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Cablegate: Zagreb Weekly Activity Report - December 4, 2008

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TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: ZAGREB WEEKLY ACTIVITY REPORT - DECEMBER 4, 2008

1. (U) FACEBOOK ARRESTS SPARK OUTRAGE AND APOLOGIES FROM
POLICE:
The police on Wednesday, December 3, apologized for detaining
an organizer of a group on Facebook, the on-line social
networking site, calling for antigovernment rallies across
the country against the government's latest austerity
measures. The young man had been detained for several hours
on December 2, while putting up posters for a 'You tighten
your belts, you bunch of thieves' rally planned for Zagreb on
December 5. This was the latest in a series of well
publicized police actions against anti-government activists
who have used Facebook as an organizational tool and means to
voice their dissatisfaction with the government. While
defending an earlier investigation into alleged use of
pro-Nazi Ustasha symbols on a different anti-government
Facebook site, Police Director Vladimir Faber apologized to
the public for the December 3 Zagreb detention and a similar
incident in Zadar. He said that the police officers who
detained the activists will face disciplinary action. Prime
Minister Sanader also issued a statement in support of
freedom of expression and requested that the police submit a
report on the Facebook arrests. Sanader stated that 'no-one
should be detained or arrested in Croatia just for expressing
different views, just because they disagree with my policies
or anyone else's. To defend this freedom is my task as the
Prime Minister.'
(MJelenc/JNCallahan)

2. (U) GOVERNMENT LEADS HIGH LEVEL FIELD VISIT TO INSPECT
RETURNEE HOUSING:
On Tuesday, December 2, the Croatian Minister for Regional
Development, Forestry and Water Management, Petar Cobankovic,
led representatives of the international community including
U.S. Ambassador Bradtke, EC Ambassador Degert, OSCE
Ambassador Fuentes, and UNHCR ResRep Buchhorn on a field
visit to inspect housing construction for returnees (former
occupancy tenancy rights holders) in the municipalities of
Donji Lapac and Vrhovine in the Lika region of Croatia.
Cobankovic reported that the government was accelerating its
latest forecast, and now foresees completing delivery of its
2007 benchmark of 1400 housing units to returnee families by
the end of this year, and reiterated that the 2008 benchmark
of an additional 1400 units would be complete by mid 2009 or
earlier. Ambassador Degert stated that the EC would consider
the 2007 benchmark "met" for the purposes of opening Chapter
23 EU negotiations on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights. The
delegates of the international community praised the
government for its progress in fulfilling its obligations to
provide returnee housing, while stressing the need for
continued development of economically depressed regions of
the country in order to create an environment conducive to
returns and long term resettlement (JNCallahan)

3. (U) MOD STATE SECRETARY VISITS AFGHANISTAN:
On December 2, MOD State Secretary Mate Raboteg met with ISAF
Commander General David McKiernan in
Kabul. General McKiernan thanked Croatia for its support of
ISAF as well as the outstanding
efforts of the Croatian forces serving there. Raboteg stated
that part of the reason for his
visit was to gain insight in into how the MOD could better
meet the needs of the Croatian troops
serving in Afghanistan. Raboteg said he also wanted to
express the GoC's support for the mission
in Afghanistan and that, while the size of the Croatian
contingent was still the same, it was
developing new capabilities. (Note: Croatia nearly 300 troops
to ISAF. End Note.) (PD'Amico)

4. (U) CROATIAN FORCES RECEIVE ARMORED VEHICLES:
On November 30 Croatian forces in Afghanistan signed for 30
up-armored HMMWVs from US Forces in support of their ISAF
mission. The vehicles are leased at no-cost under the
provisions of the 1202 IA agreement between Croatia and U.S.
CENTCOM. These vehicles replace the 10 non-armored HMMWVs
that the nearly 300 soldiers had been using. Seven of the
new vehicles will be used by the Joint Croatian/Minnesota
National Guard OMLT when it deploys in March 2009. (CDavis)

5. (U) CROATIAN SUPPORT FOR K9 UNITS IN IRAQ:
On November 30, local press announced that Croatia will send
6 trained German Shepherds to Iraq
to be used by Iraqi security forces to prevent terrorist
attacks. Six Iraqi soldiers are
scheduled to arrive in April to work with Croatian
instructors and the dogs for seven months. The
dogs will be trained to detect explosives and should arrive
in Iraq later in 2009. (ZTomic)

ZAGREB 00000827 002 OF 002

6. (U) FLORIDA HIGH STUDENTS VISIT EMBASSY WITH CROATIAN
PARTNER SCHOOL:
High school students and teachers from Clearwater, Florida
visited the U.S. Embassy on November 21, along with members
of their Croatian sister school, Zagreb's Fourth Gymnasium.
These schools have sponsored student exchanges for the past
eight years. The students visited the Consular section, met
with the Public Affairs Officer and the Regional Security
Officer Assistant, to discuss the work of the Embassy and
foreign service careers. (KWetzel)

7. (U) AMERICAN WEEK IN PETRINJA:
During Croatian Book Month in November, the City Library in
Petrinja, approximately fifty miles outside Zagreb, organized
an America Week focusing on American history, literature,
music, food, youth culture and Native Americans. For the
final event of the program, the APAO gave a presentation to
an audience of over 100, ranging from five year olds in
native dress to the city mayor, discussing the recent U.S.
elections and life in the United States. The America Week is
an outgrowth of an Embassy visit to the public library in
Petrinja in 2007. The event was covered by a local newspaper
and radio station. (KWetzel)

8. (U) FULBRIGHT PROFESSOR DISCUSSES U.S. CULTURE WITH
STUDENTS AT THE AMERICAN CORNER ZAGREB:
A group of 52 students and two teachers from a high school in
Koprivnica visited the American Corner Zagreb on November 25.
Mark Sawin, a Fulbright professor at the English Department
in Zagreb, gave an extremely dynamic and engaging lecture
entitled Mixing, Melting, Money - Rock'n'Roll, Hip Hop &
American Youth. Students asked numerous questions and
greatly appreciated the opportunity to engage in a dialogue
with a native-speaker of English. The students were also
interested in the possibility of studying in the United
States. The event offered a personal perspective of the
United States to students whose knowledge of the U.S. is
based solely on the mass media. (MBahlen)
BRADTKE

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