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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets Speaker of Parliament Luka Bebic

VZCZCXRO4916
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0065/01 0301151
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301151Z JAN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8525
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 000065

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR POLITICAL PARTIES
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT LUKA BEBIC

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: New Sabor President Luka Bebic strongly endorses
all of PM Sanader's priorities, including close cooperation with the
US, a strong desire to join NATO, and an eagerness to play a
constructive role in the region. He said the Sabor should shortly
take up several pieces of legislation of interest to the U.S. He
cited continued cooperation between the ruling HDZ and minority
politicians, particularly the largest Croatian Serb party, as signs
of Croatia's continuing political development and maturity. END
SUMMARY.

NATO, GOOD US RELATIONS, AND REGIONAL COOPERATION
---------------------------

2. (U) In his first official meeting with Ambassador Bradtke on
January 28, Sabor President Luka Bebic highlighted the importance of
good relations with the U.S., predicting even closer cooperation
between the two countries in the next few months leading up to the
NATO Summit. Bebic said NATO was Croatia's top priority and the
state leadership would do all it could to raise popular support for
the country's membership in it. Bebic thanked President Bush and
the U.S. for their clear support.

3. (U) Speaking of President Bush, Bebic said the Croatian
government and people would warmly welcome a visit by the U.S.
President as the "crowning achievement for our policies and an
incentive for our continued efforts." The government would do all
it could to make that visit happen. Bebic noted the Croatian people
had always been inspired by the U.S. in its quest for freedom,
adding that big problems in this part of the world could never have
been resolved without U.S. involvement.

4. (U) Bebic urged continued U.S. engagement in Southeastern Europe,
citing Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina as potential sources of
instability. Croatia would also continue to devote significant
energy to building regional cooperation, not only with Macedonia and
Albania as Croatia's partners under the Adriatic Charter, but also
with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Bebic stressed
parliamentary cooperation programs with both Albania and Macedonia
and said he hoped both would also be invited to join NATO in
Bucharest, and that other countries in the region would become part
of the Adriatic Charter.

SUPPORT FOR U.S. LEGISLATIVE INTERESTS
------------------------------

5. (U) The Ambassador raised a number of specific pieces of
legislation that are of interest to the U.S. Bebic had encouraging
replies on all of them. He was familiar with our concerns about how
Croatia's current property restitution law disadvantages some claims
by foreign nationals on property seized during WWII and the
Communist era, and said that legislation would be drafted soon to
allow foreign citizens to make property claims. He confirmed that
the GOC plans to pass a Law on Foundations to liberalize the
establishment and work of charitable foundations. He acknowledged
that the new Law on Foreigners, an attempt to address EU
expectations of Croatia on fighting illegal migration, had also
created difficulties for foreign businesspeople in getting residence
permits for their families. That had not been the Sabor's intent,
Bebic emphasized, and could harm Croatia as it sought more foreign
investment. He expects the government to propose changes to the law.


6. (U) Asked about the prospects of revising the Criminal
Proceedings Law to ensure more efficient prosecution of such crimes
as corruption and money laundering, Bebic replied that fighting
corruption and improving judicial and administrative efficiency was
among Croatia's highest priorities "not because the EU or the U.S.
would want us to, but because it's in our own interest."

7. (U) Expanding on the notion of "doing things for our own sake,"
Bebic said the government had reached out to the Serb community,
including by appointing a Deputy Prime Minister from their ranks, "a
thing that would have been unthinkable eight years ago." In
addition, the government has signed separate coalition agreements
with all other ethnic minority representatives, seeking to resolve
their specific issues. These steps are all concrete proof, Bebic
said, that Croatia wants to be a modern state that has put the war
behind it.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Bebic, while still very new to his role as
speaker of the Sabor, has long parliamentary experience, and took
care to be well-briefed prior to his appointment with the
Ambassador. In all of his points, from stressing Croatia's
readiness to work closely with its neighbors, to his heartfelt plea
for a visit by President Bush, Bebic was faithfully echoing Prime
Minister Sanader's policies. He is every bit as much of an HDZ
party stalwart as his predecessor, Vladimir Seks, but Bebic presents
a much better and friendlier face for the Sabor toward the outside

ZAGREB 00000065 002 OF 002


world. Bebic and Seks remain close friends and colleagues, but we
believe our cooperation with the Sabor could be noticeably more
productive with Bebic in charge. END COMMENT.

BRADTKE

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