic than substantive importance.
The full list of ministers was reported Ref A, with the one
last-minute change being that Uzelac was given oversight
responsibility for regional development and returns rather
than foreign affairs.

PRIORITIES: EU-NATO MEMBERSHIP AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
----------------------------------------

3. (U) Speaking of his government,s priorities, Sanader
highlighted giving the economy a new boost and completing the
process of Euro-Atlantic integration (EU and NATO) as his
government's top priorities. (Ref B provides more details on
the new government's policies toward NATO.) Among other
goals, he mentioned reducing unemployment, judicial reforms
(a key requirement for EU accession), continued improvements
in the fiscal status of the country, making secondary
education obligatory, even-handed regional development,
continued infrastructure construction, and bringing
agricultural industry and tourism closer together. Sanader
also stressed that his government will continue to care for
Bosnian Croats and will support efforts by its eastern
neighbors to join the EU. He made no mention, however, of
two significant policies that received considerable media
attention in the last half of 2007: implementation of a
protected ecological and fishing zone in the Adriatic (also
known as the ZERP), and Croatia's continued cooperation with
the ICTY.

COMMENT
-------

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The surfeit of familiar faces in the new
government holds both pluses and minuses. On the plus side,
it should guarantee policy continuity in critical areas such
as NATO accession, active engagement in regional security in
the Balkans and elsewhere such as in Afghanistan, as well as
on the need for continued economic and administrative reforms
domestically. On the down side, the outgoing government was
generally viewed as underperforming when it came to
implementation of these needed reforms. The most common
description of the previous government was "strong leader,
weak team." Sanader has passed up what may be his best
opportunity to reward good performers and dump his less
effective ministers. On key issues such as judicial reform,
it is hard to see how keeping the same team in place provides
much hope for improved performance in implementing the
government's policies. END COMMENT.
BRADTKE

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