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Cablegate: Nato Roadshow '07 -- Croatia Scenesetter

VZCZCXRO8121
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0994/01 3091444
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051444Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8295
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3459
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHSQ/AMEMBASSY SKOPJE 2597
RUEHTI/AMEMBASSY TIRANA 0823
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ZAGREB 000994

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR - P/DAS VOLKER, DAS DICARLO, EUR/RPM,
EUR/SCE
USNATO FOR AMB NULAND, UNDERWOOD, BAEZ, GLORIOSO
NSC FOR BRADLEY
OSD FOR NATO POLICY - DAS FATA
JCS FOR SHIELDS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO MOPS MARR NATO HR DEFENSE REFORM
SUBJECT: NATO ROADSHOW '07 -- CROATIA SCENESETTER

REF: A. STATE 147447
B. USNATO 545

1. (U) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: The GoC feels confident
approaching NATO's Bucharest Summit after repeated strong
statements of support from President Bush and State
Department officials (U/S Burns, A/S Fried) as well as
positive feedback from Allies during presentation of their
Annual National Program in September (ref B). While PM Ivo
Sanader and others will be waiting to hear the Road Show
delegation repeat USG support, they will insist they have not
allowed their optimism to slow their efforts to present the
best possible candidacy in Bucharest. As evidence,
interlocutors will likely point to increasing public support
for NATO membership, advances on key reforms, the success of
Exercise Noble Midas, and increased contributions to ISAF,
including Observation Mentoring Liaison Teams (OMLTs) and
support to three Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).

2. (U) The Road Show will arrive in the middle of the
campaign for Croatia's tightly-contested parliamentary
elections on November 25, creating a public relations
environment in which every statement could be misinterpreted.
Fortunately, neither NATO nor U.S. relations have become
campaign topics -- the sole exception being the opposition's
proposal for a public referendum on NATO accession. We have
been careful to consistently note that while NATO does not
require a referendum, the decision on whether to hold one
rests with Croatians. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

BOOSTING PUBLIC SUPPORT: RECRUITING NEW VOICES
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (U) Since President Bush's Oval Office statement last year
supporting an invitation to Croatia in 2008, the GoC has
conducted a concerted campaign to educate the public on NATO
membership. The result has been a roughly 20 percent rise in
public support for accession, from just above 30 percent in
December 2006 to approximately 50 percent today according to
various polls. NATO public awareness efforts are largely on
hold during the election period to avoid the risk of NATO
aspirations becoming a campaign issue. We have encouraged
the GoC, however, to line up activities now to restart such
activities as soon as possible following the November 25
elections and have focused our efforts on attracting new,
non-GoC voices to combat persistent myths and misinformation
(i.e., NATO wants bases in Croatia, Croatia will have to send
troops to Iraq).

ACTING LIKE AN ALLY: CONTRIBUTING MORE ACROSS THE ALLIANCE
--------------------------------------------- -------------

4. (U) Croatia has steadily increased its self-financed,
caveat-free contribution to ISAF, entering its tenth
deployment with 200 soldiers with a commitment to raise troop
numbers to 300 in 2008. During meetings in Zagreb, the
delegation should acknowledge the breadth of Croatian troop
deployments in Afghanistan, currently operating under the
command of three different allies.
- Kabul: 59-man contingent including military police platoon,
command/staff/support elements, national intelligence cell,
and joint A-3 medical team.
- Mazar-e-Sharif OMLTs: 27-man OMLT embedded with the 3rd
Kandak of the Afghan National Army (ANA), the first non-NATO
member to accept the OMLT mission. During 2006, this team
temporarily deployed with the 3rd Kandak to Kandahar to
support operations in Regional Command South. Croatia also
maintains a two-man OMLT element in the 209 ANA Corps
Headquarters.
- Mazar-e-Sharif RC North: 79-man contingent including
infantry platoon task force, staff, and military police
support to German-led Regional Command North.
- Pol-e-Khomri PRT: five-man staff and military police team
supporting Hungarian-led PRT.
- Chagcharan PRT: 28-man contingent embedded in the
Lithuanian-led PRT, including two Military Liaison and
Observation Teams (MLOT), CIMIC staff officer, and PSYOPS
element.


ZAGREB 00000994 002 OF 004


5. (U) In addition to military personnel, three civilian
diplomats and police are assigned to the German-led PRT in
Feyzabad. In preparing expansion of Croatia's contribution
for 2008, military planners are considering several different
force packages, to include an additional infantry OMLT, a
logistics OMLT, and/or increased infantry contributions to
the PRT in Mazar-e-Sharif. The GoC is still examining the
possibility of taking on its own PRT but appears intimidated
by the reconstruction side of this mission, never before
having worked on foreign development.

