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Cablegate: Sdp Candidate for Prime Minister Criticized for Opposing

VZCZCXRO9343
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0816 2490620
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060620Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8093
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000816

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR POLITICAL PARTIES
SUBJECT: SDP CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZED FOR OPPOSING
SERBIAN INVESTMENT IN CROATIA


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Ljubo Jurcic, Prime-Ministerial candidate of
Croatia's leading opposition party, the Social Democratic Party
(SDP), in late August commented that Serbian investment would not be
welcomed in Croatia. All of Croatia's other centrist parties,
including the governing HDZ, seeing nationalist or anti-Serb
rhetoric as a vote-loser rather than a vote-winner, quickly and
caustically criticized Jurcic's comments. SDP Party chief Zoran
Milanovic also back-tracked, arguing the comment was being taken out
of context. As many of the commentators have also noted, if
Jurcic's statement were Croatian policy, it would be a dangerous
game from Croatia's perspective. Croatian companies have much more
to lose. Serbia is the second largest recipient of Croatian capital,
while total Serbian investment in Croatia remains miniscule. END
SUMMARY.

2. (U) "We know who has committed crimes. Wounds are still fresh and
we don't need to make our citizens feel uncomfortable," said Ljubo
Jurcic, prime-ministerial candidate of Croatia's leading opposition
Social Democratic Party (SDP), in reply to the question whether a
Serbian "tycoon" should be allowed to buy a Vukovar-based
agricultural company. Jurcic then explained that, if he became the
Prime Minister, he would approve the sale of a state-owned company
to a Serbian buyer, but "certainly not in Slavonia," a region
particularly affected by war in the 1990's.

3. (U) Jurcic's comments drew quick negative reactions both from the
government and rival opposition parties. Prime Minister Sanader said
that Jurcic's was a "statement for an anthology of political
nonsense." Radimir Cacic of the Croatian People's Party, and
another prime ministerial hopeful, noted that Croatia was the second
largest investor in Serbia and that banning their companies from
investing here would be "a kind of suicide." Croatian Peasant Party
President Josip Friscic said it was not important where capital was
coming from, but whether it was legally gained or not. Local media
joined in the criticism, with both leading national weeklies, Globus
and Nacional, criticizing the SDP for trying to appeal to Croatia's
right wing. In fact, the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights (HSP)
was the only major party to welcome Jurcic's statement, with HSP
President Anto Djapic sardonically observing that he was glad the
SDP had "come to our position."

4. (U) Nonetheless, the SDP denies any flirtations with nationalist
or right wing ideology. In an August 27 interview, SDP chief Zoran
Milanovic rejected allegations that the new SDP was flirting with
the right wing, declaring himself a leftist and anti-fascist. The
day after Jurcic's comments on Serb investment, Milanovic argued
that Jurcic was speaking only of the specific company in question,
adding that "Capital has no nationality. If our businesses work and
invest in Serbia, we need to guarantee the same right not only to
capital from Serbia, but from any other country."

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Jurcic's comment, and the domestic reaction to it,
reflect the fluid nature of Croatia's pre-electoral politics. His
statement may have been taken out of context, but it was likely part
of a calculated, if awkward, effort to increase the center-left
SDP's centrist appeal without appearing to poach voters from
potential coalition partners among other centrist parties. Most
notable in this whole exchange, however, is that every other
centrist and center-right party in Croatia viewed such nationalist
rhetoric as a vote loser in the run-up to the expected November
election. END COMMENT.

BRADTKE

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