6. (U) The GoC has also supported the ANA with equipment
donations, recently shipping 1,000 AK-47 assault rifles and
300,000 rounds of ammunition with Canadian assistance.
Slovenian Armed Forces also provided logistical assistance
with Croatia's latest troop rotation, providing a three-man
load planning team and palletization material and paving the
way for greater regional logistical cooperation in the future.

FOCUS ON HOST NATION SUPPORT AND INTEROPERABILITY
--------------------------------------------- ----

7. (U) The GoC also deserves acknowledgement for
demonstrating its host nation support capabilities during
2007, successfully hosting the "IDASSA" civilian disaster
response exercise in May and the "NOBLE MIDAS" NATO Reaction
Force exercise in October, which Croatian military leaders
saw as their "final exam" before a NATO invitation. Both
IDASSA and NOBLE MIDAS were the largest NATO exercises of
their kind held in a non-member country. Croatia has also
offered to accept Iraqi soldiers in a variety of military
training courses in Croatia through the NATO Training Mission
in Iraq.

8. (U) The Croatian military is clearly serious about drawing
from their Afghanistan experience to increase their
interoperability and develop lessons-learned for future
NATO-led stability operations. The Military Police Company
is NATO-certified, while Croatia has declared an engineer
platoon (horizontal construction) and special operations
platoon into the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) Pool
of Forces. An NBC platoon and air-MEDEVAC team are scheduled
for self-evaluation. A NATO level 1 evaluation of a
helicopter and crew was scheduled during the Noble Midas NATO
exercise in October, though we are not aware of the results.

9. (U) The GoC appears to be on track to reach 2 percent of
GDP target for defense spending in 2010, assuming normal
economic growth. Lowering personnel costs is an ongoing and
long-term challenge. On hardware acquisitions, the GoC is
unlikely to back away from plans to buy 12 fighter jets
despite Allied concerns about the sustainability of this
investment. The USG has begun a process of educating the MOD
on the true costs of this acquisition.

POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT IN ADRIATIC CHARTER AND ACROSS REGION
--------------------------------------------- -------------

10. (U) The delegation should note the GoC's continued active
partnership in the Adriatic Charter and its initiative as
current A-3 chair to host a successful A-3/B-3 meeting for
foreign and defense ministers in Split in October. The GoC
also organized an A-3 foreign ministers meeting on the
margins of the UNGA in September. Croatia has played a
positive role in engaging the three new Partnership for Peace
(PfP) members in the region, including them in the A-3/B-3
gathering and participating in such events as the October
Membership Action Plan (MAP) seminar in Sarajevo designed to
share accession lessons learned among A-3 and PfP-3
countries. GoC officials still seem hesitant to formally
accept the PfP-3 into the A-3 until Croatia receives a
membership invitation and Serbia sorts out the post-Kosovo
relationship it wants with NATO.

11. (U) The GoC maintains vigorous and positive bilateral
relations with every country in the region. In May, Croatia
concluded its successful chairmanship of the South East
European Cooperation Process with the formation of a
permanent Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the successor

ZAGREB 00000994 003 OF 004


to the Stability Pact initiative. In July, the GoC hosted a
Summit for European leaders on the future of Southeast
Europe. Government and parliamentary leaders have made
regular efforts to contribute to stability both in Bosnia and
Herzegovina and in Kosovo, with the GoC supporting the
Ahtisaari plan and now Troika negotiations. Croatia is in
the process of opening a diplomatic office in Pristina, and
maintains broad contacts in Kosovo, including GOC-support for
efforts by a Croatian Serb parliamentarian to encourage
Kosovo Serbs to engage directly with Kosovar institutions in
Pristina. Croatia's recent election to the UN Security
Council will likely enhance their ability to play a
leadership role in the region.

ELECTION DRIVES REFERENDUM ISSUE, POLITICAL ATMOSPHERE
--------------------------------------------- ---------

12. (SBU) The delegation will likely find most interlocutors
focused on the intense campaign for the November 25
parliamentary elections. Polls show a dead heat between the
ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its primary
opposition, the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Either party
will almost certainly need smaller parties to form a
governing coalition, meaning even an HDZ victory will include
a government reshuffle. The foreign, defense, justice, and
interior ministers are all likely to be replaced or move on
to other positions. Given the on-going campaign, the Road
Show delegation should be mindful that its public statements
will be read carefully to look for signs of USG support for
one side or the other in this race. Fortunately, neither
Croatia's aspiration to join NATO nor U.S. bilateral
relations have become electoral issues, as all major parties
support Croatia's membership.

13. (SBU) The only distinction between the parties is the
SDP's proposal for a public referendum on NATO membership.
The SDP argues that securing such public support would make
Croatia a more effective and reliable ally. SDP leaders,
including party president Zoran Milanovic (who earlier in his
career worked at Croatia's Mission to NATO), dismiss the risk
that a referendum could turn on extraneous events and express
great confidence that they will win such a referendum.
Nonetheless, there is speculation that the SDP will not
actually follow through on this proposal if they win in
November. While a referendum scenario presents many
complications, we have been careful to avoid commenting on
the issue, noting that any referendum decision rests with
Croatians.

KEY POLITICAL REFORMS: SOME PROGRESS, SOME PATIENCE
--------------------------------------------- ------

14. (U) While corruption and organized crime remain key areas
for reform, Croatia made progress with the arrest of six
employees of the Croatian Privatization Fund earlier this
year on corruption charges, formation of police and
prosecutor task forces to combat organized crime, and the
first-time freezing of assets in a narcotics case. Border
security is improving with assistance from our EXBS program
and other donor nations; Customs seizures of contraband are
up and Croatia's non-proliferation regime is becoming
increasingly effective. In combating trafficking in persons,
the GoC continues to improve its cooperation with NGOs to
identify and assist victims of trafficking and has increased
its efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes,
though we are still waiting to see convictions.

15. (U) Judicial reform remains another key area of concern,
though we have noted some progress. The judicial backlog is
steadily shrinking. Serious weaknesses in court
administration, including the GoC's witness support system,
persist, and have caused problems in cases such as the war
crimes prosecution of Generals Ademi and Norac that was
transferred from the ICTY. But politically it is notable
that such high profile war crimes cases against ethnic
Croatians are proceeding without significant public protest
or resistance.

16. (U) On refugee returns, the picture is mixed. The GoC

ZAGREB 00000994 004 OF 004


has essentially resolved most major issues, including
reconstruction of homes destroyed in the war, repair of basic
infrastructure, and repossession of properties occupied by
other refugees (mostly ethnic Croats who had fled fighting in
Bosnia). The GoC is now focused on providing housing to
those returning refugees who did not own property but held
Occupancy Tenancy Rights (OTR) under the Yugoslav government.
For 2007, the GoC has agreed with the international
community on two targets for 2007, to purchase or construct
for Serb returnees 1000 apartments within "Areas of Special
State Concern" (ASSCs -- those areas most directly affected
by the war) and 400 apartments outside of ASSCs. As of
November 3, the GoC reported that it had approved 732
apartments within ASSCs and was on track to provide an
estimated 185 additional units by the end of the year, for a
total of 917 residences. The GoC plans to purchase a further
100 units in January 2008. Outside of ASSCs, the GoC said it
had purchased 236 apartments and plans to purchase 160 more
by December 31 for a total of 396. UNHCR and OSCE monitors
have not yet been able to verify these claims; field checks
are currently underway.

17. (U) WWII and Communist-era property restitution claims
remain a key bilateral issue for the US as well as for Italy
and Austria, which both are home to far greater numbers of
claimants. While bilateral agreements with the Yugoslav
Government in the 1950s and 60s addressed most foreign claims
and Croatian citizens' claims were addressed in the 1990s,
individuals who were not citizens of a signatory country in
Yugoslav days and who never became Croatian citizens were
never eligible to make a claim. The GoC has drafted
amendments to current law to put foreign citizens on an equal
footing with Croatians, but these amendments have not been
enacted. We have raised this at the highest levels and
organized numerous advocacy visits for the Department's
Office of Holocaust Issues, but it is clear progress will not
be possible until after parliamentary elections.

PROTECTING NATO CLASSIFIED - WORK IN PROGRESS
--------------------------------------------- ---

18. (U) The protection of NATO classified information remains
another area where the GoC has unfinished homework.
According to an October NATO International Staff security
assessment visit, GoC legislation on security vetting passed
this summer appears to fall short of NATO standards, lacking
specific criteria for approving or denying a security
clearance. We understand that NATO IS is pursuing a quick
resolution to this issue directly with Croatia's Council for
National Security.
BRADTKE

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